Small Fires Press

Friedrich Kerksieck established Small Fires Press after meeting Walter Hamady in 2004. With a handful of titles to his credit, he enrolled in the esteemed MFA in Book Arts Program at the University of Alabama, where he studied with Steve Miller. Being an entirely self-taught printer, I’ve always been a little bit jealous of those who have had the opportunity to learn the finer points of typography and printing from Miller, who in turn, learned from Hamady when he was a student in Wisconsin in the 1970s. Hamady, in turn, was inspired by (but never formally studied with) Harry Duncan of The Cummington Press. Suddenly, the roots and branches of the family tree become more pronounced. Although each of these artists and their presses are, of course, distinct, there is a family resemblance worth noting. Compare Wallace Stevens’ Esthétique du Mal published by Cummington in 1945 to Scott Pierce’s Some Bridges Migrate published by Small Fires in 2008, and you’ll see what I mean. However, in book arts, it’s critical to note the importance of the distinction between resemblance and imitation. For example, there’s a whole lot of Perishable Press knockoffs floating around that aspire to Hamady’s mastery and originality through mere imitation that, unfortunately, culminate in an absurd collection of literary tropes and cute, but meaningless, artsy gimmicks. Resemblance has more to do with a history of ideas, the integrity of the imagination, and respect for the construction of things.

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