My name is Grant Wilkins, and the Grunge Papers is the umbrella under which I indulge in a variety of personal enthusiasms and interests that broadly come together under the headings of book, paper and literary arts. Most of what I’m doing is letterpress printing and papermaking, though I also do some rudimentary bookbinding, I’ve recently gotten interested in paper marbling, and I occasionally write work of my own which may or may not qualify as "literary".
A good deal of what I do is simply printing poetry that I like on paper that I’ve made, and hoping that other people find these things interesting. I usually focus on early English and Canadian poets, with Shakespeare, Sydney and Shelley in the former category, for instance, and Archibald Lampman, Charles G.D. Roberts and E. Pauline Johnson in the latter.
In printing and publishing industry terms, The Grunge Papers is a private press, though I do often find myself printing objects that aren’t books and making paper that I don't print on – so it’s a private press in the loosest of terms.
What this really means is that I don't have any interest in commercial work, and that I don't usually look for or take commissions for printing or papermaking jobs. I have a full-time day job that pays my bills and takes up a lot of my time, so my thinking is that I don't want to be spending the limited amount of time I have to commit to my creative endeavours doing work I'm not interested in.
(That said, some of the other members of The Ottawa
Press Gang - a local printer's group that I'm a member of - are sometimes
interested in doing commercial work, so if you are looking to have something
letterpress printed, go to the
OPG page here.)
The Grunge Papers originally started out with a rather different orientation than it has now. In 1999, while Tamara Fairchild and I were involved in putting out The Canadian Journal of Contemporary Literary Stuff – our attempt at a “real” literary magazine – I decided that I wanted to publish something smaller and more personal, and to do it cheaply enough that it wouldn’t need to make any money to be feasible.
This idea came together in the form of Murderous Signs, a litzine that I put out biannually for a number of years, distributing it at small press fairs and mailing it out to a short-ish list of subscribers and literary folks whom I thought might be interested. The Grunge Papers thus began life as simply the structure through which I could put out Murderous Signs, and any other personal literary projects that struck my fancy.
One summer several years after this beginning however, on a little bit of a lark, I took a weekend workshop in papermaking with Britt Quinlan (The Paperwright) at the Ottawa School of Art. Quite literally within a couple of hours, I had completely fallen in love with the materiality of handmade paper and the physicality of the making of it. Soon after that I signed up for the first of several more classes in papermaking with Britt, and began acquiring the supplies necessary to do it on my own.
Being from the small press world, of course it seemed to me that best use you could put paper to was as a vehicle for words. My initial experiments using my handmade paper with inkjet and laser printers and photocopiers were spectacularly - and occasionally disastrously - unsuccessful, and further research suggested that letterpress printing – printing the old-fashioned way, with ink and metal type – would be the best method for printing text onto handmade paper. There were no letterpress workshops or classes on offer around Ottawa, and no active presses that I could find, but a friend introduced me to Otto Graser, a local book seller who had done letterpress printing in the past, but who was no longer actively pursuing it. Between talking to Otto and my own research, I worked out what I would need to get started, and after several emails and phone calls to Don Black Linecasting in Toronto, I'd ordered my first press, several cases of type, and enough gear to begin printing. When I finally got my first press up the stairs and into my apartment, I pretty much fell in love with the process of printing on the spot.
Over the course of the next few years, my burgeoning interest in letterpress, papermaking and the book arts more or less overtook my interest in zine publishing, and in 2007, after 15 issues, I decided to wrap up Murderous Signs and focus entirely on my paper and printing interests. Since then, my enthusiasm for paper and printing has only increased, though the usual constraints of life and work have often served to keep my output low. There’s still nothing better though, in my opinion, than the smell of rubber-based ink or the feeling you get from pulling a mould & deckle through a vat full of cotton & abaca pulp.
The titles and text headers in this website are (almost) all in the digital URW++ version of Frederic Goudy's "Deepdene" face, either roman or italic.
The ornaments and graphic elements are from the Lanston Type Co's "Goudy Extras" font, a digital collection of ornaments originally created by Frederic Goudy.
The Grunge Papers' logo was created by Andrea Emery.
The Ottawa Press Gang's logo was created by Roberta Huebener.