As with many good stories from our time in Alabama, this particular one starts at Capitol Book & News (which closed last year after the owners retired, SNIFF SNIFF).
I was checking out every single shelf in every single room at Capitol that first time I visited after we moved to Montgomery and spotted this, leaning up against a wall:
This poster SPOKE TO ME. I didn't even care about the "you have to attend something to have the poster" rule we have—I just really, really loved it. I loved it so much I asked the owner of Capitol if I could have it, especially since it was ten years old and not actually hanging properly on the wall, but alas—she politely declined to hand it over. She said something about how the artist was based in Alabama and maybe I'd see his work somewhere else; after some creative googling, I figured it out and spent some time clicking through a whole bunch of similarly-styled letterpress work.
Fast forward to May 2015, when Angie, Keira, and Wendy came to visit the Deep South for the first time...one of the highlights of our adventures (and there were many on that trip!) was attending Southern Makers in the old train depot in downtown Montgomery. It's a big makers' fair of all sorts and kinds of wonderful stuff, and we investigated every single booth carefully and with much joy, because it was the kind of event that's right up our alley. And then I turned a corner and saw this booth, which I recognized immediately from the poster in the bookstore and all that looking I did online:
Amos Kennedy! Of Kennedy Prints! Right there with a bazillion beautiful pieces of art just laid out on a table for us to examine and buy! It was so fun to talk with him and try to explain the story of how I tried to steal away an old poster of his before I even knew who he was.
We made our selections (it was not a quick process) and got them signed. Walking away from that table without the rest of the few hundreds of prints was not an easy thing for me, ha.
Fast forward yet again to last summer, when I decided I was going to place an order for another print—it's a low-tech process to use the Kennedy Prints! website, involving sending a check and kind of describing what it is you'd like, knowing that he probably has something close in his catalog of prints. When the mail delivered it, it was crunched. Sigh. After I let Mr. Kennedy know what had happened, I had good intentions of filing a claim with the post office—but the moving-in and the rodeo-ing and the adjusting kind of did me in last summer, and it got away from me.
But not from Amos Kennedy! He emailed a few months later to ask if I'd picked out my replacement print. I had not, and since the one that got crunched wasn't exactly ruined (just not gift-worthy anymore) I decided to drop a check in the mail and tell him to send me two posters of his choice—something about reading or books, and something about being a good person. The check I sent was to an Alabama address, and it was returned—I didn't realize at the time that he actually is located in Detroit these days. I put the check back in the mail, but before it reached him this reached me while we were in Estes Park in March:
SERIOUSLY. A WYOMING MAP + LETTERPRESS + SOJOURNER TRUTH. Folded up in a regular old A10 envelope. You can imagine my absolute nerdy glee—well, maybe you can't imagine it, but anyone who has been inside our house knows that we have a thing for maps on walls, extra points for artistic ones and double extra points for something you can't just pick up anywhere. By this point, Mr. Kennedy and I were on friendly email terms and I immediately emailed him to tell him how much I loved this. He was pleased, and we had a nice exchange about maps. I took it to the framer almost immediately.
While waiting for the framing, I did a little investigating on my new pal Amos Kennedy. Turns out I had a good eye back in the bookstore—he is a big deal. Not only is he building a letterpress center in Detroit called The Printing Plant, his most recent exhibition was at the Museum of Modern Art in New York—including these pieces, printed on maps of Alabama. Oh, how I would have loved to have seen the whole exhibition in person. (You can click on the image below to get to the gallery of images from the exhibition.) His work will also be one of the inaugural exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art at VCU in Richmond this fall. Here's a good write-up about his path to trading in a successful career in tech for letterpress—it's fascinating. How many people do that?
And now we have an original hanging in the kitchen. It's like it was meant to be : )