Driving west and north out of Mancelona, it’s not too long before you’re surrounded by a lush green forest where you find the gurgling waters of the under-rated Cedar River.
It’s a place you’d expect to find anglers seeking trout, not where you’d first look for an artist who specializes in producing handcrafted printed items, bindings and books.
With a solid background in both fine art and printing, Chad Postatnik established Deep Wood Press in 1992 on 3.5 wooded acres that hug the Cedar. Now almost 20 years later, he continues to produce publications that are both stunning works of art and elegant vehicles for information and enjoyment.
“Our books are printed via letterpress on fine papers and illustrated with quality artwork from original wood engravings, lino cuts and intaglio prints,” explains Postatnik, who grew up in Cadillac. “These sheets are then bound by hand in traditional and contemporary book structures to please the eye as well as the mind – which we endeavor to impress as carefully as our papers.”
Deep Wood Press publishes hand-bound books in limited edition runs, usually 100 to 150 or so.
Postatnik focuses on the works of past and contemporary artists and writers in original book designs using traditional and modern binding styles.
Some of the publications he has produced include
: • “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad
• “Winter Walks” by Jerry Dennis
• “Along With Youth” by Ernest Hemingway
• “The Chesapeake Voyages of Captain John Smith”
• “The Changeling’s Exile” by Gerard Wozek
• “The Frogs Who Wished a King” by Aesop
Producing Conrad’s classic short story was interesting and challenging, according to Postatnik. “The guy loved m-dashes, colons and semi-colons, so editing was a nightmare” he says with a laugh. “But it came out beautifully.”
In fact, his publication of “Heart of Darkness” won him the prestigious 2010 Carl Hertzog Award for Excellence in Book Design. That award prompted an invitation to make a speaking tour to Northern England where he spoke at venerable Manchester University.
There’s something about the classic lead fonts, durable old presses (Deep Wood Press has six, along with a linotype and a binder) and hand-made cotton papers that resonates with Postatnik.
“Every time I roll a piece of cotton paper over the type face, it just blows me away,” he says with a smile.
Postatnik is a staunch supporter of environmental causes, devoting both his time and treasure to local efforts.
“We’re a ‘green business’ he says proudly.
“Our cotton paper is recycled from cotton rags and our inks are linseed oil based. We primarily make our own inks for blacks and earth tones. It’s basically adding powder to oil, but a little more complex. We do things the traditional way – we don’t cut corners.”
STUDENT OF HISTORY
Like a lot of fine press artists, Postatnik is a student of history and has real appreciation for the printer’s patron saint – Johannes Gutenberg, a German blacksmith whose invention of moveable type printing around the middle of the 15th century is widely regarded as the most important event over past centuries.
Gutenberg was recognized by the A&E Network as the most influential person of the second millennium and in 1997 Time Magazine named his invention as the most important of the same era.
“It brought on the Reformation,” explains Postatnik. “It was the beginning of the Information Age. And his technology didn’t really change for years, until the 1960s and ’70s.”
Currently Postatnik is working on six separate publications, but he didn’t always have the luxury of working only on projects he felt strongly about.
“We did a lot of wedding invitations and job work to keep the money coming in,” he says. “It’s a business. Any kind of art is a business. It has every element that any other small business has. You have your supplies, your marketing, working with other people. But I enjoy it, especially now that I can do what I really enjoy.”
As a youngster, Postanik always had an artistic bent and always had his nose in a book. “In high school, a teacher gave me a back supply room to use for studio space,” he recalls. “I knew then that art was what I wanted to do. Then I was offered an art scholarship to Grand Valley.”
After earning a BFA in printmaking from Grand Valley State University in 1991, Postatnik spent a short time “living in the urban world” before returning to Northern Michigan. He feels lucky to have found the spot on the Cedar River where he and his wife Kathryn are raising two children.
“Summer is full of fly fishing, kayaking, gardening and music making,” he says. “Our long winters allow for plenty of fun skiing, snowshoes and that’s the time to really enjoy the sauna. While there are plenty of distractions, work in the studio is never work and being able to raise a family in such a wonderful environment is something we’re thankful for every day.”