30 May 2009

The State of the Dawson Printshop

Er, yes, it's been a while since I blogged. I had such good intentions of keeping up with it and all that. My plan, you see, was to start an almost-daily blog post about the goings-on at the Dawson Printshop. But then they shut us down. While I wasn't precisely depressed, I felt I needed to be away for a bit. So I spent some time working at home and with my book arts teacher Joe at his studio. But Thursday I went back to the shop to finish up a few things. And I was back again yesterday. I feel better now.

So the Dawson Printshop has "suspended operations." NSCAD is in debt for various reasons (the new Port Campus is apparently only one of several reasons). NSCAD seems to be really, really in debt, and taking cost-cutting measures all over the place. The Seeds student gallery was scrutinized, but apparently came close enough to breaking even on a regular basis that it was spared. The heat was turned off early (it's *still* freezing in the shop). The Dawson Printshop was given The Eye. Instructors and students and friends from the community rallied and wrote letters to the President of NSCAD. Vince, the co-manager who was still around (Carley having returned to BC at the end of her contract), prepared a projection that showed how we had steadily been increasing the amount of money coming in and would probably continue to do so in the months to come. In a bad economic climate we were getting pretty close to breaking even for the month, and we hadn't even been open a full year. We did our best and we did remarkably well selling an expensive luxury product (because digital reproduction is way cheaper than letterpress). In the end, the Powers That Be at NSCAD decided to "suspend operations."

There was talk of finding sponsors for us. There was talk of maybe opening again in a year (and starting all over from nothing as our clients would have moved on to other options, and our word-of-mouth promotion would have stopped spreading). A group of instructors got together and discussed. Even if the shop were never to re-open as a commercial concern, there really, really needs to be a technician in the shop, they concluded. If classes--letterpress, book arts, printmaking and design included--are to keep using the space, the equipment, the type, someone needs to be around to oversee things, to clean up, to help students. At least part time. So said instructors sent a recommendation to the school that this should be so.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed (metaphorically, of course). Vince has gone home to Ontario, but I think he's keeping his fingers crossed too, and so is Carley. So are a lot of people. Obviously I want there to be a technician because I want the job, but it's also because I love the Dawson Printshop. It's one of the main reasons I chose to stay on in Halifax (the other, of course, is a certain cute boy). I'm hoping that someone with the power to actually do something about it will realize the need for a technician and actually decided to hire one. I'm hoping that will be me. But even if it's not, at least the Shop will have someone there.

In the meantime, I'm loitering around, finishing up a few last things, like a couple of greeting card orders from local retailers. And I'll be taking on a few jobs myself. If I have to, I'll pay studio fees to the school. Otherwise, I'll just spend some time putting away (other people's) type, organizing, cleaning the presses and the space, and generally keeping things from descending into the chaos it could so easily become.

The Daswon Printshop is dead. Long live the Dawson Printshop.


Helena Rae said...

This is truly sad news. When I went to NSCAD I loved visiting the print shop and took a couple of courses there, and was even offered a job there! (Which I stupidly declined, thinking I wasn't experienced enough - argh! Damn my lack of confidence!!) Anyways, I've enjoyed living vicariously through you, Niko, and am sad to hear those days may be over forever.

Niko said...

Well, there's still some hope.No much maybe, but some. At least the presses are still there and classes are still going on.