Wednesday, June 19, 2013

CAKE 2013

Printing reports seem far simpler to relate than convention reports. But, this one is both - so first, to printing.

I decided to print a new book, Godhead #1, for CAKE. And I will begin by saying, yes, of course, I managed to screw it up. Which is more funny than painful to me now. You'd think I'd have learned to stay clear of simple, obvious mistakes, such as laying the book out incorrectly in the first place, but, hell no. I haven't. And each time at press there was a new issue I'd never encountered before rearing it's nasty little head. "Everyday a new problem," I'd say, before the frustration came boiling up my neck and I'd look for the nearest thing to kick as hard as I could. The only lesson I'd seemed to have learned from printing Sea Change was not to go wailing into failure, but square up and suck down my overreactive emotions, and stop. Still not easy for me.

Printing plates, while also burning my retinas on a loaner computer. 

Laid out the book for 8 1/2 by 14 sheets of paper, which I'd mistakenly picked up for make-ready for Sea Change, and just so happened to have 10 reams for 9 plates. One for each plate, and one left over for make-ready. Made for a square book, but not ugly. Seemingly perfect. Got some good-looking plates out of the HP, and found myself with two days off (in a fucking row, no less!). Two weeks from CAKE at that point. Seemingly smooth sailing. How could I possibly fuck that up? Oh, you...

I printed the plates incorrectly, and without noticing my mistake, went ahead and printed them on my stock. I printed half of the book on Thursday, the 6th. Had I done the odd-numbered plates first, things would have progressed more quickly, but ha! I didn't! I printed the incorrect ones that day (and even put the press out of commission for a hot minute, again, by simply not locking something down tightly enough) and they looked great. Came to press Friday and quickly realized my mistake. Hung my head and slunk out like a kicked dog. Spent the rest of Friday afternoon drawing away the awful feeling in my gut, and then continued into my five-day workweek slinging coffee and food at well-rested yups with all the gusto of a freshly-kicked dog.

But, picked myself up, and went at it again. After working straight through until Wednesday - now the 12th of June, and 3 days before CAKE, mind you - I spent the night trimming down cover stock. By hand, of course, because I'm apparently encoded with stupid that way.

I essentially started over with this book from scratch on Thursday morning, only two days from CAKE and only a day before I had to hit the road. Got out of bed nursing that same, low and persistent dread that I'd greeted so many times in April, looking out into the snow and down at the crumpled paper strewn everywhere. Picked up a new 10-ream box of paper from the old OfficeMax at 9AM, turned up the Replacements on the radio, and picked up caffeine at the co-op. Found another unopened Hi-Ball awaiting me, like angel scat, at the press. Armed with a new mock-up guide and fresh paper, off I went.

Again - a new problem, though mild. Vacuum for the powder on the delivery end was jammed, and didn't fix itself by blowing out the excess powder built up in the tube. Disassembled it, cussing through out, and cleaned it out as best I could before reattaching it and tightening the rig. Still didn't work, so I let the vacuum run and called my "press consultants." As soon as I hung up, having recieved no answer, the damn thing started working. Plowed onward.

Printed 15 plates that day from 9 to 5, like a real goddamn job, and put my cover stock on for the color - with a full bleed black on the back - and couldn't get it to feed consistently. Sheets were getting pulled in erratically, probably either because the 100# cover stock I'd picked up was too heavy? or I'd misdialed the settings? Still figuring that one. In any case wrestled with that issue until the machine had eaten up 10 sheets or so, and threw her into night latch and called for help.

That was lesson number two of Sea Change: ask for fucking help. Leigh again came through at 6PM and threw down a whoppingly prohibitive $0.66 to photocopy me 30 or so covers on the same stock, leaving me with viable copies for the show, and still not wasting the pretty penny I'd spent on French Paper, either.

I ate? I think I ate. Sometime between that and the night, I must have eaten? Jesus. Anyway.

(I remember now probably jamming my craw with some caffeine and caffeinated Clif bars. Probably that.)

Then came the folding and the collating, starting at roughly 7:30, 8PM? Took 30 pages of each sheet, my long-arm stapler, the cover stock and hauled them in my new suitcase du jour, a beat-up French Paper box, and settled at the light table of MCAD's fourth floor, intending fully to fold, collate, staple-bind, and face-trim 30 copies in that same area. Left the overhead lights off, hit the lightbox on, plugged in some Ink Panthers and Inkstuds, and listened to the rain pour down against the overhead glass as I worked.

Got through all those smoothly before going to face-trim on the public cutters. Did a copy on the cutter that'd been fine for trimming down Tits!, but didn't quite make the cut cleanly enough to be passable. Kind of ragged. Whether it was the combination of more pages and heavier stock that did it, or my relative strength or sharpness of that blade, it wasn't going to work. And the public guillotine cutter has never worked for me, so, as I stood staring at the damn thing and pawing the ragged edge of my book, calculating, Zak called for an update on how the trip to Chicago was unfolding and asked how it was going. At t-minus one day, all I had to do was trim the goddamn things and it'd be good. He, with more clarity of wit than me at that point, said, "Use my gulliotine cutter, dummy." That was at midnight. 

Trotted down to the studio to use said cutter and piled out of my car and across the lot just as, one, a guy seemingly jogged down Central wearing big winter gloves in the middle of the goddamn night, and Zak emerged from the side entrance on the phone with Grace, one of the CAKE organizers. He'd just had to call off the performance of Pretty Ladies (probably the only real let down of the show, in retrospect) due to a very sick drummer. I went to folding the covers, stapling the books together, and chopping them down on the guillotine cutter as he climbed through a metaphor-mountain of boxes to pack for the show. Managed to finish the books (and even salvage the one's I'd trimmed horribly at first) and get home to pack up myself and lower into sleep by 3 that morning.

Hauled out of bed at 7:30AM and before my alarm exhausted but awake, and met Alicia for coffee at the Seward Co-op. Then got on the road with Zak by noon and east down 94 we went.

CAKE 2: Electric Bugaloo was a great sequel to a great convention last year. Too many good things happened to recount individually, and too many good road trip stories on the way down (and on the way back in the dead of Sunday night with a tired pair of Zak Sally and Tom K. firing off constant conversation until Minneapolis came into view) but the show itself was a wonderful experience. My personal sales were way up from the year previous in Chicago, and better overall for me than TCAF, even. Godhead, which was originally the only debut for the show, got a little write-up on the CAKE site along with Sea Change, and I'd either sold out or traded or consigned all but three of my stock, and each copy of Godhead was off of my hands. At the busy points of Saturday and Sunday both I was backlogged on signing and drawing in books by a couple people for some time. Something I was not really ready for, as I thought I could spent more time putting meticulous drawings in each book. 

The venue was spacious, especially in the space within the rows for exhibitors. So roomy, in fact, both sides of exhibitors could comfortably store their bags, extra chairs, etc., without bumping into each other. Which meant the aisles for visitors sometimes got clogged past the point of comfort, but it was relatively manageable to move about without disturbing people trying to browse through books at a table. The Center on Halsted was beautiful, and apparently also a host to a gay cowboy line dance on the roof patio, which I sadly missed. The Whole Foods downstairs was like a revelation to have, as I was often reaching for an empty coffee cup that weekend. All the satellite events happening that weekend (the Deitch signing, comic battle at Quimby's, music at the Observatory, listening to Blackhawk fans squawk) were fun to attend, but meant I was crawling back to the couch cushions on Grace's floor as a barely-put together bag of bones in the night. Generally, there was a pretty happy and productive atmosphere each day of the show, though the definite trend among exhibitors was that those who'd gone to TCAF a month previous felt so-so on sales, and those who hadn't were pretty happy with them. Sitting in Minneapolis row, with Evan Palmer, Tim Sievert, Anna Bongiovanni, Hannah Blumenrich, 2d Cloud and Will Dinksi at the back of the auditorium didn't seem to pose any logistical problems, either, as traffic was pretty steady. Some of those along the walls of the auditorium itself mentioned a little lackluster attendance for their tables, but not all of them.

The organizers did a fantastic job. Having dipped my toes into that realm now, I see it is no simple, easy, or quickly-done feat. I owe all of them for the wonderful show and overwhelmingly positive experience I had, and especially to Grace Tran, who kindly let me crash on her floor and called me a "wood nymph," which I take as a high honor. 

CAKE 2013, as it grows increasingly small in the rearview, seems to me an up-note ending to the cycle of a year. At the 2012 show, I'd just recieved word I'd gotten the Xeric, and I'd sent in my expense report a week before the 2013, with a huge stack of printed paper and a whole lot of experience and support in the time between. I'd gone from putting out a small amount of work while living at my parents' house in rural Wisconsin post-graduation, to living in Minneapolis again, making as much work as I ever had and becoming competent with the printing press. And in the few days since CAKE, I've only felt buoyed by the experience and the new-found connections with other cartoonists resulting from the show. A lot of good news for my friends has also followed in its wake.

For me, it was good. It was great. It was one not to have been missed.

My tablemate, good friend and hardworking gal Leigh Luna, with none other than -- 

 -- Evan Palmer's back.

The view from the Observatory roof, which was obscenely cinematic.

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