vp160820 What can the Ritchie family offer Fort Worden?
The perfect Press
The idea of a “perfect press” is not about mechanical things—although presses are machines. He means “press” in the sense of the whole business of publishing—as in, for example, “Copper Canyon Press” already at Fort Worden, or “North Press,” another small press in Port Townsend. The word press is associated with publishing; and hand printmaking is for fine art prints—Bill’s domain-of-expertise.
Perfect press is an idea that grew out of Bill’s vision of a Perfect Studio. As a teacher, he defines Perfect Studios as, “a place where teaching, research, practice and service all happen under one roof, at the same time.”
He learned this the idea from the UW Hospital, known as a “teaching hospital.” The cornerstones of a teaching hospital are Teaching medicine, Researching new medical ideas, and Practicing medicine all at the same time. The acronym he uses is TRPS—Teaching, Research, and Practice with S for “Service.”
For the professor in a state-supported institution of higher education, service to the community is obligatory; Public speaking and sharing of information about printmaking, prints and printmakers was Bill’s job.
Including that what makes teaching hospitals successful could also be applied to art schools—TRPS was Bills offering to the UW Art School. Teaching and sharing with a wide audience beyond the walls of the art building was possible with campus resources (video, computers, grants, consultants, etc.). The UW Instructional Media Services was like PBS in miniature; time on the mainframe gave Bill access to digital technologies, followed with a grant to buy his first Apple PC.
The year 1985, when Bill was a resident at Fort Worden offered by Centrum Foundation, was the year he left the UW on a quest to find the Perfect Studios, a home for the Perfect Press for hand printmaking. The department chairman let him go on his quest, wishing him good luck.
And Lucky Bill was. It took time and sacrifices to learn to navigate the parallel universes of old world printmaking and new technologies. Bill and his wife were able to stay lean, and within another twenty years they had the Perfect Press.
This takes a surprising form. It’s not merely a better, more perfect machine; not a better-engineered machine for doing the same old thing—that is, printmaking for the world of art galleries, museums and collectors. True, it’s beautiful, and beauty was one thing Bill wanted in his Perfect Press. It’s a printing press its owners claim is “a work of art in itself”—lovely to look at with its combination of hand finished wood, steel and brass appointments. If it’s not a work of art, it is a nice piece of craftsmanship and is part of the home, studio and office spaces of almost 200 people around the world.
Twenty years at the UW gave Bill the opportunity—the obligation, really—to drill deep into the meaning of printmaking as an art form—its social and economic impact as well as printmaking’s value as an art form. Most of all, the educational aspect of hand printmaking is what Bill thinks is important—important enough to offer the Perfect Press to strengthen Fort Worden’s new Maker Square initiative.