Brad’s directions to his studio are similar to many backyard garage printshop directions: go down the alley, enter through the yard, might feel a bit weird, but it’s the little building on the right. And that's how I found myself hoping that this yard was the right one, and letting myself in.
The shop is one of those places where you could poke around for hours. It's more than a printshop, it's source of inspiration for Brad as well. There's hundreds of vinyl records on the wall, briefcases full of typewriters, and his collection of nothing. There's a book by the same title, which Brad read after he started collecting these things; he was amazed to find out that anyone else would do the same thing. The collection in question includes jars of washers found on the street (mysteriously without bolts or nuts), bugs that have died in the printshop, and the scrap corners from rounding corners.
Smokeproof Press has been around for 20 years, and it's a solo show -- Brad does everything. He's tall, soft-spoken, and incredibly knowledgeable. During our conversation he explains how lead type was manufactured in the 1400's, the arguments for and against impression (where you can feel the indent that the type leaves on the paper), and the numbering system behind the Miehle Vertical presses. It should not surprise you, then, to know that he teaches letterpress classes at Naropa College. It should surprise you, then, to know that the only letterpress class he's ever taken is one Intro to Letterpress class while he was completing an MFA in Creative Writing.
Brad explains that once he picked up the type in that class, he realized that that was it. That's what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: to be able to touch, hold, and build words with his hands. And so - he did.
I asked him how he got over the doubt of success, the possibility of failure. "I don't have an answer for you," he admits. "Somehow I would make what I needed to do work. Your job the first few years is to make a shitload of mistakes." He laughs.
"You have to make mistakes. You have to. There's no way around it."
1629 Arapahoe Ave,
Boulder, CO 80302