Many of you know I am nearly a lifelong Clevelander – I did live in New York City for years, but returned home about 12 years ago. While most Clevelanders are distinguished by their devotion to our sports teams, their love of rock ‘n roll and, more recently, a pride in being regarded as a great place to visit and even live, I am something of a curmudgeon on that topic.
Being a national scapegoat is a small price to pay for little to no traffic, no lines anywhere, a very reasonable cost of living, and a great quality of life (that is, if you can withstand our winters — good luck with that!). Tennessee Williams once said, “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” I think being the height of mediocrity is special!
But I was beyond thrilled in June when Cleveland received a visit from Mohawk‘s VP Business Development / Creative Director Chris Harrold and what he dubbed his “ad hoc traveling pop-up exhibition,” The Strathmore Archives. It was hosted by Zygote Press, the only open-access print studio in Northeast Ohio, the largest in the state of Ohio and a destination for printmakers nationwide with facilities for intaglio, (plate) lithography, relief printing, screen printing, letterpress, and digital media.
The Archives mingled with more contemporary artwork for an interesting and most colorful visual contrast.
First, Chris spoke briefly about how the Archives and how they related to Strathmore, founded by Horace Moses in 1892. Wanting to position his premium papers apart, Moses took the then-radical approach of hiring the day’s top illustrators to inspire his customers, thus fostering the first paper promotion. The resulting pieces are a “survey of American 20th century graphic design,” through which one may see, for example, “what illustration or lettering was like down to the specific decade,” Chris noted.
The Archives were originally housed in six skids in a warehouse. When Mohawk purchased Strathmore in 2005, they were part of the deal, although the new owners didn’t realize that — they were very nearly thrown out! Early on, Moses hired designers like Will Bradley, dubbed the “dean of American designers” by The Saturday Evening Post. Many of the illustrations appeared elsewhere, for example in Vogue, while others spoke to issues of their time, for example, conserving paper during WWII. It is a testament to the quality of Strathmore cotton when you see how well everything has held up! The papers, housed in custom sturdy and easy-to-break-down-and-ship cases, were carefully studied by the crowd. Adjacent displays showed contemporary usages of Strathmore as well as other lush Mohawk papers, including Superfine, Via, Loop and Options.
There was also a make-and-take project in the printing facilities in back. Every guest could letterpress their own print. This was actually my first time doing so, and I was surprised that it took some muscle!
I absolutely love my print, not to mention its message: “It’s attention to detail that makes the difference between average and stunning. Strathmore Archives”Finally, everyone got a big goodie bag full of Mohawk swag, including a swatchbook, info on local Mohawk distributor Millcraft and the most recent edition of Mohawk Maker. My favorite was the poster, however — it was the next-best thing to taking the Archives home with you! If you are very lucky, perhaps Chris and his exhibition will hit a town near you. To stay in the loop, follow Mohawk and Mohawk Felt & Wire on Facebook.