SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 9

So. It snowed. This is the coldest, snowiest April in the past 10 years here in Minnesota, and it's making sure we all pay attention to that fact. It's yet to hit 60 degrees, when in March of last year parts of America were 20 to 30 degrees above average. Thinking I could bank on Winter following some sort of reliable pattern was a mistake. Thinking the small repairs and replacements needed wouldn't knock me flat until I'd finished this print run was also a mistake.

I've made a lot of them in the pursuit of this project - but giving up hasn't been one of those mistakes.

Terrified, worried, freezing, I trudged back out into that tundra and turned on some space heaters and went for it again.

And it went fine.

I KNOW! When have I come onto this goddamn log of events and said things went WELL? OR BETTER THAN EXPECTED?

Today, for starters. I think I've figured out the root problem of my issues - and yes, Clint was/is right. It wasn't the press. It was me.

Ran copy through the machine as make-ready, to test the feeding. Machine sounded good, greased up, the vacuum on the feed was good and consistent-sounding, the base underneath the paper goddamn robust, and nothing bad happened. Maisie ran like a fucking saint - that is, to say, ran like she always does when I pull my head out of my ass and pay better attention. Ran 500 more of the 'Thank You' plate, which didn't need strict registration since it had no flip-side to print and stayed pretty far from the left margin. THERE WAS NO GODDAMN INCIDENT. The ink went on like butter and the new rubber blanket was great. It was beautiful. I nearly cried from joy, but I'm not a camel - I have no water left in me from all that damn crying I've done.

I did notice it was a little far to the left since I hadn't adjusted either the plate or the paper to align. Clint's warning rang in my head to keep that feed side centered to avoid trouble. I moved the paper over on the second plate to where I'd been printing all month, off-center to the left.

And the damn problem came straight back. Paper flying down into the machine again.

I stopped, moved the paper back into the center, and it went away.

Lesson to be learned, kids: register, register, register good.

I'm going to reprint the plates yet to do. A time-sucking task, but if the plates run as smoothly as this just because I nudge them over a quarter of an inch, then it's well worth it. Did 1500 sheets without almost any loss. Only got stopped by needing to reprint plates. Otherwise, Maisie was good and I was good to keep going. GOOD DAY.

Larry from Printing Equipment and Supply also called back with info on the missing part of the feed table - when he relayed to me the price for one of the missing pieces, 140 hot buckaroos, I responded that was well more than half of what I paid for the whole damn press in the first place. He joked I could add it and drastically increase the value of my press. You know, if I wanted to resell or something. HA!

April skies, February blankets.

Space heaters doing their best - once the room hit 40ish degrees, though, the temperature was a non-issue.

Back to the drawing board for a minute.

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 8

"It's never the press."

So, basically, "it's you." Pretty darn true. And even when it is only mostly true - a rare exception - that's not so bad. That failure I can handle. I'm a little bit closer to separating my feelings of self-worth sunk into running Maisie from the snowballing, fuck-all chaos of screwing up a print run. Not all the way there, but much closer.

Tuesday I attempted to print and ran into the same problem I had last week. I had not solved it. The problem with believing in luck and fate and emotions and the stars is they are as nebulous as they are capricious (and how actual they are is also debatable, but...). I thought my luck had turned about face. Thought whatever cosmic scales had weighed my pain and effort and seen fit to balance them in my favor. I'd answered Maisie's vicious one-two with my own scrappy can-do-ness. I felt better, re-energized, renewed. Until I ran it, got the ink/fountain going, make-ready sheets doing fine, switched to the good, expensive stock and all of the sudden ran into the exact same problem.

To say I crumpled beneath self-doubt would be generous - that implies I had a backbone for more than a few seconds. No. I was flattened by it like Wiley E. Coyote under a goddamn anvil within the span of  minutes of problems reappearing. I screamed, per usual, and found myself crying in defeat as I pulled rollers back out only half an hour into starting. Winter was back, and it was never leaving. Failure was the fluffy, inextricable lei around my neck and Maisie had more fucking flowers where that came from.

I called Sally in heaving tears and left a message I was at the end of my rope - and emotionally and mentally I was (The floor of that crisis of faith would later that day fall out beneath me again and I'd still manage my way up). God bless him, he passed the distress call onto pressman Clint, who proceeded to troubleshoot with me and eventually texted me off that ledge of just calling it a fuck-all-quit.

Point being, with coaching and another press-doctor garage-call and new supplies, I think I have it. Running back at normal, managable, and the regular amount of difficulty. I'll take it.

And the second point being as soon as I saw the logical, mechanical reasons I was running into problems - a dozen or so small factors that start small and snowball and just turn into pure, baffling pain - and a way to go at them, to adjust, fix, and eliminate them until the smallest amount of variables remained, the haze was gone. Some mushy, ill-defined cloud of worry that I'd ascribed to the bad alignment of stars or luck or fate, immediately gone from sight. I know it's not her out to get me. Maisie is metal; she doesn't care. She can't care in the least. Explains why she was so silent through my screaming, "I need you to do this! Why do you hate me?" Or, in a real pity-party moment, "Peaked at 23! I can't have peaked at 23!"

It wasn't me; it wasn't divine punishment, or some shit like that. It was me, ignoring or simply missing the signs of problems, all of which were not living, planning devils but just a rubber blanket too old to run, a crank turned too far, an un-level surface. And I can really handle that. An issue of un-level paper versus the universe deeming me too worthless or too vain to deserve success? Earthly mistakes versus an invisible hand of misfortune? Come on. Easy choice.

Got more light installed. Two space heaters at the ready. Bought and put in a new rubber blanket. Greased/WD'd a bunch of parts. Went looking for a replacement part for the feed table; got a few pieces of plywood to make-do. Adjusted my vacuum on the suckers a little. Nearly got my goddamn finger in that gear again, but I was paying attention.

I feel good. Afraid, of course, but a hell of a lot more ready this time.

Maisie looking, as Floss would say, "Famous."

The cylinder without the rubber blanket. Not so famous-looking.

The inky-blue part is the rubber blanket. Comes out, is pretty thin, one-sided rubber coating. The two sets of bars are what clamp around it to attach to the cylinder, and a crap ton of little rusty screws.

When I brought the old blanket into the printing supply place in Bloomington, I said, "Yeah, this one's a little past her prime," and Larry laughed, "A lot more than a little."

Flipside of the new blanket.

A slightly different rubber blanket. But a "workhorse" one, for a little workhorse press.

It took all the strength in my little hands with all the leverage I could muster to put that damn thing back in, but it's back in. And that is really blue. Like Duluth Pack blue. Like TARDIS blue.

As a roomful of old pressmen and still none of them know what the hell those feed table "thingy-ma-jigs" are called, of which I currently only have one. Replaced it with some plywood and it acts more stable now.

Picked some of this mess of a studio up / put the thus printed pages not on top of each other in plastic tubs. Less than halfway done.

Holes punched out of poly-plates. Reminds me of tears. Maybe not surprisingly... but that's definitely not even close to how many I've paid to this project.


SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 6

Bad, bad, bad day. And not just for me.

Got not a single good sheet out of that machine today. Screamed and sobbed for a couple hours in the attempt, but zilch. And as I was stomping about and crying, the damn screwed up sheets kept sticking to the bottom of my shoes. As if I didn't remember why I was wailing.

Winter needs to get the fuck out of here. I'm running on fumes and running out of time here.

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 5

A few days have passed since the last time; got laid up with intense yips. The problem I'd been experiencing occasionally ramped up to frequently, until, disgusted with being ignored, became constant. Squeaky wheel gets the grease - and in this case, grease was indeed part of the problem - but you know. The bitchy printing press gets the fixing-up.

My attempt on Monday wrung me out and hung me out to dry, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Stress from work compounded that. I couldn't sit up for more than an hour or two before my back was tingling numb and too painful to stand. My eyes and hands were shaking too much to draw. I felt like throwing up into the press every time I came near it. Then came a mid-April snowstorm.

Thank god for real pressmen, though - having called Mr. Sally many times in real distress as Maisie ate my hand and my sanity, he and press-wrangler extraordinaire Clint stopped by the garage last night before the storm hit. It was like having a goddamn angel come to visit. As I thought might happen, it took little more than just pointing Clint towards the machine and he'd not only pinpointed and fixed the problem of the paper delivery that'd had me flat on the ground, sobbing, for days, but proceeded to diagnose six other problems I'd been having and the simple ways to fix them. If it has to indeed be December in April, then that was fucking Christmas Day.


As soon as the problem had been fixed, I felt that crippling stress disappear. My back wasn't screaming with pain, my eyes could suddenly focus again.

Picked up some grease, WD-40, caffeine and an oiling can (and if you can ever find a use or a reason to buy an oiling can as an adult person, please do, it's strangely exhilarating). Cleaned, greased, and adjusted every gear, spring, bolt and moving part that I could find and reach. The screeching noise of the dry gears grinding on each other like inexperienced teenagers is gone, and my terror, too.

Gonna re-draw the plan and come at it again, informed and calm(er).

Yes, just like that Prince song, sometimes it does snow in April.

Cleaning day supplies.

California Wash (press wash), for the oil can. Like I'm Dorothy and Maisie is the Tin Man.

No lube, no love.

The feed gears I caught my left ring finger in, but mid-run.

Just waiting for a goddamn hint of spring.

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 3

(In which I think I'm pretty clever, and Maisie proves her right hook can knock that cleverness clean outta me)

Woke up tired, aching. Hands scuffed, black, knuckles chewed up by rivets and metal. My mistake of printing too few sheets the last two days weighed - and still weighs - heavy on me. Fucks up my schedule. Went into today with the plan of printing 6 plates (pages 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25) and at least making up for the fact I can't print Friday.

Shuffled early to Amaya and Ian's, down in Seward. Caffeinated, fed myself and the cats. Told one of them in passing as I went for the back door, "I'm going out into the wilderness, and I may not come back." He didn't care.

Again short of breath before I put the plate on and hit the switch to go, but the weight of the task before me shoved me hard over the edge. First plate always seems to take the longest to black up (generally the case; later plates come out consistently darker, when the rollers are saturated) but today took longer than the last. General theme of the day. First plate okay, middling-gray, but no great disaster. I spend less time these runs printing on copy paper, which is my cheap test paper. As soon as that print comes through on the copy, I switch as fast as possible. Second plate even better. Pretty darn good, actually. Switched to the third plate with relatively few issues and got some goddamn beautiful ink down and switched to the good paper.

I no more than thought to myself, "Hey, I'm pretty good at this-" and all hell broke loose on that press and didn't really stop for the next two hours. She'd been throwing sheets into the rollers and back out the feed side more than usual today, and, hearing my quiet thought of hubris, punished me for it. She threw a sheet up into the ink rollers, which is normally an instant KO. Paper pulp proliferates through the rollers, destroys all hope within three hot seconds. Leaves me sadder and more defeated than anything I think I've ever encountered.

Fought through that. Stopped the machine immediately and furiously cleaned that pulp off the rollers. Scrubbed and peeled off inked up paper off eight rollers for 10 full minutes. Got the thing rolling again and finished that plate. Good, but troublesome. Throwing sheets every other minute, it felt like. Got through plate three and four and five through all that trouble (even refilled anti-offset powder mid- run!) and nervously started six. Low on ink and scrap paper but wanted desperately to hit quota.

No more had gotten sixth plate running and good paper flying through when, my pride be damned, I thought to think to myself, "I got through so much today. I am pretty good at this-"

She threw a traffic jam of sheets up into herself, I missed one, and looked up one second later and the ink rollers were frothy white with paper pulp. Instant KO. Hung my head, told her she'd won, and quit for the day.

Not phenomenal but could have been worse. Still sore I was so bad at math, but happy I didn't shy from that mean, mean machine. Printed well over 4500 sheets altogether.

Anti-offset spray powder.

Actually just food-grade starch. Looked like the surface of the moon.

After printing.

After cleaning after printing.

I reset the counter sometime in the middle of the first or second plate, but that's still a lot.

And at the end of the night I couldn't fit all of the printed pages in the same container together. Weighed a goddamn ton to pick up by myself.

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 2

(or, in which Maisie is a sweetheart to me and I'm a math-whiz with really dry hands.)
Phenomenal printing. As perfectly in sync me and that machine have ever been. Did five plates in under three hours. One problem. Ran the last fucking EIGHT plates with 400 sheets instead of 884. HOW DO I EVEN DO THAT. THAT'S TWICE AS MUCH. I WAS IN ADVANCE MATH IN 7TH GRADE. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Beautiful day. Inked comics, even, for a few hours in the morning to boo. Printing was fast, good, mostly easy, and even though I only did 400, almost all of that 400 is usable. I'm behind, rather than on schedule, but I didn't screw myself completely with that one. Oh, and Amaya and I laid out my three states while printing. Shrieking, Singing, and Silence. Shrieking being what it sounds like - screaming, kicking, making that through-the-teeth shriek of pure frustration and three-year-old rage, which is when things are BAD, singing along with the radio (or copious amounts of Ha Ha Tonka, Pickwick, and Lissie) when things are GOOD, and furiously-busy silence of figuring out what the fuck is happening in-between those two polar states.

Singing and quiet, now. Exhausted. Turned 40 this morning, might be forty-seven when I wake up tomorrow. Another 11-hour day.

The weather is a dirty, rotten liar. Winter is a venereal disease, and flare-up season is not over.

Yesterday's scraps.

Notes from Zak. Still can't remember fountain solution without it.

Pre-math flub. Feeling awesome.

The best pages I've ever printed, just half as many as I need.

Remi + halftone

You can't see it, but the anti-offset spray powder glitters. Glittering comics.

Playing catch-up tomorrow. I think I can I think I can I think I can. (Well, I just have to.)

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 1!

April 2nd, 2013

First day of printing for the Xeric. Ran a test the day before, but the temperature barely rose above a measly 33 degrees and I - being a real genius at this point in time - had forgotten to bring the ink inside on Sunday. Frozen ink. Wouldn't ink the rollers, couldn't get the the blacks to ink up past maybe 40 percent black. Rollers stuck together. Practice run was shit. Today, ran another practice plate of nothing important. I waited until 3pm, 40 degrees. Thank you, Weather Channel app. Left ink to warm on space heater for a few hours over lunch at United Noodles with Amaya. Got spicy shuyo ramen and an aloe drink for floss. She helped me count out paper/correct my horrible maths.

Practice run was decent, got better as we went. Ink was hot, actually, and the fountain solution, too, from resting on space heater. Far easier while not frozen. Put the plate and the paper on for the first Xeric plate. Almost panicked again, but went for it. Inked up quick and good, switched from scrap to regular paper almost immediately. Did 'Thank You's page first. Banded in the middle for a spell, but wiped blanket and plate clean with fountain and it cleared up. A good run. Switching between plates was not fun. Machine was dialed in to high ink, low fountain and flooded each new plate hard. Screamed and kicked a little between first and second plate, but second and third plates were damn near perfect. Ran  883 sheets per plate, got definitely 700+ damn good ones. All single-sides sheets. Done; don't need to go through the press again.

Had Maisie dialed in GOOD and I was aligning the fourth plate to the paper when the chain operating the feed came loose, fucked up, and got jammed. Couldn't lower the feed; it was resting crooked. One side had fallen off the gear teeth, like a bike chain coming loose. Had to quit. Started cleaning up regretfully. Called Sally, left a message. He called back and explained how to fix it while I cradled the phone between my neck and cheek and furiously cleaned the press. Everything VERY inky from being dialed in. Got off the phone and finished cleaning. Came back and adjusted the feed chain. Took ten minutes, but figured it out.

Anti-offset powder EVERYWHERE. Wore white gloves while sorting printed stuffs. Ran to Target (2nd time in a day, again). Got large plastic tub, latex gloves, mustard. Covered in ink, scruffy printing clothes, wrong-buttoned shirt. Ate pizza and watched new Doctor Who with Ian. Separated printed pages and counted sheets for tomorrow with Amaya. Wrote this.

Fucking exhausted. Met my quota for the day, though. Didn't manage to get ahead because of feed chain, but fixed it myself with a little advice. On schedule. Happy. Excited.

Applications for Autoptic are open!

Applications are OPEN! 

You! Yeah, you there! Go on and check it out. I could not be prouder to be a part of the 'misfits-make-good' movie ensemble cast working hard to bring this to life, and I think it'll make the already fine city of Minneapolis fucking ELECTRIC come this August. I hope to see every one of you there - and APPLY!

February 2013!

+ Working on a long overdue X-mas gift for a friend (which might curtail more nicely into a birthday gift, if it takes me longer than expected) called "The Wife Hand," or, unofficially, "The Divorce Comic." It's been a little story rolling around in the back of my skull for a while, and when I described it to Lindsay as something I could possibly draw for her expressly, careful not to give it all away, she was very excited about it. I do adore a dark sense of humor in people.

+ I'm (erratically, impractically, rashly, but it is being done) amassing my supplies to print my Xeric-funded book for the spring/summer conventions. Printing is slated for the First of March, or Bust - or, if Winter is a little gentler, I'll start before that.

+ I will be attending the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) for the first time, on the second weekend in May! First time to Canada! And on the 10th anniversary, to boot! Hot damn

Toronto houses and nourishes some of my absolute favorite human beings. I cannot wait to meet it.

+ I'm helping to organize the Autoptic Festival this summer in MPLS. BE READY

And for anyone out there wanting to VOLUNTEER, I'd love to talk to you - we're still sussing out details, but I'd love to be in contact as soon as possible if you want to lend a hand.

+ Submitted to CAKE - eager to hear, and in either case, visit that beautiful, bog-built city in June!

about t.w.p. an old printing press and one cartoonist based out of south Minneapolis.

Talk Weird Press (Caitlin S.)
2601 2nd Ave. S, #14, Minneapolis, MN, 55404
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Caitlin Skaalrud (or Caitlin S., Rosebud Skud)

I'd love to answer your snail mail, too!
Caitlin S.
301 W. 22nd St., #3  Minneapolis, MN, 55404

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"Cold Air" + a hang-over story

First comic of 2013! --> Cold Air

Companion/sequel to From a Tiny Room in the Moony City, in which the Moony City herself, Minneapolis, portrayed here as a French-identifying disembodied voice, writes me back and tells me (in a very Nordic-way) to buck up and deal with it. 

On the 31st of December, I'd just finished with nigh on four-weeks of physical exhaustion and work-related emotional wounding and a mysterious lump on my face I'd of course, in a month-long fit of dread, labeled as Of-Course-It's-Cancer-Lump. I'd fought hard to get New Year's afternoon off of work, and, it being my favorite holiday alongside the Fourth of July/Solstice - I like fireworks, perceived-new beginnings, and temporal pivot points, mostly - I was hopeful and excited. I wanted to regain my footing in every way I could. It was an opportunity of the utmost importance. I'd thought so sincerely about tossing things I'd held dear for so long to the wayside, just to try and buck the emotional havoc dogging me. I was ready to throw away whatever it was hurting me, even if I was ultimately mistaken about it. But the New Year, looming and bright, was a perfect window out of which to throw my pain and watch it break on the sidewalk.

Stress begets bad decisions and bad decisions more stress, unfortunately. I woke at the crack of dawn, reeling with a mother of a hangover, and went to faithfully put in rent that morning. Nothing was better. Magic had transformed none of my problems, seeming only to busy itself with concocting a magically-resilient headache, and I felt low and listened to An Awesome Wave on loop. It buoyed me, only in the way that an untethered buoy roils around a corner of a lake - without direction but also without making any progress in any non-direction.

Long-story short, it was the first crisis of faith that cut deep enough to wound the part of me I'd always seen as my unending, special resource - my resolve, my commitment to that part of me wired to create. It sucked. I was afraid. In stark contrast, the comic I'd written in August, upon achieving something dear to me and moving back to Minneapolis, seemed stupidly optimistic and just plain wrong. I thought I'd made the biggest mistakes of my life, but I couldn't name them. I just felt I was stupid, wrong, and fucking it all away.

But, I sat my ass down at the chair in front of my desk. There was another, distinct maelstrom of resolve-cutting crap around that room - crawling from one mis-managed hovel to another, I'd found no respite in any of my usual hole-away spots. I had nothing else, though, but to draw. To put on big, chunky headphones and loop An Awesome Wave, or Astral Weeks, or The Seldom Seen Kid. And, with a little more wisdom to know I couldn't run on so little sleep, so little food, so little rest, that crisis settled. And slowly, quietly, but not always sweetly, made its ugly face scarce. I didn't make money from this drawing, and this drawing may never net a red cent in its life, but that makes it no less valuable having spent the time drawing.

The moral of this being there's no reason to give up that thing you love, even if the thing you'd be giving up gives you intent pain now, or for two or three consecutive-nows, like pain from setting your hand on the hot stove and forgetting how to pull away. In the light of this article making a round on the Interwebs (which personally seems too much like an admittedly slightly contrarian response to Faith Erin Hick's blog entry on perseverance), I thought I'd write an account of how not-giving-up is worth a burnt hand. Because it is. 

Change your mind? Re-evaluate? Alter your self along new value-lines? Throw your sail to the wind and take another waterway? Hell yes. She's trying to say those things about the complicated economic truths of the comics industry, to give her credit. But give up? Never. I won't thank you for using that lazy, inhumane phrase. Because comics are, at the core, in the end and above all, art and literature and not commodity. And telling would-be artists to give up is a waste of time.

New comic! - "xip"


STUDIO YOLO is brand new artist collective and a collection of some pretty cool cats - I was invited by my friend and ye olde classmate George Folz to participate in this first string of collaborations. Different artists are invited to reinterpret a script written by one of the members. Jay Ragorshek, one of my favorite screen-printing whizzes and a visceral comic magician, were invited to join the collective on their inaugural project. I think re-interpretation is a really fun way for cartoonists to collaborate, and, in a way, very quickly revealing of each artist's point of view. I feel very honored to have been a part, and this comic honestly almost kicked my ass. 

And then I turned it around, faced its butt to me, and kicked it back.

But yeah. I'm very happy with the result - it was a lot of fun to draw - and now it's sitting in some very good company.

Go READ some!

("xip" is the band's name, for any of the wondering.)

Beware the Ides of November

I promise I'm not dead. I'm just working.

It's halfway through November, and the first issue of "The Godhead" is halfway inked. And I'm calling that as actually halfway, and not that point where I am halfway ready to burn it and throw that ash down a sewer drain. Which is want to happen when things don't go your way while inking. That stuff's goddamn permanent. If I don't manage to pick up the pace, I'll probably just have the Xeric book and Godhead issue 1 out by TCAF (knock, knock) and CAKE in May and June, respectively.

Because Minnesota gets cold in the winter, my printing season should officially be "over," but if the gods decide we're going to have November weather all season long like last year, printing will start on the Xeric book, Sea Change, in a month or two, as well as for Godhead #1, and the "Tiny Room" mini. I like to call the time between the first snowfall and the first 50 degree day in spring, "Cartooning Season," or "Drawing Season," and all the days warm enough to stand outside "Printing Season."

Hopefully, it'll be warm, and I'll print a lot, and draw a lot. Thank god for global warming, huh?


     --> The Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) book festival is this weekend, the 17! I won't be tabling, but I'll be visiting and probably dicking around with Amaya at the Paper Tapir table, whose wares you should come pick up! Come get earrings that are tiny, viable books. Yeah. THOSE.

     --> Tom K. of the conquering Uncivilized Books is hosting a Defenders movie screening at the Trylon Microcinema in good old Southie (that's south Minneapolis, my heart, my home). Half of the proceeds from the screening go to the Comic Book Legal Defense fund, and the other half goes to you paying to see whatever awful-wonderful movie Mr. K has chosen, in the most wonderful small film theatre in the cities. So, win-win-win. BE THERE.

     --> and SAVE THE 16TH-18th of AUGUST 2013 for something very cool. You can't ask why yet, but you'll wanna do it, TRUST ME.