During 2009, Kenya’s Amboseli basin experienced one of the worst droughts the area had seen in decades. Courtney Fitzpatrick, a Ph.D. student from Duke University, was there to witness it while working on a Fulbright fellowship project. To keep her sanity, she kept a journal and took pictures of the changing landscape.
After returning to the United States, she wanted to find a way to document a special time in her life. Mutual friends led her to Dave Wofford, a 1994 NC State graduate who owns Horse & Buggy Press, a graphic design and letterpress printing studio housed in downtown Durham, N.C.
Fitzpatrick and Wofford, who majored in design, collaborated to produce Maji Moto: Dispatches from a Drought. The 88-page fine-press, hand-bound book features 40 color photographs and 10 lyrical essays, and has already received attention from prominent publications such as American Scientist and The Paris Review.
“This book is not a documentary; it’s very personal and poetic,” Wofford says. “Maji Moto is partially hand printed by me on a letterpress here in my studio, and the other portions are printed using a high-end digital printing technique called indigo printing.
“There was a lot of back-and-forth between me and Courtney to capture her experience in Kenya on paper. We wanted the readers of this book to feel like they were going through a cinematic journey and seeing the landscape before their own eyes.”
Letterpress printing – more commonly seen today on formal wedding invitations or greeting cards – impresses the design into fibers of the paper so that you can feel it. It is a more intimate, tactile way of reading, says Wofford.
“The fact that Maji Moto is printed partially through letterpress truly makes it a work of art,” Wofford says. “Not many books are published through letterpress because it is hard to sell these books and get paid for the artistry that goes into it. Some letterpress printers will reprint classics and sell them to book collectors, but what I’m doing is different. I’m working with a contemporary author to print a really nice book that is still accessible to the average person. But there is a challenge in finding readers who aren’t necessarily book collectors but who are willing to spend more money for a nice book.”
The book is a limited edition – only 175 copies were printed. It retails for $145 and includes a photographic print with each copy. Additionally, four images from the book were used to create limited edition broadsides that feature an image and text excerpt from the book which can be framed and displayed.
For those wanting to preview the book in person, Wofford hosts foyer gallery hours on Fridays from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon, and by appointment. Additionally, the gallery is open for a studio event the third Friday of every month from 6 – 9 p.m. His studio is located at 401-B1 Foster Street in Durham. The book will also be on display at the upcoming SPARKcon festival in downtown Raleigh September 15 and 16.
— Caroline Barnhill, ‘05