Thursday, February 11, 2010

Somerville’s Mike Dacey: Publishing History “Repeats” Itself

Somerville’s Mike Dacey: Publishing History “Repeats” Itself

By Doug Holder

The first thing I noticed in Mike Dacey’s studio was a half full bottle of Balvenie Double Wood Whiskey. Now I enjoy a glass of Canadian Club with my wife on these cold evenings, so I was glad to see Dacey has good taste as well. The bottle almost seemed like a prop; it fit so well with the well-worn Letterpress printing machines and the gray winter light that filtered in before a much hyped snowstorm. Mike Dacey is an unpretentious man in his late 20’s, who is devoted to an arcane niche of the publishing and printing world: Letterpress Printing. Dacey describes this old school style of publishing as:

“A method of printing which includes raising up the surface of the plate and type, where as the ink is pushed into the paper... The current methods of printing are done by digital technology and offset methodology. “

Dacey prints beautifully conceived broadsides, chapbooks, and mono types from his space at the Fringe Movement Group, housed in an old factory at 9 Olive Square in the Union Square section of the city. The building is basically behind Sherman’s Café, home to the famed oatmeal scone as well an exhibit of Dacey’s work. His printing machines date back to the early 60’s. Dacey said: “As long as you keep them well-oiled they can last forever.”

As we talked Steve Shinnerev, a denizen of the building, and a talented videographer, traversed the expanse of the loft on a skateboard. The way I am feeling these days I would be more inclined to use a walker…but no matter.

“The Fringe Movement,” that Dacey is a proud member of, consists of young architects, engineers, a Green Roof designer, and others, who make their home here as they make their way into the marketplace.

Dacey calls his business the “Repeat Press” and judging by the quality of his products you would be well-advised to visit more than once. Dacey, a Somerville resident, lives with his girlfriend Alex Feinstein, another well-known name in arts circles in the Square. Dacey explained Somerville has been good to him, “I was awarded a Fellowship Grant from the Somerville Arts Council, and my business has become my livelihood.”

I asked Dacey why he chooses to work with Letterpress printing. Dacey said, looking at the ancient machines with a concerned, paternal gaze:

“I like working with my hands. I have a background in Graphic Design from Hampshire College. I think the end result of what I do is special and unique.”

I viewed some of his creations including, well-designed matchbooks covers, a broadside with the poetry of Devin King, as well as a slew of posters for Somerville’s P.A. Lounge as well as other area venues.

Now his stuff isn’t cheap, but you get what you pay for in this world. You can see Dacey’s craftsmanship and his well-honed artistic sensibility in everything he produces. From his cotton-based papers--to his wood type or metal type print productions--Repeat Press is well worth the price!

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