MENDOCINO, CA – On January 6, 2022, the Partners’ Gallery in Mendocino will open its doors for a unique exhibition on the fine arts of letterpress printing featuring three eminent women specializing in different aspects of the art of book. Entitled “Three Letterpress Printers Enter a Hangar: The Renegade Letterpress Work of Felicia Rice, Theresa Whitehill, Zida Borcich,” the exhibition will be open until February 12. The first annual Mendocino Book Arts Festival is in conjunction with the Art Exhibition! (BAM!) Will start on the same day and run in many locations until the end of February.

Letterpress printing was once called “black art” in reference to the black ink of the trade. It is no longer the main modern and efficient printing method. The elevated impression is intense and time consuming, but the rewards can be dramatic. The art of using manual or mechanical compositions in metal, wood or polymer requires years of dedicated training and hard-to-find printing presses that often date from the early 20th century. Lead-type foundries have disappeared and printers continue to operate relying on replacement polymer parts.

Her father’s small garden shed now houses Felicia Rice’s typography studio, which she hopes to turn into a full print shop soon. (Chris Pugh – Mendocino Beacon)

As few women exercised a profession which dates back to the middle of the 14th century, the three guest artists have known each other since the beginning of their careers. They also have shared connections. Whitehill previously worked for Borcich at Fort Bragg for eight years. Rice and Borcich trained under the same master printer, Al Moise. Together, they bring 120 years of cumulative experience to the exhibition. Borcich is a commercial printer specializing in the design and publication of Real Estate Magazine and has operated a boutique on Main Street in Fort Bragg for 27 years. Whitehill is a poet who prints signs in her shop in Ukiah. Rice is originally from Mendocino and describes herself as an editor, publisher, writer and artist. His parents, Ray and Miriam Rice, founded the Mendocino Arts Center.

The germination of the gallery exhibition is due to extraordinary circumstances. Rice, who had settled in Santa Cruz some 50 years ago, lost the job, shop, printing house, and home of her life in the 2020 Santa Cruz complex fire and returned to the little family home in Mendocino with literally nothing left. She works in her father’s original workshop on the property and hopes to raise funds to convert it into a full-fledged printing press. Borcich came to offer his help and realized Rice’s wrestling was ideal and published his story in his real estate magazine. Artists from Partners Gallery, known for its contemporary art exhibitions, read the article in the September 2021 issue of the magazine and invited the three women to consider exhibiting their work at the Mendocino Gallery.

“It’s great that they recognized that the three of us, from completely different approaches to crafting, are complementary and should be in an artistic context,” Rice said. Two artists from Partners Gallery, Pam Hahn and Mina Cohen, organize the exhibition in collaboration with the artists. Rice said having a show with Whitehill and Borcich is an affirmation of life. “Working alongside these two women fills my heart and soul,” she said.

With the preparation of the exhibition came the idea of ​​organizing a festival on the art of the book. Enthusiastic attendees from across the county pledged their locations for various events celebrating the art of the book – such as fine print, design, binding, papermaking and content creation. The three artists believe that this festival and the gallery exhibition will bring the art of book creation to the greater community. “Most people don’t know about artist books, what they’re in and how it all ends up on a page,” Borcich said.

Aware of the digital information age, the three printers believe that books still have a lot to offer our culture and our community. Rice commented, “Perhaps we are in a time when books have become unusable in everyday life. Maybe we now see the book more as an art form. The festival, she says, is a way of “looking at the book with new eyes.” Borcich also sees the opening of the gallery and the festival as a way to attract the community of letterpress printers, writers and art book admirers to the Bay Area, referring to the ‘treasure hidden of interest ‘outside the general knowledge of the local community.

Women are especially excited about a gallery event that will feature renowned typography book design icon, Peter Koch, who hosts the biannual CODEX International Book Fair in the Bay Area. . They believe that his visit will attract a large audience and fulfill their goal of collaborating with arts organizations to bring new artistic experiences to the community. The three printers see the events as “the start of something new that will benefit the community,” said Rice, who hopes to see the art of book making take hold in local schools.

Partners Gallery is located in the historic Mendocino Beacon building at 45062 Ukiah Street in Mendocino and is open Thursday through Monday, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information, call 707-962-0233 or online at www.partnersgallery.com.

“Three Letterpress Printers Walk Through a Shed: The Renegade Letterpress Work of Felicia Rice, Theresa Whitehill, Zida Borcich” opens Thursday, January 6 and ends March 6, 2022. On Saturday, January 8, the gallery will host the first of two Meet the Artists events, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The BAM! The festival will take place in January and February in various locations across the county. For a full list of events, times and locations, please go online at www.tinyurl.com/BAM-2022.