Real Moveable Type
by Bill Durand

Bixlers Prove That Not Everyone Has To Join The Electronic Revolution.

As time goes by I get more convinced that success in this vail of tears has as much to do with finding a "niche" as it does with anything else, even more than having foresight, industry or even luck or money. After the untimely death of advertising typography a few years ago, I was convinced that I was going to be running a very tired Davidson 221 till senility or even worse. As it turned out I found my niche writing, designing and producing retail print ads for customers primarily involved in broadcast.

Our November program presenters are proof of the importance of finding the right niche. Michael and Winfred Bixler's niche is a charming antique mill in Skaneateles, New York. Their success defies all logic except that of finding their niche. The Bixlers work every day with letterpress. Their shop features several working monotype machines, a couple of Vandercook proof presses, and a couple of Heidelburg letterpresses.

The Bixlers do very fine monotype composition for book publishing. And when you look at the specimens of their work you are struck by the fact that they are not at all confined by any limitations of the hot metal process. We could spend a prohibitive amount of time discussing what makes the Bixlers' work so aesthetically pleasing, but suffice it to say that even the vaguely uninitiated can recognize that kind of excellence when they see it. The books the Bixlers produce are beautiful.

As an example, many Rochester Club members own a piece of the Bixlers' work. When we visited RIT a couple of years ago, we were presented with an impressive history of the School of Printing. The book, written by long time club member Alexander Lawson was produced by Mark Guldin and Herbert Johnson. The near 600 pages of Monotype Dante are a testament to the craftsmanship of the Bixlers and their associates.

So, near twenty years after the death of letterpress printing, these talented people are making work. Even making it work beautifully.

The Bixlers are well educated in their craft. Michael was a member of the first RIT graduating class from the new campus-1969. His post-graduate studies were in Navy OCS with on the job training in the Pacific aboard the U.S.S. Elchorn. Realizing he needed to bring more knowledge to bear on his printing than knowing what a scuba valve was, Michael married Winfred Gray.

Winfred was a BFA graduate from RIT in 1969 and MFA in 1970.

Michael worked for David Godine in Bostin till 1973 when the Bixlers moved to Skaneateles and established their press and letterfoundry.

After all the programs on the cutting edge of prepress, this will be a nice counterpoint. It will be a night to celebrate craftsmanship. One for the heart.

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from the November 8, 1993 issue of the News Wire of the Club of Printing House Craftsmen of Rochester, New York, page 4

Copyright © 2003 Michael & Winifred Bixler
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