Pressing Matters Under Adams

Art and Information Meet at Bow and Arrow Press

Meaghan J. Beattie

Under Adams House B-Entryway, students and tutors get out the word the old-fashioned way.

Katherine S. Wong ’07 knows the difference between a Vandercook press and a pearl platen.

As the undergraduate press master at the Bow and Arrow Press, a student-run printing facility tucked under Adams House B-Entryway, Wong is fluent in the near-dead language of manual printmaking. But it’s not arcane terminology that attracts her to the craft.

“Printmaking is a meditative activity,” says Wong, an aspiring neurologist and self-described laid-back Californian. “It takes a long time to do something relatively simple.”

Wong makes posters as a way to relax—and, occasionally, to suggest that others do the same. During reading period last spring she posted colorful signs in the Yard with the words “CHILL OUT” displayed in prominent block letters, all laid out by hand at the Bow and Arrow Press. She says that she hoped the message would inspire her stressed-out peers.

Wong is not the first person to use the press to make a statement. According to John Pyper, a non-resident tutor in Adams House who oversees the print shop, the press was founded in the 1950s to publish left-wing propaganda. After a brief lapse into inactivity, the press gained a reputation in the 1980s as a nationally-known private workshop, producing commercial prints under the direction of Gino Lee ’86.

“The press was there to get out ideas that were personal—whether that be a social good or a form of personal expression,” Pyper says.

The press is no longer politically active, but students still congregate on Tuesday open press nights in the cluttered basement studio, where, for a few hours, there’s no such thing as a “paper jam” or a “print key” and a font no more than a piece of lead.