Friday, April 30, 2010

Goodbye Jim

Image by Anna Prior via DesignEdge Canada

I have been putting this post off for quite some time now – and despite my hands being very full raising our beautiful daughter (who just turned 6 months) – the real reason I haven’t written anything about Jim Rimmer’s passing in January has been this: How do you put into words your admiration of, respect for, and gratitude towards someone who, without knowing it, changed the course of your career?

Although the time I spent learning the art of letterpress from Jim was short, and we only had a visit or two in his workshop, I think I was lucky to be afforded enough time to see what a great character he was.

The first time I met Jim was when I signed up for a summer letterpress workshop at Emily Carr School of Art + Design. I remember he walked into the classroom and he was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I was delighted. Jim started to talk about picas and composing sticks, and then decided to just take us to the press room and get our hands dirty. This was definitely my kind of instructor!

Jim let us experiment to our hearts’ content with the presses and type. I had been thinking seriously about getting into letterpress by the time I took this course, and had found someone online willing to sell me their Pilot press for an exorbitant amount. I asked Jim if he thought it was a fair price and he said “Talk to me after class, I think I have something you might be interested in”.

And so I did. Jim told me he had a little beginner’s press – a Kelsey 5x8 – that he’d been hanging on to for years, and that it would be a perfect press for me to start with. It seemed that I had lucked out – not only had I found someone to teach me to print, but he also had the press that would get me comfortable with the basics. He told me to come by his place in a few weeks ; the press needed new roller cores and trucks, and Jim offered to machine them on his lathe for me. I’d have to get them covered before using the press. I picked up the cores, had them covered, and then went back to see Jim to pick up the Kelsey.

By this time I was thinking – I’m going to have quite a bill on my hands – the press (whatever he wanted for it), the roller cores and trucks…yikes! But Jim didn’t want my money – he gave me the Kelsey and wouldn’t take any money to cover the rollers or trucks he made. He gave me a tour of his studio, gave me a big can of ink, some wood furniture, a couple of quoins, some tympan, a bit of type – basically everything I needed to actually use the little press. He gave me a demonstration on how to use it as it was quite different from the big platen at Emily Carr. All he asked for in return was that I help someone else in the future the same way he had helped me.

Jim asked me if I was “sure I wanted to get into this letterpress thing” before I left, and I said “yes, most definitely”. He warned me that this would be my first press of many, and that before I knew it my husband would be complaining that the basement where I would house the Kelsey would be taken over by printing-related ephemera – and bigger presses. Jim was very wise – and correct – it took me less than a year to seek out my next iron beast – an 8x12 Chandler & Price that needed to be moved down a flight of stairs to make it into the house. I can still see my husband cringing when the moving men brought it into the backyard.

Jim was a kind and generous soul. My first big project for the little Kelsey was going to be my graphic design studio’s holiday cards. It was a fairly big undertaking for me, and I was having trouble with the inking. Jim would look at the photos of my bad prints via email and would send me suggestions for fixing the problems. He was always there for advice if I ran into trouble.

Jim was also a very humble man. A few years back an event was held in Jim’s honour – Rimmerfest I believe it was called. I had been in his studio for something and told him I wouldn’t be able to make it. I asked him what he thought of it all and he told me he “wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about”. I had to laugh a bit – it was like he was unaware of the gifts of knowledge and inspiration he had given probably everyone he’d ever come across.

I do regret not being in contact with him more in these last few years. It’s a lame excuse, but life tends to get in the way sometimes. I always felt like if I had problems with printing, or needed to bounce an idea of him or get advice about moving a ton of cast iron from point A to point B, Jim would be around. I am sad that I will not get a chance to call on him again for advice. There was some comfort in knowing that Jim knew what to do if something wasn’t working right.

Jim was the most talented person I have ever met – and I don’t mean that as a passing comment. I mean he was truly gifted; and the things he did (time consuming, labour intensive, difficult projects requiring more patience than a regular human could muster), he did extremely well.

I remember when I was younger in my catechism classes a teacher told us that if God gave us a talent, we had to share it, because it was selfish not to. Jim shared his many talents and his knowledge with those of us who were lucky to have learned from him.

Goodbye Jim, may you rest in peace.


  1. This is a very moving tribute to someone you obviously cared about very much.

    My sympathies to you, and Mr. Rimmer's family, on his passing.

  2. what a sweet & caring post - i'm so sorry for your loss.

    thank you for writing this - i'm inspired to get back in touch with generous printers that helped me get on my feet in the world of printing.

  3. What a wonderful story. I am sure he would be so moved and proud to be remembered this way. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend.

  4. An excellent piece, and a moving testimonial to Mr. Rimmer. Most importantly, you know and realise the wealth and value infused into your own life and experience by the intersect of your life and Jim's, however brief. Good Providence in all your Letterpress endeavours!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...