Bay Area Printers' Fair

Every spring, the San Jose Printers' Guild hosts the SF Bay Area Printers' Fair & Wayzgoose where the art of printing - letterpress, typography, books, and everything else - is celebrated. The event is free and open to the public, with raffle tickets and items for sale.

The exhibitors and sellers were spread out at the History San Jose Park in small stalls. Some of the vendors were inside the building as well, but overall it was a moderately sized event with friendly people.


Most of the stalls were selling very affordable goods, as pictured here. Many of them had old advertising blocks from decades ago that they were selling for about $1 - 3 each, or even less than that!


I also spotted freshly made types for sale and drawer-like boxes to store them in. They were selling the wooden storage boxes for just $15 each. I was thoroughly tempted to purchase one to store my stamps in, but reluctantly walked away after realizing I wouldn't have the space on my desk to display the box properly. Maybe one day, when I have my own craft room, I can come back for one of these!


Inside the building was an active print shop run by the Printers' Guild, with various letterpress types and equipment stored in different areas. I briefly listened in on a conversation between the guild volunteers and a few visitors, who sparked with curiosity and wanted to know more about the aged art of printing.


The walls were well-decorated with fun posters and the rest of the shop even had a small exhibit area of historical goods. I got to try typing on a linotype keyboard, which I had never seen before. The diagonal layout and the lack of a visibly longer space bar definitely confused me, but it was such an interesting, tactile experience.


The highlight of the event for me personally were the advertising blocks I bought. It took me a while to dive through boxes and boxes of the stuff, but I managed to choose eight of them. They feature fun sayings, patterns, and art, which will add a lot of flair to my journaling pages.

There were no designs printed on the front side of the blocks, which meant I had to rely on my backwards reading skills to figure out what each one said. Try to picture me picking up one of them and struggling for a good thirty seconds to decipher what it says, only to put it back in the box and start the process all over again (I was laughing at myself the entire time).


Once I arrived home, I cleaned them as best as I could and took them to town on my traveler's notebook. They require extremely flat surfaces to show up effectively, so I had to re-stamp a few on regular paper and paste those over to cover up some of my failed attempts.


All in all, the fair was definitely a unique experience. I loved that the event was local and so accessible to everyone. The kindness and generosity of the staff involved definitely stands out in my mind - next time, I'll be less shy in asking my newbie letterpress-related questions! If you like a smaller, more personal environment to check out one of the oldest ways of printing, I highly recommend it.