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Know why capital letters are called upper case? We have the answer.
Donation makes ASU’s type collection the largest at any higher-ed institution.
April 15, 2016

Petko donation makes ASU's type collection the largest in North American higher-education institutions

Most people can identify a loved one with a glimpse of an eye or mouth. For Daniel Mayer — printmaking instructor at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts’ School of Art — a single letter, comma or ligature can be adequate to identify one of the hundreds of typefaces that make up Arizona State University’s more than 3,000 cases of metal and wooden type.

The collection grew dramatically in early 2016 when ASU was gifted the Adam Repan Petko Type Collection, consisting of some 1,600 cases of type (enough to fill two semi trucks) and printing presses that include an ornate 1834 Columbian Press.

The collection — which is named for the donor’s father, a dermatologist interested in preserving printing technology — makes ASU’s type collection the largest at any institution of higher education in North America.

“The pristineDr. Petko collected what is referred to as “reproduction type.” The type composition was set “once” from the case, a reproduction proof impression was taken, and then it went into a photo-mechanical process for printing. The type that had one impression was put back into the case, leaving it pristine as the day it was cast. This makes up the majority of the collection. type was collected from commercial letterpress shops by Dr. Petko over many years as the print industry changed,” said Mayer, who is also director of Pyracantha Press, the School of Art’s production and research imprint. “We’re identifying it case by case.

“For example, there was a piece of type on the table, and it was a period in a diamond shape. The Goudy period was designed as a diamond. So you can pick up a letterform and identify it as Goudy, or Palatino. Selecting typefaces for a project is essential whether it’s for an artists’ book, broadside or ephemera as type has a voice.”

Metal print type is set in a curve.

Detail of the type used by visiting artist
Jessica Spring, along with ASU print experts,
to create a poster (below) celebrating
the Petko collection, using 35 fonts.

Photos by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

ASU’s printmaking program, which was recently ranked fifth in the country by U.S. News and World Report, houses its letterforms, punctuation marks, spacers, composing sticks and presses in the Art Building, at Hayden Library and in a new glass-front pop-up studio in the Tempe Center building on the northeast corner of 10th Street and Mill Avenue so that community members can easily engage with ongoing printmaking projects.

The inaugural guest artist to work in the pop-up space was printmaker Jessica Spring. Spring, who lives in Tacoma, Washington, spent a week in March collaborating with Mayer to create a commemorative letterpress print celebrating the Petko donation and paying tribute to the 35th anniversary of the Pyracantha Press.

She also taught workshops to ASU students and visitors who traveled to campus from the Phoenix metro area, the University of Arizona, Prescott, Flagstaff and New Mexico.

Spring and Mayer’s print, “35 Faces of Dr. Petko,” features a vibrant yellow smiley face — a nod to Petko’s career in dermatology — circled by 35 adjectives. Each word is hand-set in a typeface from the Petko Collection that the artists thought best conveyed its meaning.

Spring, proprietor of Springtide Press, is perhaps best known for her collaborative broadsides series “The Dead Feminists.” She often works in a style she calls “daredevil letterpress,” which consists of novel ways to hand-set type in non-traditional curves, waves and other shapes.

Petko type collection poster.

“I do daredevil printing, and ASU is home of the Sun Devils, and it’s a big, sunshine face,” Spring said of the final product, noting that its headline features the 1960s typeface Eurostile, which aligns with when the bright, smiling icon became popular.

To determine which typefaces to use, Spring, Mayer and Creative Research graduate assistant Sofia Paz gathered word lists and acted out traits that came to mind for letterforms that would best represent what it meant to be “gleeful” or “jubilant.”

“We decided ‘satisfied’ needed a typewriter font, for instance,” said Paz, who is the first year of her MFA program in printmaking.

Paz, who did not have much background in letterpress before joining ASU, says working with movable type has changed the way she interacts with her computer.

She thinks differently about what it means to select a 12- or 14-point font, or to use an “upper case” letter (letterpress printers traditionally worked simultaneously from two cases; frequently accessed, non-capitalized letters were stored in the lower case and capital letters were placed in the upper, harder-to-reach case). She says she instinctively searches her word processer for her favorite typefaces from the Petko Collection, even if they don’t exist digitally.

“I’ve only been doing this for a semester now, and I feel like it’s already getting engrained in my psyche,” she said.

“It catches students, especially when they’re using typefaces on the computer. That’s virtual — but in the letterpress studio it’s very physical,” said Mayer. “They’re picking up a character letter by letter and making words, making sentences, making paragraphs that are composed in tandem with other graphic processes such as woodcuts, silkscreen and newer digital technologies. It makes you pay attention to what it is and how it’s been done, while respecting the history of the printed word.”

While “35 Faces of Dr. Petko” was made to shepherd the Adam Repan Petko Type Collection into its new home, working on it also put a smile on a different newcomer’s face.

“I’ve lived in Argentina, Switzerland, Colorado and Texas and I never felt like I found home, but I feel like I have at ASU,” Paz said. “I know it’s kind of cheesy, but when the day is over, I don’t want to leave. After cataloging type for five hours straight, I don’t want to go! I just want to be here with everyone. I feel so welcome and they support one other, and the connections you make are just invaluable.”


To view or purchase the inaugural letterpress print, or to visit the Adam Repan Petko Type Collection in the School of Art, please contact Daniel Mayer at

Additional public book-arts activities can be found through ASU’s student artists’ book collective:



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ASU West lit mag Canyon Voices to release 13th issue on April 20.
Canyon Voices gives emerging artists a place to be heard.
April 18, 2016

Students creating literary magazine bring their own backstories even as they edit others' on ASU's West campus

In a small classroom at the end of a long hallway, groups of three to four students are huddled together behind the soft glow of at least a dozen Apple icons, working against looming deadlines to put together a magazine.

Thirty years ago this scene would have looked much different: unwieldy stacks of paper, pens tapping against ink-smeared pages.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the underlying thrum of chaos: long lists of unanswered emails, lengthy Word docs full of edits and hundreds of jpeg files of art submissions yet to be sorted.

This section of English 494 is dedicated to the editing and publishing of Arizona State University’s West campus literary magazine, Canyon Voices. And though the students aren’t covered in ink or shouting over a printing press, they are still getting real-world experience in doing quality work as the deadline clock ticks down to an April 20 release partyThis Wednesday, April 20, Canyon Voices will host the release party from 4:30-7 p.m. on the West campus’ Fletcher Library Plaza. The event will feature refreshments and readings from the issue by contributors..

Monday, March 21

“I’m pinching myself because we’re actually on track,” lecturerJulie Amparano is the writing certificate director and a lecturer at ASU's New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. and Canyon Voices founder Julie Amparano announces to her students at the beginning of class.

The release party for the 13th issue is only a month away now. Canyon Voices gets hundreds of submissions, and with only 16 students and one semester to sort, accept or reject them; edit and workshop them with the authors; finalize the layout and publish it online — keeping up with deadlines can feel like a near miracle.

English major Patricia Colomy hears Amparano’s statement and smiles to herself as she carefully lays out print copies of poems at her work space. They cover the entire table and then some. The idea, she explains, is to better visualize how they will look in the completed issue. And also to make sure no two similar poems are too close to each other.

“We’re trying not to put all the depressing ones next to each other,” she deadpans.

As the lead editor for the poetry section, Colomy estimated she and her fellow section members had fielded roughly 130 submissions by class time on March 21 — the most of any of the sections, which also include fiction, creative non-fiction, scripts and art. Of those 130 poetry submissions, they were able to narrow it down to 20.

Published twice a year, Canyon Voices accepts writing and artwork from undergraduates, graduates, faculty and the community at large — it has even published the work of contributors as far away as Europe and the Gaza Strip.

The class meets twice a week for about an hour, but most of the work is done on students’ own time. For those like Colomy — who balances school, work and her role as a wife and stepmother — it’s a real commitment.

At first hesitant to take on the role of lead poetry editor, Colomy said she is glad she did.

“We’ve gotten some fantastic stuff, and I like the editing process,” Colomy said.

A writer herself, as many of the Canyon Voices students are, Colomy has dabbled in fiction, non-fiction and even screenplays, though poetry remains her favorite genre. She has even won awards for her work, including the Paulette Schlosser Memorial Scholarship when she was a student at Mesa Community College (MCC).

She recently returned to college after a 10-year break and is loving life at the West campus.

“I like a small feel,” she said. “When I came out to ASU West after spending time at MCC, I was like, ‘Oh, this is nice.’ You get to know the same professors, the same people, and it feels a lot like a small community.”

Though she feels like she’s headed in the right direction now, with the goal of working in the publishing industry, it took Colomy awhile to figure things out.

“It usually takes something magnificent or something terrible for people to make these kind of choices,” she said of her decision to return to school. “And for me, sadly, it was something terrible.”

About eight years ago, Colomy’s brother was killed.

“When I came out on the other side of it, I really felt like I almost owed it … well, not owed it to him to be a better person or to live my dreams, but I thought if he was here, that’s what he would be doing. … I kind of look at life like you never know what’s going to happen. He was 32 when he was murdered, so he didn’t have a very long life. And I just figured if the same thing were to happen to me, I’d like to go out knowing that I at least lived a few of my dreams.”


Monday, March 28

A palpable energy buzzes in the room. It’s “art day,” and each section is clamoring to narrow down choices for art pieces.

Kaitlin Thern is particularly under the gun. As the lead editor for both the fiction and the art sections, she has to finalize fiction’s choices and oversee the rest of the sections’ choices, ensuring there’s no overlap and enough diversity.

As Thern sits copying down the lists of art pieces from the whiteboard, Amparano remarks on her composure and how the last student she asked to head up art day “broke out in hives.”

Thern is unfazed. “It’s actually pretty amazing,” she says. “Everybody’s first pick is a different artist, so it’s going really well.”

A psychology major, Thern might seem like a square peg in a course dedicated to the production of a literary magazine. But, like Colomy, writing is something she has always loved.

“I had all these ideas for stories way back, even in elementary school,” Thern said. “… And ever since coming to college I realized that this is something that I want to be a part of my life no matter where I end up.”

And no matter how much she already has on her plate, it would seem. Besides heading up two sections for Canyon Voices, Thern serves as vice president for Spectrum, the West campus’ LGBT support group, and along with her fiancée and fellow classmate Rome Johnson, co-wrote an hourlong play that will debut after the Canyon Voices release party.

“I don’t know why I did this to myself,” Thern said of the heavy workload, “but I don’t regret it. It feels really good to just become a leader in so many aspects of my life, and to just see this potential in myself that I didn’t know was there.”

With what she describes as a “critical eye,” Thern says Canyon Voices fills a void for her.

“I can easily see through a story to what areas it lacks, what it needs,” she said. “And I found that in workshop classes people generally want you to be very kind and tiptoe around their work, and walk on eggshells, and that was always very frustrating for me. But in this class, people really appreciate the way I critically look at stories, and to be appreciated for that is really nice.”


Wednesday, April 6

Sitting off to one side of the classroom are co-editors-in-chief Sayed Karimi and Megan Huffman. They have an easygoing rapport, slinging sarcasm back and forth and chatting about the responsibility of owning a cat (not that big of one, they determine).

Despite their apparently carefree attitudes, they admit they’re feeling the pressure. After all, it’s already April 6, and they’ve still got plenty of acceptance and rejection letters to send out, sections’ progress to check on and the release party to plan, something Karimi is happy to let Huffman take the lead on.

“She loves to boss people around,” he jokes.

“Oh yeah, I love it,” Huffman replies gamely.

Having fled Afghanistan at the age of 8, Karimi only learned at the age of 10 to speak the language he is now majoring in. After spending a couple years in Pakistan, where he worked in a garment shop, his mother was finally able to secure passage out of the war-torn Middle East for herself and her three children in August 2001 — about three weeks before Sept. 11.

Needless to say, it was a difficult time to be a Muslim refugee in America.

“It was a scary moment for us in particular because we thought we were out of all this trouble,” said Karimi. “We left our home because of this political war and everything that was going on, and we thought we were finally free but then, out of nowhere, it followed us.”

Undeterred, Karimi focused even harder on his studies, despite the fact that he struggled with English.

“It really hit me when I was a junior in high school when I started to write stories. They were terrible, terrible stories. But I still enjoyed doing it,” he said.

Much of his inspiration comes from politics and his personal experience growing up in an unstable country.

“I vividly remember the night that the Taliban took over Afghanistan. It was a very, very scary night,” said Karimi. “But then a year later, it was like a normal thing. The sound of gunshots and explosions, they just became a background noise.”

After high school in the U.S., Karimi followed a more traditional pathand secured a certificate to be a pharmacy tech, something that came natural to him.

“It was my Middle Eastern genetics kicking in,” he said with a laugh, pointing out that in his experience Middle Eastern students often pursue medical or engineering careers. “It was just super easy for me. My teachers told me I was so good at it that I should become a pharmacist.”

And he almost did. “But I kept finding myself trying to scribble out poems here and there. One day, it just hit me. I was like, ‘You know what? This is not me. No matter how much I suck at writing, I’m going to go and follow through with that,’ ” he said.

This is Karimi’s third semester with Canyon Voices. Students can take the course as many times as they like, but after the first two semesters, it becomes independent study. Each time, they have the opportunity to move up a rank. His first semester, Karimi was a general editor for creative non-fiction; his second semester, he was a lead editor for fiction; in this, his third semester, he is finally a co-editor-in-chief.

Karimi doesn’t have a wife or children of his own yet but is a self-proclaimed “family man.” At the age of 19 he purchased his own home and invited his mother and sister to move in with him. Karimi calls his mother his “hero” and says, “My sister is probably one of my most favorite people in the world.”

After all, she fully supported his decision to become an English major. And though he admits he’s “not the greatest poet,” he’s happy to be on the path he’s on — one that allows him to pursue his true passion.

“Here I am now at ASU, I’m an editor for Canyon Voices … it’s one of the greatest things that’s happened to me. I love it.”


Top photo: (From left) Sayed Karimi, Megan Huffman and Patricia Colomy take a look at art for Canyon Voices on ASU's West campus on March 21. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now