THE BOOKS PART THREE: On Press in the Far East

11/5/2015 10:10:54 PM


The tires of the Boeing triple seven hit the tarmac at Hong Kong International Airport. Mad/Dash Press publisher Aaron Sigmond and creative director Liliana Guia, weary after a 16-hour flight from JFK Airport in New York, climb into a taxi and cruise along the left side of the road to their hotel. A noodle dinner and coma-like sleep soon followed. A book project that had begun with an exotic journey was now concluding in much the same manner — which, in turn, will lead to your wine cellar, kitchen and coffee table.

The purpose of the transcontinental, trans-Pacific flight was not a holiday, but rather to be “on press” for the printing of the Palmaz Vineyards double-volume book set and slipcase. The printer chosen for the project, CP Printing, isn’t so much a household name, yet the publishing houses they print for certainly are: Rizzoli, Assouline, Phaidon Press, Taschen and other leaders in the world of arts, design, travel and dining. And though CPP’s sales office is in Hong Kong, the plant itself is hours outside the city, on the Canton side of the bay in mainland China.

A taxi, two buses, two border crossings and a car ride later, Sigmond and Guia arrive at the plant, where they spend a week overseeing the press production of both books. Over the course of the following weeks, CPP will do all the bindery work — trimming, stitching and binding — before packing them and shipping them back across the Pacific, where they’ll arrive at the Port of Oakland in due time.

For all the technological advances in just about every industry these days, printing, like winemaking, remains an art as much as it has become a science. Although the presses, inks, varnishes, printing plates (which are now digitally produced) and other elements have been greatly enhanced over the past two decades, wet-proofing and adjusting colors on press are still a function of the human hand and eye.

Despite some blurry-eyed 12-hour days, the week passes quickly. The books look even better on paper than they did onscreen. Indeed, the very sight of the vellum dust jackets coming off the press — the culmination of a two-year odyssey — is a genuinely emotional moment.

“This was a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as few creative directors go on press anymore, let alone for this period of time,” Guia says. “The journey was really a tactile culmination of the efforts and dedication of the book crew, the Palmaz family and their team. It was, to say the least, a remarkable experience for a project of which I’m enormously proud.”

Chinese cuisine (both high and low) for breakfast, lunch and dinner nine days running does tend to make the duo a bit homesick — for any other kind of cuisine, at least — the fact that they depart for home with their goals fully met makes everything worthwhile. Soon, the books will be in a shipping container headed to sea. . .