Podcast: David Esslemont on the history of the Gregynog and Solmentes Presses

Nigel Beale aka The Literary Tourist, came to visit and recorded our conversation in which he asked me about the history of the Gregynog Press, my time there as the Controller (artistic and managing director, and printer) of Gwasg Gregynog from 1985–97, and the evolution of Solmentes Press. Listen to the podcast at The Biblio File (link below).

Waxing lyrical about the the press's setting amidst the rolling hills of Montgomeryshire, I talk about its founders, the wealthy Davies sisters, some of the key players such as Blair Hughes-Stanton (coincidentally one of my tutors at the Central School of Art), and some of the outstanding books produced there up to 1945, when the press closed.

Encouraged by John Ryder and Ian Mortimer, among others, I joined the press from Newcastle upon Tyne where I had been printing and publishing since 1978. It was a significant move, I learnt to speak Welsh, and delighted in the literary and artistic traditions of Wales. Over the course of 12 years I w…

Englishman makes pizza from scratch and sells recipe for $$$$

It all began with a dream of establishing a self-sufficient “Pizza Farm” business. 

Linocut: The pizza oven

Decorah, IA – Artist David Esslemont dreamt of establishing a “Pizza Farm”. He grew wheat and tomatoes and built a clay oven – but it just wasn’t feasible. However, he had another idea: a limited edition hand-printed book.

Pizza from Scratch, a visual narrative in woodcuts and linocuts, tells the story of how he literally grew a pizza on his farm in Iowa. With orders from distinguished institutions such as the Library of Congress and the British Library the book promises to be quite a success, and with copies selling for up to $4,800, it will help pay the heating bills this winter.

Weeds, fire, cultivating, seeds, seedlings, broadcasting, harrowing, harvesting, threshing and construction details are all depicted together with a diagram proving Pythagoras's theorem (used to make a right angle when laying out the foundation for the walls).

Esslemont grows the oven from scratch. Cement block walls support a reinforced concrete plinth and a layer of firebricks. He then makes adobe bricks with clay dug from his farm, and forms the oven around a mound of sand. After adding a layer of insulation, more clay bricks, a chimney, and a roof, it's ready to fire up.

As the oven takes shape, the artist appears in a number of self-portraits that reveal his growing obsession with the project. The book concludes with instructions for making the dough, cheese, and tomato sauce and cooking the pizza.

Let's Make Pizza linocut -1

Let's Make Pizza linocut - 4

Let's Make Pizza linocut - 3

Let's Make Pizza linocut -2

Finally, there is an extraordinary multi-color print of a pepperoni pizza.

Pepperoni Pizza linocut

Pizza from Scratch is published by Solmentes Press in a limited edition of 40 copies, 10.5 x 15 inches, landscape, 68pp. Thirty-six images together with a separate plan, printed from the original blocks. Five deluxe copies bound in white alum-tawed goatskin – $4,800, and thirty-five copies in cloth-covered boards – $2,400.

Full details and images on solmentes.com
Read the story behind the book here

David Esslemont is an artist, designer, printmaker and bookbinder who makes books from scratch, most recently about food, and published under his Solmentes Press imprint. He was Artistic Director of the University of Wales Gregynog Press from 1985–97 and has won many book design awards including the Felice Feliciano International Award in 1991. Esslemont’s work can be found in both private and public collections worldwide. (His archive to 2005 is held at the University of Iowa.)


Contact David Esslemont 563 419 8882 david (at) solmentes.com
Solmentes Press, 1990 Fox Hollow Road, Decorah, IA 52101