Kiva Stimac: Club owner, poster printer, vegetarian chef, wood type enthusiast

Article from Felt & Wire

[Alyson Kuhn] Last week, in our feature on Virgin Wood Type (VWT), we mentioned Kiva Stimac. She and her husband, bassist Mauro Pezzente, run a pair of performance spaces in Montréal. Stimac designs and prints posters — and business cards, menus, handbills and “the other ephemera that goes with owning a business” — in her studio/printshop on the second floor of Casa del Popolo, right above the venue.

The poster for Murray Street Band combines vintage type with new type from VWT, a hand-cut linoleum block by Stimac and a photopolymer plate for the logos.

About how much wood type do you have? And why are you so excited about buying more?
I had gradually amassed about 100 fonts of vintage lead and wood type, but now the prices for used wood type have gone through the roof. When I found Virgin Wood Type online earlier this year, I got very excited. The idea of using fresh, untouched type really appealed to me.

Charles Gayle concert: Large type from VWT; smaller type is a vintage metal version.

Bill [Jones, of VWT] is making beautiful hardwood end-grain wood type that is a pleasure to print with and totally affordable. There is nothing like locking up brand-new type in the press and printing for the first time! For a working letterpress printshop trying to do it the old school way, Bill is a godsend. I know I am gushing, but his type makes me so happy!

“We started the Casa del Popolo in 2000 with a couple of credit cards and a lot of DIY punk ethos.”

What’s your background?
I have a BA in Anthropology from Concordia University. After that, I went to cooking school, and then I worked in kitchens. I’ve always drawn things — I used to draw cartoons. Here in Montréal, you need posters to promote the shows. And instead of getting someone else to do them, I do them. I have a large show card press and I hand ink each poster, so I can get several different colors in one pass.

The polymer platemaker and an array of posters

And your husband?
Mauro is my partner in life and in business. He has a Masters of Science from McGill University. He is the co-founder and bassist in the Montréal super-group Godspeed You! Black Emperor. We have been together since we were kids in high school! Before we opened Casa, Mauro was working on his Ph.D, in addition to touring and recording with Godspeed. I was cooking professionally, and bookbinding and printing as a hobby and selling at craft fairs. We had long talked about opening our own legal café/showbar. A storefront became available, and that was that!

Ephemeral indeed: poster for Full Blast on the street

How many posters do you print for each event?
I print runs of 120 posters. That’s 100 for the street, 10 to keep — for the musicians and the archive — and 10 to sell. But I want to mention that it was illegal to put posters on the street in Montréal up until this year. Mauro actually went to the Supreme Court over this, as the club gets the fines, since our name is on the poster. He won. Another activist friend also went to the Supreme Court over his case and won as well. So now it is legal to poster in Montréal again. Yay, freedom of speech! You can see our poster archive online.

“We opened the Sala Rossa venue, across the street from Casa, in 2001, and the Spanish restaurant downstairs a year after that.”

What do you have equipment-wise in your studio/printshop?
In the beginning I used silkscreen, spray paint, photocopy and relief prints with a bookbinding press and the back of a wooden spoon! It was fun, but very time consuming. I had a couple of fonts of wood type and some lead type and a carving knife.

L’Oie de Cravan is a small publisher in Montréal. This poster, printed with a lot of VWT, announces a music-themed evening featuring more than 10 short performances to herald a triple book launch: lyrics of Michael Hurley, the third book of drawings by Jeff Ladouceur, and music journalist Byron Coley’s first collection of his reviews, C’est la guerre.

Four years ago I got a 15 x 24-in. show card press, and that really stimulated my wood type collecting. After that I got a Chandler & Price pilot press for printing CD covers, handbills and small book runs. Then two years ago, I got a 25 x 34-in. show card press. I can print really big things now. I have a Line-O-Scribe and a Nolan — two other flatbed proofing presses — and a 4 x 6-in. Kelsey. And a full screenprinting setup and a photopolymer plate maker as well as a Westman & Baker 19-in. paper cutter. And my original bookbinding press.

A proof commemorating a European tour, Stimac’s gift to the band members. Sí, the tilde in España is a sideways S. And that’s an upside-down 7 in the middle of Republiká.

I love the meditative-visceral element of actually carving a printing block, cutting a stencil for screenprinting or hand inking and pulling a print. Someday it would be nice to have a Vandercook or other flatbed press that has automatic inking.

“This is a live performance project with music and about 50 people on stage, all dressed in white. Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, the project’s creator, is originally from Lebanon, and now he lives in Montréal.”

Are your clubs a destination — not just for your audience, but for bands as well?
Simply put, yes. A lot of touring bands used to skip Montréal and just play Toronto and Boston because bookers thought there wasn’t the audience. For example, Mauro had heard Arab Strap was on tour and not coming to Montréal. He called up their booking agent and convinced him to book them at Casa, which only holds 100 people standing. The show sold out in 10 minutes, and we had to find a bigger venue! We knew the Spanish Cultural Center directly across the street from us had a ballroom with a stage, so we went and talked to them, and the rest is history.

Suoni per il popolo (in small print above Evan Parker’s name) is the annual musical festival held at Casa del Popolo.

Arcade Fire — yes, the band that just won a Grammy — got its start here. During the off-season, bands come from Europe and Africa to play in our clubs. Part of what makes Montréal so fantastic is the wealth of artists, printmakers, musicians and creative people who have gravitated here.

Poster show at Casa del Popolo of work from the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative

Do you have favorite papers to print on?
I get my paper from an old-time paper distributor in town — it’s several generations old. It’s in the old part of Montréal, in this cavernous monolithic space near the river. Now it’s run by an artist who loves supporting the arts, so he sells local printmakers off-cuts at discounted prices. I have no idea what brands I’m buying, but he has awesome art quality papers and is very generous.

And, I will say this about our handbills: When people come into the bar and want to find out what’s going on performance-wise, they’re excited to have that piece of paper, rather than our saying, “Oh, you can check out the schedule on our website.”

Poster photos: Lea Grahovac

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