An interview with Vince Foster, who was involved with JMP in the late 70s — and later with Peter Aschwanden, doing camera work and some of the printing for his posters. Vince spoke with Peter’s widow Deborah Reade about how he became involved with the printing scene in Santa Fe, and shared his memories of JMP in the ‘70s and ‘80s (and Deborah included some of her own as well).
Vince says printing is in his blood. His father worked in a print shop in Hawaii in the early 1940s before joining the Air Force during WWII and becoming a bombardier in Europe. (Vince was named after his dad’s pilot.) The family eventually moved to Texas, where his father ran a newspaper and where Vince spent his early years having a glorious and wild time.
As Vince sees it, growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s had a singular effect on the men of his generation. The displacement of the war caused a lot of women to move in with their mothers, and boys born in wartime were born into what had become almost a matriarchal culture. It also changed their relationships with their fathers, who were gone for years through the ‘50s and ‘60s. This estrangement led to the rebellion of that era (or, as the kids would say, rock and roll!) and, later, that rebellion led to a new generation of artists—like Peter. As Vince said, “People look back on the ‘50s today as a boring, very traditional time, but was exciting for me and it influenced today a lot. When we were teenagers, we were still living under the cloud of the Cold War and the military. Everyone grew up and became rebels.”
Or, more accurately, Vince grew up, got a Volkswagen and a camera, and started telling everyone he was a photographer. He got a job as a supplier, and while on that job met some beat reporters for a brand new Texas monthly magazine. He worked there as a photographer for four years, before moving to Santa Fe in ’78 or ’79, where he worked for Media Services on Alameda Street until the company was sold and fell apart. Eventually, he started working as a photographer and typesetter for Casa Sin Nombre, because he knew some of the folks there — Steven Lowe and Wes Pittman. It was an exciting place to be — they often held literary events there, with luminaries like Alan Ginsburg and William S. Burroughs. Peter and JMP were among their customers, entrusting all their camera work and some of their typesetting to Casa Sin Nombre.
At the time, JMP had just moved their offices to a beautiful big house on the corner of Old Santa Fe Trail and Camino de las Animas. (John was gone by then, but was it just a coincidence that his house in Mexico had also been on Camino de las Animas?) The picture right shows (top row), Jeannie Aschwanden, Peters’ then wife; Jeannie Flannery, a typesetter who also worked at Casa Sin Nombre before she moved over to JMP; Ken Luboff, President and CEO (!); Barbara Luboff; Mr. Stick (John Hilgerdt Anderson), production manager extraordinaire, who lived at the office and would sometimes sleep in his red union suite under his light table; Joan Kafri, the office manager; and Steven Conway, the shipping clerk.
In the bottom row are Peter (he and Jeannie were also living at the office); Turtle (Paul Abrams), marketing director; Eve Muir; Richard Sealy, author of the Rabbit Book; Karen, the bookkeeper, and Glen Strock, illustrator of The People’s Guide to Mexico. Most of these folks stayed on after they moved again in 1980, to their final location in the Santa Fe Railroad Yards (although Ada Browne took over bookkeeping from Karen).
After the move, Peter and JMP tried a new approach when it was time to begin illustrating the Honda Book. Three artists were hired to help create the pencils and mechanicals that Peter would later go over with ink and white out. Jim Exten, Michael McGuire, and Deborah Reade toiled away to lay out exploded engines and flying carburetors.
Meanwhile, Peter could be found at his drawing board by the window, working on the chapter openings, the cover, and assorted other drawings. He based a lot of the Honda design on Hokusai and some of the decorative symbols in the book were inspired by ancient Japanese shields. He even worked with a Japanese calligrapher on the Japanese characters in the chapter openings. As he worked, he’d break every now and again to see how the other artists were coming along, usually erasing huge swaths across the other artists’ work. “No, no, this all has to go!” he’ d say, and with a few strokes he’d show them exactly how it should have looked. Just good enough was not, in fact, good enough — it had to be exactly right.
While all this was going on, Deborah and Jeannie typeset the text on a Mergenthaler machine – the kind where you had to develop each strip of text like a photograph. (This was, after all, the pre-computer era!) Mr. Stick laid out and pasted up the book as the text became available, leaving empty space where the illustrations would eventually go. Everyone was listening to a different radio station at the same time — at least two or three were always going at once — and there was even a macaw living in the office for a while but, though beautiful, he was bad-tempered and tended to bite. At lunchtime, Peter and the artists would head to Tomasita’s for enchiladas and conversation about art, life, jazz, whatever. Deborah remembers it as (barely) controlled chaos, but it resulted in a great book.
So time marches on, and in 1991 Vince started his own business, Get Type, shortly before Steven passed away and Casa Sin Nombre was closed. Peter was also a Get Type customer, bringing his poster artwork in to be scanned. Vince remembers always wanting Peter to leave the originals an extra day so he could have time to look at them. On Peter’s artwork he had this to say: “It’s been the case with every illustrator I’ve ever known — the most talented ones are the least verbal. They’re not talkers, but the humor is there in the lines. When Peter brought in The Exploded Beetle, I looked at it and the first thing I asked was, ‘Where’s the key?’ I think Peter identified with that kind of Mad Magazine-style wit, the kind that doesn’t need a single word.
“When the Beetle came over, it was something brand new. Volkswagens were totally different from American cars. And everybody had the Idiot Guide.”