by Jessie Ammons
photography by Tim Lytvinenko
Dave Wofford invites you to get lost in the magic of a book. “I make books for readers, not book collectors,” says the designer and letterpress printer behind Durham-based Horse & Buggy Press. His work inspires collection, though: There’s a compilation of sonnets about Southern racial tensions written by North Carolina’s former poet laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer, covered in paper handmade from torn-up Confederate flags; there’s a limited-run work by Allan Gurganus featuring the Southern author’s own illustrations; there are volumes encased in wrap-around boxes that unfold to reveal inserts and bookmarks. “I like the idea of thinking of a book as a cultural artifact, an object that hopefully feeds you tactilely as an intimate thing and slows you down,” he says. A display of his works is at CAM through August 7.
In honor of Horse & Buggy Press’ 20th anniversary, this retrospective goes beyond books. There are CD covers, past Full Frame Film Festival guides, academic paperbacks, photography collections, and cookbooks. “The show is purposefully called 20 Years of Horse & Buggy Press (and Friends),” Wofford says, because he worked with local artists to set the stage. They’ve helped create large-scale phrases, photos, and illustrations from the books’ pages to adorn the walls. Local furniture makers, including Ben Galata, Anthony Ulinsky, Al Frega, and Scott Howell, built display shelves, benches, chairs, and side tables. The end result is a custom-built library of sorts. “I want people to come to this book exhibit and actually sit down to read.”
Wofford’s collaborative approach to the exhibit reflects his artistic journey here in Raleigh. A graduate of N.C. State’s College of Design, he first stumbled upon a letterpress in the basement of Brooks Hall on campus. While honing his skills at Penland School of Crafts in western North Carolina, he fell in love with papermaking. Book design was the best way to pursue his passions and also make a living. He returned to Raleigh in 1996 to open Horse & Buggy, offering full-service design, production, and printing. “I take a lot of pride in combining the best of today’s technology with the best of yesterday’s,” he says, which is why he not only creates beautiful bespoke projects but also publishes photography surveys, academic press runs, and even restaurant menus. The common denominator is “a whole lot of attention to detail,” and an emphasis on local surroundings. Wofford says he hasn’t expanded much past the Triangle because he hasn’t had to, preferring instead to continue plugging into and promoting the creative community here.
20 Years of Horse & Buggy Press (and Friends) at CAM marks a full-circle homecoming for Wofford, who moved to Durham from Raleigh in 2003. “It’s near my old neighborhood, Boylan Heights, and literally across the railroad tracks from my old studio at Antfarm,” he says.
It’s there that Wofford established the thoughtful, craft-oriented methods that make his work distinct. “My inspiration comes from my love of reading and books and wanting people to read; but also from my friends who are metalworkers and woodworkers and potters, people who combine designing and making to enhance everyday activities like drinking, eating, and sitting. I view what I do with ink on paper in that same philosophy.”
20 Years of Horse & Buggy Press (and Friends) runs through Aug. 7 at CAM Raleigh, when there will be a closing reception. Learn more at horseandbuggypress.com