What do a shipwright and letterpress printer from San Francisco, a photographer from New York, a carpenter also from New York and a fashion store owner from Chicago have in common? Well, they are all young and creative to begin with; but they also happen to share the same passion for preserving time-honoured techniques and an artisanal spirit through their practice, acknowledging that no machine or digital process can completely replace the work that bare human hands can do. At a time like our own, when most of the objects that we use on a daily basis are mass-produced and the pace is set by our ‘smart’ gadgets and digital networks, it is more relevant than ever to bring to the fore the importance of doing things manually — that is, using techniques and equipment that force us to slow the process down, pay attention to the details and the materials used, and actually invest time and energy in making something unique. Mount Gay, the world’s oldest existing rum house from the island of Barbados, teamed up with creative agency Protein to produce four video portraits of these aforementioned young creatives, as a way to celebrate these values — heritage, craftsmanship and hands-on artistry — and to show that, thankfully, they still have a place in our lives.
From the four videos, we chose to feature the video portrait of San Francisco-based James Tucker, who is the founder of The Aesthetic Union, a press house and store in the city’s Northeast Mission neighbourhood. A self-confessed ''steward of all old things,'' Tucker originally studied graphic design, and used to be a shipwright at the Maritime National History Park in San Francisco before turning to printing using old machines, some of which work only manually and date as far back as 1890. Using and maintaining these old beauties is - for Tucker -more than just a whim as he feels that it is important to preserve these objects and the skills required to use them, as a way of honouring the tradition and history that they are an inextricable part of. Especially for Mount Gay, Tucker hand-carved a one-of-a-kind woodblock stamp, which he then used to print an image of a glass of Mount Gay on his amazing 1984 Heidelberg printer.