Two Rivers is home to one of the world’s largest wood type museums and it’s the place to be if you are a graphic designer. Hamilton Manufacturing Company started making wood type here in the late 1800s and today a lot of work goes into keeping that early 20th-century typography design alive.
Georgianne Liesch is a wood type cutter at Hamilton and uses antique pantographs, a simple tracing machine where she traces patterns on one platform, and simultaneously cuts that same shape on another platform. A pantograph can sometimes take 20 minutes to an hour to set up before any wood type can be cut. She can cut entire fonts, upper and lower case, numbers, punctuation, and even a few foreign languages like Hebrew, Arabic and Russian.
Liesch learned how to cut wood type from her dad, “I watched him one day and I realized, ‘Oh my God’, he’s like in his eighties, and if something happens to him, this dies with him. So, I decided that day that I was going to learn how to do it because there was nobody else, nobody else available to do it.” She peppered her dad with questions and used the opportunity to get to know him better. “I think in the end it was almost a labor of love for me to learn it, and for him to teach it.” Her father Norb Brylski left such an indelible mark on wood cutting at the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum that they named a wood type after him called Brylski. “We’re very Polish and we wanted an ethnic quality to it. It’s a little bit flowery,” says Liesch.
The museum celebrates its 25th-year anniversary in 2024. Pretty amazing for a place that may have not survived. Liesch enjoys working at the museum, she likes the process of making wood type, the feel of the wood, and cutting the type. She feels it’s a way to honor her dad. “It just seeps into you. Next thing you know, can’t imagine not being here.”