Lloyd Schermer’s art career began decades before he became an artist. As a newspaper publisher he was surrounded by the very material that would ultimately become his extraordinary sculptures and monotypes. But it would take another 30 years before idea and material would join into the exceptional work we see today.
Like all newspapers in the 1960’s, Schermer’s paper in Montana was printed using hot metal typeset technology; methods that evolved from the manual technique of placing wooden or metal letters by hand, into page forms, aligned, inked, then printed. Schermer’s newspaper was one of the first in the U.S. to change to offset lithography, which uses photographic typesetting that is then placed into page forms. This is then transferred to an offset/lithographic plate and printed onto the paper. Faster and less expensive, it wasn’t long before this technology spread to the entire newspaper industry. Simultaneously, millions of blocks of wood type, many hand carved, others a century old, became obsolete. Seen as useless, virtually all of this material was discarded and destroyed.
Fortunately, Schermer saw the beauty in these little gems. He held onto his own private cache until the idea for his unique sculpture formed. Over the years, he has added to his type collection, but believes he has found most of what is available in quantity. As Lloyd likes to remind his collectors, “You are dealing with two diminishing resources: antique type and me!”
Type is part of history and the story of communication. Before Gutenberg, type was made by carving wood, which was slow and expensive. Then in 1477 he discovered how to make molds of letters into which molten metal was poured. He revolutionized communications. Printing books, leaflets, and posters were now made quickly and inexpensively. In Schermer’s work, the impact of this change is captured in man’s most lasting medium – art.