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Top honors, centuries-old craft

Top honors, centuries-old craft
Chad Pastotnik

Grand Valley alumnus Chad Pastotnik received one of the highest honors for his work in publishing a limited edition, letterpress version of a Joseph Conrad novel.

Pastotnik, owner of Deep Wood Press in Bellaire, and his occasional business partner James Dissette received the Carl Hertzog Award for Excellence in Book Design for producing Conrad’s "Heart of Darkness." The award is presented by the Friends of the University Library at the University of Texas-El Paso.

For Pastotnik, a 1997 graduate who earned a BFA in printmaking, the award was a stamp of approval for working as a fine letterpress publisher for nearly two decades. “It’s really the highest honor in the country among the fine book world,” he said.

Creating this special edition of "Heart of Darkness" took nearly three years. The book’s pages are made of handmade paper from a German paper mill. It is produced via letterpress and contains about 40 illustrations by artist Marc Castelli in an edition of 150 books. It’s available for viewing at the Special Collections and University Archives office in Seidman House on the Allendale Campus.

Pastotnik established Deep Wood Press in 1992; Pastotnik has five presses, the oldest is from the 1850s and the newest is about 60 years old.

News of the Carl Hertzog Award traveled fast among the fine book community. In the spring, Pastotnik was invited to England to present workshops and lectures on fine book publishing. He also delivered the keynote address to the Letterpress Printers Guild in Manchester.  Pastotnik learned this centuries-old craft while at Grand Valley as a printmaking major. He was introduced to printmaking by Professor Dellas Henke. After earning a degree at Grand Valley, Pastotnik studied letterpress at the University of Iowa and completed an apprenticeship in Chicago at a book bindery.

He publishes about three titles per year. Pastotnik said a hallmark of a book published by Deep Wood Press is its illustrations, either as originals from an artist or from woodcuts; titles sell for hundreds of dollars each. He currently working on books by former Michigan Supreme Court Justice John Voelker and Michigan poet Judith Minty.

For more about Pastotnik’s work, visit

by Michele Coffill

This story was filed with the tags: Awards , Published , Arts