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Chest of printers type blocks inspires new form for Northport artist

The Observer | Lisa Mancuso | December 6, 2007

Northport resident Jennifer Lau is a graphic designer who has always been intrigued by different styles of typeface and fonts. So when she came across an old chest filled with printers' metal type at a tag sale, she knew she had to have it.

What she did not realize is that it would eventually take her career in a whole new direction.

A native of western Pennsylvania, Ms. Lau came to Eaton's Neck about seven years ago when she married her husband Rich. They have since moved into Northport Village and now have two children, Theo, 6 and Amelia, 3. Before her children were born, Ms. Lau worked in Manhattan as a graphic designer. Always interested in photography, it wasn't until one of her photos was chosen for the "Gilroy Garlic Festival" (one of the largest food festivals in the country) that she began to take it seriously. "That's when I first started thinking of doing photography as a career," said Ms. Lau.

A few years ago, Ms. Lau said she went to a tag sale that was being run by Barry and Marie Fortnuto then owners of Wild Rose Antiques one of her favorite antique stores in Northport. "I was in the basement, and I came across a dusty, oak type chest with a small printing press bolted to the top," she said. "Being a graphic designer, I thought it was a gold min, so I bought the whole thing." Ms. Lau said the chest, which she estimates had not been used for over 50 years, was not in the greatest shape. Said Mrs. Fornuto "Jennifer was the only person who loved the old printing press. I had no idea what she was going to do with it. She and her husband personally carried it up from the basement and took it home."

When she got it home, Mrs. Lau cleaned it up, and displayed it in her living room. Some time later, she started playing with the blocks of type and spelled out her son's name. She took a photograph of it, like the way it looked, and began creating other pieces.

About a year ago, she and her husband (who she says is also very creative) displayed some of her photography at a booth during Cow Harbor Day. They received a lot of positive feedback on the pieces and when one woman asked her to create a custom image, "I just thought this might be a business worth pursuing further," she said.

Soon after, Ms. Lau started her new business "," which specializes in printers' type photography. She chose the name "Acadia" because according to a definition she came across, it means "a place of rural peace." Said Ms. Lau, "I grew up in western Pennsylvania and when I first moved here I lived in Eaton's Neck, so it's a word that to me describes these places; it's a word that means something to me."

Ms. Lau said the blocks are very small – only about one eighth of an inch or smaller in height and can be a little clumsy to work with. She does mostly custom work, and clients often request images that spell out names. Ms. Lau also said she creates all of her own frames, hand painting and staining them. Her photography is in black and white, color or sepia tones. As a personal touch, Ms. Lau attaches a note on the back of each photograph that tells the story of how she came across the printers' type blocks. (Images are also available unframed and are mounted on foam core and matted.)

Ms. Lau now works out of her house and as a mother of young children, said she feels lucky to have a career that allows her to be at home with her children. "My kids are pretty tolerant. The other day I was using my camera and my son set up his little toy camera next to me," she laughed. Examples of Ms. Lau's work are on display at Antiques of Northport, 404 Fort Salonga Road, Northport, where Barry and Marie Fornuto are now dealers. Ms. Lau said the Fornuto's have always been very supportive of her work and she has been "renting one of their walls" for some time now.

"She's extremely talented. She takes the most wonderful photographs and she also designed our new business card," said Mrs. Fornuto.


Creative Eye: Northport artist Jennifer Lau (above) has developed a new artistic style after she happened upon a chest of printers type blocks at a tag sale.

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