What is A Thyrsus?
The thyrsus is a wand or staff of giant fennel (Ferula communis) wound round with ivy vines and ribbons and topped with a pine cone that was the standard carried by the followers of Dionysus. It is a symbol of prosperity, fecundity, and general enjoyment. According to Euripides, the thyrsi of the maenads dripped with honey and were sometimes thought to conceal a hidden spear. It was also a key element in the Bacchic mystery cults. The year we got the C and P (our first letterpress), the mother of all fennels sprung up in front of the studio and it positively rocked with birds and bees for months. It seemed auspicious.
Our workshop is in an old 1930's auto repair shop in South Berkeley. A tiny little business card from the early part of the last century was discovered after some days of cutting paper and staring absently at the little square pasted under a window frame. Closer inspection showed it advertised the services of an "Automotician". The shop houses a Vandercook SP 20, a 1914 12x18 Chandler and Price Old Style platen press, a Conrad etching press, a Vandercook 01 proofing press, a National guillotine paper cutter, a Kutrimmer, and a cabinets of metal typefaces all hiked up on whatever we could find to keep them above the flood line. We also have a taste for toys—gocco, toy presses, toy cameras, button machines, as well as old and experimental frankencameras.
Who We Are
Thyrsus Press is run by Jinny Pearce and Doug Heise. Jinny has an MFA in Theatre from Wayne State University, a BFA in Printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute and a BA in Theatre and Studio Art from the University of Alabama, Birmingham. Some of Jinny’s other work can be viewed at her website www.jinnypearce.com and is in bad need at updating as of this writing as the lines blur between letterpress and etching work... Doug got his Bachelors in Drama from Stanford University and a MPhil in Theatre from the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Jinny and Doug met in the experimental theatre/dance scene in San Francisco in a previous life.
"Ligne droite et ligne arabesque, intention et expression, roideur de la volonté, sinuosité du verbe, unité du but, variété des moyens, amalgame tout-puissant et indivisible du génie, quel analyste aura le détestable courage de vous diviser et de vous séparer?"
- Charles Baudelaire, "Le Thyrse (a Franz Liszt)", Le Spleen de Paris, 1869