They Make Books in the Back!

Katherine Denison and Glenn Alexander discuss a project.

Two businesses and a Carolina dog named Sedona share the modest workspace in the far back of the brick building at 439 Monroe Ave. in Rochester. There, in the quiet of this near-secret hideaway, books move from high hopes and loose ideas into tight designs, fine color and beautiful bindings. Sedona, otherwise remarkably calm, greets newcomers with a bark and a wag, a hint of the friendliness within.

Katherine Denison, of Denison Creative, does the layout and graphic design and Glenn Alexander, president of pixelPRESERVE, prints and binds books of every sort, including business promotion, donor appreciation, children’s stories, photography and art portfolios, poetry, novels, how-to manuals, and an amazing range of family archives, journals and histories.

“It’s my goal to work so closely with my customers – to listen so carefully – I can almost read their minds. I like it when they burst into tears of joy as I hand them a perfectly captured family history,” Denison laughs. “They see it on the monitor as they work with me, and later in a proof copy, but Glenn’s expertise and the meticulous craftsmanship of our binder and production manager, Brittany McCulloch, honor their history in ways they never imagined. The finished book in their hands is a celebration of things they most treasure.”

“Everyone we meet seems to have a book they dream of doing,”
Alexander muses, “whether it’s a practical volume for work or an art project they’ve envisioned for years. We certainly do online projects where we download text and pictures and print a basic book, but our specialty is custom design and production for particular people and specific situations. No online competitor can match the personal care we offer.

“We’re artists and printers, yes, but our greatest skills are problem-solving and invention. Those are what keep us excited about our work and our customers,” says Alexander.

To illustrate this point, Denison described four recent quandaries, and how she, Alexander and McCulloch addressed them.

Six siblings all coveted their grandmother’s cookbook – crumbling pages, yellow and disintegrating – with the recipes and the memories it holds fast-fading. Who got it?
“Ever so gently, we scanned all the recipe pages of the cookbook, capturing where they overlapped, leaving all the raw and torn edges. Then we scanned family photographs of the grandmother and the family homestead, the grandmother’s wedding invitation with a recipe written in pencil on the back, and the words to an important family song. We included an introduction and a short family history in beautiful type compatible with the era of the cookbook pages. Finally, we used the background of the grandmother’s picture as a young woman as a texture for the cover of the hardcover book (see picture on page 20). Now every sibling in the family has an archivally sound, beautiful volume of the fast-decaying treasure.”

A highly praised photographer wanted to present her grandson with a book combining her photographs with the prophetic words of Chief Seattle on the laws of nature. She wanted just two flawless copies capturing her values and love.
“Enhancing an artist’s work is our calling, requiring study, respect and our own artistry. Volume size and shape, book cover selection, font, text arrangement and color can send the art soaring or hold it earthbound. Pleasing artists whose work we admire is deeply rewarding. (No tears, but she sent a letter: ‘I want to tell you again what a masterful job you did on the book … each time I [look at it] I find another clever way in which you pulled together text and image … every detail is thought of …’)”

An internationally renowned physician, whose accomplishments far outstrip his 45-page curriculum vitae, wanted to leave a complete legacy for his own family and for the international medical community, weaving personal history and adventures with professional stories. With nearly 1,000 typed pages and hundreds of photographs, he wondered where to start.
“Working with the doctor and his editor, we designed two volumes – one for personal history, one for professional accomplishments – reversing two selected colors to make a distinct but distinguishable set. In making the book longer in the horizontal dimension, we left room on both outside edges for hundreds of photographs and illustrations included with the text, keeping it easy to read. The first volume was well over 300 pages, the second 450, but the lively layout and colors keep it light and accessible. (No tears, but lots of cheers!)”

The Memorial Art Gallery’s discovery of a brilliant little painting and ensuing efforts to find its history uncovered the story of a tragedy borne by a community of artists – more than 30 friends who’d drifted apart 40 years ago. How to present the story so it can bring the group – who once called themselves family – close again?
“We worked with the author to get the word out that the story of the painter, his work and his lost community was underway, and helped gather and scan the many drawings and paintings that emerged from the search. With a tight deadline, determined by an opening at the gallery that included the mysterious painting, we designed a 250-page book as the text flowed in, incorporating over 150 artworks in the complex story. The community reunited in celebration of the deceased artist and his accomplishment, and of their bonds. The family, who’d never met the son’s friends, joined the convergence and eventually became caretakers of the largest part of the collection. The book and the concurrent gathering drew media attention, lots of parties and the reuniting of old pals. Many, many tears were shed!”

In addition to unwrapping and sharing secrets and histories and family sagas, the team scans and prints (and restores, as needed) crumbling photographs, aging letters, scanned or photographed artifacts, drawings, and beautifully penned ledgers, wills, bills and immigration papers. Special high-resolution scanners keep the costs down and those rarely seen keepsakes can be converted into marvelous prints, greeting cards, calendars – and, of course, books – for your kids and theirs and the ones to come.


by Katherine Denison