Honouring Jim Rimmer

Mark Busse – No Comments

Jim Rimmer died last week and I really wasn’t sure I wanted to post anything online after writing a tribute post for my recently deceased friend Leo Obstbaum. Losing people takes the wind right out of your sails. Then I found the following letter which was part of the nomination a group of us submitted for the Order of British Columbia last year. Unfortunately Jim was not selected as a recipient.

Dear Eric,

It was very nice to speak with you recently and learn of your nomination of our friend Jim Rimmer for the Order of British Columbia. As you know, I was the Executive Officer with the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada who nominated Mr. Rimmer for a Fellowship within GDC—our highest honour in the nation within the profession of graphic design. I did so in order to recognize and bring honour to this man and his remarkable achievements and contributions to our profession and industry.

I am convinced that Jim Rimmer is one of Canada’s living national treasures, and one of the finest British Columbians I have ever had the pleasure to meet. He’s so much more than the designer, illustrator, printer, publisher, and one of the few remaining typography and letterpress craftsmen alive today. He has been a teacher, a mentor, a kind friend, and inspiration to a very long list of printers, type designers, publishers, students, teachers, design firms, type foundries, and book lovers throughout his long career—a career that has lasted six decades and is still going strong.

Mr. Rimmer is an example of what dedication to a craft can accomplish. He is an amazing, creative, faithful traditionalist, but managed to remain relevant by fearlessly embracing new technologies that may have seemed at the time to render his previous training obsolete. Yet all the while he has managed also to keep alive the craft of hot type, hand-cut prints, letterpress lithography. Jim’s books and prints feel good, they smell good, they read well. His books are cherished by many as not only things to read, but things to admire and enjoy. Jim is one of the only remaining masters and should be cherished.

But that’s not the only reason I feel Jim deserves recognition. Jim has inspired many young people to rediscover the craft behind his type, prints and books. He has inspired numerous generations of designers; designers who now work as the visual storytellers of culture. Those creative professionals are now spread across this land and across the world, each of them remembering the lessons that this quiet man who showed them the way. The way it used to be done: by hand. But also showed them how the skills of that craft are relevant today in this fast-paced world of computers and digital media. The day we lose Jim Rimmer will be a sad day indeed, but he will leave behind a lasting legacy and an army of design practitioners better for having known him.

And to know Jim Rimmer personally is truly a pleasure. He’s such a generous and humble character, always respectful, encouraging and kind, often going to great lengths to help others with no need for credit or recognition. Many have described him as a maverick, a renegade even, quietly following his own path. And that too is a great quality that many British Columbians can proudly relate to.

I am humbled when I consider Mr. Rimmer’s history and contributions as both a craftsman of old as well as an innovator with creative genius, and wish to enthusiastically support your initiative in nominating him for the Order of British Columbia. He is a shining example of what the caliber of person I wish British Columbia to be known for.

Note: The typeface this letter is composed in is Jim Rimmer’s Albertan, named after his lovely wife Alberta, which he first hand-engraved for his private press in 1980.  It’s still as wonderful a face now as it was nearly 30 years ago.

We miss you Jim.

[photo credit Robert McCamant/The Caxtonian]