Saturday, February 7, 2015

Letterpress Learnings

A few weeks ago I took a mini course on letterpress at the city TAFE. Letterpress involves using type made out of metal or wood and depending on the project, will also use different kinds of presses -- either a cylinder, platen or rotary press. I don't know if I had too many expectations but most assumed that it would be a breeze. What we learned was that letterpress is a fiddly process.

We had access to a limited number of typefaces for our projects--and for good reason. You could spend a lot of time (at least I could) figuring out which one to use. As it turned out, I didn't get to produce very much. It may have been easier if I took one concept and did a few things with instead of trying to do too many ideas. If I decide to do it again at least I know for next time.

bits and bobs at the workstation 
That metal frame is called a chase and all the bits around the type furniture. The most time consuming part I found was adding the right pieces to put enough pressure on the type to keep it in place when taking it over to the press for printing. For all that Tetris playing the result was simple:

Part of a quote from Baha'u'llah's Hidden Words

The next day I worked on a different passage excerpted from Dante's Inferno. 
The time was the beginning of the morning;
the sun was rising now in fellowship
with the same stars that had escorted it
when Divine Love first moved those things of beauty
I was able to get an initial print from it earlier in the afternoon but that's where it ended. I just needed to fix a few backwards letters and change the spacing a bit but after making those edits I wasn't able to get everything to stay as it did before. Unfortunately, by the time I flagged down the instructor there wasn't enough time to remedy the situation.

Me and another lady who finished last stayed to help clean up, including scrubbing off the inks we used to print with vegetable oil. When I pulled off the scrap paper I had laying around for the rollers to sit on, an interesting print was underneath. I didn't keep it but thought I'd at least take a picture of it as evidence of producing *something* even if not intentional.