July 28, 2011

...learning about letterpress

So what is letterpress?

Well, first of all, it might be the love of my life. I might have dreams about it and think about it constantly and the first day of my workshop was the best first date of my life. Hope my boyfriend isn't reading this.

Second of all, it is an old (think Gutenberg, 1400's, first way of printing things ever) method of printing that is sort of seeing this nice little revival within the graphic design community. The final product is metal type and image coated with ink and then pressed into the paper, leaving this amazing indent into the paper. Just beautiful.

Presses are hard to come by and expensive, as is type. So think of all the fonts you have on your computer and you can render it in any size imaginable, bold, italic, so on... For presses you have to have each font, the italic version, and every size, and so on... In lead. AND a place to store it all. So accumulating type is an incredibly daunting and expensive task. Below is my type being laid out for my thank you cards. Underneath it you see maybe a fifth of a big box full of lead type for one font, in one size. Each letter has its own little cubby and there's an organization system many letterpressers follow.

Once you have all your type laid out you have to make sure there's no spelling mistakes. Oh, and you have to lay it out backwards. That made my brain hurt. You have to lock it into a frame so it doesn't fall out and ruin your day and life. There are so many steps to take, it could be hours and hours before you do you first print! It is all very methodical and tedious and perfect for the slightly OCD and over-organized person I am.

Then you lock it into the press.

Then comes the fun part, printing proof after proof to make sure the paper is straight. The type is set, but the paper is resting on moveable pins, so you do a proof, figure out which direction to move the paper, and keep doing that until it's perfect. That round metal plate at the top is where the ink sits, and the rollers at the bottom slide up when you pull down on the press and run over the type, then re-ink at the top! Magic. After everything is all dandy and set up you can print. And print and print and print. I honestly could have done it for hours. The 65th time was as beautiful as the 1st. Below you see my product from the second day of the class. It is a little card to be included with all my orders from my Etsy stationary shop thanking you! 

Was that enough on letterpress? If anyone wants to know anything further please email me at anneclindsay@gmail.com I would love to answer any questions!

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