Monday, October 28, 2013

What is letterpress printmaking?

Ummm... to explain the  e v o c a t i v e   w o r l d   o f   l e t t e r p r e s s   printmaking in a nutshell. 

It's a metamorphis of highly trained skills, then and now, trying and failing, patience and determination, 

a crisp and luxurious impression,

within slow cook printmaking.

H e r e' s  a   q u i c k   l i t t l e   h i s t o r y   l e s s o n..

Moveable type was first developed by Bi Sheng in 1040  in the Song Dynasty in China. Although Sheng was progressive with getting the word out it involved a lot of labour in their extensive alphabet system so on the other side of the world a Johannes Gutenburg invented the printing press and independent movable type system...and a smaller anglo saxon alphabet.

A different cleverness Johanne knew that it would create a renaissance in spreading the thoughts and intellectual ideas to the world, rather than time consuming hand writing.
It meant the monks in monasteries could have 
more time to tend their medicinal gardens.

W h a t' s    m o v e a b l e   t y p e   y o u   a s k?

Well it's the individual letters and numbers that are either made up in wood or metal and assembled to create your dialogue and held in place by gadgets called coins and popped into a metal chase, then popped again into the press.

It all has to line up elegantly, be spaced beautifully and be enticing to the eye. 

It takes time and a whole lot of practice and patience.

Nowadays letterpress printers combine this with photopolymer plates, which means we can use our drawings and artwork, simply by making the plates in our darkroom.

You can see our tutorial on how we make our own plates
because we believe in thoroughly understanding our artisan industry as a whole.

T h a t' s   h o w   d i s c o v e r i e s   a r e   m a d e.

Our Gordon Platen Press is then set up with ink, all portions of the printing surface will strike the paper with the proper pressure, which gives a crisp, luxurious impression embedded into the paper 
on our 100% eco sustainable cotton german 600gm board.

This is where the patience and determination comes in, because no matter how
many times you have this experience of printing and your skills are honed in, there more than
often is troubleshooting, which ask any letterpress printer and they will nod 
their head in an agreeable smile.

The alignment of plates and equal pressure of the ink placement can try and undo you some days and it can be like a disagreeable teenager, only you can't send the press off to the bedroom, it's having the years of experience behind you to sort it out.

After inking up...

Paper is then hand fed one invitation at a time through the press and at the same time pedaling the foot up and down, concentrating while the large flywheel spins 
until the desired number of printed copies are obtained 
with crisp lines, patterns and typography.

One has to watch their fingers and it's all in the  r y t h m n.

 To bring out the best attributes of letterpress printmaking one has to have a full understanding of the capabilities and advantages of what can be a very unforgiving medium at times.

But  w e   a r e   i n   l o v e  with the process,
(custodians of the authentic)
both its cranky, frustrating and the seamless happy days of printing.


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