Monday 3 December 2012

The big M

The big M ready for inking. It is quite badly warped, and we thought it may break in two under the rollers, but M survived. The left-hand edge serifs are damaged and worn away, but with packing under the wood, strips of paper under the grippers with the printing paper (thanks Angie) and hand-inking with a small roller, we did manage to get the serifs to print. Our first newsprint proofs are very pale, but have picked up the wood grain really well. Need to try again and see if we can get a darker impression. I (Lucy) managed to lose M temporarily after printing (!) but now safe and sound, and ready for MMMMMore prints.

Saturday 1 December 2012

Back to basics

We returned to our roots this week at LEN with a spot of type sorting, very therapeutic, as long as we remember which order we are putting the punctuation in!

We've gone with A-Z  & ! ? \ ' , . : £ - 1-9 0

And on the other side of the room there was something that made us go mmmmm, but I'll let Lucy tell you about that.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Treasure night at LEN

One of the things I love about the letterpress enthusiasts that I have met is that they seem to have the capacity to get really excited about new developments, like people creating their own type, or experimenting with technique, using old technology in new ways, but also to light up at the sight of old forgotten bits of type that they stumble across.  This happened this week when Lucy, one of our LEN members (or LEN-ners as we seem to be saying) brought in a fraction of a collection that she has discovered at a publishing house where she works.

So what was in this magic haul that made us go a bit giddy?

Having teased us a couple of weeks ago with a giant E, this week it was outdone by an even more massive M (hard to see scale here but approx. 40cm high).


And 2 boxes of printing blocks, including logos, letterheads, symbols, and some that appear to be from  a catalogue - 2 diamond rings, 2 toast racks, and a cruet set!  As far as we know the collection originated in the North East, and many of the companies identified have a Newcastle address.  Some of them were not in great condition but we have found in the past that many blocks will print better than you would think, so we decided to set each box as one sheet and print them to see what sort of results were possible and to get a record of what was there.

Here is the first box of blocks locked up in the press, looking a bit fresher after a bit of a clean.  This one included an order form for silk jumpers, a label for tea, a banner for the Order of the Sons of Temperance, company logos, a pool table, and a portrait of a bearded man.

Now unfortunately the wild stormy weather got the better of us and we had to pack up and leave in rather a hurry, so no photos yet of the printed results, we'll have to mark this one to be continued....

LEN warm up

Sometimes I (Hazel) spend most of my MA Thursday before LEN working on the Vandercook, so it feels like a whole day of LEN, though without the others there to input and advise.  I like to think I usually have an idea in my head of what I am going to print, but that is not always the case.  On those days, if I am booked onto the press anyway, I tend to round up bits of materials, scraps and paper that I have been meaning to use, and any type that has caught my eye recently.  This was one of those weeks.

I started the day coining the phrase 'when in doubt get the shilling strokes out', and thats what I did.  Printing onto offcuts of paper from a previous book project, a sort of reverse skyline, I composed a design using the different sizes of shilling strokes and printed in blue grey.  Then I changed the composition and overprinted in black to give some depth.  I am not sure yet what they will become.  As the paper is pre-scored they are have the potential to fold and be free-standing so I intend to print on the reverse as well.

The next choice of type was this tray that Angie found in the store - Tom thinks it came from the Industrial Museum - with its gorgeous striped backgrounds.  We don't know what its called, and couldn't even agree on the typeface, it looks like a Gill but on closer examination of the tail of the Q Phil said not.  Any ideas?

Of course I decided to print all of the non-text pieces, which always seems like the right thing to do on a day where you have nothing to say.  There was a bit of a bleed on some areas, which I think was down to over-inking.  I gave the type a wipe over with some white spirit and re-inked without drying it off, leading to this much more varied, patchy print, which I really liked - happy accidents in letterpress!

Saturday 27 October 2012

First of the month

October has been a month of firsts:

First LEN appearance at an event.
Angie and I (Hazel) took part in the Manchester Artists' Book Fair, representing LEN and some of our letterpress creations.  At the accompanying morning of talks on the theme of 'Collaboration and the Democracy of Book Arts' Angie spoke about LEN, as well as her recent book project with Philippa Wood Open House.  As a result we had lots of visitors to our table who were keen to talk about letterpress, there was a definite buzz in the air!

Happily we had spent a few (only slightly frantic) hours the week before printing out some business cards, which came in very handy.

Angie produced some cards from one of the images used in her recent book, just one of the joys of the polymer plates that we have been working with a lot lately.

On our return from Manchester we were very pleased to host our first official LEN visitors, Lin Tobias and Clare Williamson from Melbourne, Australia.  They shared images and stories from their recent trip to several prime letterpress locations in the USA, including Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum and Hatch Show Print where Lin was lucky enough to have done some internships.

After getting us all fired up about lovely letterpress we roped our visitors in to help with our first LEN session of the (academic) year, where we were lined up to do some printing for one of our 'guest printers' Sarah Bodman.

Working with a polymer plate - a gorgeous reproduction of some original 1930's(?) American commercial printing - once the image had been set straight and locked in it was reasonably straightforward to print, though Sarah challenged us with her selection of paper size - almost too small for the press! - so nimble fingers were required.  

Many thanks to our guests for their help with this, and for their letterpress anecdotes and enthusiasm, we could have talked all night!

Monday 1 October 2012

Yes yes yes!

First day of term, not a second to lose on the Vandercook, print, print, print!

Saturday 31 March 2012


This week at LEN we found that, unintentionally, we were working on the presses without using any power.  We only realised when we noticed how quiet it was!

Andy was printing his new typeface - more on that to come - inking it by hand.

And I (Hazel) was blind embossing from a linocut to create some covers for the 2nd edition of a book.  This was a really good technique for me to try at LEN as Angie and Andy were able to advise on the practicalities of getting my lino type high, and whether or not to soak the paper.  The result was subtle, but perfect for what I wanted, though as usual, in trying to use up some odds and ends I created new ones in the process.

Sunday 11 March 2012

Andy: Printing on a Wharfedale press.

'LOST' Print on the Wharfedale press and the locked forme of the same print. Notice the image printed on the blanket! I learned quickly not to let the press run on without any paper in place.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Andy: Letterpress statement

My work is characterised by the use of both letterpress and illustration, with each being equally important to the final piece. Drawing is an integral part of my practice, and the illustrative element in my printmaking tends to be a drawn image, for example a life drawing. Letterpress is incorporated either as a title, suggestive of a poster, or as longer text, suggestive of a broadside. Sometimes the text subverts the image; sometimes the inclusion of a few letterpressed words with the image create a narrative for the viewer, albeit an often ambiguous one.

I admire the aesthetic quality of print produced by using letterpress; a quality which suits the style of print I strive to create: one inspired by broadsides, broadsheets, old advertisements, political propaganda, satirical and random ephemera and posters. The limitations and flaws of letterpress, be it work type, or the time taken to compose are part of the enjoyment and satisfaction of using the medium.

The current revival of letterpress may be a reaction to the prevalence of the digital format; the use of traditional methods in the face of commodification and standardisation of material culture. In this way using letterpress can arguably be seen as a social and political act- there seems no better medium with which to convey the political and socially relevant themes I intend to engage with, however subtly and ambiguously.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Hazel: Coded

These were printed from lead type, a combination of 10pt leader dots and 6pt ornaments.  I varied the line spacings within the design and printed onto both sides of these A6 file cards, which I had obtained for an earlier project.  

The combination of the format and the print gives the strong impression that they contain detailed information, if only the reader was able to decipher the 'code'.  I printed enough that I could create a small edition of a book, though I am not sure yet that this is what they want to be, so they are now 'resting' while I mull it over. 

Letterpress - Born In The USA

A friend and multi-talented artist, Nataie Mc.Grorty has been researching in the USA for the past six months. She kindly brought back some letterpress goodies for me from the amazing Yee-Haw Press -  Yee-Haw Industries specializes in original art-like products - from letterpress posters promoting special events, music acts and theatre shows to handmade, woodcut, fine art prints. On the Hompage, they have a link to their, again _amazing_ blog and esty shop - don't deny yourself.

Plus, a great invite to the Penland Gingerade from Penland School Of Craft - and a bookmark by the fabulous Sally Alatalo of Sara Ranchouse Publications.

All good fodder for Letterpress Nuts!

Tuesday 31 January 2012

Hazel: Dots, Dashes, Forward Slashes

Part of a series I am working on relating to coding and information, I am experimenting with different elements of non-text letterpress to see how I can use these to create the patterns of codes and messages that replicate those we find on everyday ephemera.  Using these wooden shilling strokes got me thinking a lot about scale, and how working with larger type shows up the finer detail in the scuffs and nicks which adds a new level of information to the print.

Angie's Miniprint

A Poem For You

I'd recently read a wonderful publication called, 'Tales To Change The World' published in 2008, by Caseroom Press. I was really taken by a small poem in the book by Gianni Rodari. I read and re-read it - thinking that the poem speaks to all Grown Ups really - and interesting to find it in a book written for children. Although I do believe that Rodari wrote with adults in mind, following the philosophy that adults read aloud to their children. I typeset the Poem with the addition of ornaments and a border to contextualise the text in the prescribed rectangular format - paper size 20cms x 25cms and printed area of no bigger than
3 x 4 inches.

Andy: Mhairi

Hazel: Advent Calendar Project

Sunday 22 January 2012

Angie: x book

2 prints an A4 sheet
The finished book folded and bound

12 'x's locked up and ready to go

I printed a selection of a dozen x blocks on an A4 sized sheet of printing wove - double sided, so four times through the press in total - the paper was then cut and folded into a spiral form to produce a tiny A8 sized maze book.

When we describe how much we love someone or something, we usually say … “this much,” whilst holding out our hands to quantify a particular amount.
This little book, when fully open, simulates that same action, and reflects the universal symbol of love sent, as the letter x.
X= How Much I Love You.
Letterpress printed cloth bound maze book
manually typewritten text on cover 8.5cms x 6cms x 1 cm. 2012