So we got a call from Forbes last month. We did an interview about the resurgence of letterpress and talked about how modern photopolymer plating makes letterpress available to a more contemporary design aesthetic. But a lot of people are stuck with a mental image of letterpress as it came into mainstream design popularity several years back – distressed wood type, over inked artwork and a makeshift quality to the design that comes from using whatever typefaces and elements that happen to be on hand. Don’t get me wrong, I love Hatch Show Print and have been through the Nashville shop several times. But letterpress has a range far beyond that limited aesthetic. Pushing the medium is what our shop focuses on intently. To us, the resurgence of letterpress is this: making letterpress a viable commercial production method for contemporary design.
A few of the details in the article are a little fuzzy as they published my comments and I think she got a bit of a rise out of me. (yes, I realize if you have the patience and an extra hour or two, you can set some type on a curve with metal type, but that is certainly not commercially viable for our shop) The point was that I personally take issue with anyone that would say printing with polymer isn’t real letterpress. Yeah, we use polymer. It’s a means to an end. Different tools make different marks. Maybe we should call our work “civil union printing” rather than “letterpress” so all the ludites can feel better about their craft. :) The bottom line is that photopolymer represents a new range of possibilities for designers and for letterpress. We embrace that wholeheartedly, but still have a deep appreciation for all of those willing to toil over a case of lead type.
Check out the Forbes article here.
Here are some pics of a photopolymer job being set up to print.
So what happens when you are happily letterpress printing along and accidentally pull a print on your top sheet? If you leave that ink there it gets on the back side of the next dozen impressions you pull. Even if you wipe it away with a rag, there can still be some residual ink transfer. We keep a bottle of baby powder in the press room to deal with the problem. After we wipe the top sheet with a rag to remove as much ink as possible, we break out the baby powder. A small shake of powder rubbed on the tympan paper top sheet helps stop the remaining ink from transferring on the backs of future impressions. And you’ll have the bonus of smelling like a clean babies bottom.
Atmosphere is heading out for their When God Gives You Ugly tour. We just finished a special edition letterpress poster designed by Keith Wiliams. It features a “1950’s Diner Vampire Fight Scene” watercolor painting by Minneapolis native Michael Gaughan. (If you check out Michael’s website, be sure and see the collection of guitar sculptures. But don’t look to long or you might find the Fart Tube Air Matress) Posters will be available from Atmosphere while they tour and also for sale on the Rhymesayers site after the tour, if there are any left. So get out there and support these guys.
From a technical standpoint, this poster was a real challenge to plate and letterpress print. We took the original CMYK image of the watercolor painting and Continue reading ‘Atmosphere Letterpress Poster’
This is part two showing the production of business cards on our Heidelberg Windmill. Be sure and see Part 1 showing the finished cards.
We start with a high resolution film negative. The negative is used to expose the plastic plates. The plates are attached to an aluminum base and placed into the press. The press uses air suction to pick up a sheet of paper on the left side and deliver it into the press for printing. The printed sheets are automatically stacked in the delivery pile on the right side of Continue reading ‘Four Friends Letterpress Business Cards – Pt 2’
Here’s a tip for getting some letterpress roller coasting love. We take something into our press room from the pitchers mound – a rosin bag. You can get them at your local sporting goods store and they should cost only a few dollars. A rosin bag will change your life when printing on a Heidelberg Windmill. This is one mysterious fine white powder that won’t get you into trouble. As a derivative of pine sap, rosin is valued for it’s friction increasing properties. The rails on a windmill – or any platen press for that matter – must be clean and oil free. Any lube on your rail track can create ink slurring as the rollers comes into contact with the surface of your form. It can be very slight, but noticeable if you look at your printing under a loupe. We are all about having as crisp and clear a transfer type and image as possible. After the rails have been cleaned well with alcohol, a few small taps with the rosin bag down the roller rail track will transfer some powder and create additional grip as the roller trucks move over the rail. Don’t use too much, you don’t want it to build up and create little gobbers and bumps. If you have your roller height set correctly, this little bit of extra friction will help your rollers sail over your printing form.