[top image: Kinnon’s letterpress projects. She has mad skills. bottom image: my letterpress project, based on a quote from Samuel Beckett. A fitting passage for my lack of skills.]
On Saturday, Kinnon and I attended an “intro to letterpress” workshop at Kozo Studio. All of the print design work I do is designed on the computer and printed on digital presses, so working by hand on old-school presses was a real change. Things that are so easy to do on the computer (layout changes, kerning letters, justifying text) is NOT so easy to do by hand. But it’s so much more rewarding when you get it right!
I was a bit disappointed to learn that “real” letterpress work doesn’t actually impress/indent on the paper. The ink should just “kiss” the paper, leaving a print, but not a pushed-down indentation in the paper. Our instructor taught us that pushing so hard as to make an impression on the paper is hard on your metal type (it wears it down quickly). But it’s so popular now to use letterpress to get the indent on the paper on purpose. That’s what sets it apart from digital printing – there’s so much texture that you can’t get with digital. If I were to do more letterpress work, I’d say “to hell with the metal type” and definitely make indentations in the paper.
Overall, I had a great time, but learned that I am not so good with movable type. It takes too much time to position your letters properly. If I were to do letterpress projects, I would design them on the computer and have photopolymer plates created. Then I could take the plates and run those through the press.
Now I have even more respect for printers and those that are doing letterpress work by hand. Just look at this blog post from our instructor at Kozo Studio – that’s pretty insane. And cool.