Elissa R. Campbell | Blue Roof Designs

Wayback Wednesday

A couple of years ago, I got a lovely Kelsey 5×8 Excelsior Press Model U letterpress. I acquired it from the awesome bookbinder Stephanie Gibbs, who posted it on the Book Arts listserv.

Kelsey letterpress

Kelsey letterpress

Kelsey letterpress

Kelsey letterpress

It’s in fantastic shape. Stephanie even threw in a bunch of type with the press. Lucky me!

Sadly, I haven’t used it yet – I don’t have all of the equipment needed to run a press. I have  been working on that over the past couple of years, but it’s slow going. So far, I have a galley and wood furniture.

I’ve been offered help in setting up my press by another wonderful Stephanie (and book artist) – Stephanie Wolff. She recently guest starred in the Tour de Lead Graffiti, a fabulous letterpress project inspired by the Tour de France. I own six prints from the first year of the project.

Hopefully it won’t take another two years to actually use the press!

Letterpress at Dartmouth

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make books that are in a lower price point and came up with the idea of making little letterpressed notebooks. I was glad to have an excuse to get back down to the Dartmouth letterpress studio, as it had been a while.

I quickly settled on some lovely wood type and then…nothing. My brain completely froze. It had been too long since I last set type and I couldn’t remember what to do next. Thankfully, there was help in the form of the very awesome Sarah Smith. She is the Queen of Patience.

Wood letterpress type locked in chase

I swear to you, I’m going to remember everything she said to me. I hope. Anyway, I was able to finish my first batch of book covers, which made me happy.

As you can see below, the books say “Brain Barf”. I was inspired to make these from my own experience of having too much in my brain to be able to get anything done. Sometimes you just need to purge your brain of everything and put it down on paper to be able to move forward. These books will be the lucky recipients of said brain barf.

Paper printed with the words "Brain Barf"

Now I just have to wait for the ink to dry so I can bind them. I’ll be sure to show you the finished products!

Letterpress at Dartmouth

Today was the last day I could get into the letterpress studio before the end of the semester. Now I have to wait until the fall before I can go back. Sad.

Even sadder was the fact that some nimrod walked off with the Pantone guide, so I had to wing it with my ink. Shame on you mystery nimrod.

Here’s the make-it-up-as-you-go ink math: Silver + yellow + transparent white + brown + black + another? = yay!


I am just in love with silver ink. It is totally my best friend. When I get my Kelsey up and running, the first ink I’m buying is going to be silver – it’s magical.



So for the time being, the last design in the Off Leash series is slobber.

Pres­sure Print­ing: A Painterly Approach to the Press with Sarah Bryant – Day 4

Today was my last class with Sarah. Sadness. I lovvveeddd her class.

We started off with a pochoir demonstration:

Sarah Bryant doing a pochoir demonstration

After that, she showed us a basic book structure that we could use to present our prints – she referred to it as a tipped folio book. She said that it’s a good structure for one-sided items.

Here’s the procedure (although most of you might already know this one):

    1. Fold the prints in half so that the content is on the inside of the folio.
    2. Line the folios up by the spine, then jog them to the head.
    3. On one folio, mask off an area of 1/8″ and apply straight PVA.


Gluing a folio for tipping in


  1. Attach the second folio, then put under weight.
  2. After the pairs of folios are done, pair together pairs of folios.
  3. Put x’s on the sides that need to be glued together.
  4. Repeat step #3 and attach to other pair of folios.
  5. Repeat the process until all of the folios are tipped together.

She recommended that you work on the folios in pairs so that it would be easier to keep things lined up.

For the cover, we used cover weight paper. Here’s the process:

  1. Make your first fold where the back edge of your text block will rest.
  2. Compress the text block, then add a bit. Mark a light pencil line on the cover stock.
  3. Score a line at the spot where you marked in pencil, using a ruler as a guide.
  4. Fold over at the score line.

Sarah used 3M 415 adhesive to attach the covers, but you could easily use PVA. The 415 takes a few hours to reach full attachment. To attach the covers to the text block:

  1. Start at the back.
  2. Bring the tape in slightly from the edge, then attach the text block to the cover.
  3. Push the text block against the spine with your fingers.
  4. Attach adhesive to the backside of the text block and adhere to the cover.
  5. Trim excess cover stock as needed.

Trimming the cover on a tipped folio book

The finished book structure:

Tipped folio book

Tipped folio book

After that, were left to work on our own books. I decided to wait until I get home to get working on my book. I think I might want to incorporate papers from my stash.

At the end of the day, we put out all of our work so we could see what everyone had done. It was amazing to see how much work had been generated in just 4 days – and 1/2 days at that! And with only ONE PRESS available to everyone!

Seriously amazing.

Examples of work by other students:

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

I highly recommend taking a class with Sarah if you have the chance. She has a wonderful teaching style and contagious positive energy.

And she makes amazing handouts.

Pres­sure Print­ing: A Painterly Approach to the Press with Sarah Bryant – Day 3

Sarah Bryant teaching pressure printing at the Paper and Book IntensiveToday was pretty low-key with Sarah. First she taught us about using textured materials in combination with pressure printing.

For example, you can take a piece of knitting and use it as a plate. Depending on the amount of pressure used, you can get a pretty crisp, photographic image.

Next she showed us how to use the linoleum blocks we learned about yesterday. The block has to be type high, so we added a piece of bookboard underneath the block to raise it.

It takes some trial and error to get the pressure plate to hit the block in the right place and get an interesting image. I reversed my plate a few times and moved the block around the press until I found an image I liked.

When you use a linoleum block with pressure plate, you do have to think about the orientation of your image because anything in the bed of the press will show up reversed when printed.

Here’s my completed linoleum block (no blood spilled!):

Carved linoleum block locked in a letterpress

And here’s the pressure plate I used in combination with the block:

Pressure printing plate

And here are the final prints – they were printed in a couple different shades of green:

Pressure prints

Pressure prints

I love them!

Here’s what the linoleum block looked like after it had been run through the press with the pressure plate:

Carved and inked linoleum block

Here are some of the other prints I completed. I didn’t like them as much (too much white space):

Pressure prints

Pressure prints

I believe that tomorrow we’ll be binding our prints into a book. Stay tuned!

Pres­sure Print­ing: A Painterly Approach to the Press with Sarah Bryant – Day 2

Sarah Bryant

This is what Sarah looks like when you don’t come to class prepared

Today we had to come into Sarah’s class with two new pressure plates. We signed up for time slots so we’d all have a shot at the one press that was available.

As my slot was later in the day, I had the opportunity to create two additional plates.

I had the supreme luck to be paired with Jessica Spring, a very sweet woman and seasoned letterpress artist. She kept things humming along as we worked through our slot.

I have to admit that I’m having a hard time getting my brain wrapped around the fact that what essentially amounts to a collage can be considered a plate.

My brain says that a plate has to be something that, at the very least, you shouldn’t be able to tear. It should be made of metal or some other substantial material.

I’m sure that by day 4 of the class, my brain will come around. Stupid, slow brain.

Here are the four plates I worked with today and their resulting prints (lovely orange ink today!):

Pressure printing plate

Pressure printing plate #1 – a pressure plate that was cut and reassembled into a second pressure plate

Pressure prints

The print on the bottom is a ghost print

Pressure printing plate

Pressure printing plate #2 – cut pieces of paper shopping bag

Pressure prints

The print on the right is a ghost print

Pressure printing plate

Pressure printing plate #3 – layers cut up junk mail envelopes

Pressure prints

The print on the bottom right is a ghost print

Pressure printing plate

Pressure printing plate #4 – layers cut up Paper Source catalogs

Pressure prints

The print on the bottom right is a ghost print

We were then given a demo of how to carve linoleum blocks. This I know how to do and I loooovvveee to carve. What I don’t know is how you use the carved block in combination with the pressure printing. We’ll get to that tomorrow.

Carving a linoleum block

Here are some linoleum carving tips:

  • You can put linoleum in the microwave for a few seconds to heat it up and make it easier to carve.
  • You can also put it in the sun to heat it up.
  • When you carve a block, rotate it while you work and carve away from yourself.
  • If you carve towards yourself you will probably stab yourself in the stomach and die.

Sarah also taught us how to clean the press. The way she did it isn’t how I learned it at Dartmouth’s orientation, so it was cool to get an alternative method. Here are her tips:

  • Start cleaning with baby oil, which helps to break up the ink.
  • Follow up with some kind of mineral spirits.
  • Don’t clean rollers with your rag all mushed up. Fold it into a square, then refold it as it gets dirty. It helps your rags last longer and makes it easier to find a clean spot.

Pres­sure Print­ing: A Painterly Approach to the Press with Sarah Bryant – Day 1

Ox-Bow Print Studio signIn this afternoon’s session with Sarah Bryant, we started with an introduction to pressure printing. Barbara Tetenbaum is considered an innovator in printing this method.

Creating  printing plates is easy – attach layers of thin and/or thick material to a sheet of paper. The point is to create variable points of pressure.

You can use a glue stick or spray mount to attach the material. If your plate is tacky when completed, you can sprinkle on baby powder to remove the stickiness.

A boxcar base is usually used for polymer plates to keep the work at type height. If you’ve got one, you can use one of these for pressure printing. If you don’t have a boxcar chase, then you can use plywood with a layer of packing tape as an alternative base. To verify that the makeshift plate is type high, check it against capital M type.

Boxcar base with Speedball plate

Boxcar base with Speedball plate

In a nutshell, here’s how the printing process works:

  1. Attach your material to a piece of paper to create a plate.
  2. Mount a Speedball flexible printing plate (1/16” thick, flexible vinyl printmaking mat) to your base.
  3. Lock the base in your press.
  4. Add layers of paper behind your plate (packing) so that pressure comes from two directions. With packing material, less is more when you start out.
  5. Lay your printing paper on top of your plate.
  6. Lock the paper in the press and print!
Sarah Bryant demonstrating pressure printing

Sarah showing how it’s done

We experimented with differing amounts of packing as we printed and also printed a ghost image of our plates.

One of the great things about pressure printing is that you don’t have to deal with left/right reversal issues. The way you arrange your plate is how your print will come out of the press. This makes it a great method for printing words.

Sarah told us that you can cut up the flexible plates into shapes and stick them on to the boxcar chase as a way to add complexity to your image.

You ink the plate pieces using a brayer. To add ink to the brayer, spread some out on a piece of plexiglass and pick it up as your roll over it. Try to avoid getting stripes of ink on the brayer or they could transfer to your plates.

Here are the plates I made today with their resulting prints:

Pressure printing plate

Pressure printing plate #1 – layers of old piano rolls

Pressure prints

1st two prints

Pressure prints

The print on the right is a ghost print

Pressure printing plate

Pressure printing plate #2 – layers of cut up catalogs & paper bags

Pressure prints

1st two prints

Pressure prints

The print on the right is a ghost print

I’m really enjoying this class and I can totally see myself continuing work with the process after I return home. I’m hoping I can replicate it successfully on my tabletop press.

And Sarah is freaking hilarious. You absolutely have to go read her blog. Now.

As I’ve done in previous workshops, I’ll be letting you in on any juicy quotes that tickle my fancy during class. Fun quotes from Sarah:

“Oh, I’ll show you a ghost like you’ve never seen.”

“We’re doing this crazy kind of wackadoo printing thing.”

“Hot damn, this is awesome!”

“Only jerks do that.” (referring to printing on the press cylinder)

“I totally ran outta blobs.”

“Nobody can stop me!” (referring to adding more packing material)

Can’t wait for tomorrow!

Letterpress at Dartmouth

 More work on the Off Leash series at Dartmouth.

Letterpress type locked in chase

Inked letterpress

Inked lettepress type in press

Paper letterpress printed with the word "dawg"

Yeah, apparently I’m now saying “Whassup dawg” to Wiggum. I know I sound ridiculous, but I love both how it sounds and how it’s spelled.

If you want a good laugh, check out the entry for dawg on Urban Dictionary. The images are oh-so helpful.

Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Made-up logo for the Paper and Book IntensiveWell, it looks like I got lucky again this year. A week from tomorrow, I’ll be flying out to Michigan for my 2nd Paper and Book Intensive.

I was initially rejected, so I just put it out of my mind. And then the happy Email came…and now I’m going!

I have to admit that when I went last year, I was really intimidated by the talent there. Seriously – I never would have thought that I’d see Hedi Kyle and Julie Chen eating together in a cafeteria that I also happened to be in. It was completely unreal.

You just can’t convince me that these are regular people. So in the spirit of How I Met Your Mother, I will make a sweeping declaration: I get star struck and will never get un-struck!

[comes down from non-existent soapbox]

So yeah, I’m over the moon! I’m attending the following workshops:

Turn­ing The Cor­ner, And other use­ful leather cov­er­ing tech­niques with Jeff Alte­peter:

Ready to turn the cor­ner and work with leather? This class will be an intro­duc­tion for begin­ners or a refresher for stu­dents hop­ing to incor­po­rate tra­di­tional leather bind­ing tech­niques into their work. Stu­dents will have the oppor­tu­nity to prac­tice with a vari­ety of tools and types of skins while we focus on sev­eral fun­da­men­tal leather work­ing skills includ­ing par­ing, the for­ma­tion of head caps, and, of course, turn­ing cor­ners neatly.

Leather par­ing exer­cises will include fun­da­men­tals of tools and meth­ods. Stu­dents will also exper­i­ment with par­ing based dec­o­ra­tive tech­niques such as back-pared onlays. A vari­ety of knives and man­ual par­ing machines will be avail­able to stu­dents. Please bring your own knives and Scharf-fix or Brock­man style par­ing machines if you already own them. If you don’t already have these you will leave the class with an under­stand­ing of what you might want to acquire in the future.

Pres­sure Print­ing: A Painterly Approach to the Press with Sarah Bryant:

Pres­sure print­ing is a tech­nique based on low relief col­lage or sten­cils using a press that cre­ates a painterly, spon­ta­neous image or tex­ture on the page. In this course, stu­dents will exper­i­ment with dif­fer­ent pres­sure print­ing meth­ods on the Van­der­cook proof press. Begin­ning with the basics of this tech­nique we will move onto more com­plex appli­ca­tions. As a group, we will har­ness the unex­pected pat­terns and imagery that we gen­er­ate and com­bine them with col­lage, sten­cil­ing, and type to cre­ate sim­ple books.

A Look at the World of Islamic Book­bind­ing with Yas­meen Khan:

In this work­shop two Islamic books will be con­structed. One will be based on Islamic bind­ing struc­tures that were pro­duced through­out the Mus­lim world in the 18th cen­tury and defined as high-end deluxe bind­ings. The other will be a hybrid struc­ture designed by the stu­dent includ­ing a vari­ety of regional vari­a­tions that the instruc­tor will intro­duce in the work­shop. Class time will also be devoted to the prepa­ra­tion of deluxe gold-leaf dec­o­ra­tion end­pa­pers and dif­fer­ent styles of Islamic end­bands and head­cap con­struc­tions.

Vari­a­tion and style in Islamic bind­ing and its dec­o­ra­tion will be cov­ered in the work­shop through short lec­tures, hand­outs that include his­tor­i­cal back­ground infor­ma­tion on Islamic bind­ing, a read­ing list, and class instruc­tions. The aim of the course is to intro­duce Islamic modes of dec­o­ra­tion and book con­struc­tion to the tech­ni­cal arse­nal of the con­tem­po­rary bookbinder.

The internet access at Ox-Bow was sketchy last year and I had homework in the evenings, but I’ll do my best to blog a bit when I’m at PBI. Extended posts might have to wait until I get home.

Stay tuned!

Letterpress at Dartmouth

Tonight at Dartmouth, I worked on the newest design in my Off Leash series.

Mixed letterpress ink

Silver is quickly becoming my favorite ink color

   Letterpress type locked in chaseChase locked in press and ready to printPaper printed with the word "drool"

Wiggum isn’t a big drooler, but because I’m not anti-drool, I felt that drooling dogs everywhere deserved a book of their own.

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