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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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
Today was my last class with Sarah. Sadness. I lovvveeddd her class.
We started off with 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):
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:
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:
The finished book structure:
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!
Examples of work by other students:
I highly recommend taking a class with Sarah if you have the chance. She has a wonderful teaching style and contagious positive energy.
Today 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!):
And here’s the pressure plate I used in combination with the block:
And here are the final prints – they were printed in a couple different shades of green:
I love them!
Here’s what the linoleum block looked like after it had been run through the press with the pressure plate:
Here are some of the other prints I completed. I didn’t like them as much (too much white space):
I believe that tomorrow we’ll be binding our prints into a book. Stay tuned!
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!):
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.
Here are some linoleum carving tips:
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:
In 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.
In a nutshell, here’s how the printing process works:
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:
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!
More work on the Off Leash series at Dartmouth.
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.
Well, 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.
Tonight at Dartmouth, I worked on the newest design in my Off Leash series.
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.