the new awesome

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Letterpress is the new awesome

It turns out that learning to cook is not the only extracurricular class I excel in. I have been taking letterpress classes at the local SF Center for the Book to learn the fine art of making a bunch of copies of something the hard way, without hitting a button and collecting the result on your HP printer 5 seconds later.

Letterpress printing is the process of pressing a raised, inked surface onto a sheet of paper. It is a rather laborious process that pretty much got dropped with the new typesetting technology in the 50's, which is why if you still want to letterpress you have to use 100 year old presses because no one bothers making them anymore.

Behold! The Vandercook!

Why spend 10 times the effort just to make a bunch of prints? There is something really satisfying and tactile about the process and result, especially because each print makes a nice indentation in the paper, and it is like you can feel the work that went into each piece.


I got to learn the basics of the press, which meant getting all gutenberg and using heavy drawers of lead type to set my design to be pressed onto the paper. It turns out that the whole reason designers today call the space between lines of type "leading" is because back in the olden days, it really was thick piece of lead that went between each line of type.


So you spend forever placing your pieces of type into sentences, and then you lay that type in exactly the right spot on the press bed...

Then you stick your paper in the press and ink on the rollers ...

And with one turn of the handle, you roll the paper over your text...

and voila! You marvel at the creation of your own hands, and the fact that you too can have as many letterpressed copies of the lyrics to "Love is a Battlefield" as you want.

Our final project was to make these little accordion books of poetry. I really liked how our cover turned out.

Initially I had hoped to finish taking my classes in enough time to make Letterpressed calendars for everyone for Christmas, but it looks like there won't be enough time, so everyone will have to settle for someone else's letterpressed goods this year, like this great calendar at Broadway Paper

or this one found in this Etsy shop.

Basically, I am really just trying to add lots of important life skills to the list of things i know how to do. If we ever get stuck on a desert island together, I will be the one that knows how to make rosemary butter gnocci and run a letterpress. Just keep that in mind the next time you go boating.

14 Comments:

  • At 2:43 AM, Blogger yeehaa said…

    You appear to have a great deal of spare time.

     
  • At 8:04 AM, Anonymous kylie said…

    Oh, letterpress is really awesome! I have yet to try it myself, but I LOVE the letterpress look. Can you believe they would print books with those things?

    Anyway, you have cool hobbies Bex.

     
  • At 8:48 AM, Blogger bets said…

    I thought for sure you did the cover of your accordian book because Gholdston Gholdston Gholdston Gholdston g g g g g g g g g g g g g g g g g g g g g g g

     
  • At 8:50 AM, Blogger bets said…

    ahem...excuse me...also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY REBECCA!!!!!!!!!!

     
  • At 9:30 AM, Blogger bex said…

    thanks bets! it IS my birthday today

    Letterpress is pretty, but it is not the most practical way to print. which is why people usually invest in it for something big like wedding invites and that is about it.

    and i don't know if i have that much spare time, per se ... i just fill any i do have with a lot of fun stuff. Really useful fun stuff ; )

     
  • At 11:11 AM, Blogger Tyler said…

    happy birt'day, and way to get all steve guttenberg on our asses.

     
  • At 11:53 AM, Anonymous aaron d.w. said…

    happy birthday starshine.

     
  • At 2:34 PM, Blogger k8 said…

    bex! i am SWOONING right now! whenever i go to the paper store i end up spending about an hour lusting after letterpressed baby announcements and wedding invites. Neither of which I need right now but oh! so pretty!

    And Happy HAPPY Birthday!

     
  • At 7:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    the picture of the letterpress bed looks like a jared clark!

     
  • At 8:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I can't tell you how sad I am that Etsy is sold out of the calendar! Waaaaahhhhhh!

     
  • At 8:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    a friend of mine has his own press, it's very cool. he makes some great stuff - cards, journals, etc. www.pineapplepress.net

     
  • At 10:19 PM, Anonymous aaron d.w. said…

    is that a spam comment?

     
  • At 12:11 AM, Blogger bex said…

    no - guys! the $17 letterpress calendar isn't sold out. i fixed the link so that you can go buy it. i think it says she has 37 more.

    or just use this link here

    that pineapple press stuff is nice. i wish i had my own press.

     
  • At 10:31 AM, Anonymous kylie said…

    happy birthday rebecca!

     

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