Saturday, March 19, 2011

Learning from a Letterpress Master

As with any craft, there is no amount of book smarts that can replace time spent under the wings of a trade artisan. I am very grateful for the time I spent with Brian Allen of Officina Briani, in Durham, NC. Brian has a long history in letterpress and is widely recognized for his craft. But more importantly, he a man who wishes to share his knowledge with all who wish to learn the art.

While, the class was not anywhere near long enough to be considered an apprenticeship, there was a steady fill of the printing history we love mixed with the hands on experience of making a work of art. Along with the basics, I got an invaluable array of tips that only an experienced printer would know in all aspects from makeup to cleanup.

Even beyond the typical printing which is an incredibly precise craft in itself. I learned how to achieve other effects from a letterpress without type. In this case, the image is not what is in the chase, where the type goes, but in the padding where the paper goes.

I have been interested in letterpress as an art form for more than seven years, but just recently decided to make it happen. As with anything I do, there was research online and offline through books and etcetera. I could not be more pleased with adding a class to the mix because there is so much not in the books, not only about the craft but also about the materials needed for the craft.

If you are eastern North Carolina, then you might want to pay a visit to Brian Allen. No matter where you are, if you are interested in letterpress learn from a real printer, I highly recommend it, money wisely spent..

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Saving a machine: The search

Finding a letterpress was a perplexing adventure. Along with huge knowledge dump about the technology, there is so many models with so much, mostly unwritten, history. It was a lot of fun learning about the different inventors, manufactures and overall evolution.

After much searching, the chosen press is a Hohner 6.5x10 (Pilot). The Hohner is a German made clone of a C&P Pilot which was rebranded and sold by American Printing Equipment & Supply Co. between 1960 and 1980. According to a company representative, they were mostly sold to schools and universities. Many printing experts consider them the best in their class. Despite the romantic obsession with some of the older presses like the Daughaday Model press, it seemed a better investment to lean toward a better quality machine.

Finding this machine was difficult, but I did find one and I am having it restored by T and T Press Restoration. It isn't much to look at right now, but it is good to save a brillant machine from the dump.

Getting started

No Face Press in the newest incarnation of Thomas Davis' (aka Sunsetbrew) art exploration. This incarnation will be based on creating art through letterpress printing.

In the past, Sunsetbrew's art have been mostly woodcuts hand pressed either with a baren or an antique iron copy press or some combination of those. In the same concept, a transition is underway to bring the printing into a new creative direction using the letterpress.

Is the letterpress better than hand burnishing? Hand pressed woodcuts are very special and each is unique. However, there is a tremendous amount of control loss preventing even loosely consistent reproductions. The same feel can produced on the letterpress using the wood blocks, but with a more consistent and reliable reproduction. However, working the wood to the specifications of the letterpress requires more attention.

Is the letterpress better than screen printing? They are just different. Screen printing excels are certain things like large solid areas. And letterpress makes imprints and possibly more detail.

The art style of Sunsetbrew seems like a better fit for the letterpress. Only time will tell.