Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Last week my friend (and co-worker) Jill and I were asked to make a poster of sorts for a retirement celebration on Thursday of this week. We decided to letterpress it, which seemed like a good idea at the time and, I would argue, really did stay a good idea, even 9 hours of work later.

After about an hour of work last night we came up with this mock-up in Illustrator:

And after about 8 straight hours of work this afternoon/evening we finished with this letterpressed broadside:
(Click to enlarge.)
I think we make a pretty good team.

The thing that the average person doesn't realize about true letterpress (I say true because there are ways to cheat this system but I think that's, as I've said, cheating) is how much work it actually is. Every single letter you see on that broadside is a separate piece of type. And all the spaces in between the letters? Also separate pieces. Sometimes, as is the case with the last two lines on this broadside, many pieces. And, if you print in more than one color (as we did) you have to ink the press, print all of one color first, then clean the press, take out the type from the first color and insert the type you want in the second color, re-ink the press, and print a second time. And you have to make sure things in the press bed haven't shifted around so you print that one word in that second color exactly where you want it to be, and not over the words that have already been printed. Sometimes you can't use the type you want because it is old wood type and it doesn't have any R's like you need or not enough E's. Then you have to figure out what does have the letters you need and you have to settle for that.

But often, as was the case here, it all works out in the end and you are pleased with the work you have done and have enjoyed the time it took to get to that point because of who you spent your time doing it with and the work you were able to complete together: a feat that would not have been possible alone.

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