Letterpress Workshop

Today, I took part in a letterpress workshop which was run by Kim – it was a new experience for me as it was something that I’d never done before. The letterpress room alone was incredible, every wall was lined with drawers and drawers of minuscule little printing letters, of every font and size imaginable, I knew I was going to love it straight away.

In order to create something with such a simple look, the process is surprisingly long and time consuming. We started be arranging the tiny letters in a galley against a composing stick to make sure that the lines were perfectly straight. Then we packed out all the gaps using furniture and then clamps to completely secure the pieces. I made the mistake of picking up my galley a little too fast and some of the letters dropped out because of it – to fix this I had to undo the clamps and furniture and place the missing letters back where they belonged, ensuring that they were packed in more securely this time, so that they wouldn’t fall out again. I also discovered quickly that you had to be very delicate and careful when arranging everything before clamping, as once you have made a mistake, you will have to go all the way back and correct them before continuing – it is a very fiddly process indeed. After inking up the plate on the press, putting the galley into it and doing the first few prints, I could clearly see that it was not printing how I wanted it to – some of the letters’ tips were not appearing on the paper. Kim and I had a second look at my letters and discovered some of the letters were chipped and that this was why it wasn’t working as it should. Because of this I had to undo my clamps and furniture for the second time, and swap over the chipped letters.

Finally, the print worked. The outcome was brilliant and I am very happy with the piece that’s been created. Although the press worked perfectly well for me, other people had to adjust the pressure on it by turning the four knobs (2 on each side of the press) to ensure an even print across the paper.

I definitely want to do letterpress again sometime and want to use it in one of my future projects – perhaps the story book. I would like to test myself by making something a bit more complicated – maybe I’ll write a short poem or quote for example. I love how the print has texture to it and that you can actually feel and see where the print has embossed the letters into the paper. Again next time, I would like to experiment further with embossing, which is the exact same process, just without using ink. To emboss, it is also best to use damp paper as the technique works better when the fibres in the paper are wet.

Below is a photo of one of the prints I made that I feel was the most successful:

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