books : from our
Creative Letterpress workshops
We do a very interesting Creative Letterpress workshop at Lead Graffiti.We have a nice space in which to work and a good variety of wood & metal type for the attendees to work with. We set the upper limit of participants at 14 which is a pretty large number for a letterpress workshop, but honestly that is the best number for this project.
Most of the recent workshops have worked like this. We start with the line "Once upon a time..." and the student finishes it with up to 50 characters. We try to encourage a visual solution in the text versus just writing it out and then setting it in type.
The form of the product at the end of the day is a meander book. The text block for the book is a 16" x 20" broadside which is divided into 16 sections which will become pages in the book. The first one and last one will slide into the covers. Then there is a title page, a colophon and 12 pages each 4" x 5". Then someone can do the title page and someone else can do the cover of the book which brings the total to a maximum of 14 creative canvases without doubling up.
We provide each participant with a 2 pica frame 24 picas x 30 picas. They can do anything inside that area that they like.
Then for the rest of the day the participants build a composition out of the rest of their "Once upon a time...."
In the meantime we are working on the title page and the cover.
Once the cover is composed, usually pretty bold, we set that up to print on pieces of paste paper that we've made some time in the past. This is printed on our Vandercook SP15.
Once the individual pages are designed all we have to do is slide them off the galley onto the bed of our Vandercook Universal III which makes the actual lockup quite easy, as long as the composter set things up nice and snug.
Then we overprint that over the initial caps. Everyone prints one copy and then dusts it with cornstarch to set the ink a bit for the folding and tearing part.
The broadside is folded into fourths both vertically and horizontally back and forth a few times. Then they tear along the appropriate folds.
The cover is folded around the top and bottom of a piece of mat board and an end sheet is folded around the sides. They are inserted inside each other so no glue is required. Then do the same for the back. Now all you have to do is insert the two blank pages at each end of the meander into the front and back covers. We would have printed spines for the book which are prescored to make the thickness accurate. Done.
Sometime during the afternoon we gather the students in groups of two to come over and set their names on the Intertype for the colophon. That is always a highlight of the day. You just don't get to even see them very often anymore and even less get to keyboard a few mats and run the thing through its paces.
. . .
We started the day with a tour of our studio showing our iron handpresses, three kinds of paper cutters, our two Vandercooks, diecut a few sheets on one of our C&Ps, run a quick demo of how an Intertype sucks up molten type metal and spits out a line of type, take a Heidelberg windmill for a few rotations, and then run a few sheets on our Miehle V-50.
This is followed by a show of a couple dozen pieces from our portfolio and some work we love by other letterpress shops. We also throw in some type history by letting them pass around a piece of cuneiform we picked up in London.
We try to keep the emphasis on being creative so we hope the participants have kept their galley slips in good order as we always put the type back. A pain, but then we are sure it is in the right place.
Started at 9 am and we are usually done by 6 pm.
We give a copy of the book to Special Collections at the University of Delaware who are nice and include all of the participants' names in the description. That way everyone gets to add a letterpress workshop to their education section of their reésumé and also slip an entry into 'awards, honors, & collections.