Yellow Springs03.25.2013 | Fine Arts
On my Fridays off, I've been going down to Yellow Springs to operate a letterpress. That's right. A letterpress - the kind that they used back in the day to set metal type for newspapers and signs and the like. I was one of four students from a printmaking class asked to go down to a studio in Yellow Springs and letterpress print a prayer to be displayed in UD's human rights conference next year. There was no way I could turn down the opportunity, and I thought it would be a fairly simple task.
Little did I know how hard letterpress printing is! We're working with a drawer of 12pt Bulmer metal type. It's very tiny. Since the letters on the lead type are backwards, it's insanely difficult to tell the difference between p's and q's, or b's and d's. All the words have to be spelled backwards so that they print forwards. Often the metal type falls down onto the tray while we're trying to lock it in, and we have to go in with a pair of tweezers to fix it. Dealing with the type and with all the spacing and spelling is a lot more tedious and tiring than I ever imagined. However, there's something so awesome about the letterpress. Prints that come off it have their own magic. Perhaps it's because we're so used to instantly typing on our computers, and printing from laser printers. But there's something so special knowing that something came off a letterpress; somebody took the time to physically set each and every letter and space between them. And the slight embossment on the paper from the metal pressing into it is just awesome; it's something that you can't get from your fancy HP Photosmart 2700 printer nowadays.
I'm very excited to see the final prints, which should be completed sometime within April. I should shout out to Sarah Strong and her studio, Strong Heart Press, for having us and teaching us the ways of letterpress printing!