Archive for the ‘Letterpress printing’ category

On humility….

March 2, 2016

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Yes, that’s a litter box under my press. As Tennyson fades into extreme old age, he chose the space where I kept my rags under my press as his salle de bain, so it seemed to make sense to move his litter there. Also, using an antique section of banister, we are able to keep the dogs from devouring the contents of the litter, which is simply gross and where I draw the line at humility. It means as I work on getting the type printing just right or fighting with make-ready on wood engravings, I catch the occasional whiff of…. Is it me? Surely not! Ahhh, the cat.

The press, being both the source of beauty, elegance and style – and Tennyson’s depository – does bring me down to earth when things are going well, as they have been for the past year or so. In 2015, I received word that the University of Toronto’s Fisher Library wanted to acquire all books and broadsides printed to date, with a keen interest in anything else I come up with.

The year also saw me blaze through 20 shows: indoor with table or booth, and outdoor under tent. These shows were on the whole very successful, and just a few changes I will be repeating the same number in 2016. Shows are a wonderful way to meet new people, and to keep up with friends and collectors.

As for what shows I’ll be doing, I’ll be adding a page to this blog, but a listing will also appear in my newly reinvigorated website, complete with an on-line store for prints, all to be found at www.greyweatherspress.com

The biggest news this year will be the release of the most ambitious project yet from the press: Ecclesiastes. Yes, Greyweathers Press is getting biblical, with a heft that will weigh in at an estimated 80 pages of beautiful Arches Text Wove, illustrated with 60 odd wood engravings. Stay tuned, a detailed announcement is forthcoming.

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An early draft of the title page design.

So with all of this activity, Tennyson’s periodic visits to my press keep me from getting too full of myself, and rightly so. It is all about the work, after all, and not the accolades.

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Run, Rabbit Run

May 29, 2015

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A Rabbit was called for, by the title alone. I found this old hand-coloured engraving, rendered it greyscale in Photoshop then did a sketch on tracing paper. I could flip the tracing paper before copying the image to the block, reversing it so that rabbit is running in the correct direction.

This was the only block in the project that was not cut from wood. It is Resingrave, a polymer compound that they’ve been tweaking for years and years to get it to emulate English boxwood. Still not quite there, but the block was the size and shape for what I needed, and worked sufficiently well for the subject matter.

IMG_2367When Hugh asked me for art direction as to where illustrations would go, I told him “just leave me some gaps” meaning I had no idea what illustrations I would come up with. My little rabbit fit nicely right in between title and author.

 

Rabbits Unwrapped – Hugh Barclay

May 18, 2015

IMG_1118I’m going to guess that it was 1997 when I first met Hugh Barclay. I had helped Holly set up for her first big booth show, in Kingston, Ontario as it happened. Or it may have been the second year she did the show. I can’t remember. I do remember this gentleman with small stature and large personality coming into the booth, buying one of Holly’s charming little books of calligraphic Thoreau quotes in Saint Armand wraps but adding that it would be better printed on a letterpress rather than a photocopier. He invited us to come by his studio and see his press. It took me two years, but we did eventually get there. And from that point, Hugh has been something of an inspiration to me.

In the fall, Hugh mentioned to me that his latest book would be his last, and I suggested that a collaboration between our two presses would have to be now or never. We agreed that he would design the book, set and print the type, and that I would cut the illustrations from wood and print those at my press. I did not know at the time that the author, Winona Linn, was a talented artist herself; she could have and perhaps should have illustrated the book, but the deal was made.

I think the old fox hoodwinked me. Even before The Truth About Rabbits had been launched, Hugh had another book on the press. And he laughed at me when I pointed it out. I think it was his plan all along to force me to write a colophon in the first person, one of Hugh’s many quirks. And I’m not aware of many private press books that contain two colophons, as this one does.

Regardless, I have referred to this book as a joyful collaboration between Hugh, Winona, myself, and others. It has been a blast, and I definitely felt that electric charge while turning out the illustrated sheets from my press: The thrill of the print.

And that, my friends, is what it should be all about.

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A Joyful Collaboration: The Truth About Rabbits

May 2, 2015

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It is our great pleasure to announce the release of a book of poems by Winona Linn, The Truth About Rabbits. These edgy, intelligent and humorous poems have been set by hand in metal type by Thee Hellbox Press in Kingston, with wood engravings  cut and printed by Larry Thompson of Greyweathers Press — a joyous collaboration of word, type and image.

The Truth About Rabbits
Poems by Winona Linn
Wood engravings by Larry ThompsonJointly published by Thee Hellbox Press and Greyweathers Press
Hand set in type in the Garamond face printed by Hugh Barclay at Thee Hellbox Press
Wood engravings printed by Larry Thompson at Greyweathers Press
Dimensions: 10.5 x 10″ tall. 20 pages on St. Armand paper
142 copies

$75

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Ten Years: Pondering a Decade of a Press

February 12, 2015

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Last night I had the very great privilege to speak to the Ottawa Valley Chapter of the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild on the origins of the Press.

In preparation for this, I realized that the topic is really quite vast, and could be broken down into several distinct topics. For example, every book printed off the press has its own story, worthy of an entire conversation. There is the business side, of showing and selling, pricing and marketing. And there is the whole messy matter of art. For CBBAG, I chose origins.

I set the start date of Greyweathers Press as 2005, the year that I printed the first book, Coleridge’s Kubla Khan. However, the primary urges go back far earlier, rooted in a love of books and story. I loved comics when I was a kid, and still do although I do not collect nearly as much. In the early 1990s I took a bookbinding workshop but otherwise I just thought about producing books.

In 1996, an exhibit of the work of William Morris opened my eyes to the private presses, and it led me to the rich field of printing being done in Canada.

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I like Morris’ sensibility here, although it does grate a bit with the border and drop caps from his magnus opus, the Kelmscott Chaucer, in this keepsake created digitally some years ago then rendered into a magnesium plate: “a definite claim to beauty.”

From there, an understanding of letterpress came, but that’s a blog for another day.

Letterpress is an umbrella that that overhangs many differing motivations. Some are called to ‘old school’ printing for the romance associated with the history of printing. There are enthusiasts of the equipment, or those wild-eyed collectors of type of every kind. Commercial letterpress is still viable for high end printing jobs, and lino and woodcut artists love letterpress for its reproduction excellence. For myself, books brought me to letterpress and the desire to produce books keeps me printing. I’m also working in the so-called ‘fine press’ tradition, going to sometimes absurd ends to achieve  quality in printing, inking, impression and binding etc. In fact, there are elements of all these things built into my motivation to print.

 

 

2015: A Fresh Start

January 10, 2015

Ohhh, look! I’ve got a blog! I should really use it…

So, a new year and an energized press. By way of explanation, the last couple of (bookless) years have been a time of thought and entrenchment, crisis and recovery. With Greyweathers Press’ 10th anniversary this year, it is time to rip loose. For starters, I’m going back a couple of years to a project that ground to a halt in media res, a little Gothic Trifle with the rather clunky title of The Necromancer and the Seventh Daughter. A while back the title seemed fine, but now with the popularity of The Hobbit, the term ‘necromancer’ is known wide and far. Oh well. The original title used ‘sorcerer’, another word now famous, or rather infamous, considering real people burned with this brand are losing the heads in Saudi Arabia!

This is the second foray with Septima, her first being centered on dispatching a high-born vampire who was drinking her way though all the beautiful youth of the City. (There are still a couple of copies available.)

Now, keeping up with trends, it’s zombies, a festering golem, and something of an environmental message, along with Septima’s spunky “don’t fuss with me” girl-power attitude (a la Buffy & Joss Whedon). Setting type began just over a year ago, so that will resume, with my attention now on illustrations. Below are five of eight thumbnail sketches and an idea of what I’m thinking for Septima: The Sequel.

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Sketches are very rough, the finishing will be done on the block. It is similar to what an inker does for the art in a comic book. In this case, it’s kind of hard seeing Septima standing there wearing an ironic look at something very tall. I added the stone cobbles behind her to help with perspective even though in this sketch it fights with the mummy-like wrappings she wears. I’ll work it out on the block.

Septima does a lot of running in this story. I found the image of a leaping runner going flat out; actually, this its more of a ballet prance than a sprint, but it looks as though she's goin' like stink! I may add a few zombie hands reaching out from the right side. We'll see.

Septima does a lot of running in this story. I found the image of a leaping runner going flat out; actually, this its more of a ballet leap than a sprint, but it looks as though she’s goin’ like stink! I may add a few zombie hands reaching out from the right side. We’ll see. The dress needs work – lots of ripples and wrinkles to show movement.

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The Ghost Fleet that threatens the City. A rough re-working of another image, probably of the Black Fleet, again from Tolkien. I will probably embellish the ships with dragon heads and skulls etc. The dramatic sky will give me a chance to try out my newly acquired multiple liner.

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And that’s just the eyes and forehead. So it’s really, really big, consideting there’s Septima, the wee little thing, down at the bottom. She’ll be tricky to get right… it only takes about six or eight tiny cuts to do a figure that small, so every one has to be perfect. Might use my big doughnut magnifier on this one. The letters on the forehead are backwards for a reason.

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Septima spends a lot of time in this installment crawling around in sewage, so her reward for saving the City and her family (AGAIN) is to be hustled off to a vigorous bath. I thought it was kind of funny at the time, until considering how to illustrate with propriety a 15 year old superhero in the bath. The solution is lots of bubbles, and just enough expression on her face to show her what she thinks about it. Of course, how I’m going to carve bubbles from wood is anybodies guess, but we’ll get there.

Measure twice, print once

December 13, 2013

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There is always the temptation to just throw the type down and print. But for the last few days, I’ve been setting and dissing type on the zombie book, working out the letter and word length for the fully justified columns of text. No ink involved at all. It’s important because there is no way this time that I will be able to set the entire text with the limited type that I have; page one on the press may face page four, so working out all problems in advance is the way to go. Also, setting and dissing the odd paragraph in different sizes helps me get reacquainted with the medium — it has been awhile since I did much creative work on the press (year round-up report coming later in the month). The good news is that I seem to have worked out most of the typographic spacing issues, and that’s thanks in part to using Adobe software (Indesign) to create my page layout and dummy. It allows me to parse the type to match very closely the metal type and thus, if the moon and stars align, it becomes a simple way to impose and paginate the text. It should work; I’ll keep you posted!

Zombies at Greyweathers Press

December 8, 2013
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Laser printed layout dummy for the first page. The square beneath the drop cap shows spacing for a long, narrow illustration.

And so production begins on The Necromancer and the Seventh Daughter, the sequel to the popular Vampire & the Seventh Daughter that we printed a few years ago. I didn’t start the press for vanity purposes, but once in a while it is satisfying to watch one’s own words roll of the press. These “Gothick Trifles” as I call them harken back to my reading and viewing roots in sci fi, horror and fantasy literature so I consider these works more than most personal projects.

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This was the title page for the first book. In it, we are introduced to Septima who, being a 7th daughter of a 7th daughter, has some extraordinary powers, and a particular brand of pugnacious courage that is a particular nuisance and foil to baddies. The baddy in that story was the vampire princess who was eating through her serving staff, and for some reason her father the king didn’t seem all that alarmed. Enter Septima and, well, it’s a fable so I’m hardly spoiling it to say that things go poorly for the vampire. This is often the case.

The second Gothick Trifle is longer, about 2,000 words and a bit more complex. I wanted to play with the story of the golem, but also work in some kind of environmental comment, and zombies, because, well, you know, zombies are hot.It may have been a bit too many devices for once very short fable, but there you go. The first draft was about 3,500 words. Even after crunching it down and taking out all the stuff I really liked, it still took about about 700 words of back story before Septima even got mentioned, so I rewrote the whole so that she came in at the beginning, and a little sooner in the story.

The first one had four pretty simple linocuts. This one will have perhaps eight wood engravings, or so that is my intention now.  I’ve doubled the paper (it will be sixteen pages as opposed to the previous eight) but I still thought I’d have to set in 10 point, but as it turns out, a little more judicious editing (the first draft was 3,500 words) and cutting a couple of illustrations means 12 point will work, which makes the setting job easier. Naturally, it will be hand set lead type, our house face, Italian Oldstyle. While I work on the type and engravings and printing, I’ll be pondering the binding, which I may do the same as the last one, or try something different entirely. I’m hoping for an edition of 75.

 

 

Sight Lines – A Short Video

October 4, 2013

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Printing the Creative Process

March 9, 2013

Every year, for the past six years I have printed a ‘signature’ (in this case two sides of an 8×11 sheet folded)  as my contribution to the Grimsby Wayzgoose anthology.

It was last year when I sat down with my notebook and pencil and began to brainstorm a sequel to 2010’s The Vampire & the Seventh Daughter fable, bringing back the feisty young herione, Septima, from the first fable. For this year’s anthology, I decided to interpret my notes with metal type, lined paper, scribbled notes and pencil sketches.

My notebooks are rather chaotic affairs at best, so a bizarre mix of type faces was called for. It took a few hours sort out the make-ready, all those different faces and different sizes.

A rabble of faces....

A rabble of faces….

We set enough type for two sheets, or eight pages, along with some rough cut linos or engravings, but time constraints meant pulling out a lot of type, reducing the project down to one sheet, both sides and no block prints. I wanted to emulate the notebook further with the paper I used, and found large pads of graph paper at the office supply store. When I opened the packages, I learned that commercial paper today isn’t what I remember from 30 years ago. The graph paper was extremely thin, and I wondered if the ink  might even leach through. It printed well, however, and I even managed something close to a KISS impression.

Printing on graph paper about the thickness of onion skin.

Printing on graph paper about the thickness of onion skin.

From the start, I had wanted the piece to mix the traditional (letterpress) along with pencil sketches and handwritten scribbles. My notes are filled with sketches done while I think out problems, so I extracted some of these to use in the piece. This would require the digital laser printer, and help from Holly with some of the more technical aspects of layering images in Adobe Illustrator. Holly came up with the idea to have my ubiquitous pencil lying on the page, and to mess things up a bit with a coffee stain. Most of the handwriting is hers – you can read it!

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Mechanical pencil shot, later cropped in Photoshop.

Septima, the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter

Septima, the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter

Inside spread, colour laser print on bond without the type.

Inside spread, colour laser print on bond without the type. Holly’s handwriting. (Mine’s illegible!)

Outside spread: colour laser printing on bond

Outside spread: colour laser printing on bond

The combined result: letterpress & digital.

The combined result: letterpress & digital.

I was very pleased with the combined effect of letterpress and laser printing to create what is meant to appear as pages torn from of my journal. I was bothered by one thing: one of the digital layers did not have a pure transparent background, so it left a very faint tint on the page except were the white border an 1/8th inch around the perimeter of the sheet. While very subtle, I decided this was visible enough to make the whole thing look like it was spat out of a digital printer, which it was most certainly not! So the sheets were trimmed, making them somewhat smaller than the required 8.5×11, but still acceptable, I hope.

One side note: at least a half dozen times during the later stages of this project (folding, numbering etc), I found myself reaching over to swipe the pencil off the pile of printed sheets. That’s too funny!

I hope to launch the sequel to 2010’s The Vampire & the Seventh Daughter at this year’s Wayzgoose (April 27). Like the last one, it will be finely printed but accessibly priced, in an edition of 60 on Arches Text paper. The last one had lino cuts, but this time I want the illustrations to be wood engravings. We shall see.

Next job is to write the fable, cut the illustrations, print and bind, all by the end of April. I’ll announce it formally as soon as I decide on a title!


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