Archive for the ‘Paper’ category

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!

2 photo 4

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!

OCAD Book Arts Show Triumphant!

December 4, 2011

There’s an old joke that floats around the letterpress and book arts scene: “You never sell books at a book arts show!” It’s not really a reflection of book arts shows, but rather the challenge of selling hand printed books in general. And this year I saw lots of books selling at the OCAD Book Arts Show, and even waved goodbye to a couple of my own. One of the things I love about the OCAD show is the very obvious presence of students exhibiting their work. It brings a raw freshness to the book arts, and I am always astonished at how many young artists are being attracted by old school books and printing.

The venue is quite striking as well, as I tried to caption in my first experiment with panoramic photographic stitching, early in the show. Crowds filled the hall for most of the day. (Click photos to make them larger).

The Great Hall at OCAD in Toronto, with the Book Fair in full swing.

A less distorted view from our table at the OCAD Book Arts Show

Ten (or More) Things I (re)Learned Printing Graven Images

February 21, 2011

1. Settle on a binding design from the outset, and stick to it. The binding of Graven Images has been something of a problem. I didn’t have a set plan from the outset, and that created headaches all through production. Originally it was going to be a handsome envelope or folder with the prints loose inside, and it grew on its own from there. Plans to bind the edition myself evaporated in face of time constraints, so the job was handed off to a commercial binder. The results were adequate, but still full of small disappointments.

2. Set limits. At one point, there was some discussion around the dinner table about creating fictional text to accompany the illustrations. I guess that was my line of death, but it would have been an interesting endeavour. The painted covers are covered below, and the final binding of the edition was a compromise imposed by money and time.

3. Use tried and true papers on big projects. There’s a reason so many private presses use only a certain few commercially available papers; there’s no need for further experimentation. Sigh. Looking forward to St. Armand, Fabriano, Arches Text…. and insolvency trying to pay for them.

4. Smoother paper = better halftones. Better impression generally. Canson Mi Teintes paper proved problematic, with one side being rough, intended for pastels. I lost my nerve, and declined to print a large halftone of the box of wood engraving blocks when I realized it would be printed on the rough side, and the last page after already printing the three other pages. I’m telling ya, this racket takes nerves of steel!

5. I’m happier when I can work on the production of a book beginning to end in a concentrated period of time. Because of much going on in my life, I knew that Graven Images would be spread over a long period of time. Two years, in fact. I planned it that way, breaking all the work into its parts, and it all worked out according to plan. But I didn’t like it as much as working on a book every day, continuously for six or eight weeks.

6. I’ve mastered printing type. Just in time to see the early signs of age and wear on my precious lead type.

7. Think twice, maybe three time before betting on a lot of art work for any book. Holly and I planned to have her paint all the covers for Graven Images. What were we thinking?! Trying to reproduce her painted covers using digital laser printing added another dimension of frustration to the job, for everyone involved.

8. I need storage for unbound sheets. At one point, I had the makings of 75 copies of the edition laid out flat in one box. Very heavy! Very big! Always tripping over it.

9. I need storage for bound copies. Graven Images is a big book, not just in terms of labour, but its actual size. And it is by no means even close to the largest folios done by some presses. Even binding up 25 copies a time requires some place to put them, when I even lack bookshelves for the books in my own collection!

10. I need to better organize my work area. Holly has caught me more than once this winter standing at the foot of my press, arms folded and staring into space. My space works very well indeed, but improvements can and will be made. Additional storage. Moving things further back that I seldom use; moving stuff I use frequently closer. A hanging wall cupboard is in the works. Perhaps some shelving.

11. I can print wood engravings. I can even print 130 year old wood engravings. It’s not as easy as it looks. And for the 130 year old engravings, apply lesson #2.

12. Promotion. Promotion. Promotion. I print books with the attitude that I would be happy to live with the entire edition until I pop off. But really, how sensible is that?

13. Live with the variables. There are far too many variables involved in producing a beautifully printed page to be able to control them all. So get over it, and find creative solutions.

14. I love printing, and there will be more books. Wordsworth’s famous poem Tintern Abbey is up next.

Assembly Begins on Graven Images

September 5, 2010

I complete cutting the windows on just a quarter of the edition this morning. Here are the results painfully known as ‘printers waste’. painful, because the paper is so damned expensive!

And the stacked up sheets ready to be folded and engravings mounted within made a cool relief sculpture:

Well, small things amuse etc.

Whenever I start an exercise like this, there is a learning curve. But the end of this morning, I was cutting like a pro. During the entire process, I lost only 6 sheets to slips, the cost being about $1 per sheet.


March 20, 2010

Before proceeding with the text block, I’ve decided to do a prospectus, using the text I’ve set already as the sample page. I’m now dissing the Wayzgoose Mattress poem to free up all my 14 point type so that I can set the ‘pitch’ and the sales info that will go on the back page of the prospectus. Yesterday I chopped and trimmed 50 sheets of Mi-Teintes to print 100.

The prospectus is designed to give the prospective buyer and idea of the book in abbreviated form; it shows the typography, a sample of illustrations if any, the type of paper and, of course, a sample of the text. It is also an opportunity for the printer to ‘warm up’ before tackling the edition.

Shown below is the paper ready to be dampened, and on top, the page layout guide: my compass, to be followed scrupulously, without deviation… subject to exception, of course!

Ready to Print

April 9, 2008

You may recall in an earlier post that I decided to do a split run (technically two editions) of the Vampire and the Seventh Daughter: fifty copies on twelve pages 8.5×5.5″ for the Press Gang collaboration, and 50 (or maybe 75) on very fine paper in a larger configuration. I’m pleased to report that 80 sheets of Arches Text Wove arrived last week, so I’m proceeding with the tall edition first. It costs around $2 per sheet, so I’m still recovering from the stress of cutting it down to the page size for the fine edition (!2″ x 13″, when folded creates a page size of 12″ tall x 6.5″ wide).

Well, I say cutting in the technical sense. I decided I liked the rough edge, or decal, on the paper, so I will be printing this job without a trim cut, or a 1/4″ cut around the entire sheet. Since that was the case, I thought, and since letterpress is for masochists, I chose to score, fold and tear sheet by precious sheet the entire supply by hand. Measure twice, cut once indeed! It worked out pretty well, although custom measuring and cutting 80 does not produce the accurate results of the swift stroke of the guillotine, any irregularity should be (hopefully) insignificant, and the end result pleasing.

Part of letterpress is the sensuality of the medium, and paper is a big part of that, as I blathered on about in a previous entry. I first encountered Arches Text through Holly, since this rag-based cotton paper is beloved by calligraphers for its evenness, and yet still possessing an agreeable tooth, which makes it feel like one is holding felt. I’ve never printed on it before, but I expect the same qualities to make it golden for letterpress. Although Arches sells it as ‘white’, it really has a beautiful cream colour. In this age of hyper-bleached paper, that alone endears me.

So with the stock ready, yesterday I drew up my page masters. These are the key to the entire print job, since they supply the specs, page dimensions etc. that take the dummy and transform it into something, well, if not real, at least less abstract than the dummy.

I have no idea why WordPress doesn’t put a blue border around my thumbnails, but if you click on the one at left, you can see a good-sized image of the dummy on top and the page master on the bottom. Lewd innuendos aside, they form the crux of the printing of a book, or pamphlet in this case. All that’s left is to cut a quantity of scrap or rough paper to use as proofs, and I’m ready to go.

The dummy at the top was made from proofs pulled early of both the text and illustrations. The bits are held on (not very well) by Scotch Tape. This is the only time I miss the waxer we once used on layout. The dotted lines on either side of the text block in the master at bottom signify the extent of the form. The text block is the province of the compositor, and while might measure 20 picas, but he has a quad (em space) at the beginning and end of the line, making the width of whole form 22 picas, which is what concerns the printer as he plans the makeready on his press. Being both the compositor and the printer does resolve many issues.

Another thing WordPress has changed in this latest interface change is the removal of the word count, which means I’ve prattled on ad nausium. Therefore, salut!

A few treasures

January 5, 2008

The big spring cleaning in the press room yielded some interesting finds, including:

dscn0061.jpgA wood cut map of jolly old London (from a reprint in a 19th century book, I think)

dscn0064.jpgA piece of practice calligraphy Holly did for a painting I remember being on the wall when we first met.

dscn0066.jpgSome more of Holly’s work.

Here’s a few thoughts on paper. For a letter press printer, or calligrapher and artists in general, paper takes on importance of monumental proportions. Indeed, the value of letterpress printing over other forms, including offset, laser, inkjet etc, is that letterpress can printing on almost any kind of paper, particularly beautiful hand-made kinds. It’s hard to explain, but when I pick up a piece of paper in my hand and feel its texture, see its landscape, and my mouth waters, I know I want to print on it. Sometimes I think I startle some people by describing a paper as “good enough to eat.” Now you know why.

Which is the problem Holly and I have, and the problem I’ve been dealing with the last couple of days. Holly and I have collected some beautiful papers, and they need to be stored. In the future it would be nice to say I’ll only buy what I need, and give away the offcuts and left-overs to a worthy cause, but I don’t think it’s gonna happen. If only we could eat it!

Paper good enough to eat:

  • Arches text wove
  • Fabriano
  • Strathmore
  • Anything from Paperie St. Armand in Montreal
  • Vellum (the paper variety, although the goat skin can be printed on as well, and a good source of protein, I guess)
  • Ingrams text weight or print weight paper

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