Archive for the ‘Presses’ category

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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The Third & Elm Press

November 4, 2012

Click to view larger

Business and good fortune had us visiting Newport, Rhode Island a couple of weeks prior to Hurricane Sandy. The weather was extraordinarily beautiful and temperate, literally a calm before a storm. When I travel with Holly, I try not to schedule too much press activity, which can easily usurp a timetable. But destiny took a hand. While visiting a photography gallery called Blink, we learned that the owner’s mother ran a letterpress in the heart of Newport. On our last day there, Holly and I made sure to visit The Third and Elm Press, named (as you probably surmised) for the corner on which Ilse Burchert Nesbitt’s shop is located.

The home of the Third and Elm Press, located at Third and Elm in Newport, Rhode Island.

Ilse came to America from Germany in 1960, and set up the press with her husband, a calligrapher and book designer, in 1965. There are details and sample of her work on her website at www.thirdandelm.com. She is now 80 years old and not showing much sign of slowing down.

Isle has a very nicely organized studio. It is not large, but it holds an early 19th century “acorn” iron press, a good sized floor standing platin press, a cutter and several banks of type. While she has printed several books over the years, her primary focus these days is in making wood cut prints. In the long-established German tradition, she cuts her blocks using knives, as opposed to gouges and gravers.

A relief wood cut carved with knives on the plank.

The style of knives that Ilse uses for cutting her blocks.

Close-up of the plaque on the ‘acorn’ iron press.

A close-up of Ilse’s work-horse platin press, with a rainbow hue of inks on the underside of the inking disk.

I admired Ilse’s cutting desk, which folds down elegantly when not in use. Most print studios need space-saving solutions like this. (Mine certainly does!)

All the type drawers have beautiful calligraphy labels. Since I live with a calligrapher of some note, I have put Holly on notice that I would like this treatment for my type cabinets as well.

I make a habit of carrying samples of my books and prints with me where ever I go, so I was able to show them to Ilse and recieve a critique. She was refreshingly frank, or perhaps I should say refreshingly Teutonic. She thought my lines might “open up” and become more naturalistic if I abandoned gouges and gravers and adopted the knife as my principal tool, something I will certainly try when I turn my hand to cutting on the plank. She felt that my lines were too clean, that they followed each other too closely, that I needed to “loosen up.” All good advise, and in a sense, that’s the direction my linos had been going prior to my jump into wood engraving.

We spent a very enjoyable afternoon visiting with Ilse, hearing her thoughts on the ‘business’ and dropped some money in her gallery upstairs on a book and two prints. Most of all, it was simply inspiring to meet a fellow printer and print-maker who is steadily pursuing her passion and not letting anything, least of all aging, get in the way.

500 shades of printing presses

August 12, 2012

 

One example of the infernal device, from the early days of printing.

After the last post, I thought it might be considerate to write about presses, but fortunately others have already blazed that trail. Here’s a link to the Five Roses Press letterpress online hub, with descriptions of all the different kinds of printing presses with a bit of historical context, and a slant on how a press should fit the kind of work one desires to produce. For the record, my own press is a Vandercook flatbed proofing press, described at the end. The examples in my previous post are antique iron presses. Five Roses is a veritable endless scroll of information that will excite the spirit of anyone eager to learn more, and boggle the minds of those who do not. Also, it is rather North American-centric.

Printing on Old Iron at Massey College

August 8, 2012

Finally, I’m getting around to putting up the following photos, taken during a letterpress & typography symposium at the University of Toronto’s Massey College held this spring. This relatively young college possesses a fine, small library which comes complete with a veritable museum of a press room. I counted half a dozen iron presses, all seeming to be in working order. The print room was open and an Albion was set up for demonstrations. (Click on the pictures for a larger view).

Visitors to the symposium taking proofs off this fine old iron press (an Albion, I believe).

 

A Columbian iron press

An Imperial iron press, with another table-top iron press in the background.

A Washington iron press (apologies, a little fuzzy) of the size that would have done broadside sheets.

The Robertson Davies Library also had some fine examples of pages under glass from the days prior to the printing press, which were a treat to see.

And it was wonderful to see this elegant alphabet carved from stone, marble most likely… the letters are truly beautiful.

 


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