Figuring It Out

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Getting a clean print from my Golding Pearl #1 can be challenging. I thought I’d learned her secrets.

But, oh no. Yesterday and today made me scratch my head, take a break, and rethink the problem.

You can see the image on the right is blotchy. I assumed a packing problem, so I spent time changing thin to thick paper under the Tympan, even trying a piece of printer’s blanket I’ve ended up with. Some improvement, but not good enough.

Next, I tried more ink on the disk. Logical, right? Nope, I still couldn’t get a good print. After playing around for several hours, I decided to head home and try again this morning.

The first thing I did was to take the chase out of the press and try inking it by hand on the proof press. Bingo. That told me I wasn’t getting enough ink from the rollers to the type. I’ve had to remove and add tape to the rails many times, but this time I took it down to nearly nothing and printed. With the rollers getting closer to the type, it worked!

Why my other  metal type didn’t need so much tape removed is a mystery, unless– this type is fat, and the wide letters don’t print as well on my press? I’ve been using much thinner, lighter type recently, and I think that’s the difference.

The print still isn’t as clean as I’d like. My sweet little press isn’t great for getting solid prints from wood cuts, either, though. To get this ornament to print, I had to put the chase back in the proof press and print it separately. Plus the uneven texture of the print indicates my platen may need adjusting again. I haven’t had to do that for over a year, but I’ll consider that soon.

When I first brought her home, I struggled to get any good prints. A friend then told me to relax, that it would take a year at least for me to get to know her. Ha, he was right! I do love the problem-solving. And I’m also ready for a bigger press. I guess I’d better get ready for more of that :)

And people wonder why I only print a handful at a time…

Pushing On

I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.

Marissa Mayer

I am not sure I always did this. But at some point in my life, I wanted to figure things out. Printer broken? Take it apart. Need a room networked? Run the cables.
So I am trying to do this with my printing as well. But, wow, does it take time. There are so many variables that can go wrong- ink, lock up, type, pressure, humidity in the air. Each time I get ready to print, I check the packing, the placement of the base or the type, and even the different paper styles I use.

People wonder why I even bother to do this. “You can print whatever you want digitally now,” they say. “This looks like too much work.”

Yes, but it’s fun work. It’s the figuring it out that I love. And when I get a print that is nearly perfect (because nothing in letterpress is perfect), I smile with satisfaction.

Problem Solving

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The images are terrible, but I’m excited about the progress. Photo 1, no packing. Photo 2, heavy packing on the first line, Photo 3, light packing on the first line, Photo 4, light packing on the top line and two runs through the press.

It’s not perfect, but we’re getting there.

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” 
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

It’s a Funny Thing About Hair

Untitled 2 I cut my hair last year. This spring, I cut it even shorter. But I am not happy with it.

When this happens, I get out a pair of scissors, thinking I can do a better job than my hairdresser. Which is laughable. Now I’m lopsided and asymmetrical.

Symmetry has always been important to me. I love teaching the “magic three” to emerging writers. “Isn’t it cool how you can include three parallel words, phrases, or sentences to give your writing rhythm?” I ask. They don’t usually share my enthusiasm.

I like the art on my walls to line up. And I hate my eyebrows, which don’t.

So this letterpress printing pushes me out of my comfort zone. Nothing is symmetrical, perfect, or even. The whole idea of this fascinates me since overall I’m not a detail person. I lose notes, don’t follow recipes, hate to clean, and often read over mistakes. But in a handful of ways, being even and perfect matters to me.

Recently, though, I’ve begun to enjoy the process of printing much more than the product. The rhythm of placing lines and lines of metal type back in the appropriate sections of the type case, letter by letter, size by size, becomes meditative work. Using tweezers to remove and replace an errant letter challenges me to breathe deeply and focus. Then, after all the tedious toiling, I ink card after card, waiting for the right mixture of ink and pressure from the roller. This is a small, tabletop proof press that produces one page at a time.

These days, I am delighted when I hold a finished product in my hand that shows the age of the type, the failings of the printer, and the love of the work. Imperfections in all its glory.

Now if I could only leave my hair alone.

It’s SO in my Head

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I’ve thought a lot the past few years about how my thoughts create my reality.

I know. It’s all a little “woo woo.” But it’s true.

After slamming my head into the sidewalk two weeks ago during a run, I’ve spent time recovering with a bruised, scraped, and sore face. It seems every little thing reminds me of how much I hurt. A wire clothes hanger fell out of my closet and hit me in the forehead. Usually it’s not such a big deal, but this week? OUCH. And then there’s the pretty color of my face–a greenish yellow, a pukish color that has remained after the black and blue.

But I would have been ok with that incident. After all, it could have been so much worse.

Then, my right hand, the one with the arthritis in the thumb basal joint, started acting up. It seems I may have carpal tunnel, too. Even trying to unload the dishwasher made me wince.

So I’ve been grumpy. Really grumpy. And taking it out on everyone.

Yesterday, I realized I can let myself be so overcome by the darkness that I fail to see the light–my wonderful writing groups, the progress I’m making on my memoir, good friends and family, and a fabulous place to hang out during the day.

As George Harrison once said, it’s all in the mind. Here comes the sun…..