When I tell people what I’m doing now, writing and learning to letterpress, I often get a quizzical look. I’m not sure if people doubt my writing ability or can’t figure out why I am knee-deep in ink, metal and wood type, and mineral spirits.
“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time”. ~Thomas Merton
Ok, not quite aligned and too much ink. But I’m getting there.
I decided to try to set type for one of my poems today. I’d managed five or six lines with some success, but this is a three stanza, 11 line poem–a challenge. The first stanza went well, and I slipped the 14 pt Caslon off the composing stick and onto the press. I locked it up with some furniture and magnets temporarily and turned back to the type cabinet to work on the next stanza. Five lines later and I was ready to slide it off.
I hadn’t realized the composing stick wouldn’t fit in the chase, so I had to try to pick up the type with my fingers, holding spacers to keep the lines of type together as I slid it off. Well, you know what happened.
Elizabeth heard me groan as the first two lines of the second stanza fell onto the bed of the press. Tiny metal letters everywhere. I had to start again (and with my eyesight, that’s not easy).
Next time, I’ll go from composing stick to press bed. Then I’ll put the chase around the type and lock it up. Duh.
And–this weekend, I’m headed back to the Visual Arts Studio for a refresher class. Onward.
A few days ago, I tried to make a poster with both wood and polymer. I realized quickly that the when I place the plate on the base, it raised it enough that the roller touched the wood but not the polymer. Also, the wood printed in random places. I expect some differentiation. After all, these letters are old–some are damaged, worn, and chipped. But there’s something else going on. I need to measure carefully to see that it’s all type high. Maybe some paper under a few of the letters?
Today I’m going to try putting the polymer on something other than the Boxcar base. I’ve read about people building bases under type to be able to make it work. I love figuring this out….
And the ink.
And the condition of the wood type.
I think a normal person would have focused on one aspect of learning letterpress. I am feeling slightly overwhelmed as I explore magnesium cuts, metal type, polymer plates, and wood type. I’m making progress, but I need to keep better notes–not my strength.
I signed up for an online class in Adobe Illustrator today and learned a lot. But I have to remember that this will all take time and lots of practice.
In my spare time, I need to clean my new type cabinet. The mildew is making me sneeze. But doesn’t it look official?