Letterpress Workshop

Letterpress Workshop today, and it was such an amazing workshop!

It’s hard to believe that these tiny letters all had to be arranged by hand every single day by highly skilled typesetters for newspapers, books, and pretty much any publishing you can imagine.

As easy as it may be to open Word and type thousands of letters in an instant, there’s something enormously gratifying about setting each letter individually by hand, putting the chase into the printing press and watching as a piece of beautifully printed type gets pressed in front of you.
I got a little carried away after a while, finding any surface or material I could and seeing what the results would be. I tried the process again with some scraps of fabric and the outcomes were quite beautiful. They’re dainty and handmade and much more rewarding personally than if I’d made them digitally.

I’ve also been advised by the tutor (after noticing my obvious interest in the process) to do some further reading about the Curwen Press print company.

I also learnt that a lot of terms we use today in the creation of digital type come from terms used in letterpress.  For example, leading (the space between each row of text) comes from the thin strips of lead that would be put into the chase along with the text to create the ideal spacing between rows of words.  The more strips of lead used the greater the space would be.  In addition to this, the words uppercase and lowercase come from the literal cases that the type would be picked from.  Uppercase letterforms would be in the upper case, and lowercase letterforms would be in the lower case.  I found the entire workshop fascinating and it once again ties in with what I’ve been saying about wanting to do things by hand, or using ‘old’ or outdated formats to create something tangible and individual, with a sense of rarity about it.  Despite the letters being uniform, little things like extra ink marks or the indentations that are made on the material that you’re printing onto all lead to something really individual.


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