Saturday, 17 August 2013

DIY Fantastic: Letterpress Class Part I

Have you ever heard of the London Book Arts Centre? If not then you'd best check it out, and fast! It's a fab space in deepest darkest East London that's dedicated to celebrating and keeping alive the practice of traditional book art methods. These range from printing to bookbinding and everything in between. You can read more about the concept behind the centre on the Guardian here and you can check out some of their latest events, courses and photos at their tumblr site here. Plug, plug, plug! :p

Isabel and I went along for an introduction to the letterpress printing method a couple of weeks ago and had an absolute blast. So much so that we've actually already been back to learn more! Hehe. We're still a little shakey on the technical details and jargon, but we've certainly been inspired. I'm hatching a plan to print our wedding invitations for the big day next year ourselves so we went along to find out what we could and couldn't do and learn some of the basics! Here are some of the highlights from centre and the course we took:

Letters letters everywhere! (Heaven?!) Below an introduction to the printing presses with Simon and taking notes for next time!

The stores of antique typeface below, real works of beauty. Each tray holds one set of type of a particular font and size and are actually very very heavy! The trays are split into compartments for each letter and symbol to make things easier to find.

We spent some time perusing the fantastic selection of fonts and chose one each to experiment with. I went for a bold, wide sans-serif and Izzy went for an obscure, elaborate and italic one! Such polar opposites! :p Below you can see us building our quotes out of the metal type in the composing sticks (hope that's the right term!!):

We also got to play with the wooden set (my favourite!). The have such character compared to the metal type. You can see the age on them as they've been used over and over again for various print projects over the years. This really translates into the final print through the grain, texture and density of the final print and is what really makes each one so unique.

Finally, once we're happy with the composition it was all locked securely into the press to fix it in place ready for printing.

And since this is becoming a marathon post I've turned it into 'Part I' and we'll show you the fruits of our labours in 'Part II' shortly! Suffice to say we learnt heaps in just this one session, but we clearly have so much more to learn still! The team at LBCA was fantastic, helpful, informative and friendly and they have clearly built up a community around the centre which acts as a resource, studio space and refuge for the members who use it on a regular basis. If you have even so much as a passing interest in books and printing I can't recommend it highly enough!

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