These past couple weeks I have been learning all about how to use a letterpress machine in my Advanced Typography class, and it has been quite an adventure. We got to go down to my professor Chris Medley‘s shop, The Workshop, here in downtown Scranton, and use her letterpress and type to make some cool art. I already was a huge fan of typography, so I was very excited to go. I ended up making some cool coasters for my apartment and a couple cool prints on cardstock during the week!
I never realized how complex the process was to make a print, and although I am nowhere near being a pro at it I feel like I am starting to get the hang of it. You think it would be simple to stamp the designs and line up all the pieces you want no problem, but it is definitely not that easy. For starters, you have to line up all of your pieces backwards so that it will print the right side up. As an exercise for class, we had to put together the first stanza of an Emily Dickinson poem, and lining up all those words backwards was quite the challenge. Also, since I was looking at the type backwards it was very easy to mix up my p’s, b’s, and d’s.
It is also a very tedious process when it comes to the letterpress because you have to spend a good amount of your time searching for all of your type, and then even more time putting it all away in the right spots. You have to fit all the spacing just right too using wood and metal blocks, otherwise the entire piece will just fall apart. I’m also not the best at lining up paper evenly, and you have to trust your instincts and estimate the correct spot for your paper every time so it took me a while to finally get it right. For each piece I ended up printing over ten copies just to make sure I could get at lest one really good version. Using the letterpress was overall a very fun experience, and I really hope I get another chance to go back and make some more pieces of art!