How big is your font?
There is something kind of Freudian about Letterpress. So says Mitch the instructor at my first Lovin’ Letterpress class at GCAE. Is it the hulking machinery, the type that comes in all shapes and sizes, or the fragrances of solvents and oil-based inks? We “unleash the beast” (a giant paper cutter) and cradle a really long composing stick. Then there was the “T & A” poster that may have been a gift for someone’s wife, and scooping Crisco by the handfuls as part of the press-cleaning process – it was at this point that “a dream come true” was uttered wistfully.
It’s a Date
I can’t say that I disagree. Letterpress stirs my emotions enough that 3 hours flies by quickly. Crouching over a job case searching for type may take an hour or more, but I wouldn’t know. I never look at my watch. Great music and warm light fill the room, wine flows, and I am one with my composing stick.
Letterpress is a craft that I sampled earlier this year. That one-day workshop was a first date, and now we’re going to try to go steady for an eight week class. We meet on Monday nights, a six person motley crew with a couple things in common – we all either like words and/or like the satisfaction of something hand-made. What would Dr. Freud make of that?
Use Both Hands
The type and the ink are nothing without the press – an industrial 3-way that in harmony can produce as many offspring as you’re willing to handle. A Vandercook 3 is all hand-crank operation, but the Vandercook 4 has a motor. There is a mystique to both; so much movement that seems simple, but there is a complication of inky rollers both visible and hidden while smooth operation is dependent upon all the right clicks and thuds. Rhythm and sure hands go a long way in this encounter.
While Vandercook accepts my paper proposition and I fumble my way through to a finish, it’s not all that it could be (yet). I’m still a novice. My inadequacies are understandable when you consider that Vandercook has been at this for half a century or more. It is forgiving, and waits for me to try again. I plan to; we have six more classes to go!
Join me next week for another exciting adventure in letterpress! (Perhaps with less innuendo.)