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I began the creative process by doodling some ideas exploring the deconstruction of the supplied letterforms. I saw promise in the repetition of the straight and curved letter strokes.
For nearly 10 years I’ve wanted to figure out a technique for safely masking and editioning wood type, and the concept I decided on for this print demanded it. While marking up a proof of the type it occurred to me how I could isolate the central strokes of the letterforms and mask them without creating additional pressure and possibly damaging the type.
FIRST RUN & EXPLANATION OF TECHNIQUE
I made a custom cylinder packing using strips of tympan paper (with a Mylar draw sheet) cut only as wide as the parts of the letters I wanted to print.
The second crucial component was making a frisket to protect the prints from picking up stray marks from the inked form.
There’s no pressure from the custom cylinder packing at the tops and bottoms of the letters. My experience printing on a hand press (for which a frisket is necessary) for the Red Butte Press edition of Wallace Stegner’s To a Young Writer provided the answer to a decade long riddle. I’m calling this technique
“plus-minus printing,” where the packing is the “plus” and the frisket is the “minus.” “isotype printing.”
For the second run, I wanted to print the counterforms (see the initial sketch). I scanned the original black proof (see image 2) and traced the counters in Adobe Illustrator and made them filled shapes. To get the now solid counterforms onto a linoleum block I printed the shapes with a laser printer, then traced the perimeter of each with a pencil. The pencil lines were placed against the linoleum and rubbed from the back of the sheet with a bone folder to transfer the outlines for cutting.
All three colors for the print use fluorescent, oil-based inks from Gans.
The smooth, solid, pink, linoleum-cut counterforms contrast nicely with the open grain of the unshellacked wood type.
I used brass, type-high rule to imply the missing ascenders (t, h), cross stroke (t), and spur (u), and to suggest an exploded view of the letters.
3 color letterpress
17.25 × 24 inches