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
Having experimented with the characters touching each other, our latest prints focus on the impression of the type upon the paper- from touch to ouch.
I was first struck by the size of the type and remembered Tricia asking if I had gotten the 5 inch type– yes indeed!
Our initial explorations with the wood type focus on relating the content to the form. A literal approach was taken during a day on the press, experimenting with letter-spacing, and negative letter-spacing. This is the antithesis of how we usually work. The limitations of letterpress, due to the physical body of the type, mean that if type is to be printed in one run then it is most straightforward to letter-space the type out.
There is slightly too much impression, which was necessary in achieving an even print due to the varying wood used for the different characters. This will inform the basis of further explorations examining the ‘kiss’ of the type with the paper.
Press: Vandercoock Universal I in home studio.
Ink: Graphic Chemical’s Senefelder’s Crayon Black
Paper: Studio Scrap. Probably Mohawk Superfine Cover Weight
What was supposed to be our first attempt (just a simple print so we could cut out the letters and play with them), yielded our concept.
After making a mistake on the tympan, we tried to rub off the ink with mag and a paper towel. It was our inspirational moment.
We’re looking forward to developing techniques for getting repeatable, but unique and attractive results.
Today was my third pass working with the type. Third pass, third color, third thought.
ouch. and what might that have to do with the price of tea in Ceylon?