WHY LETTERPRESS – IT’S A DEAD ART, ISN’T IT?
Over the years, we’ve been asked by friends and customers – why letterpress? The next question they usually ask is, can you make money in it?
Well the truth is, for us, it’s a labour of love… literally. There is a ton of work that goes into this, and yes a lot of investment of money and time. One Vandercook SP15 can be anywhere from $3K to $8k+. So before you commit to something like that, you’d better be sure you really love it. Many print shops do make money, they tend to be trade shops that will print, and can print, just about anything – beautiful work. We’re not a trade shop so we pick projects that inspire us and allow us to get better at the craft.
In the Letterpress community, there are artists who illustrate books by carving wood and creating some of the most beautiful books we’ve ever seen. This is a skill I hope to learn and maybe someday master, for now I’ll stick with linocuts. There are typesetters who know how to hand-set pages and pages of metal type, and make it seem so easy. They use letters and words to create wonderful examples of text as the image. And until you have held one of these books in your hands, you will never understand why some people hate the e-reader. The community is filled with oldtimers and upstarts all sharing ideas and knowledge, and we’ve had the fortune of meeting some great and generous people at shows like Grimsby Wayzgoose and OCADU Book Arts Fair making some good friendships along the way.
Then there are people like us, a graphic designer and an advertising account person, who love the entire world of letterpress. As a designer I bring my own flavour to letterpress. I do love the printing process – ink is in my blood now, and under my nails! I love discovering different papers; I love tinkering and maintaining our press, and I equally love the design process. The use of the MAC married with polymer plates has allowed me to do things I couldn’t to do with metal and wood type alone. This community is now what is left between the past and the future. If print dies, then on that day I will be very sad. But, I know in my heart it will never really die as long as we and others like us continue to tinker and toil, cut and set, press and roll all of the amazing things we all print. No matter what style, what paper, which font, or language – it’s all good.
We love the past and merging it with the present. Whatever the digital world has in store, it will never have the tactile feel of print. A touch screen is cool, but there is still something getting in the way. Sure a virtual world can have benefits, but sometimes you need to get your hands dirty. Even as we are all more and more plugged in, we seem to be missing the boat – technology is a wonderful tool, a tool to be used and controlled, not the other way around. Rather than connect us, in a lot of cases it has separated us. We can live behind the screen and never venture out into the real world.
The photo below is a “Mutiny on the Bounty” movie poster plate. It’s 50 years old and can still be printed. It was made in a time when things were still made solid. Just imagine, making something with your own two hands. A print – being able to see, touch and actually feel something real.
And that is why we love letterpress. It’s not dead yet.