The Lost Art of Letterpress

Ah the smell of fresh ink on paper! A few days ago Joel Felix and I ventured to San Francisco Center for the Book to attend an Intro to Letterpress Printing workshop. It was so exciting to get to "know our roots" a little better while getting down and dirty with some real printing. We geeked out as we discovered cases full of some of our favorite typefaces cast in metal blocks — Futura, Garamond, Bodoni, Univers, and much more. We learned the basics of setting type (which took an unexpectedly large amount of time since it is so difficult to handle and has to be set upside down and backwards), as well as how to properly ink & operate a Vandercook cylinder press. The Vandercook is arguably the most popular letterpress machine, and is ideal for printing everything from invitations and stationary to larger for posters and broadsides. SFCB had four of these bad boys! I'd get one myself if it weren't somewhere around $10K to acquire one. Eeek!

I refuse to say that Letterpress is a dying form of printing. As we continue to move more and more into an age of digital printing, alternate printing methods such as letterpress and screenprinting will just gain value because of the unique and tangible characteristics they produce. It is not as efficient or cost effective, but then again, I'm beginning to believe that nothing worth doing is easy. Plus it is always fun to get away from the computer and get my hands a little dirty. Our small project this time was two greeting cards. Of course, we couldn't just settle for a typical phrase, so Joel came up with "You are the cheese to my macaroni" and I followed suit with "You are the butter to my biscuit." Both were set in the beautiful Bodoni Ultra face. We are thinking about selling them as a set. 

If you're interested, SFCB offers a variety of classes, including this 3 hour letterpress workshop a few times every semester. Registration was only $40, and once you learn the art, you can become certified to reserve time on the presses during open studio hours. If I lived in the city, I would be there all the time.

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