A little over a month ago, I finally got to take a drive out the Northern MA way to visit Letterpress Things. The morning itself was slightly grey and the drive a bit monotonous, but well worth the effort when I met John Barrett, proprietor of all things letterpressed. On certain weekends, he opens his third floor warehouse space up so that typophiles (is that even a word? Well, you know what I mean) like myself can sift through his giant collection of type cuts, presses, cases, and supplies. The Prof and I have tried to make the trip to LPT two times before, once thwarted by other plans and once by a snowstorm. We lucked out this time, though, because the morning we did happen to go to Chicopee, it was just us and John for most of our three hour visit.
John runs a printshop during the week, but LPT is his real passion, and he not only gave us the full tour but also did an impromptu demonstration back in the print shop, where we inked up a press and I got to pull my first print! Luckily, The Prof was there to photograph the whole momentous occasion...
Here's a little description of our process (I'm remembering the best I can, so please excuse if something is in the wrong order.)
Step 1: Pick out something to print
In our case, John chose a kicky little parrot, which we ended up using over my Swiss-looking cut of two children because it had better metal.
Step 2: Lock the type into the case
This step involves arranging a bunch of little pieces of wood to steady the type (or parrot) and locking everything tight with a key.
Step 3: Ink the plate
Pretty self-explanatory, except that the ink was pretty sticky and concentrated. Luckily, I have a light touch.
Ink smear on plate, how very Pollock, no?
After spreading the ink on the plate, you've got to turn the plate and run the rollers over it a bunch of times to get everything coated to the right consistency. John said that it kind of sounded like rolling wet paint onto a wall (it did) and that as a person letterpresses more, s/he knows when the ink is exactly at the perfect consistency by sound alone.
Step 4: Lock in the chase
Basically, we got the whole metal/wood thingy-ma-bob and slid it into the press.
John makes an adjustment to the guides so we don't crush the expensive little pieces in the big metal press.
Inking the type/parrot...
Step 5: The proof
Before you just "take it there", a proof is pressed to check ink coverage and positionng. This is when I first got to see the positive impression of our parrot; I'll call him Morty.
Step 6: (Deep Breath) Pulling a print
Here I am, pulling my first print of Morty. I guess most people don't have a photographer front and center to capture this moment, but luckily The Prof was there. Now we can look at this foto and remember the exact second when I stopped sinking all of my auxiliary money into Catherine Holm pots from Ebay and instead started amassing letterpress things.
Me and Morty; could I look more eerily excited?
Morty immediately after his "birth."
Karate Kid and my letterpress Mr. Miyagi (he said I was a natural.)
I loved my time at Letterpress Things and am planning to buy a press there, a little Kelsey that is in the process Mr. Barrett and start my new hobby -- as an amateur letterpresser. Wootie-woot!!!
Look, we even made the LPT blog! (click on "continue" to read, and look at some more fotos of LPT here.)
Wow, what a difference two weeks can make, it was down right cold today! And I think everyone stayed home in front of the stove, I couldn't blame them. Just a couple of folks early on and then one couple mid-day.
Mark, who's steadily adding to his type fortune, bought another type cabinet and yes, several more fonts. Chris, my type guru, had been hibernating most of the winter, ventured in and was put to work identifying boxes and cases of "unknowns". You have to love a guy who can pick up a randon piece of type off the floor and id the face, the foundry, the machine operator (ok, I exaggerate a bit, but he knows his type!)
The chuckle of the day; John and Liz are bookbinders from the North Shore, stopped in to pick up some odds and ends on their way to visit a colleague in Amherst. Guess who dashed in to check on a padding press before his friends arrived? Do all roads lead to and through Letterpress Things. . . hmmmm.
But the day ended up belonging to Christi and Mark from the Boston area. Christi had done a bunch of research on the net and wanted to get a feel for what it's all about. Did she ever! Gave her the full cook's tour, ending up in the Print Shop where she got the crash course. I will never, never get tired of seeing the look on a person's face, the glow in their eyes when they pull that first impression. . . it's a unique event, a lifetime memory. Yeh, I went home feeling pretty good myself."