Monday, 23 November 2009

past, present, future

A recent email from a gal who just got a press reminded me about the birth of the snap & tumble blog. In the email, the girl thanked me for the hints and tips she found in some of my posts because she's just starting out with her own small press. Anyone who's gotten into letterpress printing from home, without having any prior knowledge about how to do it, appreciates any kind of help they can get. I certainly did. Those of you who followed me from the beginning of my letterpress adventures know that I created the blog before purchasing my first press. The writing helped me document my progress and organize my thoughts of all things letterpress. Like the gal who sent me this email, I too was once new to letterpress. Now (three years into the craft) I've taken a look back at how this something-wonderful happened.

I didn't go to school for graphic design. I didn't complete any software program courses. I didn't grow up with printers in the family. Nor did I study printmaking for any length of time. I picked up a letterpress printed card and ran my fingers over its deep inked impression. Curiosity turned into love.

What followed was completely unexpected. Thanks to the Internet, I had letterpress information at my fingertips. I was led from one site to another, finding hundreds of resources. I asked questions, I joined forums, I read books, I watched videos, I followed blogs. I was super keen to learn all I could about letterpress printing. * Getting myself up to speed on the vocabulary of letterpress was only good for being able to understand printer-speak. And though it gave me a good start, it wouldn't be anything without a press to practice on. Before I knew it, I was pursuing my passion.

With serious effort, I was able to get a few hours of one-on-one letterpress printing instruction in the Toronto area back in 2007. Though the demonstrations were not on a platen table top, my love for letterpress grew stronger after having tried my hand on a flatbed press. I took what I had learned and sought out a press that was more suited to my situation (finances and accommodations).

Having exhausted the local community, I decided to purchase a small press and learn to use it on my own. Of course, in hindsight, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The press isn't the only piece of equipment that gets you that gorgeous print. I had unknowingly thrown myself into the pits of constant-mistakes hell. I must've spent months researching papers, inks, presses, and plates - all of the finer points that go into making a quality piece of letterpress print. Trial and error was the name of the game. Not only did I put in the time, but I couldn't have chosen a more expensive craft to delve into. Still, I wouldn't have traded anything for the reward of learning from my own mistakes and the time spent to honing my skills. The learning continues.

I am by no means a master printer; I'm humbled by centuries worth of knowledge and the old school printers before me. But damn, I learned a lot on my own. I'm glad I've got this diary of sorts to remind me just how far along I've come. I may not speak in picas and points but I do love what I do. And the hints and tips I've shared (that most likely came to me in moments of desperation, frustration or as revelations) are what have worked for me to get a fine print. It may not necessarily be how it should be done, but it's the way I do it. Elastic bands, paper towels, transparency film, photo corners and all.

The blog used to be more content about situations I got into with the press or dilemmas I encountered. I also wrote about successes and times when I felt I was moving ahead. Some posts were detailed descriptions of press tools and handy tips. As I started to progress, the blog changed, exchanging written content for photos of printed work. I'm starting to wonder if maybe I should strike a balance between the two for the readers who use the blog as a resource and for the readers who swing by for their letterpress fix. Let me know - what would you like to see on the snap & tumble blog? Or, what keeps you coming back?

* {The letterpress community was/is generous with both their time and their willingness to share tips in what's become a competitive business. I think the revival of letterpress printing and the good ol' fashioned way of doing things is what resonates with us and prompts us to share our experiences (a brain trade, if you will). We (or at least I) do the laborious undertaking of printing for the love of it - not for the money or the glory.}


Laura said...

You know *I* love the tips!
You're exactly right that passion leads to success. And that this whole learning experience is very trial&error.
Keep showcasing your work though -- I love to see what designers are coming up with next and your work is certainly beautiful!

Sonnet and Mayhem said...

Your final products are always amazing, but I love seeing the process too! And even though I'm not venturing into letterpress territory, it's always great to know that there are other souls toiling away at printmaking projects somewhere in the city!

snap + tumble said...

Thx Laura and Victoria - I've now added a "tips + hints" tag to the categories list. Moving forward, I'll be posting more thoughts on process, experiments and tips.

Post a Comment

Anonymous comments (meaning comments without valid URL's) will not be published.