Friday, 24 August 2012

I met Amanda three years ago in one of my first letterpress workshops. Even then, she was just as eager about letterpress printing as I was. Shortly after the workshop, she lucked out and came across a tabletop press to call her very own. We've kept in touch and it's been wonderful watching Amanda carve out her own path and seeing what she's been up to with her new press, a Vandercook. She recently launched Silverplate Press and in doing so also offered letterpress workshops, which I totally jumped at. It had been a long time since I got to use a flatbed press, so how could I not take the opportunity to print with the largest Vandercook in Toronto?

Amanda's workshop was everything I hoped it would be. I got to play and learn and left with a batch of large prints. I had two goals for the workshop: 1. Because I work solely with a tabletop press, I wanted to take advantage of the printable area size of Amanda's press. 2. Work with the largest type available. I wasn't concerned about printing multiples of things or with trying to achieve a deep impression (which I know a Vandercook would've easily cranked out). All I wanted to do was to print big! So I set out to purchase a few pieces lightweight printmaking paper that had a bit of tooth. I cut them down to size and sketched out some ideas. When it came time, I decided to do a simple type specimen with Amanda's beloved gothic wood type. The alphabet seems like a good and simple thing to print in the hopes that Marcus takes a shine to it when he's ready. I set the letters A through Z right on the bed, then a bit of quick and dirty kerning and it was good to lock up.

I mixed some process blue, green and opaque white to get a rich turquoise with oil-based inks and learned about the marvels of magnesium carbonate. During the make-ready process, Amanda suggested we add some of the mag to the ink to help with the viscosity. Lo and behold, the following prints came out like a charm.

During the workshop, there were some hiccups with the press itself. Moments like that are gold to those of us who love our presses and are keen on seeing how things work or why they don't. Amanda knew exactly what her press was up to and got out a wrench half her size and set to fix the problem. Amanda knows her press and it was impressive to see her wield a number of tools to bring things back to centre.

I highly recommend taking Amanda's workshop if you're interested in learning and printing with a Vandercook. She's passionate, knowledgeable, patient and super friendly.


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