Best of ’09: Blazers Letterpress Project

I’ve spent a lot of time dwelling of how awful 2009 was for us–which is probably not all that healthy, but it was bad at an epic level. However, in my continuing effort to be more positive, I thought I’d take the chance to write about my favorite project of the last year. Amazingly, it wasn’t sewing or screenprinting, it was one of my first letterpress projects. I realized I’d never really shared this project with “the World,” though all my Portland buddies have seen the results in person.

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I was never able to print this type, but it was for the back of the Brandon Roy card--the header read, "The Reason." Because, when it comes down to it, B-Roy is the reason that many, many people came back to the Trail Blazers, after the team had some very dark days.

What I really loved about this project, is that I got to experiment with photopolymer and the results of using different ink and paper combinations. My original goal was to print an entire team set of basketball cards, complete with back descriptions. However, between limited access to printing facilities and my workload increasing, I didn’t make my goal. However, I was very happy with the prints I did make. The red were printed in open editions, but I limited the silver to a small run of 12 each. The cards are around 3×4, printed on acid free paper, with round corners. The silver ink is actually made with silver–so the metallic quality has a lot of depth, and I suspect that it may be oil-based–given how long it took to dry and how difficult the clean-up was. The variations in the red are due to mixing the red at different times (I have to hand-blend the rubber ink), I also learned that if consistency is important, you need to mix all your ink at once. I ended up only writing a few descriptions, again, because I ran out of time with the letterpress studio and hand-setting all that type is extremely cumbersome.

So, with all that said, here are the results (please keep in mind that these are based off of the 2008-09 team, not the current team)

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Check Out My Dabbled Guest Post

3744483655 e73a058f37 Check Out My Dabbled Guest Post

One of my favorite creativity blogs is the wonderful Dabbled blog. So I was thrilled when I was asked to write a guest post about letterpress while Nancy’s on vacation in Europe. Hopefully, this post will be helpful to those of you who are contemplating learning letterpress. It’s a lot of work–but the rewards are fabulous. Check it the post right here.

Also, I’m thinking I should get some special props for working multiple Trail Blazers references into a post about letterpress on an art blog. Just sayin’…

~Sarah

Letterpress Project Preview

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As I mentioned in my last post, I didn’t get a chance to finish up my project during our letterpress seminar last week. But I did go back on Monday and work on the fronts a bit. This it half of my postcard project. I haven’t printed any of the other side yet. I think I mentioned this before, but this project is inspired by a couple of my favorite Portland-y things–the Steel Bridge and the Loretta Lynn-Jack White song, Portland, Oregon.

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Photo (c)2006 by Andrew Hall, PortlandBridges.com

I created the letterpress using three different techniques, which always makes me happy. Not because it’s more complicated (it’s really not), but because I love the vastly different results you can get in letterpress, depending on your approach. For the back, I used type–obviously. For the front, I carved a 4″x6″ linoleum block in sort of a freeform oblong shape and printed it in an ultra transparent gray with a good measure of reflex blue mixed in.

Here’s what the lino block looks like set up in the press bed:

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(Thrilling, huh?) And this is how it looks printed on the paper:

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Then, using a photopolymer plate and artwork I’d created of the Steel Bridge, I printed over it in a darker, bluer gray.

The idea with using the lighter gray first was that it created that hazy, monotone look the Willamette River (pronounced Wil-am-it) gets sometimes, when you can’t tell the difference between the water and sky. It’s quite beautiful, and something that I’ve really only seen here. I wish I had a photo of that effect… I love the functional beauty of the Steel Bridge, and how trains pass under it all the time without anyone really noticing. It’s a real workhorse of a structure.

Anyway, I’m printing the other half of my cards with another version from the song,

Well I lost my heart.
It didn’t take no time.
But that ain’t all.
I lost my mind in Oregon.

More on the artwork for that soon…

~Sarah

Steel Bridge photo via Portland Bridges.

Letterpress Workshop – Final Day

Today was the last day of our letterpress workshop–and it sure was fun getting to spend four full days together doign letterpress. Josh really enjoyed learning a new skill and I liked getting focused back on something I really am enthusiastic about, but have been too busy to make time for lately. (The big downside of letterpress is that it’s not something you can just go do at the drop of a hat. You have to travel to the press, plan out your work, etc… Not like sewing and screenprinting, which you can can anywhere, anytime.) I didn’t get to print today (long story), although I did get some more type set, and a linoleum block carved up. Josh, however, did the bulk of his printing using a process that enables simple two-color registration called “skeleton printing.” I can’t explaint this very well, but basically you slide type in and out of your press bed so that you get perfect registration. It’s extremely simple, yet not something I would have been able to figure out in a million years on my own. Josh’s postcard project was a two-color print with cascading letters based on the Negro League All-Star game in 1935. It turned out absolutely beautifully.

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Josh's locked up type for his baseball project.

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Josh operating the press.

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Locked up type from Josh's project.

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The first color on Josh's postcards--check out the names, they're awesome.

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Both colors printed on fawn-colored paper.

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And another--you can really see how the type cascades across the paper.

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Detail of this beautiful type called Prisma.

Josh should probably write about this some more, but he radically changed the nature of his project over the four days. He started out trying to create a linoleum cut print about the demise of the economy of Dayton, Ohio, but he found that it was making him stressed out and frustrated. He then switched to this baseball-themed project and it really took off. I think that really speaks to the importance of thinking about how the subject will make you feel while your working on your creation, doesn’t it?

~Sarah

Day Three of Letterpress – Now Our Feet Really Hurt

Lots of fun printing today in day three of four-day letterpress workshop. Josh had a few minor “issues” to deal with–his type wasn’t as cooperative as he had hoped. I hopped onto one of the printing presses first thing (nerds that we are, we went an hour early) and printed up the text for half of my postcards. I also worked on some photopolymer and did some lino-cutting. A busy, full day. One of the highlights was just watching all of the folks who’d never letterpress printed print their work for the first time–everyone was just so happy! Tomorrow, I’ll make sure to photograph the other students’ work–folks are extremely talented, for sure.

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Inked rollers...

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Inked rollers & locked up type.

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Hot pink ink. (Not ours.)

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Hot pink draw down. (Not ours--but a fabulous color!)

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Green ink--this is a gorgeous transparent green that another student mixed. It's lovely seeing something so vibrant also be translucent.

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Green ink draw down.

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Back of my type project.

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This is an ink-stained table in the print studio.

~Sarah

Photos from Letterpress Workshop

We had a lot of fun in the first day of our letterpress workshop today. For me, It was interesting being one of the more experienced students, since I was definitely the least experienced in my letterpress class in the spring. In fact, I’m probably the most experienced student in the workshop. I realized that I actually know a lot about letterpress, even though I don’t feel completely confident with the medium. Josh has such a unique creative eye, and because of that, it’s such a treat watching him learn something completely new. I think he totally understood why I had said my brain hurts after several hours in the letterpress studio–it really taxes you mentally (and when you’re actually printing it taxes you physically as well). One of the things I didn’t do enough of when I was in class before was photograph the actual type, so I made sure to do it this time. Here are some of my favorite type “Glamor Shots.”

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Josh's intro type-setting project. The stag is actually an impala--like would be used in an old Chevy ad.

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pixel Photos from Letterpress Workshop