Letter Press: New North Press
(I've had to backdate this post because I forgot to renew my old site and GoDaddy deleted it)
It’s about time that I’ve gotten round to write this post, it’s been hanging in the back of my mind for months but I just haven’t found the time. This is partly due because Dan and I have just moved flat which and packing and settling in has taken up a lot of our time…
But back to my post. This post is about the ‘Introduction to Letterpress’ with New North Press based in Hoxton that Dan bought me (because I bought it him for Christmas 2014 and he enjoyed it so much, he said that that I would enjoy it and then bought it for me too!).
The day started relatively early and we made our way down to Hoxton to get to the workshop for 10am. We were super early but they were kind enough to invite us in and let us wait, have a look around and have a drink. Dan had been before so obviously he knew Graham, the founder of New North Press and they started having a chit chat. The place was bigger than I thought but instantly had that art room/ bright but musky smell with the slightly smell of the oils and inks.
Having a little nosy around, I noticed out on the table a gorgeous book, looking closer I recognised it as the condensed Magna Carta book.
I had a slight little freak out in my head and had a good look at it. Graham was cleaning and restoring it ready to put on display at some museum or other. I was taken back by how we relaxed he was with just having it out on a table, where anyone could look and touch it. I kinda expected it to be in some sort of laser glass case with a huge body guard stood next to it telling me not to step over the red line (maybe it was like this in the museum?!)
I took some beautiful snaps of it and Graham kindly showed me the most beautiful pages filled with real gold that they put on there. It was just amazing that this really important document was just so old and beautiful, and still in such great condition (thanks to Grahams restoring skills). It was coming up to being 800 years old. It was pretty incredible.
Later on when all the workshopteers (not sure if that’s a word) arrived, we got settled to having a little chat with Beatrice and Graham about how New North Press came about and the printing presses there and where all the huge amounts of type they have came from. It’s pretty astounding how many type sets they have. Over time, people have kindly given their sets found in their garages, attics to Graham and his collection has just grown and grown.
Our first task as a team of 4 was to come up with a poster theme (without actually mentioning in the poster what the theme was) and we’d each choose a line or two, choose our type, set it ourselves and then Beatrice and Graham would set it out themselves and print the huge group poster for us whilst we were having lunch (after all, an expert needs to make sure it’s done properly) . We sat down at the table (4 shy girls) and started coming up with a couple of ideas before I suggested that we should do the poster theme based on something that happened on this day years ago. (and there’s an app for it). We had two Brits, an American and a girl from Hong Kong so we didn’t have a huge amount in common apart from that we were all here on this day at this time, so it seemed relevant to do something which happened on that day. Having done our research, we found it was the Chinese Declaration of Independence Day and there were some lovely quotes and information about this so we decided to choose this as our subject. We each came out with quotes, saying, information and facts and chose our favourite before setting out to find what type we wanted to use to express each of these short sentences we chose.
We all set out own type and by lunch time, we were not only starving but we had the basis of a poster. Beatrice and Graham set this out, whilst some of us watched, and through into the afternoon, they printed huge posters for each of us. Lunch consisted of all things healthy- amazing freshly baked sour dough bread, goats cheese, cheddar, salad, peppers, avocados, meat, grapes. Oh yes. My sorta lunch!
The afternoon consisted of having the freedom to create our own little typographic masterpieces and this could be on whatever we wanted. I noticed when I was trying to find type for my sentences that they had gorgeous cut outs of bumble bees so I couldn’t help but want to use these because I love bees (and both my parents are keen bee keepers). I chose the quote ‘The flower doesn’t dream of the bee. It blossoms and the bees come.” by Mark Nepo. I love this because it it’s when we’re at our best, that good things come to us, not when we are looking for things. They will come to us when we are ready.
Setting type is much harder than I thought it would be. On the proofs I made a few mistakes like the S was the wrong way round, of I chose an I instead of the L. Also, with being a digital designer, I’m used to created artwork as I see it. When I design, I can instantly try it on the computer and see if it works or not. But with letterpress, you don’t get to have instant results to see if your design works or not, you have to proof it and adjust is accordingly. It was quite a learning curve and you need to really work your imagination hard and have a lot of patience. At first there were far to many uneven spaces and unnecessary spaces which I didn’t even realise. After a couple of proofs though, I finally managed to get it to look exactly how I wanted to. I’m really pleased with the outcomes of these posters.
It was such a huge learning curve and I’d encourage anyone who is interested in this art form to give it a go – you won’t be disappointed and it’s also surprisingly refreshing to use your hands and to be doing a wonderful skill that has been used for hundreds of years.
Check out their website and the sort of work they do, and definitely do the workshop if you can!
Also, if you have a great boyfriend like me, you will also be taken out for a thai meal afterwards, even if your hands are absolutely COVERED in ink!)