I finally decided to cave into my letterpress obsession and took a class at Passeportout Press in the Hague, run by the lovely Anna Savoie. The full day affair started at a humane 11am and ended at a respectable 7pm. An extremely productive day- I left with my arms full of cards that I had hand-pressed myself! I shall briefly outline the events of the day for anyone who is ever thinking of a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon in The Hague, or is interested in taking up letterpress!
Above is where the magic happens. Anna's letterpress machine is from Germany with a customized top. Extremely cute. The picture on the right is the image I wanted to letterpress- a little floral faberge-sque egg I drew in time for Easter.
Creating the Printing Plate
The image was first prepped with photoshop into a format that was optimum for printing, then inverted and printed onto a transparency film with an inkjet printer. In order to ensure maximum light blockage, Anna prints two copies and aligns the film onto each other. When the films are dry, they are put on a sheet of photo-sensitive polymer and vacuum-sealed so as to ensure the film and polymer are perfectly stuck together. They are then chucked into a UV-light unit (Anna has a DIY one with tanning bed lamps!) and left for a few minutes. The plate is then washed out in a warm bath of water.
Selecting and building Ink Pigments
Ah, this chart was amazing. I had a very light mauve in mind for the print and was wondering if Anna would have it, but I didn't need to worry- we would build it! Anna whipped out this incredible Pantone colour-building chart. With palette knives, we heaped thick ink pigments onto a glass sheet and mixed them until we got the desired shade for printing.
Now that we've got the plate and ink, we're in business! The plate is lined up on the machine and the colour is loaded onto the rollers. A quick pull to the right over the design coats the plate with a thin layer of ink. Paper is then placed on the plate and firmly held in place with a clamp. The rollers are then pulled back over the design (this takes some effort, I had to put my back into it...) embossing the paper and pressing the ink into it. Each piece is then removed and left to dry.
Thank you so much for the lovely day Anna!
This Easter, instead of generic "Happy Easter" or bunnies/ducks on cards, I decided to write verses on what Easter Sunday was really about. I try to remember that it's pretty incredibly significant, although often forgotten in a flurry of chocolate eggs.
Letterpress is old school and a lot of work, but I can tell you it's heaps rewarding. There's a sense of tremendous pride in knowing how each step of the process works and making it by hand. I hope to have my own home-studio set up someday.
Check Anna out and arrange a class here!