I need inspiration for my letterpress projects.
January 16, 2008 7:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm taking a letterpress class and need inspiration for things to print.

I'm taking an introduction to letterpress here in Chicago. It's absolutely fabulous and I love the class and playing with fonts and handsetting letters.... but I just started -- so I'm not familiar with letterpress artists, and I'm looking for things to inspire for projects during the class.

Are there artistic letterpressers in the same vein of artistic quilters? People screwing around or subverting the medium? People doing highly unusual things with letterpress? Amazing knock-your-socks-off designs?

My secret dream is to letterpress something you wouldn't think would be letterpressed, like a blue screen of death, or something nerd-quirky like that. Suggestions are very, very welcome. :P
posted by melodykramer to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
ASCII art?
posted by matteo at 7:42 PM on January 16, 2008

Recipe for very very nice notecards:

Get some awesome paper/cardstock. Not the old speckley stuff, not plain old linen, but something subtle with good body to it. Something special. Doesn't have to be all that expensive.

Have it cut to notecard size. Fold. Or leave flat for "casual" cards. If you can somehow arrange matching envelopes, so much the better. If you can somehow emboss a frame around the card display area, super double bonus points (I don't know anything about letterpress, but I think this requires a completely different technology, so I won't, um, press the issue).

Print one beautiful fleuron in the center of the outside of each card. You're done.

Send me a note so I can see! I really want something like this. I've made similar using blank cards from Staples and my inkjet printer; letterpress would be the ne plus ultra of delight!
posted by amtho at 7:59 PM on January 16, 2008

Are there artistic letterpressers in the same vein of artistic quilters?

Oh gosh yes. I haven't looked around in a long time, but when I used to read Coudal Partners regularly, they often linked to amazing letterpress art. Just google "letterpress art" and begin looking around.

If I knew how to do this (and I always have wanted to) I'd print some of my favorite poems in gorgeous layouts. I'd make small calling cards with wise-ass or thought provoking sayings on them. Maybe fortune cookie fortunes, or other fortunetelling cards. Maybe a comic?
posted by Miko at 8:13 PM on January 16, 2008

Yes, letterpress art exists and is very cool. My college had a lot of old typesetting equipment, and since the days of manual typesetting are long gone the only people who used them were art students. I wish I had some examples of their pieces to show you, but I don't.

This list has a great selection of hobbyist and professional typesetters, and most of them have some neat examples of what they've done.

One of the most interesting things you can do is use your own custom dies for printing. This website has a list of companies that will do it for you, and it looks like it's relatively cheap:

The service is quick and inexpensive; for example, a 4 square-inch magnesium cut mounted type-high on wood can cost less than $10.00.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:29 PM on January 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

Ooh, don't make beautiful stationery! That's too easy. OK, you can make some, but also make something weird. Like for my first assignment, an alphabet sampler, I printed a QWERTY layout (self-links: pictures, more pictures), and it was much more fun than designing something pretty. I wish I had decent pictures of the best work by my classmates: handstamped words on records, the same poem printed on a series of found record covers or magazine pages, letterpressed type on top of xeroxed pages of cut-out people, all sorts of stuff.

I think a BSOD could be nice, especially laid out on expensive pale blue paper in a carefully-chosen monospace typeface. You're not likely to have the real BSOD font in your type drawers, which is great - that's where an element of surprise could come in.

If I took another letterpress class, I'd do a series of broadsides based on RFCs, taking quotes from them and printing them on interesting background textures alongside whatever semi-related dingbats or other images I found. I think technical documents as art can be pretty amusing. I wanted to make a polymer plate from a circuit board and print it next to some assembly code, but I never figured out the best way to do that. Printing classic pieces of ASCII art sounds fun too! Part of the interestingness there would be finding type to mimic some of the weird characters it uses (<> \ ` ~ etc). That was the best part of making my keyboard alphabet.
posted by dreamyshade at 9:03 PM on January 16, 2008

poetry lend itself to letterpress and can teach both a lot about poetry and type if you really think through what typeface to use and why.

it's not truly nerdy, but if i still had access to my studio i would print calendars. lots of them. a whole year of different takes on decembers or marches. the great thing about calendars is that people use them, so your work won't end up in a portfolio case under your bed with no one to see it.

also, my brilliant idea that you can borrow is this: poetry calendar. since people hate reading poems i figure it's best to have a poem a month. that way they'll really read it. for extra credit hang them in bathrooms.
posted by apostrophe at 9:24 PM on January 16, 2008

Code? Heck, try birthday cards with code.
posted by divabat at 2:41 AM on January 17, 2008

Not letterpress, but maybe it'll inspire you: typographic art (in Hebrew.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 3:00 AM on January 17, 2008

Response by poster: Oh my gosh, these are fantastic! :P
posted by melodykramer at 4:50 AM on January 17, 2008

People are definitely doing interesting things with letterpress. I love Amos Kennedy's stuff.

Are you just using lead or do you have access to the platemaking stuff?
posted by MarkAnd at 5:35 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Check out the novels & works of Alasdair Gray.
posted by i_cola at 6:04 AM on January 17, 2008

Response by poster: I have access to both, MarkAnd.
posted by melodykramer at 7:53 AM on January 17, 2008

get inspired by the wonderful work of hatch show print, perhaps?
posted by kidsleepy at 8:41 AM on January 17, 2008

Sort of off topic but talking about unusual typesetting reminded me of this:

posted by kpmcguire at 11:37 AM on January 17, 2008

melodykramer - can you share where you are taking this class? I'm in Chicago and would be interested...thanks!
posted by MeetMegan at 6:45 PM on January 17, 2008

I would also like to know the location of this class. Cough it up!
posted by kpmcguire at 11:32 PM on January 17, 2008

I'm sure it's the Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts letterpress class.
posted by MarkAnd at 6:36 AM on January 18, 2008

A lot of the Tiny Showcase letterpress stuff is pretty unusual (Ten Beasts, in particular). I look at the Bunyip and Werewolf ones and am amazed at what you can print. Those are so far beyond what I'm capable of producing (I couldn't possibly do that kind of registration or inking with my presses) that it's a little discouraging, actually.

Most letterpress studios make their money doing wedding invitations, so a lot of the online portfolios stick to that. Manifesto Press has amazing commercial and not-so-commercial stuff. The Arion Press Folio Bible, while not something you're going to whip out on your Vandercook, is pretty inspiring.
posted by MarkAnd at 7:08 AM on January 18, 2008

Response by poster: Columbia. :P
posted by melodykramer at 8:50 AM on January 18, 2008

« Older Help me with Excel, please.   |   How long do "First Class" stamps work? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.