I grew up in the printing industry. I saw that it could be done to make a living but it wasn’t putting anyone on the fast track to prosperity. I am sure I even mentioned a time or two that I had a plan of getting out of it sooner rather than later.
Hand-bindery work is where I spent most of my formative years but after a short hiatus in college from printing, I found myself back inside a shop the last couple of years at university. Though I moved up to the use of actual machines for most of my bindery work, it was still bindery work.
There isn’t much I miss about being in a print shop. My list would probably be on one hand if I narrowed it down but lately I have had an affinity towards – and a fond remembrance of – the letterpress.
My favorite machine (as I remember it now) to run was called the Heidelberg Windmill.
I can still remember the sounds it made from the handling of each sheet to the release of air with each pass. I rarely ‘printed’ anything with our Windmill but used it more for numbering, scoring and perforating. But I enjoyed it.
Though it is a very old and slow way of printing, there’s something about a letterpress and the product it produces that can’t be matched by any new offset press or Xerox. For those who are tactile people, you can’t find a position much more suited to you. The hand placement of individual letters, numbers and symbols gives a feeling of total control over the piece you are creating. A proof-reader’s dream to match.
Due to digital communications, eco-awareness and high quality home printers, professional printing is slowly becoming a dying breed. It pains me both professionally and personally. My family has invested decades into the business and I hate to see their talents being utilized less and less. Professionally, I love a beautifully designed/printed piece, a perfect fold, the unforgettable smell of fresh red ink, the impression in a thick stock after being embossed and the sounds of each machine keeping time throughout a shop.
I no longer spend my days in a shop and don’t really have any plans to get back into the business any time soon. Thankfully I have the Internet and its ability to feed my small desires from time to time.
Gr?°fica Fidalga is a S?£o Paolo, Brazil based shop that after watching the video and seeing the work of made me for a moment tonight say, “I wonder if they’re hiring?” These three love what they do. And they do it well. Maybe not in the sense of a perfectly registered mark but they create works of art one sheet at a time.
Amazing to see that they are getting notoriety worldwide including the opportunity to do the January cover of Creative Review.
Studio on Fire
A little closer to home, a Minnesota shop has taken to the web to show off created works hot off their letterpress. Their blog, Beast Pieces, is definitely worth a follow for your favorite RSS reader to get a regular dose of inspiration. Hotness.
So, I’m left with a decision. Live vicariously through shops like Gr?°fica Fidalga and Studio on Fire? Or go ahead with my new plans for an addition on the house and open Casa de la Imprenta? Loosely translated as House of Sweet Mother of Letterpress Goodness.
Nice post. I remember those days…you folding little pieces of scrap paper to just the right thickness to shove between the letters to get them to line up just right…good times.
This video was AWESOME!! It made me miss home. And while I never actually learned how to use the Windmill, it too was my favorite machine to watch and listen to.
I totally agree with you and Autumn. Not many machine’s compare to the Windmill. It is also Daven’s new favorite machine. Go figure…
It’s too bad we often miss the passion in life and in work, and it’s just about getting it done……. faster…… cheaper……..
And you get 10,000 of something that all end up in the trash, instead of one incredible something that lasts forever.