I’ve always loved print. Potato printing as a kid, ‘customising’ my parents’ 80s wallpaper. And I have many fond memories of Art Foundation class, making massive lino-prints, various screen-print shenanigans and etching experiments. Wearing my permanently ink stained hands and white spirit scent as a badge of honour. But a career in graphic design, and subsequently more computer based work, dabbling with print and more craft based pursuits temporarily fell off my radar.
In an attempt to rediscover this more tactile way of working, I attended a weekend course at Hot Bed Press in Salford. A glorious weekend in an old mill filled to the brim with print based paraphernalia. I chose to do ‘An Introduction to Letterpress’ taught by Graham Moss of Incline Press. Endless drawers of beautiful type and hours spent experimenting with a little Adana press and I was sold. Graham is a fountain of type-y knowledge and his tales recounting the changing nature of print over the years were really fascinating. And so my love for print was reignited.
There are a few reasons I love letterpress in particular. The richness and depth of colour. The layers you can create with overlays. That beautiful little indent you can get in the paper. The slight mis-alignment and little imperfections making everything unique.
If you fancy a dabble in letterpress, there are some really great people out there to help you on your journey. And their passion for print is contagious. Here are a few of my favourites:
EE Chrisp Letterpress
Originally in Castlefield, and now out in Handforth Dean, Phil Chrisp has been letterpressing since 1974 when he started working for his Dad’s business. He describes how a love of print has been re-ignited in younger generations. “It’s come back in a big way, as a craft.” The kind of things people choose to print has changed to more one-off pieces. Bespoke business cards, wedding invitations, promotional beer mats. With the rise of digital, people may print less, but when they do, they want it to be special.
Lost Heritage is a print and creative manufacturing studio based in a former hat factory just outside of Manchester. Started in 2012 by Claire McDivitt after coming across a small Adana on ebay. Claire says, I've always been into history and art so when the opportunity to marry the two together came I leapt at the chance to be involved. I love the fact its the oldest form of printing and yet it still so popular today. I respect the techniques and expertise needed to be able to create this type of print and this draws me to it.” Claire has found that one challenge can be when people haven’t worked with letterpress before and don’t realise that every print is unique with the imperfections being part of the beauty. She describes how the nature of what people print has changed from wedding stationery to much more corporate stationery as businesses want to create something more bespoke with an element of craft to create a really memorable first impression.
Scotland’s Glasgow Press are one of the first letterpress printers I worked with on a client job, and they are fab. As often seems to be the case, print has been in their family for generations. GP’s Dan describes themselves as some of the most fortunate people in the world, getting to spend their working lives doing what they do. He said, “we love the letterpress process – nothing else gives quite the same results. We just love it all… from quoting and prepress through to hand-off to our clients, there is nothing so satisfying as seeing our work in the wild!”.
The Red Button Press
Karen at Liverpool’s Red Button Press first discovered letterpress during a Graphic Design course where some tutors discouraged her from working with something that was ‘going out of fashion’. But Karen loved it, “I just love the tactile process, the click of setting type in the stick, the smell and the sound of the ink being rolled out and the feel of the paper. It has rhythm and pattern and I find it calming and therapeutic.” She said that there are lots of challenges with this kind of print but that’s why she loves it, “It's like putting a puzzle together,” She’s noticed some amazing work being made, still using these traditional methods and tells me, “Whats left of the type and equipment need to be respected and looked after for the future, but what’s great is more and more artists and designers are discovering Letterpress printing again and realising its historical importance in today's design.”
Hot Bed Press
If you want to get more hands-on with letterpress, or any other kind of printing, Hot Bed Press in Salford run loads of excellent sessions. From weekends and evening classes to more immersive 15 week courses covering all kinds of print techniques and crafts. You can also join as a member, enabling you to use all of their print facilities. Brilliant!
You can read more about our latest letterpressed Tiny Guide’s here