Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Very Special Wedding Project.


I've heard it said that one of the chief advantages of Letterpress Printing is that you can print virtually on anything.  This week we put this to the test with Chris and Rebekah's Wedding Announcements.  One of the unique characteristics of my clientele is their creativity and willingness to be part of the process of making their cards.  I believe Chris hit the high water mark in this regard, in that he chose . . . to make his own paper!  The story of how he, along with Josh Ruston, created this paper will follow in a subsequent installment.  But for now, some images of this amazing project.

The paper itself was made in a home made 'beater', consisting of an old Jack Daniels Whiskey barrel, charred on the inside for waterproofing, lined with stationary blades with provide narrow clearance for the sickle-like rotary blades that rotate between them.  This action "beats" the vegetable pulp, forcing them to hydrate without cutting or slicing the fibers.  Included in the pulp mix was burlap, grass clippings, small fragments of charred wood from the barrel itself, and recycled book pages, which created a low contrast kaleidoscope of colour.

After the paper was couched from the deckle, it was set out to dry in the open air, then, when fully coalesced, yet damp, it is pressed.  The result is a deckled-edged irregular sheet that resembles something on the paper side of papyrus.  It is somewhat irregular in thickness and dimension, posing quite a challenge in feeding to the press.

Letterpresses - indeed, ANY printing press - wants to see very flat, uniform stock.  In order to feed something like this to a press, one has to use both hands.  On hand pushes the stock flat, the other guides it into the gauge pins as best as it can fit.  Needless to say, precise registry is out of the question!

Once the card is in place, the platen closes, and by golly!  It receives a really nice impression!  One of the things we tried to do to insure as even a margin as possible, considering the irregular edges, was permit wider margins around the card which makes the occasional tilting of the image much less noticeable.  The imperfect surface did create slight variations of impression depth upon each of the cards, further lending to it's rustic look.

The use of a large rubber band across the "frisket fingers", or "gripper bars" helped to pull the stock away from the die, just in case.  There was little trouble with this, however.  The paper was amazingly well behaved.

The envelope used is French Paper Company's "Packing Brown Wrap", which is essentially the same type of paper that brown grocery bags are made from.  In fact, brown grocery bags can make a very interesting stock for envelope conversion and printing. (So do recycled cereal boxes, for business cards.  Just a hint, there.)  Letterpress and recycling go hand in hand.  It's the must sustainable industry on earth!

Here is a shot of the completed card. I might add that Chris designed the text along with me.  We were both at my ancient FreeHand MX 2004 IDE, dragging the mouse and punching the keyboard.

One final shot: remember my describing the contents of the pulp?  I had to get a photo of this piece of a capital letter "B" from some recycled page bit.  You never know where these pieces show up on the stock, it can create quite an interesting effect.   The recycled paper is added late in the mix, which keeps it from entirely breaking up in the beating process.  You can also see the burlap fibers woven through the stock.

Well, the order is done, and the stack of cards awaiting delivery look almost medieval. They just clear their A7 brown envelopes.

Well, that's it for this installment.  One thing that I have learnt from this project, which is the adage is true.  You can print on practically anything with a Letterpress!  But you have to sometimes do it very slowly, and using both hands.  But then, that's what Artisan Printing is all about!

Click here to catch the installment on the making of the paper, on the G. Johanson, Letterpress Printer blog site, which is our information and educational blog.

-gary, at the Paper Wren Press.

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