Lucky me – I mentioned to Josh months ago that I’d love to do a letterpress workshop, and he remembered and bought me a class for my birthday. It was held at Turnbull Grey in Clerkenwell, who are primarily a graphic design studio but also run letterpress workshops on the side.
The class was small (just three people and two tutors, the eponymous Angela and Chris) and informal: a quick history of letterpress was given along with a rundown of the process, then we were left to dream up a design and get printing.
Dealing with the minutiae of setting 12px Baskerville with perfect tracking and leading this class ain’t: it’s more of a fun open workshop using big wooden type to create a graphic poster or postcards. The huge chest of wooden movable type was a treat to rummage through.
After a practice run with a single character, I decided to print a poster with a short quotation: “Great design is transparent”. The process is pretty easy. Pick your letters and arrange in a pleasing formation inside the metal frame. Remember the words will print backwards (like I did not first time around).
Plug the gaps so it’s all secure and align on the base of the letterpress machine. Turnbull Grey have two tabletop Adana machines along with this flatbed one. The Adana is easier to use and more mechanised, but the flatbed provides a better finish and can handle larger designs.
Ink up a roller and roll over your type – a little ink goes a long way. For a sexy gradient effect, just roll two colours together. Align the paper on top and pull the rollers to press.
Here’s my final poster! I love the gradient effect, but it’s a shame you can’t really read the type behind it as I planned. Given another chance I’d definitely plan my design better.
The 3-hour class at Turnbull Grey was so much fun, I highly recommend it as a brilliant introduction to letterpress printing in which you can muck around and have a try without splashing out on all the kit yourself. Check their site for the latest dates.