Monday, September 6, 2010

Summer Summary

Welcome to EM Letterpress!

This was my place of employment this summer. The space included several Heidelberg presses, a manually operated Vandercook press, digital guillotine, polymer plate maker (probably not a technical term), and much much more!

My professor from Brown University, Elias Roustom, was kind enough to offer me the greatest summer internship position ever! Third floor, hottest summer I can remember, humid, sticky, offensively loud machinery. IT WAS THE BEST! Seriously. I witnessed the fantastic speed and genius of letterpress work and did my part to help out whenever and wherever needed. Duties included but were not limited to: duplexing, trimming, printing, cleaning, edge decorating, sewing, and polymer plate prep and production.

Some of the most beautiful menus, invitations, and business cards passed right through my fingers. Towers of paper, clickety clanks of a working presses, great people. I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity. If you want to see more of Elias (and Matt -- the best graphic designer I know!) check out their blog --

A Heidelberg Printing Press

I only used this machine a few times and let me tell you the speed of this baby is unbelievable! At least compared to the Vandercook which needed to be operated manually. I scored pretty decent arm workouts though.

Meet my frenemy. Vandercook.

Some of my first projects involved this printing press. The machine is heavy and when I lost rolling momentum my shoulder would get a lovely burst of tension as I attempted to pull back without completely disrupting the cycle, which if done can lead to errors in the print. Must say, my delts are lookin' pretty sweet now. The impression potential on this press is incredible. Of course depending on the amount of impression desired and paper thickness final products will vary, but the menus and invitations I printed were stunning. It was really interesting seeing how different papers and fiber types react to different impression thicknesses. Some softer paper would take heavy impression beautifully but required only a brush of ink otherwise the type would bleed. Other harder papers need lighter impression with slightly more ink. It was always a long and different experience with each project, all however were highly enjoyable.

Another little project.

Above you see the edges of cards. Edge decoration in cards is much much different than in books which was a bit difficult for me to overcome. I wanted to treat the cards as though they would be lying next to each other like pages in a book which is completely unnecessary but alas I am a creature of habit and routine. While I didn't go so far as to use French talc powder between each card I did sand down the edges to create a more even surface. The initial problem with the order was that the paint kept ripping and peeling off leaving scruffy edges. No good. I suggested using a highly diluted paint, instead of straight acrylic add some water. This is not the mixture one would use on books! But it did work. Diluting the color and smoothing the edges allowed for clean separation of each card. Success!

My best friend Glue Machine.

I can say confidently that I am a master duplexer. Or laminator. It means I glue paper together really well. Wahoo! I spent hours with this glue machine and grew very fond of it. I'm a bit nervous to go back to my brushes at school. So slow. With this machine the paper is inserted on one side and comes out the other completely covered in glue on the bottom, ready to be slapped down onto another even and clean. This baby was mucho importante for creating thicker card stock. Sometimes thicker paper can be purchased but what if you want a sandwich of white paper, green paper, and white paper? That's where I come in. With usually only an eighth of an inch to spare I would glue sheet to sheet. Hundreds of them. Hundreds. Maybe more. I really liked it. My eyes felt so trained and precise. But then of course I would drive home in the dark and become agitated that the lights of cars reflecting in the mirrors would really bother my highly astigmatic eyes. It's cool though. My eyeballs are wicked trained in soft indirect, non fluorescent light. Duplex for life. Repeat.

Digital Guillotine! (Hawh! Hawh! Oui! Oui!)

Digital guillotine. Wild. Scariest machine. Luckily, the edge won't budge unless both buttons are pressed on either side. I happily still have both arms and all fingers.

I am in the process of printing my very own business cards so keep checking in to see if they've made it here.

My summer was fun and informative. I learned a great deal working with a fantastic crew! Thanks Elias, Matt and Dave for an awesome opportunity. And big word up to Maggie, Rose, Izzy, and Siba. You are all wonderful and it was a pleasure working for you.


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