I've been working at Lill St Arts Center for a few months now but up until recently I have been pretty much exclusive to the Textiles Department. So exclusive, it turns out, that I didn't even know there was an ENTIRE letterpress studio NEXT DOOR to the fibers print room. (Like, actually next door. As in, we share a wall. With a door in it. Can we say, fibers blinders?) And since I had some stored up monitor credits from the fall, I decided to take a 10 wk Intro To Letterpress class taught by my friend Heather Bella.
You guys. Letterpress is so. much. fun. And not only because I feel like one of the Newsies every time I use it. (But mostly that.) Last night was the first night we got a chance to set our own type and print it. Our assignment had been to choose a word- or a few words- that would be a pretty simple to put together with the studios hodge-podge collection of wooden type. (They have both wooden and metal type but the metal type tends to be really small- not a good first project.) Of course, STILL being a Cancer on the Gemini cusp (gonna over think it now and double think it later) being asked to choose a SINGLE word sent me into language-hysterics all week. How can you choose just one? Every word I spoke took on such importance: do I choose a word related to my work? Or something funny and flippant? I still had no definite plan when I got to class and ended up definitely pulling one of those "everybody else order first and by the time the waitress gets to me I'll choose something random and that'll be what I really want" things. Kind of a Freudian way of choosing, perhaps...
After you (finally) make a plan, you get to go through the drawers of variably mixed wooden type fonts and pull your letters out. Then they get placed on a press and locked in using a combination of wood and metal pieces: the big ones are called "furniture" and the super-thin ones are "slugs." (Ooooh vocab. Swoon!) It's important to lock your type snugly in all four directions so that your letters don't move around when you pull the press over them.
It's not as easy as it looks- let me tell you. It's like putting a puzzle together with kids blocks- remember those? The wooden ones that have the letters on them so you can learn the alphabet? But you do get to tighten everything up using a metal key/tensioner device called a "quoin" which is possibly the best scrabble word EVER.
I even got a little adventurous with my use of ink: trying that snazzy pink-fade-to-blue! Very daring. Here's how the final print came out:
The words I chose have a lot of different meanings and I found that, even though I had been thinking of them as two separate projects that would later get cut apart, I liked them as a set even better. I especially liked the idea of #hysteria for a few reasons: Of course, by "hysteria" I'm not talking about throwing your panties at the cast of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's Once More With Feeling's in a fit of enthusiastic pique. I'm talking about the debilitating pms that used to get women sent to mental facilities and has since been disproven despite my personal belief that I actually do, on occasion, suffer from it. It sort of represents a completely out of control emotional state. Which is funny to think about in the context of a twitter hashtag.
Also funny? A letterpressed twitter hashtag. Way to juxtapose the extremely slow and outdated media with a lightning fast live-time social media! Which has spawned what I think might be the theme I choose to stick with for my class: "Tweets From My Letterpress."