Pressing On: Why We Need the Letterpress

Although I am very much a technology-oriented designer/creator, there is something so special and wonderful about creating something using physical materials whether that be a letterpress, a paint brush, or any medium. In a world where small press publishers might be undervalued, it’s important to stand out and create something that will have a lasting impression on others. The printed pieces I saw throughout Pressing On were some of the most beautiful and well thought out pieces I have ever seen as far as printing goes. Using a letterpress is a very tangible artform and is very satisfying to watch and I’m sure it’s so much more satisfying to work with. In the film, it’s mentioned that using a letterpress gives people the capability to combine many little things into something great.

Many people will believe that using a letterpress is a lost art, but I truly believe its legacy is far from over. All the men and women we see talking about the letterpress are so passionate about what they do and the knowledge they have is beyond what I expected. Previous generations know all things letterpress and they are excited to share the knowledge they have with younger people who want to learn, and I think that’s the biggest benefit. The prosperity of the letterpress is in the hands of younger generations now and we need older generations to guide us. I want to believe that no matter how much technology develops and flourishes, we will always find comfort and fascination falling back into older forms of art, like the letterpress. Creating something using my hands is more fun than staring at a computer screen all day. Small press poetry is the perfect place to keep letterpress alive, it would add another level of uniqueness and individuality to the pieces it produces.   

There isn’t as much flexibility and creativity that goes into a plate press. Once a plate press is created, details such as leading, tracking, kerning, all of those things can’t be altered on a plate. With a letterpress, everything can be tweaked depending on what the printer wants and there can be much more experimentation. Although the plate press is much faster and makes for an easier process, it takes away the fun of using a letterpress. Poetry is ever evolving and there is so much you can do creatively with a poem and using a letterpress makes the most sense in order to create exactly what you want.

I feel like determining whether something like the letterpress should be used or not is up to the individual. I personally think letting a letterpress sit around and collect dust isn’t doing it much justice. If I wanted to preserve it, I would create beautiful prints that could bring people joy and hopefully spark their own interest. There’s always the issue of someone who might not have much knowledge or experience using a letterpress in the wrong way and potentially damaging it but that shouldn’t stop experienced people from using one and teaching others how too. Heritage items can hold so much sentimental value and the thought of using something that means so much might not be the best idea; preservation often times means locking it away in a controlled environment or putting it on display. I think in terms of the letterpress, it’s heritage and history is what it creates and that’s something powerful that I hope never goes away.

1 thought on “Pressing On: Why We Need the Letterpress”

  1. I like that you mention how the magnitude of passion that those who still use the letterpress have is what will keep the letterpress alive. Even if there are only a select few with extreme interest in the letterpress, those few individuals have the power to create a contagious interest, with passion overriding probability.

    Like

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