It’s always helpful to be able to experience something you’ve learned about in person, to touch and interact with the object so that what you’ve seen and heard about from afar becomes more real to you. Watching the film on letterpress and the people who carry on the old traditions and practices was interesting and attention-grabbing, but actually being able to hold the type and arrange it to print your own design makes the process more real and tangible.
My experience at Meshwork Printing revealed a lot about the physical process of letterpress and the amount of creativity that goes into each work. Setting the type into a cohesive and appealing layout for printing takes a lot of work and forethought, since everything is dependent on the assembly. The process isn’t as quick or easy as it may seem when just watching a video or learning about the process from a book. Letterpress requires a lot of patience and knowledge of the craft, making it an art where repetition, research, and practice is key.
I believe that small poetry presses continue the art of letterpress because of the amount of creativity and imagination that go into every page. Every page of a letterpress-made book is unique and has a history behind them, and no page is like any other. Letterpress has such a history and tradition behind it that attracts so many because of the opportunities it presents. To use letterpress printing to produce a book of poetry adds a nice aesthetic touch and puts history into the pages. Each page is a work of art, and printing poetry on these pages creates an even more unique piece of art.
With the uniqueness of the art form comes the wonderful opportunity for creativity and imagination. To make each page, one must be able to have an idea of what they want before they assemble the page. Imagination is the very first step to creation in letterpress and is critical for the preservation of the art form. As author George Bernard Shaw said, “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will,” (15 Famous Quotes on Creativity). Imagination is a critical step in the process of creation, especially for letterpress printing, where all format and style choices are prompted by the human mind rather than a format like we are used to in the age of technology.
Letterpress printing like what we experienced at Meshwork Press requires attention to detail, creativity and imagination, and, most of all, a desire and passion to create.
“15 Famous Quotes on Creativity.” TwistedSifter, 8 Nov. 2012, twistedsifter.com/2012/03/15-famous-quotes-on-creativity/.