Like any documentary focusing on a craft from a distant time period, it celebrates its legacy, and is also brutally honest of its fade into obscurity, and not too hopeful for its return. What surprised me, however, was how much I learned how much artistry was involved in the press itself, rather than just the design of the prints.
Beyond the lettering designs, this film also highlights the importance of considering what material of stamp or paper to use, relating to the style or substance. Knowing this could certainly make for smoother work and less wasted time. After watching the film, I’ve researched additional information, and discovered the reason behind the numeric values for font sizes, which has carried over to the digital writing programs of today.
As for the improbability of press making a comeback, I believe there are pros and cons to the case of it returning as well as it remaining in obscurity. On the one hand, digital printing doesn’t demand the same dexterity and exercising of skill as letterpress printing, but it also comes with little to no physical hazards. I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of artist who needs all ten fingers. On the other hand, if letterpress were to suddenly return as an industrial necessity, we would be in for an economical rollercoaster having to reestablish all the other companies that helped keep it alive, some of which, would otherwise be a waste of space.
Personally, I don’t think letterpress ought to die off completely. With plenty of independent press companies powering through and welcoming curious newcomers, this craft could open more possibilities and innovations for future generations as it has for this one.
One fundamental truth that should be gained by this film, especially by young artists, is that rules and boundaries are essential to sprout one’s creative voice. As I always put it, you can’t go anywhere without a floor to walk on. But by the time you’ve built that floor, you’ll realize you have a floor to dance on.
R.I. Sutton, The Hair Brained Press Project. https://www.theharebrainedpress.com. 2017