I knew typesetting was the hardest part about working with a letterpress, but it couldn’t be that bad. Well, it was, though it was worth it to get our final result.
Towards someone who’s never worked with letterpress, they may not exactly see how much work went into pressing a few stars onto the paper, but those surrounding me and my letterpress partner in the shop were quite amazed at this. I won’t take the credit since I had trouble keeping the tiniest stars up and in place. We essentially had the whole class help typeset, but I don’t regret having this as a final result.
As you can see here, we had quite the interesting time with finding piecing small or large enough to make sure nothing falls out of place. We got to the point where we took pieces of normal type and turned it on its side as we ran out of spacers.
Honestly, I thought of some simple designs to use (a rotary phone being struck by lightning or tiny Santa), but I’m proud of the stars we created. One thing is for sure: it’s that I have a whole new level of respect for typesetters. I have no problem with inking a design and pulling a lever to print the design, but those who take the time to set and space out the type and furniture are the real magicians with the letterpress.
Another thing people have to think about is how the type will transfer to the paper. With that being said, one has to set their design backwards, which can be daunting with multiple lines of text. Then there’s the task of placing it in the machine correctly out of fear of having text that’s backwards and upside down. Thankfully, stars were quite easy in that sense.
3 thoughts on “A Pressing Puzzlement: an Excursion to Meshwork Press”
Despite all the trouble you went through to make it, your design looked super cool! I had no idea you used other pieces of type in order to fit between each of the stars (to be honest, the only parts I truly saw were when you were trying to get all of the stars to stand, and then the final design being used in the little printer), and it shows how dedicated you guys were to making this arrangement. Such a cool concept and a truly wonderful design to print with, and you have all right to be proud of you made!
I love how you begin your post with such a genuine and honest experience with typesetting. I also found typesetting to be a lot harder than it initially looks, but it was definitely worth the work in the end. In addition, I like how you point out that this workshop experience has opened our eyes to a whole new level of respect for typesetters and all those involved in the realm of the press.
With the complicated nature of your design, the stars were a really good choice to go with since, like you said, you didn’t have to worry about reading direction with the card. It does feel like magic when you have to deal with difficult little pieces and problems like not having enough or the right kind of furniture but then the paper comes out of the press neatly and cleanly like it knew it would work the whole time.