For two weeks in early July we welcomed 13 students from the University of Western Hungary in Sopron through an Erasmus scheme. Though on their summer break, the students were warned that this was to be no holiday and we spent the first day discussing what was to be their project for the duration of their trip. Our goal was to produce a 16pp book with each student responsible for the composition of a single page using type (foundry Caslon strictly off-limits) or their own wood-engraving or linocut.
The group brought with them examples of their work. It was refreshing to see that as graphic design students they were encouraged to draw, engrave, paint, and even worked in sculpture as part of their degree, and it wasn’t long before they headed down to B&Q to buy a multi-pack of lino floor tiles. The majority of the students were new to letterpress so the first week was spent learning the basics of typesetting and printing, with a short intro to the Monotype casters, and an array of cards and posters were produced before work on the book began in the second week.
The book, titled SZIA (meaning Hi in English), is printed on to a mixture of Matrix Fine Laid, and Bugra Butten papers. It is imposed using wood-engravings, linocuts and wood & metal types in an edition of 23 copies.
It was a fantastic fortnight and a pleasure to work with such a talented, enthusiastic and spirited group of young people. The press now feels very quiet . . . and I wish they had taught me how to cook a proper Kolbász!
Last week the seventh meeting of the Occasional Print Club (JMG Studio, Typoretum, Tommy Mayo & myself) took us to Berlin and to the KBBK in the heart of Kreuzberg where I had been once before, but which was a new setting for the remaining members. The workshop is situated in the basement of an old Prussian hospital, next to the studio of paper maker Gangolf Ulbricht. After familiarising ourselves with the Fag 835 proofing press and German case-layout, work began on an idea with which to keep us occupied for the next two days.
There aren’t many rules in the OPC but one which has underpinned each meeting so far is that project ideas must be conceived once we arrive ‘on site’ and not beforehand. When confronted with a mass of continental type on Monday morning all were in agreement that we should try to use as many faces as possible. A paper mask of a ‘b’, enlarged from a piece of wood-type, gave us a structure and we each took a different measure to work to before hunting through the massed racks of type.
Whilst some of us were kept active on the never ending search for spacing material, others mixed magnesium powder in to the unusually runny inks and following a currywurst and an interrupted sleep next to a fire station we were ready to ink up on Tuesday morning. Once proof reading had identified that surgery was required corrections were made at pace. Fortunately our Fag, the ‘Rolls-Royce’ of printing machinery, was equipped with new rollers and an even packing and it wasn’t long before our 50 prints were waiting in the drying rack for the journey home.
Focus on Tuesday evening was distracted by a midnight schnitzel and a realization that Nomad, shortly to be left alone in Berlin, was to be responsible for the deconstruction of the ‘b’. Never before have I realized the importance of correctly labelled type cases and reluctantly I enlisted the help of Mrs Nomad. It felt like a lifetime before I was out of that basement and on the way home, all the while being assured that it was to be my last OPC meeting.
A copy of ‘b’ is available from our big cartel site.
Last month I was in Berlin – it is our ideal holiday destination as my other half, Missus Nomad, has family living there and so whilst she catches up on the latest news I am free to roam. On our last visit I went to see a paper maker, Gangolf Ulbricht, who showed me his amazing workshop in an old Prussian hospital after which we went down to the basement of the building where there lay a mass of printing equipment. Unfortunately time did not permit me to ink up that time so this time i made sure that 3 days were put aside to explore what was there and make some sort of a print.
My first hours there were spent in amazement going through the masses of European typefaces which lay in each drawer having been working predominantly with Stanley Morison’s book faces that seem to dominate most Presses in the UK. However time was not on my side so limited myself to three faces that particularly struck me, Kumark, Lux and Rudolph Koch’s Neuland, alongside some unusual wood type and a couple of decorative figures.
I chose a passage from one of my favourite books, Alone in Berlin, picked up a setting-stick and didn’t emerge from the cellar of this huge building (except for the occasional bratwurst!) until the print was set, printed and late on the Friday night, dissed. The Press I was using, a Max Simmel Hamburg, is the largest proof press I have ever seen (and according to Fag expert Dafi Kuhne the largest in existence) and I held my breath each time it rumbled across the type. Amazingly the rollers were all in good condition and i managed to get a good-quality finish from both the wood and metal type.
All in all a fantastic holiday and am looking forward to going back again in the new year.