Friday, April 23, 2010

Letterpress Business Cards: A Love Story

To start this post I need to outright tell everyone that I am intrigued by and enamored with the art and technology of letterpress (as one could have suspected after my last post). Though I have long enjoyed the aesthetics of books and have even studied the history of the book in the past, I think it is fair to say that I only really began a serious study of the techniques employed in book production in the last year. In the course of this study I have fallen head over heels in love with letterpress design. Every aspect of it excites me, and even though I still have a very long way to go in my studies I have began to produce my own letterpress creations (thanks to the training and studio time I have gotten at Studio on the Square).

My second experience with letterpress was to make my Mr. and I some super awesome business cards. The first step to this process was to decide on the layout we wanted for the cards and we each went with pretty different ideas. I am not very good with measurements and the like, but it is very important to understand the basic size of a business card and measure it out before you start to lay out the card itself.

Next I set all the type by hand, which being the amateur that I am took me about four hours (I am a little ashamed of that time, but maybe I can get some bonus points because I was talking to other people in the studio while I worked). I chose to use Caslon and Caslon italic for my card and Bodoni bold for the man's. The only issue I found was that with Bodoni the 1 and the l look almost identical and since both of those components are in the Mr.'s email I had to use another type for the 1 to distinguish it from the l.

My type on Press:

After this we had to select our paper. We made a trip to New York Central and spent about an hour feeling all sorts of paper and checking the weight. The Mr. wanted a slightly off-white paper while I was thinking about getting a green or yellow. I was unable to find a color that I liked with the proper weight though and therefore let the Mr. pick out the paper for the both of us. I have to say that it was a gorgeous paper with a nice cloth-like texture to it, unfortunately (I am ashamed to admit) I forgot the name.

Once the paper was selected and the type set the next steps were to cut the paper down and print the cards. To start with I cut the paper to 8 x 11 size sheets with a regular paper cutter so that I could print four cards on each sheet. Next I ran press.

In order to run press the first piece of business was to decide on colors for the ink. I wanted green and the Mr. wanted black and so there needed to be two press runs with a cleaning of the press in-between. I started with the black ink - so I inked up and ran the press.

Inking up:

Walking the Press:

First Finished Set:

Once I had cleaned the press I went on to print my cards in green.

Rollers of Press:

Starting Press run of cards:

Second Finished Set:

Once I was done I cleaned press again and called it a day...after all this part of the process had taken me 7 hours to do.

The final step was to come back to the Studio a few days later, after the cards had dried, and cut the paper down to business card size. Again, I had to create a template of the card in order to properly measure it and again I am super bad at this stuff so I have to thank Mindy ever so much for her help with the measurements. Once these were figured out though I got on the guillotine and cut the cards down to a perfect business card size and I simply love the end result.


My Card (sorry for the poor quality of the shot, I swear it is me, not the camera):

A fun fact about my card: it is has two states. After a few runs I realized that the c in "dancing queen" wasn't making a very good impression and so I had to replace it. The card above is from the first state.

Printing these cards was such an amazing learning experience for me, but more than that it was enjoyable every step of the way! I really love being able to give these out and know that they are one of a kind - made for me, by me. My Mr. has also gotten tons of compliments on his and it really fills me with an amazing sense of accomplishment.

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