Between the Pages

lessons, musing, & wonderings of a book artist

Back to the Press

This week, I’ve had an excuse to get back in the type shop….I’ve been working on a broadside for the Melon Celebration at the Homegrown Alabama Farmers Market here on campus. I wanted to do this particular broadside because I love watermelon, and last semester the slogan “Water is the only melon for me” came to me, and I’ve wanted to do a broadside with it ever since.

This past Sunday I started with the main imagery and slogan. My idea was to set the slogan on a curve, printed in green to create the rind part of the melon. The reason is two-fold: it would be a unique way to incorporate text into image, and it offered a challenge to set metal type on a curve. And a challenge it was! I feel like the lock-up took forever. I would almost get it set, and then one piece would slip out of place. Then I’d get one thing set only to have another pop out. But in the end, I had success! Once the slogan was printed, I inked the press up in Red 032, which happens to be the exact color of a watermelon and printed my linoleum block for the melon meat.

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The first two layers are drying.

The first two layers drying on the rack.

 

Next, I needed to set the body copy, which included all the market information, details about the event, etc. I chose several typefaces for this information but centered them all on the main “Melon Celebration” part. I knew immediately that I wanted to set this text in one of the new wood types that our class bought for the shop with profits from our calendar sales. It’s a strong Rockwell-equesce font and prints like a dream. For the market, date/time, and location details I chose 36 pt Kaufman Script, which as far as scripts go (which are normally low on my list), is one of my favorites. I think the reason I like it so much is because it’s a monoweight face, which means that there aren’t thick and thins within the letters, the lines are all the same thickness…So it ends up feeling a little fresher, less sweet. And then for the event details line, I chose Bernhard, a clean and simple but assertive face.

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Once all the type was printed, I got to play a little. A few days ago, I cut out a ton of seed/droplet shaped pieces out of linoleum. I knew I wanted to incorporate them but hadn’t decided how. With all the text in place, I decided to scatter them to fill in and unite the open space. One thing I didn’t anticipate but really like is that the seeds look like celebratory confetti!

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Paper Lessons & Update

Lesson #1: Titanium dioxide can form vesicles when added in the wrong ratios.

I feel so lucky in situations like this to have my own personal, on-call chemist husband (Patrick). I came into the studio on Thursday to do my beat for this weekend, and when I started re-beating the vat pulp from last week (the batch I brought home and put in the fridge), I noticed that there was a substantial amount of semi-transparent, kind-of milky bubbles on the surface. And when I brought up a handful of pulp, I noticed that these tiny vesicles or capsules were floating throughout the water (eek!). I immediately remembered the jar of titanium dioxide saying something about it needing some sort of retention aid or sizing to stick to the fiber. So, I added more internal sizing. But this this didn’t work and it was time to call an expert so I called Patrick. I sent him a website link to the additives, and he was able to confirm what I was seeing on a structural level and suggested that I try adding my calcium carbonate to break up the bonding that was happening. I did. And it worked!

Lesson #2: Wet pellons don’t work. 

My biggest problem right now is that my sheets are staying too wet and are sort of “sticking” to the pellons after the first pressing. My theory is that the pellons are staying too wet during the pressing. So today, I tried layering more felts to absorb more of the moisture. For the first 10 sheets of the day, I layered felt, pellon, paper, pellon, felt, so that each sheet was sandwiched between felts and pellons. This made the sticking a little better but produced a ton of felts that then needed brushing and hanging (my absolute least favorite parts of the entire process). So for the second batch, I tried felt, pellon, paper, pellon, paper, pellon, felt, so that I could get two sheets between felts. Aside from minimizing the number of felts, I also need to maximize my pellons as have a limited supply, and the first method was going to severely cut into my productivity. Luckily the second method worked (maybe even a little better!).

Lesson #3: Pigment/Dye on a felt can move to your paper through pellon.

This is a sad one to learn…one that cost me four good sheets of paper. Apparently residual pigment/dye left on the felts from other paper, can migrate through the pellon and deposit onto new fresh, clean, bright white paper. Sad face.

Lesson #4 (and another reason pellons are the best ever)

You can clean pellon with a damp towel….No brushing, scraping, or picking required. Just a damp towel. Happy face.

Lesson #5: Shop Vacs are the best thing EVER!

For some reason when I made paper last summer, I cleaned with a broom, like Cinderella. This summer, I’ve discovered the Shop Vac, and I feel like I’ve found my Prince Charming, or the cleaning equivalent. It makes clean-up ten-times easier AND the best part? I don’t have to sweep everything into a dust pan and strain it….I can open the Shop Vac and pour it all through the strainer. I feel like one of those infomercials….”Tried of struggling with traditional dust pans? Try a Shop Vac.” It’s truly amazing (shipping and handling not included).

I have about 113 sheets right now and am feeling really good, if not slightly exhausted. If I maintain this schedule, then I’ll have no problem reaching my target in just a few weeks. I can’t imagine the end being so soon, but I guess I have to get to the next stage sometime.

Thesis Step 1: Paper

This past weekend I started making paper for my thesis and boy, was it a roller coaster ride of emotions! I started the beat on Friday slightly nervous and overwhelmed with the feeling that I was going to do everything wrong. I think this feeling stemmed from the firsthand knowledge that little mistakes may start as tiny fissures, but they can quickly grow and spread in mass and depth. And so in my mind, I was imagining how all the little flaws in the paper making process could lead to bigger problems for printing and binding down the road. I started to picture all the mistakes in each stage of the project accumulating into a giant tumbling snowball that would eventually land, burying me in a pile of failure…Dramatic, eh? At some point, I turned this nihilistic, self-depracating attitude around and started to embrace the inevitable variances as an innate part of the making process. While my subconscious continued to murmur reminders of the gravity of the situation, my confidence grew as I made my way successfully through each step.

One thing I should note here and a large reason for my increased anxiety, is that I haven’t made paper since last summer (!), and with this paper, I’ve decide to introduce several new, untested-by-me variables (!!!). At PBI this past May, Andrea Peterson of Hook Pottery Paper, shared some really valuable information with me, information that shifted my plans for my thesis paper. As a result of these conversations, I decided to add titanium dioxide, calcium carbonate, and internal sizing to my pulp. All of these additives will help with opacity, shrinkage, and overall stability. Last summer, I tested internal sizing, but I’ve never tried the other two, and while introducing them without testing goes against my nature, I decided to dive in anyways. The other big variable is that in order to get smoother sheets without having to calendar all the sheets individually, I opted to couch on pellons instead of the felts we traditionally use in the mill.

On Saturday, I got started setting up the space to pull sheets. Because paper making is such a physical activity and I know that consistency over the next five weeks will be super important, I spent some time thinking about the process spatially, in an effort to maximize my efficiency. The set-up I settled on ended up working really well. I might fine tune a few things for the next time, but overall, I felt good about the flow.

THE SPACE!

THE SPACE!

THE PULP!

THE PULP!

On Sunday, I was able to peek at my semi-dried sheets and get a sense of the texture, weight, color, and opacity of the paper. And I was pleasantly surprised! All my anxiety over errors began to melt away, and I knew that everything was going to be ok. Now, let me clarify here…my sheets are not perfect. They have bits of matter, water spots, smooshing (very technical term), etc, but being able to see and feel them, I feel like they are pretty sweet. They are even, relatively consistent sheets of physical paper with a nice hand and beautiful color. And as I began to unload the dry box, stacking each dry sheet, one on top of the other, I began to get emotional—excited about what this stark pile is going to become and maternal over the amount of time, love, and energy that these sheets will come to embody. Thesis here I come!

Nipping Press

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So I bought a nipping press this past May (!) I have been looking since I started the program at UA two years ago, and now I finally have one of my very own. Where did I find this glorious little press you ask? Well, it took a bit of searching…

Presses are heavy little guys and shipping adds a TON to the cost of a nipping press. So I knew that picking up the press and transporting it myself would be the best, most affordable option, but I hadn’t been able to locate any in the Alabama region. Long distance road trips aren’t really my thing, and so when I settled on driving to Michigan for PBI in May, I immediately starting scouring the web for vendors in any and all major and minor cities along the way…two birds, one stone. My initial search pulled up a few options, but I settled on one from Louisville’s craigslist for $175.

After getting it home, I realized that it needed a little TLC. We started by disassembling it, which took some elbow grease and WD-40, and eventually all the bolts and screws gave way. Leaving me with a pile of pieces ready for scrubbing.

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The first step of cleaning, which is still in process, is scrapping and scrubbing all the loose paint off with a spackle knife. Then to remove the rust, I pour a mixture of vinegar and salt over the surface and scrub with steel wool. The whole process is taking much longer than anticipated, but I hope to be through with the surface cleaning soon.

Arts in Scotland

I just spent the last two weeks in Scotland with my husband, and it was even more amazing than we could have imagined. We hiked, ate, and explored until we felt like collapsing. The natural surroundings were serene and imbued with a sense of history that extended so far back it’s hard to wrap your head around. While we drove across the country, we listened to Neil Oliver’s The History of Scotland BBC series and learned all about the Stuarts and Jacobites, the French, British, and Vikings, and age-old traditions and legacies. Learning about the history as we traveled to the sites discussed made our appreciation that much greater. While we explored, I made an effort to seek out book and print history, as well as contemporary makers.

Our trip started in Edinburgh where I surprised by the amount of historical paper and print material we came across. At the various museums within Edinburgh castle, there were countless prints and books, especially relating to military history.

From 1639, this military science text book contains plans for a new type of fortification in Scotland.

From 1639, this military science text book contains plans for a new type of fortification in Scotland.

Map case and compass. This type of case allowed different areas of the map to be displayed under the plastic. Erasable "chinograph" pencils were used to mark troop position on the plastic cover.

Map case and compass. This type of case allowed different areas of the map to be displayed under the plastic. Erasable “chinograph” pencils were used to mark troop position on the plastic cover.

 

At the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, there was a small exhibit entitled Celebrating Iona, which included information about early tourism printing on the Isle of Iona. After looking around the exhibit, I found a great little book in the gift shop on early printing in Scotland. I just couldn’t resist a cover with wood type imagery all over it! Since getting back home, I’ve found a nice website that outlines printing history in Scotland. It’s interesting to note that printing spread to Scotland from France not England, which interestingly would have been counterintuitive to me before I got a better understanding of the global context of the period!

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On the Isle of Skye, we made a stop into Raven Press Gallery. This sweet little shop was right off Loch Dunvegan right in the heart of the natural beauty of the island. We met the artist, Kathleen Lindsley, who does incredible wood engravings, and saw Laura West’s beautiful coptic style bindings.

A sweet little Kelsey press.

A sweet little Kelsey hand press.

 

We also visited Skye Weavers, a bike-powered weaving studio. Andrea and Roger are a great team who make amazing work. Their energy and passion for what they are doing is contagious and exciting. We will treasure the pieces we picked out forever.

Bicycle powered loom.

Bicycle powered loom.

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The beautiful studios and shop.

The beautiful studios and shop.

 

It was so inspiring and invigorating to see makers working in such a remote and beautiful setting. Having returned home, I feel renewed and ready to tackle my next big project….my thesis (eek!).