It’s no secret that letterpress printing has made a comeback. You’ll see a lot of letterpress printers combining old and new printing techniques and using old machines to print from big plastic plates made from digital files. That’s cool, but it’s not our style. Just like our printing predecessors, we use vintage metal and wood type lovingly preserved (or just serendipitously forgotten) by previous generations.
Each piece of our whim-wham is designed with this hand set type, and then we take it to the next level of obscurity. Each image is hand carved, using (most often) wood engraving techniques. This method hasn’t changed much since it was developed in the early 1700’s. Currently, its classified as a “dying art” though you can find it on occasion in a gallery. Wood engraving uses end grain wood and little hand-held tools that cut notches less than a millimeter, as fine as a pixel. It’s detail oriented, and takes pretty long time, but it turns everyday objects into little treasures.
Once the image is carved and the type is set, it is loaded into a one-ton Heidelberg Windmill press from 1958. This big, whirling beast of a machine picks up each piece of paper, prints it, and spits it out. It is the definition of analog. Unlike today’s printers, it only prints one color at a time, so each piece is run through the press multiple times. The press makes up one half of this business. The other partner is artist, printer, and mastermind Sarah Brown.
Want to know more about the process? Sign up for the newsletter or follow @questionablepress on Instagram- you’ll see lots of examples of our craft.