I’ve just finished printing my first broadside! The image was made at Sissinghurst Castle and hand printed in polymergravure on Somerset paper. The text is an excerpt from the poem Sissinghurst by the English poet Vita Sackville-West and written about her beloved home, Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, where she lived with her husband Harold Nicholson, a British politician and writer. It was letterpress printed in Garamond and Colonna typefaces.
Sackville-West was part of the Bloomsbury Group, a group of writers, poets, painters and artists who lived in or around Bloomsbury Square in London and who spent weekends in the country at Charleston Farmhouse, the country home of Virginia Woolf’s sister Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, both post-impressionist painters.
My MCBA mentorship is nearly over after a year-long series of workshops and mentoring on the book arts. Myself and the five other recipients have covered everything from what constitutes an artist book, various forms of bindings, multi-signature binding, silkscreen, lead typesetting, polymer plates for letterpress, letterpress printing, paper making, box construction and relief printing. It’s been a long, hard but utterly enjoyable ride and I’ll be sad to see it end. But it won’t of course, because the book arts is something that will stay with me. But I will miss the camaraderie of the other five recipients, Amanda, Caroline, Meryl, Rachel and Ben, although I’m sure I’ll be seeing many of them around MCBA in the future – I hope so.
Our show opens on November 4th at the MCBA gallery in Minneapolis, and as well as the finished book, I’ll have the images framed and on the wall.
Deep inside an idle iron mine, below the ancient hematite rock formations of northern Minnesota, a tiny elevator rattles to a halt on Level 27. Here among dozing bats and artificial lights, people wait. And wait. This is the unlikely site of the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS II) lab, where scientists are looking for the tiny burst that will indicate evidence of dark matter, a product of the big bang believed to comprise 25% of the material in the universe. Observations of visible structures in space suggest that their own gravitational forces are not strong enough to account for their formation, suggesting some kind of missing mass is responsible. This missing mass is believed to be dark matter, so called because it does not emit or scatter light like ordinary matter.
DARK MATTER is a conceptual investigation of the visual phenomenon of shadows inside the CDMS II lab and in the forest around the site. Since scientists don’t know what it is exactly, or if it even exists, these photographs imagine what this mysterious substance might look like if it were visible.
• Twenty unbound but sequenced hand-pulled polymer photogravures.
• Printed on Rives BFK with letterpress printed text pages set in Proxima Nova.
• Title page, statement, colophon and plate index.
• Single tray case in black Canapetta book cloth with hand made Cave paper.
• Designed and produced entirely by the artist.
• 14″ w x 15.5″ h.
• Edition of 10 plus artist proofs.
Yesterday evening I got to finish my first letterpress broadside edition. Printed on 10″ x 10″ Zerkhall Frankfurt paper, linoleum block image in warm grey, Garamond and Times New Roman 14pt type in Chocolate Brown.
Last Monday evening I set up the linoleum block on the Vandercook to proof and print the edition. Placing the furniture prior to locking up was more of a Rubik’s cube than I imagined, although it’s not rocket science. It’s similar to one of those puzzles where one tile is missing and you have to move the remaining tiles up, down and sideways to get the numbered pieces in order.
I decided to choose a warm grey for the image colour, but it didn’t give me the depth of ink I was looking for, so I ran the press in trip a couple of times to deposit more ink on the the plate. But by the time I was happy with the ink density the image had become more of a black. Live and learn.
Like most things, it’s all about preparation. Once everything had been locked up, the roller height checked, ink chosen, the image correctly positioned on the paper and the proofs made, the actual printing of the edition took no time at all. Next week, with the image now printed, I’ll make a start on proofing and printing the type.
I’ve already signed up for the Letterpress II course in March.
Saturday was spent at MCBA with the other five MCBA/Jerome recipients and Jeff Rathermel, MCBA’s Executive Director. We learned about six different forms of binding and came away with an example of each that we had each made. The surprising thing to me was that it didn’t take as much time as I had thought to make any of these books, and that it doesn’t take much PVA glue to make them very strong. The glue just needs to be applied in the correct places.
The structures we worked with were an accordion book with joined sections, single sewn and double sewn pamphlets, a Meander fold book, Japanese/Stab binding and finally a drum leaf binding. I think we were all amazed at the speed we managed to complete this in!
Last night was another evening in the Letterpress I workshop. The lead type for the broadside has been set and will be proofed next week along with the lino cut, which has also been finished. For the paper I’ve chosen Zerkhall Frankfurt. We have a range of papers available to us, but of all the warmer papers this has the best balance of texture, colour and weight, although it’s perhaps a little thinner than I would like. The type I want to be a dark grey, but I’m still undecided on the colour of the image. I’ll probably wait and see what’s on the presses on the day.
We also covered setting up with furniture and quoins and the importance of getting the type firm and steady on the press bed.