Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Struggle

Yesterday I had a review with Ramesh. And while telling him about how I thought my interviews were turning out to be rather "dry, Danika Cooper (also Srishti faculty) overheard the conversation and gave me a whole lot of things I should think about. Some of the questions I need to address are:
  • How did letterpress come to India? 
  • How has the presence of letterpress affected these languages?
  • What significance does letterpress have in terms of the written word of vernacular languages?
  • Who is my target audience (for the final outcome)?
  • Are letterpress printers in India largely only "skilled technicians" versus the artists from the letterpress revival movement abroad?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mr.D.H. Shankar of Archana Printers

Excerpts from the interview:

  • I have been working for 30years.
  • After that i joint a press called Rangadhama Press, then Magaji Press and Apsara Printers was the last place I worked.
  • Then I got my own place and started a printing press. At that time there was nothing other than letterpress printing.
  • The machines I purchased in Bangalore itself. These machines were available in Amritsar, Chennai and Mumbai... they were available everywhere. But this was the case back then. Now the number of machines has completely reduced.
  • Because I enjoy doing letterpress and feel the urge to continue doing it, I have learnt how to do the maintenance myself for the machines.
  • I can do Composing, Printing and Binding. I learnt all these three.
  • Bill books, letter-pads, visiting cards, these are the kind of jobs that came to me.
  • Clients came with their own ideas but we would also show them work or suggest how a job can be done.

  • I learnt english once I had learnt how to composing; I learnt the work bit first and then the english.

  • You can't compose English without knowing it and you can't compose Kannada without knowing it. If you don't know the alphabets you cannot compose.

  • First we would hand proof. There is a machine which has a roller, add ink to it and you can get a proof. You have to set the type completely to get just the test print as well.

  • There are many fonts and many point sizes, 6pt, 8 pt. You also get roman, italic etc. from 6pt up to 48pt.

  • There is Gill Sans, Rockwell Bold, Universe Bold. You had to know the type by its name. Each font has about 20 to 25 varieties.

  • Now a days it's not possible to keep so many “varieties” because you need space for the cases. Whatever I have now remaining, I keep that as there is space for it.

  • Letterpress is all largely the same (in terms of language). However in Kannada letterpress there are more sections in a case as there are more characters compared to English. There is a large difference between Kannada and English cases. The number of compartments in the Kannada case make it much more complicated. You have in it separate letters for “cha”, “chaa”, “chi”, “chee” etc.

  • It takes about one hour to fully compose and set a business card. And the cards can be printed by the end of the evening. All in all proofing done by afternoon and the job is completed by evening, all in a day.

  • A bill book take anywhere between 2 to 4 hours to be set.

  • I have made very few texts book, I largely work with “job work” (which bill books, letterheads, draft books, DD book, visiting cards etc.)

  • People still get bill books done in letterpress because of it's quality. Now a days there is single colour offset printing. In it one colour doesn't end up sitting right next to the other colour (registration is an issue). Where as in letterpress it is possible to get excellent accuracy (based on the printer's skill).

  • Pie to pie printing, for eg. If there is a monogram, it needs to “sit” properly. If while printing there is a slight shit the monogram gets distorted and the layers can 'cross'. In offset printing you use water and sometimes the colour seeps into the paper or it doesn't print correctly over the next colour.

  • Earlier it was as if the printing quality of the letterpress was the best. But now with 4 colour offset printing, people think this is the new standard for colours.

  • Letterpress printing is done by men. There are very few women who do it. Earlier there were a few, but even that was just about 5%.

  • Offset is cheaper than letterpress printing. On an offset printing machine you can print about 4000 to 5000 copies, where as in letterpress you can only print about 1000 to 1500 copies. And for letterpress printing, some one is needed to physically be there to print these multiple copies.

  • Letterpress machines cannot be converted into offset printing machine. However it can be converted into an embossing/foiling machine.

  • I do manual binding as a part of my business. Stitching, one plus one copy with numbering that is in a bill book, I bind those.

  • There are two numbering machines. One is the hand numbering machine (manual) and there is a machine that you can adjust into the letterpress machine for numbering. The machine that you put into the letterpress works backwards in terms of numbering. If you had to number from 1 to 1000, while printing the machine will go 1000, 999, 998 and so on. This machine is Japanese and only works once you put into the letterpress machine. It is called Leibinger numbering machine.

  • Till I can walk, I will continue doing letterpress printing, that's what I think.

  • There can be alot of difference in the quality of letterpress printing, depending on the skill of the printer. Based on this people often used to select whom to go to for specific kind of jobs.

  • Letterpress printing inks are available in Bangalore

  • The inks used for letterpress printing are different from those used for screen printing.

  • When I just started working at a letterpress studio, I was first made to do (manual) hand numbering. I used to stamp ticket books. Then I learned how to do binding. I then started looking at the case and where the alphabets are placed. I memorized the position of each of the letters in the case. I got trained to remember the positions of all the letters and punctuation in the case, after which I started making words on the composing stick. While learning how to create words I was also introduced to the point system. It is really important to understand the point system.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Interviews Day 1 (20th July 2010)

Yesterday was my first day of Interviews. I had the opportunity to interview D.H. Shankar of Archana Printers in Sourastrapet. He owns a letterpress but also does offset and screen printing. He has been a practitioner of letterpress for 30yrs.
Below is a video from the interview. Here he is explaining how a manual numbering machine works.

I also interview some block makers ( makers of copper+zinc plates for letterpress printing) and saw an old letterpress printing machine that had now been converted into a hot foiling machine.

Time Line

I finally managed to chalk out a detailed outline for my project till the first week of October.

Monday, July 19, 2010

After Review 1...

Creating a mind map has helped me gain more clarity on the approach I wished to take on for the project. This has helped me understand what the nature of my "interviews".. rather conversations now will be like.
Given the time frame I have decided to focus on Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Chennai. The main reason (besides time) is the fact that i have chosen to focus on personal stories of letterpress printers and have conversations with them about their business. Talking to 2nd generation and 3rd generation letterpress printers to gain insight on the fall of the industry is key.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Interview Peeps

I need to come up with my time line soon. So before I get to chalking it, I needed to have a definite list of people that I am hoping to interview for my project.

So far:

Edinburgh College of Art:
  1. Zoe Patterson
  2. Steve McDonald
  3. Derek Green
  4. Students from ECA
Maharashtra Institute of Printing Technology, Pune:
  1. R.S. Adkar
  2. S.V. Kulkarni (Lok Sangraha Press)
College for Creative Studies, Detroit:
  1. Don Kilpatrik
  2. Zidislaw Siroka
  1. Ven Graphics, Bangalore
  2. Konark Press, Bangalore
  3. Western Printers, Bangalore
  4. Wedding Card Printers in Pune and Mumbai
  5. V. Joshi & Co., Pune
  6. Kelkar Printing Press, Pune
  7. Anil Printing Press, Mumbai
  8. Suvar Printers, Mumbai
  9. Om Sai Printers, Mumbai
  10. Shree Mahalaxmi Cutting Works, Mumbai
  11. CLIENTS who get letterpess done
  1. Trapeze Design, Bangalore
  2. Tara Kelton
  3. Kruti Saraiya
  4. Premjit Ramachandran
Hope to add some more names and get some confirmations for interviews.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Big Mind Map

When in doubt
Make a Mind Map!

Some intitial ideas I had come up with. Just a document of ideas, random thoughts etc.:
letterpress - dying art in bangalore/India

DYNAMIC content, allowing interaction-access thru cell phones, integration thru social media websites

Service providing - eg.http://www.will try them

new forms of story telling - mytholigy, create ur own stories, know your city/environment with a character

illustrating 3d environments- generate experiences

interactive packaging? toys? 
- (good info graphics)


acts of kidness - are needed to keep social networks running

Similar to the list above was this mind map, I had been making for myself over the past 3months

But these ideas were just off the top of my head and they did not in any way follow diploma guidelines.
I needed something made me feel like I had a sense of direction and the project would mean something. So I felt like I was almost back to square one.

This was my "fresh start":
With absolutely no sense of direction, I started of by creating a mind map that would help me atleast plot out my ares of interest. (A more systematic approach this time, keeping in mind that I had to follow guidelines and that my project would need a solid basis while writing out a brief)

A whole bunch of post its and a wall led me to my first few ideas. Letterpress printing being one of them.