Tuesday, August 31, 2010

At the Printers

After a week of working at the printers I finally printed one of the many little pieces I had composed.
It's been a rather tiring week. A one and half hour drive to the place and then standing for 5 hours while composing. It drains out all your energy.
Composing a large body of text, left- aligned:
And the composing stick gets rather heavy as you add on the lead. All the letters must be aligned in a certain way and there is a groove on each letter which helps you figure that out.
While taking a break, I was going through some of the cases and found these old blocks that include company logos, images of gods or some decorative patterns. Most of the have gathered dust and I am hoping to make some fun prints out of these blocks. This is just once case, there are two more that even more dusty.
Composing a page for a bill was a tedious task. But it did give me a good understanding of how quotations (the black square blocks, without text) are meant to be used and what sizes they come in. This was my first taste of central aligning text and now MS Word seems god-sent in comparison.
But what came next, composing a flyer for a beauty parlour, all completely central aligned. And using five different fonts (just like in the original flyer) with grammatical mistakes was a little painful. but in the process I did get to work with some script fonts and they look slightly different from other fonts in letterpress. But it was fun to touch upon that sort of an aesthetic.

First few test prints to check for mistakes
And finally this first test print. 3 mistakes, not so bad!

Starting tomorrow will compose some of the content that i have generated for my Letterpress book. Hoping it will be a mix of the aesthetic that is prevelant in India letterpress 'jobs; and the kind of aesthetic we as designers feel is 'more appropriate'?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Death becomes... (Content Generation)

"Letterpress in India is.. DEAD".
Sure, sounds like a bold statement. But it is pretty much the truth and rather sad one.
Today letterpress (whatever I've seen on blogs etc.) being done abroad is largely done with polymer plates. I am personally not a big fan of these polymer plates, they have moved away from the whole hands on approach. Creating art works on the computer and then printing them using a letterpress is just bastardizing the medium.
Very few people still chose to actually tediously compose type, set it and print.
And that is why once i again..i do repet myself.. Letterpress is dead. But is there hope for revival? Probably. 
In India however the future is bleak..dim...call it what you may. One of the main reasons is that the people who still do letterpress printing in India no longer find it commercially viable and for them it is a means to an end. So, if it means that they cannot make money from letterpress printing they will shift to offset printing.

With these things mine the content i have generated for my Artist Book is based on some of the things that people have said about letter press, some haikus about death.
Here are a few: 
Norb Brylski, Retired Pantograph Operator (movie: Typeface): "I am good at what I do because I am the last one. There's no one really that I can compare myself to." 
Anil Joshi, letterpress Printer Mumbai: "There were 50 printers on my street now I am the only one left." 
I have also had the opportunity to speak to Pierre Tzenkoff, Art Director who has worked for 7years on a book for luxury brand Goyard.

His insights have been amazing and a huge part of giving a small positive angel to my book. I'd like to quote a line from one of his emails. The way he writes is just as interesting as what he is talking about. 
"Letterpress is beautiful, the text is different, it has a real emotion, the blacks are very dark and the way it goes inside the paper is amazing. letterpress is an art.
I'm spending hours working on the colour of the black, how deep it goes inside the paper...and each page is different."

Bus Tickets

Some initial sketches of re-contextualizing bus tickets. 
In this case I have tried to draw parallels with letterpress printing and its form. I want the "bus ticket" to retain its original columns and margins,so that at first glance it does look like a real bus ticket. Of course, on closer inspection it is, otherwise.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Content Generation - The Start

After what seemed like an eternity of moving circles and mind map after mind map, decisions have been made.

I still like the idea of working towards an artist book. This book will now deal with the "Death of Letterpress" (Yes, A rather bold statement. But, from my research that seems the case.) Some of the reasons why I think it is so would be part of this artist book. The book is to also contain quotes from interviews, design quotes, haiku's about 'the end'. The next 2 days I hope to get all of this in place.

To go with this I want to work with some of the "products" that are produced by Letterpress printers in India. Some rather "clerical" objects like bus tickets, bill books, business cards, doctor's prescriptions and numbering lottery tickets. I hope to make some "modifications" in the object/ reprint it and re-contextualize it.
There is a certain aesthetic that letterpress printing has and it seems lost esp. with the current use for letterpress. I hope these modifications will help highlight this difference and make a comment about our ever evolving times and aesthetic. Maybe people will take a closer a look and realize that the object is not what it seems to be!

Monday, August 9, 2010


After a few days of aimless wandering, I felt great sense of purpose on Sunday and started mind mapping. This technique saves my life time and again. I got down to breaking all the threads I could use for figuring out what my end product would be.

One of my inspirations is the artist book by Paolo Carraro called The Impermanent in the Permanent.

There are three versions of this book:
  • The book form in bound as the traditional Japanese style in which the four quarters of a square which runs through the book are rotated by means of cut-outs, folds and colour, capitalising on a powerful left-hand, right-hand interaction.
  • The book size is 21.5 by 20 cm with 16 images.
  • Edition of 9 copies only, all signed by the artist.
  • The slip case form is made of 4 little volumes boxed in a slip case in which each of the four rotations is contained in its own base were all the pages are unbound so that the cut-outs and folds can be re-arranged in a virtually endless discovery.
  • Each booklet is made up of 4 pages of 20 by 20 cm.
After taking a look at this artist book, I started think of what could be done for my project that would help highlight Letterpress printing and make it India specific.
Some of my initial rambling:

I am now thinking.. spatial (just in terms of the product), tactile, discovering.. like finding a piece of history and taking the time to understand it.
Another mind map and then will re-listen to all my interviews to get some content or starting points out of them.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Content Generation - The Beginning

Grafica Fidalga, is a printing press in Sao Paula, Brazil. I had seen this video ages ago, before I even decided that letterpess would be my calling for my diploma project.

The work they produce is beautiful and has this lovely old world charm that fascinates me.
This some how feels like the beginning of some content generation...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Review 2 and Ground Theory

After the first round of research which included Bangalore, Mumbai and Pune I realized that all the interviews were similar in terms of content. My research did not lead to the kind of conversations I had expected. The people I spoke to were like skilled workers who did not necessarily see the “value” of this printing method in terms of design.
Also I had approached the project with the notion that letterpress is still alive in India. However this is not the case. The technique is rather dead and has been so for the past 8 to 10 years.

  • Move to the product
  • Figure out the who, why, when and how? It will lead you to the “what”.
  • What is the point of the book?
  • What does it have to say about letterpress printing? Representation?
  • Is there a story?

Exploring the medium:
  • Does the final product have to be a book?
  • Can there be posters or “images” instead? How does one read these as compared to a body of text?
  • Scale – Work with various methods of manual printing, Alternative printing methods that could be used along with letterpress
  • CONTENT will lead to the end product and demand certain treatment.

  • Artist books
  • Letterpress books
  • Letterpress artwork, Students' letterpress projects
  • Ground Theory

  • What will the content of the book be?
  • Is the book 'just' about letterpress? What is the 'joy of turning every page'?