Urgent On: Preserving Letterpress Alive

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What is letterpress? Who uses it today? And who will use letterpress in ten, twenty, forty years? These are just a few of the questions that co-directors Andrew P. Quinn and Erin Beckloff try to answer in Pressing On: The Letterpress Film. Anyone can easily set the type digitally on devices as small as a smartphone. So why get messy when printing high pressure? If you don't know the answers to the questions above, be sure to press "press". If you know the answers to the questions above, you should still look at them.


Document design, explain letterpress

Art and design have been well represented on the big and small screens in the past ten years. Director Gary Hustwit started Helvetica in 2007. Since then, more design documentaries have appeared, including Art & Copy (2009), Doug Wilson's Linotype the Film (2012), and Briar Levits Graphic Means (2017). Netflix & # 39; Abstract: The Art of Design (2017) has only had one season so far, but is round, including illustrators and shoe designers, as well as car and graphic designers. Pressing On is a new expansion of the genre and doesn't disappoint.

The photo director Joseph Vella captures the printers' workshops and tools in good lighting and shows these artists, designers and engineers in their natural habitat (although mostly a crowded habitat and full disclosure, both of my offices are also crowded, full of design, collectibles and Ephemera). Members of the APA (Amalgamated Printers Association), who focus primarily on the Midwest, report on how they came to book printing and why book printing should and must continue, regardless of the current challenges and the challenges ahead could lie. Inspirational works by Hatch Show Print and Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum create a special wow factor in the entire film – in fact, the entire design and typography of Pressing On impressed me like a Wowee Zowie.

The historical background not only gets to know modern book printers, but also creates the context. It goes back to the writers who wrote and translated texts by hand, to Gutenberg and the Bible, to the digital revolution. Movable Type has never really disappeared, despite typographic and technological advances, including desktop publishing, print-on-demand and web typography, not to mention the digital font on any personal electronic device. The work and machines that come from the computer into the workshop, shop or studio are habit-forming – in a good way. Those who have used Letterpress are familiar with its magic, but if the Letterpress siren song has never called you, Pressing On could seduce you.


Stephanie Carpenter

The screen says, "Aesthetics attracts people," says book printer Stephanie Carpenter, who is also the director of the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and an educator and graphic designer. At the end of Pressing On, viewers will realize that it's not just the visual aesthetics of book printing, it's every single aesthetic. Attractions. Sounds. Smells. Processes. Methods. Planning. To produce. To press. A lot of time and energy is involved in book printing. Many stories are told, some of which overlap, and they all prove that letterpress is life.


Print as a privilege

For some, however, printing is not a full-time job. It's a privilege, a word that Tammy Winn uses to describe book printing and the opportunities she and her husband Adam have shared with the Iowa community through The Red Door Press. "I went to a book printer," Tammy said during a phone interview, "and pushed a £ 1,500 book into the garage. The friends I made, the conversations I had, it's incredible and unexpected. The day I take it for granted I won't print anymore – but I don't think this will happen. My business is my happy place. "Tammy and Adam still have their full-time jobs – not as book printers – so they can't work with the press as much as they want." If there is a point where we can end it, "said Adam," then it is printing full time is a privilege we deserve. "


Adam Winn (left) & Tammy Winn (right)

Tammy and Adam not only print and teach printing, they also collect book printing equipment and in some cases save it. One of the most gripping scenes in the documentary was just that, saving a printer. (Salvation is all I can say. I don't want to spoil it.) During our interview, Adam said, "Community is critical to the survival of book printing," and he and his wife have been an integral part of this venture, especially if it was about the equipment that they have collected and restored. When Tammy and Adam go to work as a team and other members of the book printing community come together for meetups, courses, and social events, Rich Hopkins' words come alive. "It's a shared passion," he told me. The film is about how masters and students come together, teach each other, maintain traditions and not only inspire each other but also the next generation.


Rich Hopkins

For the love of printing

On college campuses, in printing workshops, and at design conferences, I've seen design students and professional designers who have used letterpress once and want to use it over and over again. Pressing On shows why letterpress is important and how it brings people together, and most importantly, why touching the typography – physically manipulating it and the ink and paper used to print it – is an experience in itself. Tammy Winn summed it up when she said to me, "For the people who fall in love with it, you don't want it to go away. It's all love work." After watching the film and the connections, the artists, Having designers, engineers, printers and technicians with the media – and with each other – I am confident and confident that this generation and subsequent generations will continue with the tradition of letterpress printing. Indeed.


Turn on still images from Bayonet Media.

Pressing On is available on all popular video-on-demand platforms: iTunes, Amazon, Vimeo, Vudu, Fandango Now, InDemand, DirecTV and Kanopy.

Pressing On: Keeping Letterpress Alive was first published on HOW Design.