Letterpress

Letterpress and Zines, a great combo for a button!

I’ve wanted to learn the art of relief printing with letterpress for a long time. The first half of my post college life I worked as a photojournalist for small town daily newspapers. It was just a few decades after the “hot lead” days had passed. A lot of the employees at that time transitioned from letterpress printing to offset, and they all had fantastic stories to tell.

Reminders of the past lined the news room walls: Photos showed reporters bent over typewriters banging out copy. Linotype operators seated at huge mechanical lead melting machines re-typing copy into slugs of type. Pre-press operators in the composing room wedging type, ads and photographs into the chase. Press operators placing huge curved lead plates onto the press, and holding up the current run’s paper checking for any typographical errors. All with rolled sleeves, ink stains, and usually a pipe or cigarette dangling from their mouth. It was a totally different experience than what we do today with desktop publishing.

Linotype operator. Chicago, Illinois approx. 1941. Photograph by Lee Russell, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Fast forward to the last few years. I’ve acquired a couple of table top presses, type, leading, and all the accouterments to begin my journey with relief printing in letterpress.

I also enjoy writing, and have been working on a few short stories and created a couple of Zines. I enjoy the all analog aspect of creating, as opposed to using a computer to complete the work. To show my appreciation for the Zine makers of the world, I created a two color hand printed letterpress button!

I used my antique 1940 3×5 inch Kelsey press to print the button design. The first run was the black type. The second run was the red heart, with spacing on the forme where the black type was positioned.

The 2 1/2 inch Buttons were then cut and created with a 1980’s era Badge A Minit machine.

I was stoked at how well the buttons came out! Each button has just a bit of it’s own handmade character, from the amount of ink on the type, to the pressure from the platen when the image was made. I enjoyed this handmade process and have ideas in the works to expand my letterpress adventures. I’ve also added a larger press to the mix, a 5×8 inch Kelsey, as well as dozen or so more fonts of type to help me on my journey.

If you would like your very own Zine button, stop by my Etsy shop and pick one up. I sold a few already, and because this was a limited press run – when they are gone, they are gone!

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