Sunday, May 25, 2008
Mind Your Pi! Watch Your Nicks!
I've now attended the second meeting of a local Book Arts Guild, where the old art of printing images and text is discussed and practiced. While I did printmaking in art college, that was a long time ago and mostly forgotten. Still, entering the guild hall (the basement of an historic public building) the atmosphere thick with the scents of oil & ink, is a little like coming home after a long absence. While the terminology tossed about was vaguely familiar, it will be awhile before I catch up. Printmakers speak a foreign language of archane terminology wherein the familiar takes on a whole other meanings. I'm pretty naive on this stuff (sure I'll laugh at all the misteaks in this post months later), but at least I know, while in a print shop, that furniture does not refer to the couch.
The last meeting was an impromptu show & tell night. Luckily, I had scraped up something the week before. See above for my show & tell.
It's a long way from finished. I carved into some hard grey stuff that was given to me so I can't tell you the name of it. It's slippery and solid, and it made my speedball carving tool seem dull. I want to go shopping for some linoleum that once warmed and rubbed in linseed oil carves like butter.
At this point in the carving, I like to get a 'proof'. That means we ink up the block of whatever; in this case, the unnamed grey stuff, but often block mounted linoleum or wood, or soft rubber, and make an impression on paper. In this case, newsprint. A proof helps me decide how to proceed with carving. Once I'm ready to 'go to press' (and how exciting is that!) it will be used either for bookmarks and/or bookplates. I speak in plural, because thats the idea in printing--one becomes many, unless its a limited edition, then its some.
I also learned and practiced how to set type, the original way! It consists of picking out individual letters, with genuine dangerous lead content, from a big unlabelled divided tray and lining them up on a metal ruler thingy (I hope I don't have to ask where the thingy is at the next meeting). You hold the ruler thingy (I can hear experienced printmakers laughing now) in your left hand, and you pick letters with your right hand, and your left thumb holds them in line. Letters have nicks that align away from you. You watch them to make sure your letters do not get placed upside down. I also learned the meaning of 'pi' but didn't make any. Pi refers to spilled type. Just imagine, you line up hundreds of letters in multiple rows and then oopsie, you trip and everything spills out across the floor. That's pi. Someone's type got pied by a passing purse. Just think, back when newspapers where born, all printing was done this way. 100 years ago, pi must have been synonymous with disaster.
Thereafter, we all got to enjoy the beautiful and artful signatures of Thomas. A signature, for those who don't know, is several (or just one) papers, folded and sewn together at the seam. Multiple signatures together, make a book. Well-bound books are still made of sewn signatures but in this day and age, we make do with disposable glue-bound books that fall apart at the seams.