Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Getting our jollies

Bumblebee's having a great day today. The ACT has a Teachers' Stop Work meeting for most of the day, so he's having the day off school. Sleeping in, watching a bit of tv with his brekkie, playing with his Star Wars toys, and then taking his change collection to the bank to be converted to paper money! Ah, life's good when you're almost 9.

What this translates to in terms of mummy time is:

-- I can have a day off work (bonus!)
-- trails of banana and weetbix en route to the television
-- treading on little bits of mini lightsabres and robots up the hallway
-- standing in the frigging bank sorting five cent pieces into plastic bags for half an hour.

Whatever happened to coin-sorting machines? I used to love taking my savings into the bank and watching them get poured into the machines to be sorted. Now we have to do the sorting and the teller gets to weigh each bag. Next time I'll be more organised. He ended up with $47, which astounded me. It just looked like a pile of 5c pieces.

So he bought lunch (at McDonalds, his choice).

In other earth-shattering news, in the last week I've found two great new books about letterpress printing:

1. Letterpress: New applications for traditional skills, by David Jury (Switzerland: Rotovision SA, 2006). Approx. Aus$50 (paperback).

I haven't read a lot of the text yet, but the images are just glorious. It's not a technical manual, more a survey of how printing has changed as technology has shifted away from hand-set type. It's a very well-designed book, with plenty of inspirational examples. I had my visiting artists over for dinner last night, and the Korean was very jealous of this book. I'll be using it a lot, especially to get the printmaking students thinking about using type for image-making. (Heh, I also note I'm not the only person who likes to take photos of type all inked up on the press, amongst other things.)

2. Letterpress Printing: A manual for modern fine press printers, by Paul Maravelas (Delaware, USA: Oak Knoll Press, 2005). Approx. Aus$60 (hardback, also available in paperback).

This arrived in the post today, ordered a few weeks ago. I ordered the hardback version, thinking that it would be hardier. It probably will be, but it seems to be laid-out to be a paperback, with a clumsy amount of white space added to the outside margins. Maybe it's meant to be there, for the owner to scrawl notes in (which I will be doing), but it does look a tad gratuitous. Regardless of this, I think it's a great addition to letterpress knowledge. I've read a bit of criticism in hard-core printing circles like the letpress listserver, but I think those are remarks made by people who have been printing for years and have been able to have knowledge passed down to them by older printers while they were still around. This book probably seems too basic to them.

Here in Australia, at least, there aren't many people left who can pass on letterpress knowledge, and there's a new generation of students and print enthusiasts who think that they can just carry a line of type from a workbench to a press, lay it on the bed and have their way with it, without knowing the first thing about locking it up, adjusting the pressure (sexy terminology, eh?) or checking the rollers. Believe me, I've seen them do it.

This manual is a great starting point for anyone wanting to learn letterpress printing without prior knowledge. It covers platen, cylinder and hand presses, setting type, printing it, and restoring old machines. Simple instructions, clear diagrams, useful hints, and easy to read. I'm going to recommend it to the art school library.

The best thing is that these are new books. Obviously letterpress is having a resurgence! I'm so used to scrounging through second-hand bookshops and Abebooks for printing books that it feels like a real treat to have new books on the subject... I'm a very happy duck.

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