Wednesday, February 03, 2010

...tied up with string

OK, let's try that again, with more words.

empty boxes
A few months ago I ordered some fresh type from America! From San Francisco, to be precise. Via Monash University, who also needed some, so we thought we'd pool our resources a bit & share freight. It didn't work out to be any more efficient, but it was a nice thought at the time. The type ended up in Melbourne, and then was generously couriered up to Canberra by my colleague's daughter, who was visiting Canberra to sing at a meeting of uni choirs (and the sound coming from her rehearsal when I met up with her was DIVINE).

So that's the long story about these exotically battered boxes. They had been the long way around, and were holding lovely packets of type that looked like this:

type feet

Here are all my lovely packets of type, with my feet included to provide a sense of scale, because that's how humans like to see things. They are most charming, no? (The packets, not my feet.)

type packets

Closer up, you can see their labels a bit better. I bought a heap of Garamond English, and a few packets of Gill Sans to supplement the sizes I already have. They are my 'house' fonts. For now (read on, Macduff).

shiny shiny

And when you open them: AAAAHHHH! Shiny! New! Freshly-cast! Clean! TYPE!!!!! This is the equivalent of seeing Van Gogh only in badly-printed reproductions all your life and then standing in front of an original VG painting (an epiphany I had in the early 1990s, and common to many Australians who went 'back home' to Europe). The difference is stunning. Each packet has beautifully packed letters; the yellow packets are lower-case with some punctuation, and the green packets are upper-case and numerals and some punctuation (one makes you smaller, one makes you larger :) ).

proofing new type

So I got to work. I've had a book commission waiting for the new type, so I wasted no time setting some blocks of lovely 10pt Garamond. Fresh type doesn't make your fingers dirty! Unfortunately the dirty old spacing does, so I still had grot on my hands by the end of it. The hardest part of fresh type is putting the ink on it, because you know that you'll never see it so clean and shiny ever again. Still, I steeled myself and rolled it up. Lovely, crisp print. Sigh.


Here's my desk, covered in workings. It's a book of poems by Sarah Rice, a colleague at the school of art, with images by Patsy Payne. The hands you can see were printed using lithography, and after the text is printed, they'll have graphite drawings pounced on top of them. It's going to be exquisite.

fuzzy type

The string from the parcels gets used again; each piece will have a long, fruitful working life as it ties up blocks of type waiting to be printed. The tying up of blocks with string is a very important letterpress skill, and not to be underestimated. You don't just wrap and tie a knot, there is a special technique to be learned (and passed on!) that involves no knots and the ability to pull the string off again easily.

hand plan

This is me comparing the type proof with the original computer mock-up. Same font, same size, but much nicer printed with type. You can see the mocked-up graphite pouncing in this shot.

Since last week I've printed half the book, and will spend today setting and proofing the other half. I love uni holidays, they're so long, and I can get so much backlog cleared. I've finished printing the Garth Nix short story ('Endings') as well (now my collaborator has to make the images and then we can collate the little book we're making) and next is my Book Art Object attempt. Must get back to it!

OOH! Forgot to mention (although you can't really tell that I've left and returned, such is the magic of blogs) that I've now been offered an entire collection of type, for a very decent price, which I will be carting into my studio by the end of the month. This means that (apart from constantly scouting for wood type) I officially have enough type. What a concept! It also means I have to move on some of the dud type I already have. My house fonts will be Garamond, Gill Sans and Baskerville. So happy. SO HAPPY. Oh, I feel the urge to go and get my hands dirty, right now. Bye.

PS: Bumblebee is loving high school: PHEW. I'll come back to that.


ronnie said...

ooooo fantastic on all accounts .... but do I take it that monash (my monash) has relinquished their share of type?..... agggghhhh so typical...

well at least its found a good home! I was never likely to ever to catch sight of it in the uni collection anyway - I only turn up to the gippsland campus for four days a year

SCB said...

I get so excited by the act of opening parcels that I'm sharing the experience of opening your box of type with you but have forgotten the word I'm searching for that adequately expresses what I'm feeling. Drat! Anyway, it all looks amazing and one of these days perhaps I'll get to see letterpress in action (or even lithography) and then I'll be able to do even more drooling on your behalf. While I'm searching for words and waiting for my numbers to come up I shall think of you working away on your commission. Enjoy! And so good to hear Bumblebee is enjoying himself. Sara x

may day studio said...

Three house faces? You are a lucky duck, indeed! Congrats on the acquisitions (and I have to say, opening up a case full of new type is really lovely site, too) and the book is GORGEOUS.

Ampersand Duck said...

NO, no no, Ronnie! Monash still has a fabulous, tempting collection, fully intact and actually enhanced by the type just purchased.

No, I was offered the type by a couple of friends who have been printing under their own imprint, and have now sadly decided to part ways, and generously gave me first dibs on all their equipment. One of those career turn-around moments for all of us, but I'm the only happy one.

Ampersand Duck said...

Thanks, SCB & MDS. It is pretty exciting. I'll show & tell the book further when it's finished.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

10pt Garamond!

*Clasps hands*

Zarquon said...

So how many characters to a box?

Bernice said...

So. pleased. re. boy. and. high. school. So god damned pleased.

Baskerville. Gwennie?

Bernice said...

And oi! here's a link to the Metcalf article:

The other one I was thinking of is Garth Clark's lecture from last year:

Mummy/Crit said...

That's all so exciting! I didn't know you were printing something for Garth Nix, though I did know about Sarah's poems. I look forward to seeing them on paper. Also glad that MrBee is having a good time at HS - can't wait to hear more.

Cozalcoatl said...

Way cool.
If you ever need anything sent from the US let me know. They have a flat rate box for US$38 to Australia. The dimensions are (in inches) 12*2*13, and i think the max weight is 20 pounds (9ish kgs). Its amazing what you can cram in.
Because it does not go by weight mostly. 9 kg is a lot when sending back odd little bits and pieces but probably easy to get to in type.
I send a lot more pressies back home than I normally would.
Happy to help spare some of the postage if you ever need it.