Sunday, March 02, 2008

Hot Foil Hands

I've been printing bookmarks again. These bookmarks are for the Centre for Fine Print (University of West England Bristol)'s Bookmarks VI. I narrowly missed out on contributing to Bookmarks V last year, so I'm getting in early this year! The requirement is to produce an edition of 100 signed and numbered bookmarks which will be distributed internationally through art galleries. I am using it as an opportunity to try a new fount, a new machine and some paper I haven't printed on before.

The paper I'm using is old nautical charts which I picked up in an op shop a few years ago. The charts are fascimiles of mostly nineteenth, some early twentieth century, etchings which were offset printed a few decades ago on gorgeous, heavy, smooth paper. I assume they've been made redundant by GIS and other electronic navigational technology. I chose the charts with the thickest paper to cut up into bookmarks (now, don't get all precious on me about cutting up old charts, they are common as muck in this yachties' town). The charts started out as approaches to harbours in Newfoundland, Cote du Norde, Scotland and New York but now as 19x6cm strips most of the bookmarks are anonymous in isolation.

The fount I'm using is Rockwell, which is a bit of a gothic style type, slightly Old Western (as in cowboys) looking, but relatively fine in its serifs. It's old-fashioned looking, yet quite clean and sharp. Te Kowhai has Rockwell in 3 or 4 sizes, most of which appear to have been hardly used- if the pristine shiny state of the type is anything to go by. I'm using the 24pt which is bold enough to be legible when overprinted on even the busiest slip of chart. The text on the plain white back is in 18pt Rockwell with my favourite ornament, the pointing hand.

The new machine is Jim's hot foil press, which is the tiniest printing press I have ever used. It looks like a cross between a sewing machine and a microscope. We spent hours playing with it on Friday afternoon, trying a dozen types of printing surfaces (paper, vinyl, leather) at different temperatures to see what it could do. What it does best is print a brilliant gold foil with a mirror surface and intricate detail onto glossy smooth surface. In comparison, any matt or textured material takes only a dull and patchy print like unpolished brass. Sadly my beautiful charts are not glossy enough to do the gold foil justice, but happily my clear vinyl bumper stickers work a treat. So today I printed a hundred tiny golden hands onto sticker paper, which I will cut out individually and and stick on the front of the bookmarks, thus satisfying my persistent desire to make things as fiddly and complicated as possible.
Samples of hot foil on different materials.

No comments: