Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Te Kowhai Print Trust Rocks!

I was asked to write a letter of support for Te Kowhai Print Trust, and writing it has made me horribly nostalgic for my darling Arab press and the wonderful workspace at TKPT and my dear little studio and working with paper and ink in general. Not quite homesick enough to go back to Whangarei and freeze my butt off when I can go swimming in the sea anytime I like (and indeed must swim often, as it is just so hot here- when Far North Queenlsland does spring it feels like NZ midsummer!).
Here's what I wrote, everyword of it heartfelt truth:

My involvement with Te Kowhai Print Trust (TKPT) began in January 2007 when I found out that their facilities included letterpress equipment. I had been trying to access letterpress printing for four years. TKPT was the only community-based organization I found in New Zealand with a complete letterpress workshop easily accessible to a novice printer like myself.

The letterpress equipment at TKPT includes a 100 year old Arab platen jobber press which is a delight to use. There is also a table top proofing press, a composing stone, and approximately 70 drawers of lead and wooden moveable type as well as a superb guillotine and almost all the other tools required to compose, set, proof and print text. The extent and quality of the letterpress plant is outstanding for New Zealand and Australia, and as far as I know, is unique in New Zealand in its accessibility (Melbourne boasts Australia’s only community-access letterpress facility that I am aware of).

It is particularly valuable to have all this available in the context of TKPT and the Quarry Arts Centre. The TKPT buildings are spacious, well-lit, and well supplied with work surfaces, as well as all the other things that make a studio functional including kitchen and bathroom facilities.

It is appropriate for letterpress activities to be undertaken in the context of other graphic printing at TKPT and other art forms happening around the Quarry, as letterpress is increasingly being adopted as an art practice. Internationally, letterpress is undergoing a revival in reaction to the facile ease and glib perfection available to anyone with a laser printer or photocopier.

The second half of the twentieth century saw a tragic loss of most of the letterpress equipment in New Zealand as a succession of new technologies overtook the printing industry. Tonnes of lead type and cast-iron printing presses were melted down as scrap or dumped as landfill. Thus, the letterpress workshop set up at TKPT is extremely rare and irreplaceable. I consider TKPT’s letterpress workshop to be a national treasure for New Zealand and a valuable resource for Australasia.

1 comment:

PG said...

I remember the same thing happening over here in the UK, though at the time I was a student and it kind of went over my head. Thank God my next college kept its type room intact. The London museum of letterpress is being threatened with closure, it is like fighting a losing battle sometimes...good luck with saving the TKPT, that is a very eloquent letter.