Monday, December 29, 2008
A hard day's print
I finally got to print my pattern today. That big Western press turns out to be Very Hard Work. This evening I feel like I've had six hours of cardio and pumping iron at the gym (on top of my four hours of communting because the trains are on Christmas holiday timetables).
For a start, the press is too wide for me to reach all the lays and grippers to get the paper straight by myself. You have to stand on a pedal to lift the grippers, and if I ran around the other side of the press to reach that end of my big paper, I couldn't be standing on the pedal. Thank goodness Tiffany was volunteering at the Museum today, as she was willing and able to help me with positioning almost all of the twenty or so prints I took.
When it came to turning the cylinder with the paper attached, it was too heavy and the sweep of the handle to high and wide for me to manage with one hand, which was problematic as I felt I needed to keep one hand on the paper so it wouldn't fly off into space or the inky rollers. Eventually (after only about four or five bad prints) Tiffany and I worked out the best way to do it, so that half way through the turn I entrusted the paper wrangling to her and threw all my body weight via both arms into a smooth sweep of the cylinder, inevitably ending with a spontaneous grunt and a little bounce as both I and the paper suddenly came round to the end of the cylinder's turn.
The heavy workout on the cylinder and the full-body stretches with the lays and grippers were interspersed with the on-going inking drama. I won't even tell you about the performance I went through buying the inks and then trying to mix the tint I wanted before settling for the ubiquitous shade of green that characterises half my possessions, (which I really intended not to use this time, really: its embarrassing to have that much of one colour in my life).
No, the main inking drama was due to the broken oscillating roller only oscillating in one direction, so I to slowly push it back the other way every two or three minutes. If I got distracted for say, five minutes of struggling with the grippers or something, then the ink got all stripey and I had to manually oscillate in both directions at length to make up for my neglect.
Plus, since my pattern is made up of about 30 different kinds of old worn-out type and not even seven (7) hours of makeready persnickitiness could achieve uniform height, I had to supplement the (semi) automatic rollers with some judicious hand rolling before every print (and don't forget that the form is so wide I have to stretch my body right across it, or run around the press, to reach the whole thing).
Since hand rolling was only half way to helpful, I soon started reinking the oscillating roller between every single print as well, even though its cheating because a good printer doesn't use more ink to cover up the inadequacies of her composition. But I did today. Because, well, I was really running out of options and with only two weeks left in Melbourne, I am running out of time at the Museum.
However, before I launched into the hard work and intense concentration of printing my big pattern, Sakura kindly helped me take some proofs of the Jewish logos on the small press that she's been using. They turned out really well, most of the chops in surprisingly good condition given their age and the circumstances in which I found them.
I'm going to take a proof of this with me to Temple Beth Israel next Shabbat and see if I can get some of the older congregants to help me identify all the old Melbourne institutions represented here. If any readers would like to see a higher resolution photo of this proof, and perhaps discuss future uses of this resource, please let me know.