Friday, December 12, 2008

Letterpress at last

The old sign built into the Salavation Army Printing Works building, near Parliament.

One of my two reasons* for coming for Melbourne was the Melbourne Museum of Printing. The museum offers access for artists to use some of the tiny proportion of their collection that is accessible and in working order (95% of it is in storage!). While I was in the rainforest I had lots of time to think about my next letterpress projects, but I didn't want to decide exactly what I would do here until I saw what was available.

Now that I have seen the Museum, there are three opportunities I am interested in taking up while I am here: printing big, learning the Ludlow and using Hebrew typefaces. Over the next month or so, I'll be trying to do as much with these three opportunities as I can, and of course, documenting the highs and lows of the experience here.

The three presses they have working and available are all proofing presses, with very large flat beds. After the limitations of the Arab's tiny platen, I am keen to print BIG, so I have started my first project on the largest press, making a poster. The first stage of my design involves a setting patterned background, using some of the museum's large collection of typefaces as shapes (rather than meaningful text).

A small section of the pattern I am laying out in wooden and lead typefaces, on the bed of the big Western proofing press.

I intend to overprint a poem onto the background pattern in a bold black typeface which I will create using the Ludlow Typograph. I'm keen to learn how to use this machine, as there is one in Mareeba which I might be able to use when I go back to Queensland. It produces a similar outcome to a Linotype machine (which the museum also has in working order) but requires handsetting (which I love to do) instead of keyboarding. And its a much smaller and easier machine to use for creating lines solid lines of type.

Some of the wooden Hebrew type available at the Melbourne Museum of Printing

On my second day at the museum, I made friends with a wood engraver called Jennifer who is using the old Albion press. She directed me to a couple of trays of wooden Hebrew type. She had no idea how significant this would be for me, as I spent a lot of time last year wishing I could find some Hebrew type to use in my Do the Dishes book. There are three incomplete sets of large type, but enough to use a Hebrew word or two here and there. Now that I know the type is available, I'm thinking about how I can make the most of it.

The Hebrew letter shin- isn't it a beautiful shape, like three candles in flame.

*The other is to spend time near my beautiful daughter, Louise.

1 comment:

Carol said...

I've caught up again to find you in Melbourne! Sorry the wonderful pictures and stories of the Top End are over (for now) and looking forward to more of your adventures in Australia. I'm moving from Coogee tomorrow (gulp) but setting out on my new adventure with my family. Children and beaches will feature and I hope plenty of creativity will flow. Best wishes for that birthday you had, and enjoy being near your daughter, that's priceless. Season's greetings, Carol