A holiday greeting from the Bradley University Letterpress workshop. Invited by FeltandWire.com to contribute a Thanksgiving holiday themed print, we came up with an image reflecting both celebration, thankfulness, and the beautiful fall sunsets we have this time of year in the Midwest.
Bradley University’s letterpress and book arts studio regularly produces seasonally-appropriate prints and cards, and having just finished up a run of “spooky” cards for Halloween, we were more than excited by the invitation to create a Thanksgiving-themed print. Jake Guzan a senior art student at Bradley, and Kevin McGuire, who works by day as an employee of at a printing establishment, worked with Robert Rowe , professor of art at Bradley University, in making these Holiday greetings.
The studio has large south and west-facing windows, giving anyone operating a a glorious view of the colorful autumnal sunsets that descend through reds, ochres and golds. So a split fountain was a logical choice for a fall-themed print. Brilliant fall sunsets last a few minutes and are gone, but not before Jake Guzan, Bradley University student lab assistant, and I got some of the colors mixed and onto the ink rollers of my SP-15—Pantone yellow, some leftover, pre-mixed Pantone 194 deep red, with just a dollop of black at the upper register.
The symmetry of the V and A in “GIVING THANKS” begged for graphic emphasis. Mounting a type-high linoleum cut of praying hands made a perfect substitute for the “A”, and the “V” became, with the aid of another linoleum-cut hand, a celebratory libation. Highlighting the V and tying the two lines together was a simple matter of moving the “V” to the lower line, rotated upside down, while inking the gradient, and then replacing it into the upper line when printing. The linoleum cuts were inked with a brayer off the press (saving clean-up time), and placed into the V and A slots, (after a re-inking of the type) and the paper reloaded for a second impression, creating a double hit of color on the type and a solid black that obscured any overlap of the color. In initial prints, the letter V in this font has such a shallow counter shape that the “glass” effect was less obvious, so we substituted a cut linoleum “V” without the counter for the original letter.
While disassembling the original lock-up, Kevin McGuire came in with another sketch of an idea using the same 30-line (or 5 inch) letters and a surround of 60 and 30 point airport lead type, listed a host of things for which to be thankful this season.
Happy accidents are always a great way to get ideas for the next generation of prints. In running this print, missed trip lever resulted in a print on the mylar draw sheet of the press. The next piece of paper on the press then picked up that ink, in a wonderfully mottled and misty reverse impression. I am dying for a chance to repeat this “mistake” on a piece of translucent vellum paper, so the image, printed in reverse on the back of the paper, would be right-reading through the paper and still have the same inimitable mottled, gritty texture.
The studio—equipped with two vandercook presses, an SP-15 (used on this print) and a Univeral 1— offers regular undergraduate courses in letterpress and book arts, offers mini-workshops open to the public, and also plays host to regular gatherings of a community letterpress group. The facilities have wood type of various fonts and sizes, lead foundry type, and polymer plate-making capabilities.
The prints are on Mohawk superfine eggshell, 100 pound cover and 100 lb text, printed in two runs of pantone 194, warm red, pantone yellow, and black. The wood type is a 5 inch (60 line) gothic. The prints were made on an SP-15 Vandercook.