view workshop photos.

the first weekend of august i was in two rivers, WI for the letterpress workshop taught by david wolske. in contrast to the first workshop i attended in may, which was more of a dive-in-and-print-throwing-caution-to-the-wind sort of affair, this was a step-by-step look at proper letterpress process and etiquette.

about half of the people who attended may’s workshop came back to two rivers for this workshop – jan, chris and jen came up too. it was good to see so many familiar faces and have more time to get to know everyone. early friday morning david and andy picked me up and we started the long (ok, not really) journey north. the drive was filled with good music and interesting conversation. i got the chance to get to know andy a little better and he is – for lack of a better phrase – good people.

we arrived in two rivers just after noon and went directly to the museum. david began setting up for the workshop, andy had his last hurrah printing the soon-to-be-old devil-may-care way and i took photographs. i borrowed mark’s digital SLR and lenses for the trip and managed to get off about 130 shots that afternoon alone. paul brown, david’s friend and professor from IU, was printing that day too. a lot of tourists came through the museum and a couple of them bought prints paul and david had produced.

after that, david let me observe/help him set up the manual inking SP15. i learned:

  • how to use the micrometer to measure the right amount of packing for the drum
  • how to cut and set a draw sheet (he prefers acetate to impregnated paper)
  • the method of proper lockup and how to use a quoin
  • the correct terms and usages for various printing-related equipment and tools
  • proper ink and inking practices
  • about points and picas, lines and inches
  • and overall, the wonderful sense all of the terminology and pieces suddenly make when you put it all together

that night everyone who had arrived went to dinner at café alkamye; both the food and the staff were wonderful. there was some bizarre conversation about boneless cow, deboning chickens with a single hand and the courtship possibilities therein.

saturday the workshop started at 9am. heather and cory arrived to fill out the workshop and we began a morning of intense instruction and demonstration. in addition to the things david had shown me the night before, we learned:

  • how and where to oil the SP15
  • how often to oil and vasoline the press
  • how to clean the press and the importance of doing it thoroughly
  • make-ready
  • about photo-polymer plates and half-tone plates
  • the correct terms for the parts of the SP15, particularly the different types of rollers

in the afternoon we were given our class assignment. we were to pair off and each person would choose a four-letter word from only the type in the press area. then, we would each do a single color run, the second run printed over the first. andy and i paired up on my favorite press, the SP15 with manual inking. he chose “KNOB” in a serif font and i chose “OPUS” in an outlined font, both all caps. we used a bright lemony yellow and a slightly metallic green, and when our prints were complete we were both surprised and pleased by the result. jan bought us ice cream sundaes and i don’t think i’ve ever tasted anything so refreshing.

sunday was an open studio and i had no idea what i was going to print. i knew i wanted to use the perforator in some way, but i didn’t get inspired until i was reading the glossary of typographical terms in one of david’s books and we got into a debate about the merits of the french fold. i decided i would do a french folded booklet and the text would be, appropriately, a little definition of the french fold. first i cut paper into 12″x12″ sheets and then i perforated the sheets along the middle on both axes to create four 6 in2 sections. after some internal struggle and the help of ms word’s thesaurus, i settled on the text, “French Fold: 1 plane / 2 folds”. i selected my type, sort of designing on the fly then had to wait a few hours for a press to open up.

after lunch i began working on the form for the text. because there was a lot of mismatched-sized type in a relatively small area, it took awhile. probably a few hours. it was really hot on the side of the room where i was working so by the time i was done i was about 5 inches away from, “fuck this shit, i want a shower.” but then david offered some motivating words (basically, ‘do you want to finish this?’ ‘yes…’ ‘well, then we’ll finish it.’) and helped me get everything extra-tight. after some relatively minor make-ready i quickly finished printing the text and even cut and perforated a few more sheets so i could have a larger edition.

after cleaning the press (wherein i embarrassed myself by totally forgetting about the roller under the carriage) i started working on the form for the colored background of the booklet. time was running short, so david mixed ink for me (mostly transparent, some blue, some metallic silver) while i enjoyed working on a lockup that didn’t have to register with anything or even fall in a specific area. after cracking a block in twain, which i still feel terrible about even though everyone assures me it was already cracked, i finished printing just in time to get back to café alkamye before they stopped serving.

dinner was great – chris and jen are so funny and jen has all of these interesting/crazy/weird/hilarious theories including such gems as ‘homeless people and dehydration’. throughout dinner i was having a fantastic time, but i could feel my body shutting down and crying ‘uncle’ after being on my feet and uncomfortably hot for two days. unfortunately, when i tried to go to sleep i found i could not. when i did sleep i didn’t sleep well, or for only a few minutes at a time, or had incredibly disturbing dreams involving serial murderers and a giant technology convention.

monday i got up extra-early (i was pretty much awake anyway) and david, andy and i drove to the museum to pack up our prints and say good-bye to greg. we left town with stereo blasting, bananas and chocolate soy milk in hand. the conversation on the drive home turned very serious really quickly, but it is always a relief to hear that other people have had similar experiences.

when we got back to chicago i dropped my stuff off at home and then i got to see andy’s awesome 2-floor apartment and even cooler (though not temperature-wise) giant studio. we were planning on hitting alice & friends for lunch, but it was closed (wtf alice??) so we had ethiopian at ras dashen a few doors down. i had never eaten ethiopian food before, and it was delicious. after lunch we dropped andy and david’s car off at andy’s studio because andy had wanted to WORK on his BIRTHDAY.

andy. what. are. you. thinking.

david and i walked up the street to starshaped press, the place where david interned last week. i met jen, the owner, and she seems really cool and talented. her identity/promo piece is really awesome. after starshaped david got to ride the el for the first time (woo!). we took the brown line down to paper source and spent a good hour or so seeing things we wanted to buy but couldn’t, and things we wanted to buy but couldn’t but oh the hell with it and bought it anyway. david picked up a drop spine box kit and i bought a neat notebook (the travelbook with metal at the edges). after paper source we looked around the hugeness that is pearl art supplies then got on the el and headed back up north.

overall, the weekend was fantastic. i feel like i learned a lot of new things and i definitely feel more prepared to make a trip up to two rivers on my own someday. moreover, i’m really looking forward to the next time that whole crazy group of people can all be together again. thanks david, for a great workshop and thanks to everyone who came up for the weekend – it was awesome to see you guys!