As is our little household tradition, we print up our own Christmas cards every year on a tiny, hand-operated letterpress. We usually try and let our experiences of the past year direct what the design is, and after the second year of pandemic-life, we almost didn’t get our cards made in time for the season, because we couldn’t think of anything exciting that happened in our house in 2021.
Then we spotted the elephant (or should it be cat?) in the room: Of course something totally awesome happened this year – I had my first children’s picture book published! So we went pretty simple with the design, and I drew up Asta driving another absurd vehicle, but in a Christmas stylee. It’s one of my favourite seasonal accoutrements, the yule log!
Lilly and I got the press back in action today! We printed up a few bits and bobs (Including the Howdy card above, but we only got one ink out, so everything we did is blue!
I finally did some linocut stuff to print! I wrote to Jax a couple of months ago after she made a nice linocut print, asking what the lowdown on linocut was (I was surprised it really was as straightforward as sticking some lino to a block of wood), so I ordered some lino from Hawthorn Printmaker Supplies, along with some other bits and bobs, and the package turned up last week. I spent the day yesterday with power tools, working on some small furniture items for the home, and while I was there, chopped a slab of appropriately thick MDF into chase-sized chunks, as seen in the left picture.
I followed these instructions Jax pointed me in the direction of, and mounted up a few blocks ready to carve. I came up with a simple little fishscale-y pattern to see how it worked, which seemed to go pretty well! It was a lot easier to carve and yielded a lot more even a result than the wood carvings I tried last year. After Lilly printed it up a couple of times, I realised it looked like a big crowd of people sitting in a cinema or something when the other way up:
As that went well, I made a nice big Howdy card for us to print, which you should have seen above. Here is my linocut in the press, with some nice off-camera flash action to help bring it out a bit:
We didn’t stop there either! We also printed a tiny greeting using some of the Mixed type I bought off ebay last week, and the bonus elephant block I bought Lilly as a surprise, which came out much cuter than we were anticipating. Cool!
Happy December, internet folk! After a few weeks of tinkering, begging for supplies, doing test prints, whittling and re-engineering, Lilly and I have finally made our first useable letterpressed product- some christmas cards to send to friends and family!
Me being me, someone who likes to make stopmotion things and having an occasional fancy to make random flash-based toys, I decided to make this this afternoon- a virtual version of Lilly’s letterpress!
It will run by itself, but you can mouse over it to make it work yourself too! just move your mouse up and down over it!
If you know your letterpresses, you might be a little confused by the ink disc ratchet. Yes- it’s something I made myself, out of an old scrap of metal, and a cent I have had knocking around on my desk for ages (it wasn’t heavy enough on its own and Abraham Lincoln was happy to help!). The original one was very broken, too short, and not well attached, so I made this replacement on the weekend. I didn’t have a bolt of the right size though, so it is currently being held on with a small screw and chunk of wood. I’m not really sure if it looks or works anything like it is meant to, but it seems to work!
If you are curious to what we’ve been printing so far, you’ll probably find it on my Flickr. This weekend, we made our first prints with the litho ink I scored last week. Cool!