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Little Ouse Headwaters Project Visit

We were approached by some members of the Little Ouse Headwaters Project connected with the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts based at the U.E.A. in Norwich. They enquired whether it would be possible for a group from the organisation to come down to the printing works one Saturday to produce letterpress printing for sale and display materials for use at their Open Days at various village halls around the vicinity of the Ouse headwaters.

John and Richard welcomed eleven people to “The Wilderness” early one sunny autumnal Saturday morning. Following a brief Health and Safety talk and a demonstration of Hand Compositing the visitors were allowed to search through our varied cases of metal and wooden type, make their choices and report back to John or Richard who would advise them on their task ahead, before starting preparation for their personal printing.

The choice of printing was varied, two couples set about composing display type, one using wooden type and the other metal display type. They then choose their preferred colours, positioned their type, hand inked and printed their boards on the Farley proofing press. Each member was allowed to find their best print by trialing various processes. The word ‘Source’ was chosen by one visitor who printed a large number of wooden fonts on the Farley showing the differing characteristics of the letters.

One lady visitor composed two, double lined quotations in 48pt metal serif type to a width of around  twenty inches to go under two paintings, hand inked in black and printed on Conqueror 300gsm Cream Board on the Farley Press. Headed paper was set and printed by another visitor who decided to add her name to the job by using a second print run, these were printed on the company’s 1950’s Heidelberg 10” x 15” Platen under strict supervision from Richard.

Two of the most ambitious projects of the day were the two gentlemen who both decided to hand set a quotation each, one using 18pt Times Roman and the other 24pt Times Roman. Given the typecases and a case layout sheet they comenced setting their projects, both finishing their quotations shortly after lunch. They were shown and allowed to take part in locking their type into a chase, proof reading, correcting and make ready to produce first class printing on the Heidelberg Platen. Considering neither gentleman had any experience of hand compositing, it was a sterling effort by both.

The Columbian ‘Eagle’ Press circa 1830 was put to use by one couple printing a variety of Lino Cuts on various colours and weights of paper. So many prints were produced we started to run out of trays to lay them on to dry! The couple choose a pantone shade of brown and were instructed how to weigh and mix the ink, a standard premixed shade of green was used on later lino cuts.

The final two visitors, the two organisers of the event, set about setting up the names of the villages in which the Open Day Exhibitions were to be held, in a variety of wooden typefaces. Making up a 12″ x 12″ square of the characters in the form of an anagram, the letters were all turned in various directions. A total of nine sets of large white venue boards were produced this way, all hand inked in dark brown and printed on the Columbian Eagle press. The object of the exercise was to show the texture and character of each typeface in the word without too much reliance on elaborate make ready, as opposed to digitally produced near perfect signage.

To finish off the day various people helped produce hand pointing directional signs using a large wooden carved type high hand on the Farley Press.

Richard and John, although kept extremely busy helping each visitor with any problems and offering advice, were impressed by the speed the visitors picked up the fundamentals of letterpress printing and their keeness to go ‘hands on’ straight from the word go. This was pleasing as this was the object of the whole exercise.

At the conclusion of the day a wide variety of work was produced and both visitors and staff enjoyed the experience.

In conversations during the day, follow on visits were requested and by the following Monday morning a Lino cut printing session had been booked.