Multi-color prints on letterpress

wood type and print on old letterpress 'Showcard' machineRecently we drove to an outlet mall in Illinois to get my “new” Showcard Press. That is, we arranged to meet the seller at the mall parking lot, pulled around the back, carried/lugged the press from one truck bed to the other, exchanged cash and some history about the press, then each drove away. It would’ve looked very clandestine except it was the middle of a very sunny, cold, winter day, and the lot was packed with shoppers, and well, none of us looked very shady.

The little photo you see here (upper right) of the wood type set in the letterpress and the resultant printed, green paper above it, is the first print executed on the press–the day after we brought it home. Pretty uninspiring design-wise, but very exciting to actually be setting letterpress type again (haven’t done that since grad school—2010), and printing that first print on/about a holiday that will help me remember when I started doing letterpress out of my own studio!

This old Showcard Model B press is an exciting addition to Market Weight Press. It means that I can print with lead or wood type, print wood engravings, and do multi-color block printing (woodblock or mounted lino) with some semblance of registration due to the press’ gripper bars and it’s ability to lock-up type and blocks on the press bed (with magnets and letterpress furniture). It’s all very exciting.

detail of striped chicken woodcut by S.V. Medaris

Working Girl (rePRODUCTION system), detail • reduction woodcut

Working Girl is the first multi-color block (reduction) done on the Showcard. It’s a “phase 1” print, that is, it needs more color so I’ll be doing a 2nd version—adding some more color with multiple blocks to see how close I can get the registration. It’s an old machine (mid 1900s) but very basic and solid. So far, I’m hopeful about registering my editions accurately on it.

Did I tell you how exciting this is? Ok, I’ll stop now.

3 thoughts on “Multi-color prints on letterpress

  1. Takes me back to grad school too, with Walter Hamady & Phil Hamilton!
    We have a friend who has a large collection of letterpresses warehoused up in Door County who could probably be persuaded to part with a press or two, if you get inspired. And he has loads of type, all kinds of styles. But I probably should encourage you to get to know your new press first. Have fun!

    C @ Itchy Cat Press

    • omg–great to know Caroline! I defitely need some type. I’ve purchased some on Ebay, just so I can print SOME text in more content-appropriate point sizes. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m always on lookout for future… Would love to get in touch with him at some point–summer road trip? Have to be in UW-Maniotowoc July 21 or 25 for a Steamroller Printing event, then Hamilton Type Museum right after. Perhaps then??

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