There is plenty of room in this modern age alongside our digital tools for traditional craft like letterpress printing. An image of a pithy saying on our social media platforms or in a lovely typeset in print on a card or hanging on a wall can not only swell the heart with emotion, but also inspire and motivate.
With this in mind, I thought I would explore my creative side through a recent letterpress workshop led by my friend and web designer, Dulcie Fulton. Dulcie runs her design company, Mostly Flat, in Ludlow and regularly runs letterpress printing workshops at a local studio.
Before the workshop I had to do some homework, and find a motivational quote. I found myself doing a google search for ‘cool quotes about adventure,’ the night before my class and jotted down a few.
Letterpress printing: ‘too cool for school?’
Clutching my list of quotes and a packed lunch, I turned up at her studio in clothes that I didn’t mind getting a little ink on them. Dulcie made me tea and together we pondered the selection, selecting a short quote by Katherine Hepburn that seemed possible to make within the timeframe of our class.
The next step was paper, colours, fonts and decorations. Dulcie has a growing collection of type and ornaments to draw from, and she helped me to quickly narrow down my choices.
Then we were off and away, working out how to lay out the words of my quote. The setting process felt peaceful and satisfying, the metal letters heavy and pleasing in my hand.
The ornament layout stage was trickier. Letterpress involves arranging individual metal letters and then holding this in place for printing. After some careful thought and with Dulcie’s help, we rearranged the metal letters and decorations to make a design suited to my idea. Patiently, she guided me through what to do, before we moved on to the good bit — inking up the press.
Feeling the heavy treadle and wheel of the press moving, and seeing the bright flash of pink as ink hit the paper was truly a thrill. Aha! I thought, now I get it. After that first print and a change of ink came the words, and, after a few disappointing trials, Dulcie once again came up with a solution that suddenly brought my idea to life in a whole new way. Each card I printed made me smile as I laid it on top of a growing pile.
For the love of printing
When I first met Dulcie a few years ago she was a full-time web designer, working for people including Storm Thorgerson (designer of Pink Floyd’s iconic Dark Side of the Moon album cover), Robbie Williams, The Doves and Waterstones.
However, in 2013 Dulcie found a new direction with a letterpress residential course at The Grange in Ellesemere. It changed everything for her and a new love affair and education began.
A few years on and Dulcie is a well-respected and an appreciated member of the growing letterpress community in the UK. She travels across the country to shows and events, selling her printed designs. She also takes commissions in addition to running her workshops in her own studio and at other places such as the ffowndri in north Wales.
Dulcie is well know for her craftsmanship and attention to detail and, increasingly, for her expertise in the art of fixing the old printing presses. and her joy and enthusiasm for letterpress still grows by the day.
She shares her enthusiasm and love of letterpress printing through her workshops. At the end of the day, I had a take-home collection of postcards that I had made from scratch, and a whole new experience to remember.
Dulcie is a friend but I had a truly great day in no small part due to her patience. I heartily recommend her workshops to anyone who wants to give this old-school but trendy craft a go. Who knows, maybe you too will be bitten by the bug!
The next upcoming workshop is Friday 14th June. For more info about upcoming courses head to mostlyflat.co.uk
Rachel Buchanan grew up near Ludlow and is a freelance writer, arts producer and humanist celebrant