Friday, March 28, 2008

A Look at my Projects and Products of the Past

This, ladies and gentlemen, is my 8x12 C&P "New Series" Gordon style Letterpress, powered by a GE 1hp drive motor, capable of 1800 impressions per hour [one impression every two seconds.]For those not familiar, this is a view from the delivery board, and if you look down to the lower left you'll see the drive motor. There is a locked form on the delivery board, but it's actually locked up for a 5x7 Kelsey Handpress, which i used to own. I had a small collection of Kelsey Handpresses, which now reside in the Florida Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts, Barberville FL. The top introductory photo is a shot from the Settlement Print Shop, where those Kelseys are on display. I had a 3x5 Mercury (1899), a 5x7 Excelsior (sp?) from around 1945, and the big 9x13 Kelsey from 1903. All were excellent machines, considering.

The second photo shows my other project: a table-top Showcard Press. My intention is to use this as both linocut and woodcut press and proof press. It will handle sheets up to 8 x 12, just right for the Letterpress. The Showcard Press isn't pretty: it's been in storage for who knows how long. I greased the guide gears, and found the impression roller to be in good shape. I need to polish up the plate that sets on the bottom, and also install an ink plate on the far right. The gripper springs are good, and all that i really have left to do is clean her up. I might paint her if the stains in the iron are too severe.

Most of the Showcards i've seen are much larger, intended for poster printing. This little guy is essentially a glorified charge-card roll-off. But be not deceived: it does an excellent job for it's size, and is no light-weight! Close to forty pounds!

Speaking of Linocuts, here is a duotone Linocut i made back when i 0perated "Heirloom Press" in Palm Harbor, FL. 1991-1992. It measures about 7x5", and was printed on a Kelsey 9x13. I sold these as Christmas Cards at "Christmas Under the Oaks" in Clearwater, 1992. I used a separate colour block for the blue, although in this particular print, the blue is applied by Berol Prismacolor.

I ran Heirloom Press back when Letterpress was just starting to make a commercial come-back. There were a few members of the AAPA residing in the Tampa Bay area at this time, which made it easy to get parts, materials, resources, and of course, Florida Graphics was still around then to make my Zinc and Mag cuts.

Heirloom Press bit the dust when i had to move to Orlando for a job that had steady income. By profession, i am an Optician. Heirloom was successful, but the growth was slower than my creditors were willing to wait. Much of my product was sold via "American Craft Endeavors" craft shows, which were very lucrative.

This is the frontpiece of one of my Christmas cards which was designed in stipple using #OOO fine rapidograph pen. Yup, "Old School" pen and ink artwork. The inside design was based on a Christmas Seal from the 1920s. The "shell", the green frame surrounding the central picture was also designed in stipple, as an overlay. It's design was inspired by a collection of 19th Century US. postage stamps, 1851 - 1889. The mag plates were produced by Florida Graphics.

The other photo is the tailpiece that i used on all of my cards. It used an ATF "ding-bat" which just happens to be an Albion handpress, i think. At the time, we lived in a pole home on Crystal Beach. The lower part of the house was enclosed, which became garage, radio shack and print shop. I executed all my artwork, both copy design for plates and carving of linoleum, end-grain maple and engraved plexiglass [i called them "plexicuts", which resembled wood-engraving, after a fashion.] Normally, i coloured in the central image with Berol Prismacolour beeswax pencil. These were truly hand made cards. I sold every card i ever printed save for a very few which i saved for myself. Letterpress cards like these were very, very popular in the Bay Area back in the early 1990's. Wonder what the climate is like now?

The tailpiece reads: "This card has been designed and individually printed using 19th Century Methods on Iron Hand-Presses by "HEIRLOOM PRESS" Palm Harbor, Florida. (c) 1992, G. Johanson.

I no longer operate Heirloom press, which i shut down in 1993. The name is now, from what i notice, being used by another printer, who is a member of the LETPRESS list. Now i am simply "G. Johanson, Printer"

The folks at the Settlement inform that my early prints are actually in some demand. Dang! Wish i would have saved more for myself! Oh, well. At least i can say i knew myself back when . . . . .

I'll share a couple more items from my Letterpress Past in future posts . . . and hopefully some NEW stuff in the near future.

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