Thursday, November 19, 2009

Yeah, I can do this stuff for other folks, too!

One of my College dept. guys asked me if I ever print stuff for other folks, like, as a business thing. It suddenly hit me: I just assumed folks understood that. I guess not! Colour me "business-stupid". In fact, over the past year I have been asked a number of questions about what I do with these old Presses and Typographs and copper and mag plates, etc. So here we go with my official "G. Johanson, Printer Frequently Asked Questions List (FAQs)

Q: Can, or Do you print stuff for other folks?
A: Yes. I do.

Q: Do you market yourself?
A: Apparently not. At least, not beyond this Blog.

Q: What sort of printing do you do?
A: Whatever floats my boat. I have a huge history streak, so I gravitate heavily toward handset type, line cuts, laid papers, traditional colours, and presses that run slow. If so inclined, I'll wear silver buckled shoes, knee britches and a powdered wig on St. Bartholemew's Day. Oh, and my trusty German Tricorn.

Q: Do you ever do any Digital Design, Mr. Franklin?
A: Very funny. . . yes, I use two different Digital IDEs, one a PC based system once an industry standard: FreeHand MX4, and also a Mac based system running Adobe Creative Ste 4 (Illustrator) I use Freehand to restore and vectorise antiquated faces from various sources such as the 1000 page ATF sample book of 1915, or woodcut specimens as I happen upon them and they grab my fancy. Beyond that, I also use traditional india ink and Bristol board, scratchboard and cut Linoleum & Wood. Even Plexiglass. I like to use my hands moreso than technology.

Q: Do you do what all the other Letterpresses out there do, like Wedding Stationery, Cute little note cards with fuzzy animals on them, blind embossing, and scanning old Victorian Catalogues into Photoshop, editing out any incriminating evidences of plagiarism, vectorising them and sending off for a polymer plate and call your stuff "original"?
A: No. I don't use Polymer.

Q: Ok, Dr. House. Do you work with other persons designs?
A: Only if the other persons work with me. (yes, I do.)

Q: Do you drink coffee while you print?
A: Are you OSHA or something?

Q: Are you associated with any museums or printing organisations?
A: Yes, NAPA & the Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts, Barberville, Florida. I'm the 19th century printer.

Q: What sort of things can you print on your vintage presses?
A: Just about anything that can be reproduced by "Line" art or Text. "Line Art" means high contrast images - as opposed to continuous tone shades. Those continuous tone images, such as photographs must first be converted into a fine screen half-tone image in order to print. That is more the domain of Offset Printing. Letterpress can do it . . . but the best way is to do photos via photo offset. Line images, pen and ink renderings, cross hatch and stipple shading do quite well rendered via Letterpress Typography. Spot Colour images do well via Letterpress. And, of course, the best text printing ever rendered in the past 550 years of printing has been done so by Letterpress, still the unassailable champion of text and book printing!

Q: What are the different Price Points you offer when printing commision work?
A: Business Card pricing, Post Card/ QSL card pricing, Wedding/ Announcement Card pricing/ General Card/Menu pricing - might be considered price points. I try to keep the current economic climate in mind. Letterpress Printing is literally a hand-produced product, and production thereof is usually considered "Limited Edition". Skill and techniques are ages old and often cannot be taught in schools, but only by experience. For instance, Platen Presses of the type normally used in boutique Letterpress Shops today are not even allowed in Colleges and Universities because of OSHA restraints! Thus, we have all these college degreed Book Arts majors who have never touched a Kluge, a C&P, or a Heidelberg Windmill! They learn on Vandercook Cylinder presses - not a production machine - which is fine (especially for Posters!), but in the "work-a-day" world, most of the typical typographic work is done by the Platen Presses, which offer a different printing dynamic. Yes, there are large shops that use Miehle, Little Giants and other high production cylinder machines - most of us cottage industry printers don't use those, and again, colleges do not use them either. Many grads have never touched a Composition Stick, or have never packed a platen for makeready. All this to say, the time and work involved in learning the process, gaining proficiency, obtaining the tools, the stock, the inks, the type, or doing the design work, having the plating done - results in a fairly high price for Letterpress work. Oh, did I mention quality papers? Paper alone accounts for 30 - 50% of pricing! And proper choice of papers can make - or break - any printing job or project!

Q: Ok, Whatever. So, lets have an example of a price.
A: Jeeesh, wake up, you're snorring. You asked the question, dude! Here we go with an example:

Single colour business card (American Standard Size)
Typeset or Digital die
Crane Lettra, Really white, sorta white or that eggshell coloured thing:
200 cards: $99.00

Two colour or blind emboss (or any other thing that makes me pass the cards through the press twice ) on the above stock 200 cards:

You can see an example of a blind emboss diamond
logo card I ran on an earlier posting if you peruse back on my blog a few months.

That's just a sample. I price each job individually. I usually do not charge extra for hand-setting of type - it goes into my design fee, which is included in the finish price. Such as the above Business Cards: I include typesetting or digital designing in that number. Add shipping charges, of course.

Q: So, any last comments or remarks?
A: Yes, In due time I intend to set up a regular web site for G. Johanson, Printer, which will have more "marketing" information. Understand, I am really more a tradesman-artist than I'll ever be a businessman. I have had a bad experience with sales guys and marketers which really do not tell either the complete truth or flat out overblow their products. I am obsessed with any client of mine being absolutely satisfied with what they purchase from me, and I'll go to great lengths to keep things affordable as possible. For instance, not every job has to be printed on four-hundred dollar per parent-sheet ream handmade cotton wove stock! In fact, historically, Letterpress can print on darned near anything!! One of my best projects was printed on brown paper wrapper from Wal-Mart!!

Letterpress is a premium venue, and you pay a premium price. But it does not have to wipe out your budget.

Feel free to talk to me, e-mail me, whatever, for more information. I do think it is necessary to work as close to the client as possible, and communication is key. E-mail me at either:

Ok, you've just witnessed a guy almost getting into an arguement with himself.
Are artists strange or what?

Printing has been a lifelong passion for me, and it would be a great and fulfilling thing to share it with others, so if you find yourself in the market for specialty printing, and the idea of traditional letterpress typography and hand-wrought design -whether digital or hand-cut - strikes your fancy, look me up.

I promise I'll leave the tricorn in the shop.


G. Johanson, Printer

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