Adventures in Letterpress

With the advent of digital, we have been deprived of the tactile joy we experienced when we were kids. Secretly we crave for hands-on art projects like creating type with potatoes. This longing to get back into that era of creating with your hands is perhaps what has kept letterpress alive.

For the cult followers of letterpress, the time required to indulge in this beloved passion is of little consequence. Recently, the nearly obsolete craft of letterpress has been resurrected by artists and designers who have rescued cast-iron presses from basements and scrap yards. A graphic design friend, who was looking for something memorable, created her entire wedding invitations via letterpress.

Tactile, retro and idiosyncratic, hand-painting objects have incredible appeal, especially in a digital age.

What is it about this 15th century printing technique that gets even modern designers ditch the comfort of Illustrator and Photoshop? Laborious, at best, describes this technique of arranging words and designs manually, before pressing them onto high quality paper.

photo (6)In a world where printing has become a mass-produced commodity, the bespoke quality of letterpress helps designers stand out.

There is the tactile nature of the final product that is unlike any other. Embossing on high quality paper is also visually captivating. Think of it as the Rolls-Royce of printing. No wonder, it’s gained so much fame lately in wedding magazines and Martha Stewart’s wedding ideas.

The bottom line is that for the artist, it is rewarding. Just like a painter spends months on one canvas, tirelessly coming back to perfect it, letterpress artists also experience that same satisfaction of enjoying the process. Any creative understands the joy of the journey far outweighs the final outcome. The “Aha” of a great idea never stands solo. It is made up of all the smaller “Aha’s” that make up the greater wow factor.

photo (7)When I read Adventures In Letterpress by Brandon Mise, it made me start thinking about the idea of bespoke and quality. There are companies that still hold quality above quantity. Just take a look at the success of Etsy and you will see that people are willing to splurge for a product that is authentic.

Adventures in Letterpress by Brandon Mise features over two hundred examples of the craft of letterpress, from elegant cards, edgy broadsheets and everything in between. Humorous and sometimes just plain weird, the projects featured in the book perfectly illustrate the vibrant future of this once-endangered medium.

And if you are in the Wilmington, North Carolina, area, perhaps you’ll run into the author, Brandon Mise, who is also the owner of Blue Barnhouse, a letterpress greeting card company.

Review by Shilpa Raikar.

Adventures in Letterpress by Brandon Mise, is published by Lawrence King Publishing Ltd and distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books.

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