Letterpress List No. 76: Peeks and Valleys

Kids are so sweet.

I mean, why was Shop Boy even worried about having 16 Maryland Institute College of Art students over to Typecast Press for a class on clamshell presses? Sixteen attentive, excited minds eager for a change from the usual printing experience on the Vandercook presses that are MICA’s strong suit. And Shop Boy had drawn responsibility for the big C&P, the 12×18, my main squeeze.

The color? Intense black.

Sweet. No mixing. Let’s roll!

So, anyway, you know how with these polymer plates you really can’t tell what the finished product will look like until you ink it up? Here’s what the very first impression from the very first student in my group looked like:


Naked woman trussed up like a turkey. Another in a  chef’s hat holding a ladle.

Shop Boy (in his most professorial tone): “Ahem, well. That, um, what do you think of the impression? Shall we, uh, hit it twice … er, I mean, shall we allow the press to complete two full rotations before we pull, uh, remove the coaster?”

Young woman: “Yeah, twice. That’ll look even better!”

The others nodded in agreement. It was going to be a long night.

Mary had invited the 16 students and Georgia Deal — the chair of the printmaking department at the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington  (no pressure, Shop Boy) — to get a feel for how letterpress printing works on machines built for mass production. Rather than pull one or several perfect proofs, this was about creating a stack of 60 great coasters, square or round.

Kyle Van Horn of MICA, Mary and Shop Boy would split the group by chosen ink color: red, black  and yellow/brown.  Mixing colors isn’t my strength. Basic black? Even Shop Boy can handle that.

So we got through the rest of the night fairly uneventfully. Shop Boy guided six students (plus Georgia) through the process. They are a creative bunch, and they waited more patiently than you’d expect of college students. (One exception: Mary about had a riot on her hands when she merely suggested we wait a bit before ordering pizza.)

And the porno?

Fine, fine. Artists like to push the envelope … or the coaster. So, whatever. We’re all adults here. And it was her coaster … like to see her serve Mom a cup of tea on that baby, though.

We got out of there very late, yes.

But to Shop Boy’s relief, not in Vice Squad handcuffs.


Letterpress List No. 76

How about an hour’s worth of music to create — or simply appreciate the human form — by? Most of these tunes should be available in the usual places. Goofy or great videos are from YouTube.

Pornograffitti Extreme (That image will stay with me a while.)
Pour Some Sugar on Me
Def Leppard (And turn me after 30 minutes at 350 degrees.)
Rebel Girl —
Bikini Kill (OK, I get it. Gender statement … right?)
Back to BlackAmy Winehouse (Intense. Like the singer’s poor soul.)
Suddenly I SeeKT Tunstall (As for the seven coasters Shop Boy helped them print, there was the aforementioned, um, dinner scene …)
Without MeEminem (A bit of self-promotion …)
Season of the WitchDonovan (A reflection on the Salem Witch Trials — the coaster features the image of the doomed fellow who, when being crushed to death with heavy stones, uttered the immortal phrase “More weight” …)
Running on Empty Jackson Browne (A play on the glass-half-full or empty idea …)
Mexican Wrestler Jill Sobule (A sumo! OK, that’s a reach …)
Nike a Go Go
the Misfits (And a little manipulation of an iconic image — the skull — from punk rock.)
Air Force Ones Nelly (Sounds nice. Make it twice.)
Shock MeKiss (Pushing the envelope of good taste.)
Kiss Off Violent Femmes (Did I happen to mention I was impressed?)
Monkey WrenchFoo Fighters (OK, so the impression on the smaller C&P was too strong for the final coaster of the night. The image looked great, but the coasters were full of cracks. You know what that means: a midnight platen adjustment. Somebody go get Shop Boy!)
Naked Pictures (of Your Mother) Electric Six (Says it all.)

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