Inaugural Thin Ice Press PrintSoc Meeting

After the official launch of Thin Ice Press it is time to turn our attention to new and exciting endeavours. Recently we held the inaugural meeting of the new student printing society. The event was free, and required no experience or membership, so it was a great opportunity to open the studio to students from across all academic disciplines and show how a former redundant study space has been transformed in the last year.

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The Print Studio in January 2019
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The space in July 2018

We held two introductory activities. The first was to use our Albion press and receive a tour of the studio, and the second was an introduction to the history of printing in York and a crash course in setting metal type. The session was designed to give an insight into how students can use the studio and, we hope, to ignite an interest in the history of print. Few universities have access to such facilitates, so we believe it is vital to open up the studio and, at future events, let students experience the entire printing process and produce their own material.

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York was once home to a vibrant printing community and their shops, marked by the printer’s devil, can still be seen on Stonegate today. The early printers of York, like Thomas Gent, worked to preserve the history of the city and its surroundings, so it is wonderful to learn their working practices with current students and share a lesser known aspect of York’s history.

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We have since invited students to learn about metal type with Nick Gill and have even more events (including workshops, lino printing, collaborations, and talks) on the horizon. The society is open to all students at the University of York. For more information visit our page on the University of York Students’ Union (YUSU). Any questions, or to join our mailing list, please email: printsoc@yusu.org

Thank you to our YUSU activator Mi Chelle Cheah for taking photos during the event.

The launch of Thin Ice Press

On Thursday 24th January printers, staff, students and guests gathered to mark the official launch of Thin Ice Press. Guests moved between the print studio, English department and The Norman Rea Gallery, as we enjoyed a range of events, including: practical printing, talks, a letterpress exhibition, and even a printing bike!

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Photo credit: Fi Wong.

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Nick Hand and his traveling press. Photo credit: Fi Wong.

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Photo credit: Fi Wong.

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Sarah Griffin, Special Collections & York Minster Librarian, brought examples of early printed works. Photo credit: Fi Wong.
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Photo credit: Fi Wong.

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Thank you to all the contributing artists, everyone who has helped us on our journey so far and those who worked to make this event possible. Last but not least, thank you to everyone who attended – it was wonderful to see everyone sharing an appreciation for the art, our vision and the possibilities of letterpress.

The exhibition will be shown until the 7th February in The Norman Rea Gallery at the University of York. Check out their blog and Instagram for more information.

Common Press Construction Update at The Wonder of Wood

On Tuesday we visited Settle, in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, to check on the progress of our wooden common press components. There may not be a lot to show at the moment but, as this aspect of the project has received such interest, it is incredibly exciting to show how it is beginning to take shape.  You can find out more about wooden common presses and the reproduction side of our project here.

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Punny benches at Settle station
The Wonder of Wood
The Wonder of Wood

As wooden common presses are typically over six feet tall and construction requires low moisture content and solid hardwood, we couldn’t simply drop by B&Q to source our wood. Many parts of the press will be made from much larger stock than what is readily available but the team at The Wonder of Wood managed to source timber large enough to be used for the cheeks, and it can be seen in the photo below.

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Other recognisable forms beginning to take shape include the till.

It was incredibly useful to meet Robert and the team in person to consult the plans, answer some questions and, thanks to their great problem solving skills, come to conclusions that only involved making minor adjustments to our original plans. Therefore we can work with the wood and not compromise on creating a true reproduction of the early 18th century Gent press.

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Our plans at The Wonder of Wood
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The 18th century remains of the wooden common press owned by York printer Thomas Gent have informed the plans for our reproduction.
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An example of a modern common press reconstruction – the Uncommon Press at the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at RIT (photos credit Seth Gottlieb).

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for a more detailed update on the construction process and the work of the machinist and blacksmith, as they too begin to pour their expertise into our project.

You can check out The Wonder of Wood and their work here.

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Thin Ice Press at The Print Project

Last week members of the Thin Ice Press team visited The Print Project in Shipley. The workshop, hosted by Nick, gave us the opportunity to learn about letterpress, get covered in ink and create something beautiful.

Nick began by using his work (check it out here) to show us the creative possibilities of experimenting with wooden and metal type and how we will soon be able to use the Thin Ice Press studio for our own creations. To get some experience with metal type, as members of the team less acquainted with the practicalities of letterpress, we decided to each set a line taken from The Life of Mr. Thomas Gent, Printer, of York.

In January 1739, the frost having been extremely intense, the rivers became so frozen, that I printed names upon the ice. I first set up, as it were, a new kind of press, only a roller wrapt about with blankets.

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We opted to use different faces and point sizes. To someone far more comfortable with Photoshop, letterpress can be a daunting medium. If you set a line of text that ends up being too long you can’t just swipe over it to decrease the point size. This may sound obvious to readers familiar with letterpress but really got us into the mind-set of this completely different way of creating and showed us it is best to not ignore these differences, and treat letterpress like a digital printer, but to work with and embrace them. This led us to alter the line lengths and in turn, we think, create a more interesting design. The experimentation with different faces also taught us that we’re going to need some strict measures in place to ensure our type stays organised in a studio that will be used by many students in the coming months!

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After transferring to the galley, packing with spacing and adding a flourish, we used the proofing press to highlight some amusing errors. We corrected our errors, proofed again and used this imprint to experiment with different layouts.

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We finalised the layout and placed the forme on the bed of his Vandercook press. Nick showed us how to lock up the forme and secure it with furniture. He explained how pressure is exerted and the ideal shape to achieve – this certainly made us appreciate the work that goes into creating his extraordinary layouts. With paper size decided and cut, it was time to print. We took it in turns to use the press, ink the type and place on the drying rack. We even looked like we knew what we were doing…most of the time.

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It was wonderful to get acquainted with metal type and spend some time in a fully operational studio. Big thanks to The Print Project for an incredibly useful and really fun day out. You can check out the website here.

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Crowdfunding Update & a Busy Week

Our first wonderful announcement is that, thanks to you generously donating and spreading the word about our crowdfunding campaign, we have hit our fundraising target! To find out how this will shape the future of Thin Ice Press click here and if you missed the crowdfunding deadline and still wish to donate you can do so here (please select ‘Other’ in the ‘Designation’ drop-down menu, and then type YuStart – Thin Ice Press into the box that appears).

To spread the word about our ambitions we welcomed members of the York Antiquarian Book Seminar into the studio. These guests were the first to see the space and it was brilliant to fill it with such enthusiasm.

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Members of the York Antiquarian Book Seminar in the studio.

We have also been out and about with our smallest press. The first of these events was the International Association of Bibliophiles visit to the University of York library. It was great to get involved with this event, talk about our project and in exchange see some interesting items from the Borthwick Archives.

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Illustrated journal created by a 9 year old, on display during the International Association of Bibliophiles visit to the University of York library.

The next day we headed to the 2018 York Book Fair. The event, at York Racecourse, featured over 220 bookdealers and is considered to be the largest rare and antiquarian book fair in the U.K. We took a stall by the entrance to entice people to chat and learn about our project as they waited in line to drop their bags.

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Thin Ice Press team members chat to visitors at the 2018 York Book Fair.

Over the weekend the University held Open Days. We took this opportunity to get back in the studio and open it up to prospective students. Everyone loved printing on the Adana during the July Open Days and this enthusiasm was seen again (such as people reacting to the magic of their first imprint) but now alongside three large iron presses and the fragments of the early 18th century common press. It was also lovely to give tours of the studio and chat about our plans to integrate the print studio into teaching, student societies and publishing over the coming academic year.

Getting involved with these communities has been so rewarding and we’ve realised just how many people have connections to letterpress, from those who had once set metal type (and now want to stay as far away from the fiddly stuff as possible!) to people whose ancestors had owned a press. All acknowledged our madness for embarking upon such an ambitious project but certainly share our joy in the revival. It’s been busy here at Thin Ice Press and, in light of our fundraising campaign, we’re eager for this to continue.