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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s been a hectic few weeks here at Thin Ice Press. A few weeks ago room D/L/051 begun its transformation into the print studio and, with all the old desks removed, the space was revealed to be great.
We’ve had many deliveries within the last few days. The first of these included type cabinets from urbanfox letterpress, some wooden type, spacers, ink…and a large yellow hazardous materials cabinet that is currently sitting in the English department reception!
Last Friday lunchtime the room continued its transformation as new flooring was fitted. This development came just in time for the delivery of our three iron presses from The Logan Press, and also of the historic Gent press from Scarborough Museums.
The arrival of the presses today was one of the most exciting moments of the project so far. We were able to see how the iron presses we bought in June had been beautifully restored by The Logan Press and it was fascinating to watch all the parts come together to build the three presses you can see in the photos below.
The hectic day of deliveries continued with the kind loan of the early 18th-century wooden common press, once owned by York printer Thomas Gent, from Scarborough Museums. The arrival of this press means we are now able measure the final pieces of the Gent press and complete the plans of our own reproduction wooden common press.
These recent developments mean we can now move on with many of our plans, from printing to common press construction, but it has also offered up a moment to reflect on what we have achieved in a relatively short space of time. There is still a lot to do, move into the studio and tweaks to be made on all the presses, but we are now custodians of a historic press and room D/L/051 is home to a (soon to be) working printing studio!
A big thanks to The Logan Press for your work today and to Scarborough Museums for loaning us the Gent press. I’d also like thank everyone who has subscribed to this blog and those following our journey on Instagram and Twitter – it is so wonderful to see your engagement and enthusiasm towards our project.
Last week we went to the University of Leeds for the final in a series of conferences on letterpress printing. The previous three events had addressed The State of Historical Letterpress, Using Letterpress and Letterpress in the Digital Age; this time the focus was on Letterpress Printing: Past, Present, Future.
The conference featured key note lectures by Will Hill, Johanna Drucker, and Dafi Kühne to explore the survival and revival of letterpress today. Hill talked of fixity and materiality in print and the digital era and of popular phrases that transcend printing – it certainly ‘made an impression’ and showed how print is an environment for the making of meaning. The concept of value in letterpress was explored in many of the talks, including Drucker’s introduction to her life and creation of innovative letterpress books in the Bay Area. The beautiful and experimental books push conceptual parameters with a freedom from the traditional rules of face and spacing for aesthetic purposes. Her work has been fully digitalised and can be viewed at artistsbookonline.org.
To end the two day event Kühne, a graphic designer and letterpress print maker, talked us through the processes behind his work and how he overcomes problems (one example can be viewed in this entertaining video).
On the first day representatives from the heritage sector took questions from the audience. We discussed the idea of a national printing museum and how it could represent all kinds of print – from a broader historical narrative to technical information and backgrounds on early printers. This highlighted an interest in lesser known personal narratives, resonating with our aim to share the story of Thomas Gent at the Thin Ice Press. The debate between archival preservation and museum demonstration also showed how many people, both on the panel and in the audience, believed it is imperative to use these machines alongside teaching the history of print. This resonates with our aim at the Thin Ice Press to preserve and teach the printing process today in order to preserve how knowledge was disseminated in the past.
There were many more wonderful presentations on all aspects of letterpress, such as Naomi Kent’s on ‘Process not Product,’ in which she talked us through the processes behind her own work and how she took inspiration from 19th century decorative printers such as Albert Schiller. Seth Gottlieb, a member of the Thin Ice Press team, gave a talk titled ‘Letterpress printing: Enhancing STEM Curricula Through Practice-Based Research.’ It explored the use of teaching letterpress (outside the usual confines of history and design) to show how the tools and processes involved in printing provide useful lessons for STEM students to evolve their understanding of machinery and production. Such ideas were not seen anywhere else at the conference and, though the topic appeared unusual at first, the focus was incredibly fitting. It also gave an insight into his previous work at Rochester Institute of Technology, where he had worked with a team to build a late-eighteenth century common press. Our project at the Thin Ice Press would be impossible without his knowledge so it was amazing to gain a greater insight into his past work.
There was also the opportunity to view samples of work created by the speakers. This was another exciting aspect of the conference, a way of engaging with established members of the letterpress community, and something else we can look forward to creating at the Thin Ice Press.
At the end of the final day we even had an impromptu tour of the printshop at the University of Leeds and at Leeds Arts University. It was very useful to view these spaces to pick up tips on organisation and studio layout…and of course to marvel at the presses.
I’d like to say a big thank you to https://letterpress.leeds.ac.uk/ and all conference speakers from the team at the Thin Ice Press. It was wonderful to meet members of the letterpress community, discover new ways of getting involved and the many ways of preserving the art of letterpress.
Last week we welcomed an Adana 8×5 to the Thin Ice Press. Below you can see some photos of the team gathered round our new press as we set it up and the first ever imprint!
After viewing a wide range of presses at The Logan Press we began to realise how amazing it would be to own machines from different eras, allowing us to chart letterpress history. As the Adana is the first and most modern of our press collection it will allow us to extend that vision all the way from the 1700’s, with our common press, into the 1950’s with the Adana.
During our visit to The Logan Press we ordered three large iron presses so decided it would also be a good idea to have a more portable press, as the smallest iron press may be called a ‘table top’ Albion but it is far harder to transport in comparison to the much smaller Adana.
This will allow us to move the Adana around the University and even transport it to events – so we can tell people about the Thin Ice Press and the future of the project with a press alongside! Our first opportunity to try this out happened last weekend as the Adana arrived just in time for the University of York open days. We set it up in the English Department foyer so we could offer prospective students the exciting opportunity of hands on engagement with our first press, alongside chatting about the printing history of York and our future plans for the letterpress studio.
It was brilliant to see how much enthusiasm was created by our first and smallest press – we can’t imagine how excited people will be to see the finished studio and other presses! Follow our Twitter and Instagram for more project updates and a big thank you from the Thin Ice Press team to Caslon for the speedy delivery of our Adana.