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.

Yorkshire Dales

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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The Print Studio & Press Arrival

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.

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D/L/051 at the University of York…soon to be The Print Studio
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The team in D/L/051 at the University of York

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!

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Deliveries piling up…I think everyone in the department reception will be as excited to have these items set up in the print studio as we are!

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.

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Work begins to transform D/L/051 into The Print Studio
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The flooring is down
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Shiny new door…soon to be changed to ‘The Print Studio’

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.

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The eagle (a counterweight) from our Colombian press

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Our 1838 Columbian press assembled by The Logan Press
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1847 tabletop Albion
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The smaller Albion seemed a lot easier to assemble in comparison to the Columbian
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Arab presses were designed to be supplied in parts (like flat-pack furniture of today)

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1838 Columbian, 1847 tabletop Albion and a 1926 Arab joining our Adana 8×5 at Thin Ice Press (Adana not pictured)

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.

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The disassembled 18th-century 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.