The Lost Art of the Letterpress

As it may have been mentioned in a previous post, I have been loudly singing the praises of block printing in the Annexe HQ recently. The art of the printing press has been a long standing love of mine and any chance to share it is readily  jumped upon.

Now, while I could bore you batty with an intricate history of printing through the ages, the main reason for this article (and the reason I’ve become a source of annoyance in the HQ) is the discovery of a collection of artists working with block printing today. Are you sitting comfortably, then let’s begin.

Printer’s Block

Printer’s Block is a short film telling the story of Master Printer Robert Warner. Working from his studio, Bowne & Co. in Lower Manhattan, Warner creates paper art that seems to exist in two times. It fills his New York shop and manages to live in a bygone era of nostalgia and vinyl crackles.

As the second largest collection of type and plates in the United States, Bowne & Co. functions not only as a working studio, but also as a museum for a technique that is fast being forgotten. It is a snapshot caught in time of a real peak in artistic technique and creative technology.

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Jack Daniels’ Yee-Haw Poster Documentary

In Knoxville, Tennessee there is a printing studio that is bringing the art of blocking printing back into the world. Yee-Haw Industries has been producing astounding bespoke prints since 1996. This year, Jack Daniels’ commissioned them to create a series of letterpress posters to commemorate the independent spirit of techniques like printing (and whiskey, sure.)

The video shows the incredible precision that each block takes to make and really paints a stunning picture of how this unique artform still holds a powerful place in contemporary art and illustration.

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Physical Fiction’s Lego Letterpress

Whether you think this is a gimmick or not, you cannot deny that it is brilliant.
Sam Cox and Justin LaRosa form the two halves of graphic design team, Physical Fiction. For one of their latest projects they created a fully functioning Lego letterpress.

Due to the design of flat Lego blocks and the nature of the printing ink, the resulting prints have a wonderfully 8-bit aesthetic that oozes nostalgia, albeit a far more contemporary strain than that of the last two presses featured.

I don’t think it’ll be long before this inspired idea is recreated by other Lego/print/geekphemera enthusiasts. It’s too good not to try out at home. But, for now, the praise goes solely to the visionary Physical Fiction. Head over there and snap up a print or two.

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(Damselfly print by Annie Swincinski via Pikaland)
(Printer’s Block via Brain Pickings)
(Physical Fiction via Fast Code Design)

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One response to “The Lost Art of the Letterpress

  1. I’m still learning from you, but I’m making my way to the top as well. I absolutely love reading all that is written on your site.Keep the tips coming. I enjoyed it!

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