Listing frequently asked questions may seem a bit impersonal but hopefully reading the answers below will save both of us time to get on with the things we love.
We happily accept commissions, however there are some important factors that govern our practise and thereby our pricing:
LETTERPRESS IS A SLOW PROCESS
Setting type isn’t the same as typing and arranging it on a computer screen. Every character (and the white space surrounding it) is a physical object which are constructed like building blocks into the final form. Alterations and correcting mistakes all takes time – there’s no ‘delete’ or ‘undo’ involved. We print on hand-pull presses which means that every print is inked individually with a roller, wound into the press and pulled by hand. The quality of the outcome is outstanding but this takes time and skill. It’s also worth remembering that our oil-based inks take at least 24 hours to dry, so jobs of multiple sides and/or colours aren’t quick.
WE ARE AN ARTISAN PRESS, NOT A COMMERCIAL PRINTER
This doesn’t mean we won’t do your job, but if you want it very cheaply and/or in a hurry we’re not the right people to do it. Every job is unique, but as a rule of thumb quantities of above 500 we usually have to decline, but we can recommend some very good letterpress printers who use mechanised presses. We always price jobs honestly based on the time they will take to do well.
WE HAVE AN AMAZING LIBRARY OF FONTS
Where we can we like to set type from our collection by hand. We have hundreds of cases and are keen to keep them in use. If you are looking to print custom artwork, eg logos, illustrations or fonts we don’t have, we will get magnesium plates made, but bear in mind that this comes at an added cost.
COME AND SEE US
We realise this isn’t possible in all cases but we encourage people to visit and see the way we work up close. This gives you a far better idea of the letterpress process and the resulting conversation often helps inform important design decisions.
Cataloguing our font library is a work in progress. Much of our woodtype fonts do not exist in digital form or we haven’t found names or dates for yet. If you are looking to use something specific we will be able to tell you if we have it and, if not, recommend close alternatives. The best thing is to visit if you can, or call.
We are willing to form relationships with designers and work with them to produce graphics for identity and branding projects.
We are a small press and currently have no job vacancies. We do occasionally offer work placements but only when the arrangement is such that it can be mutually beneficial.
Here is a combination of the many replies we have written which you are welcome to use extracts from for educational writing purposes. If these don’t answer your specific query we will try our best to answer it by email but please remember we are a working press and may not have time.
Why do you like letterpress?
We enjoy the physicality of handling type and also the control you can have over the tiniest details of both design and printing. Thinking of type and spacing as physical objects also enables a feeling of construction, like an infinite jigsaw of possibilities. Although the letterpress process is slow, it demands an approach which focusses the design earlier – there is no ‘undo’ button and to change the font or even the size of a text could potentially mean hours of work.
Why has letterpress had a recent surge in popularity?
We don’t honestly know. It could be seen as a response to the digitisation of the modern world, in a similar way to the Arts & Crafts movement’s reaction against industrialisation, or just a passing trend. A great many art colleges sacrificed the letterpress departments and replaced them with computer suites which must be of bitter disappointment to many students nowadays. We try our upmost to keep teaching a part of what we do to pass on knowledge and share the enthusiasm.
What does the future hold for letterpress?
It’s an exciting time for letterpress, as our Reverting to Type exhibition and A23D project showed. The experiments and combinations of modern and historic techniques is producing some fascinating work which we hope to document in another exhibition soon.