Letterpress / Printing

Karen Arp-Sandel visits PRESS again!

Karen worked with me at PRESS again today. What great fun I have when she comes! We talk and share creative ideas and get all excited about making cool stuff. And inevitably we both come away with learning something. Today I taught her how to set type. She learned that upper and lower case letters became known as that because they used to be stored in the upper and lower cases in the type cabinets. She held a composing stick and used  ems, ms, ns, quads and other spacing to adjust her kerning and lead slugs to adjust her line spacing. She pulled type and then distributed it back into their appropriate compartments of the California job case. (Go HERE to find out more about the California job case and upper/lower cases.)

We at PRESS are fairly limited in our type selection. We have Helvetica 16 point and Caslon Old Style 36 pt. We don’t have a slug cutter, we are slowly accumulating tools and type. But Karen did not let that stop her. She came with a plan that mixed the two faces and was determined to make it work within our limitations. She chose a poem from Mary Oliver. A poem that I could live in, and sometimes feels like my own life.

Sleeping in the Forest 
I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.
from Sleeping In The Forest by Mary Oliver
© Mary Oliver


Below is a proof from one of the sections of the poem–we spent about 15 minutes doing the “make-ready” or making the needed adjustments, like switching out worn letters, changing the spacing between words and adding missing letters/punctuation, in order to get a near perfect print. She’ll finish it sometime next week. It was fun to watch her, and I’ve added some things to my wish list (slug cutter, additional spacing, lead slugs)  so that I can make her process easier one day.

One thought on “Karen Arp-Sandel visits PRESS again!

  1. This says it all- and my pix fill in the blanks! Reflecting upon this experience it reminds me so much of Buddhist Meditation found in Buddhist Sand Paintings.
    It IS a beautiful poem, and recreating it letter by letter, is a deep experience. It is living the poem.
    Loved your reflections M, Thanks again and again, karen

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