Letterpress / MCLA

Congrats Spring 2012 Graduation Art Majors!

PRESS & Co. sends out big congratulations to the graduating art majors of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and encourages the public to attend the exhibition opening of, “Coming up Next! MCLA’s Emerging Artist’s”. The exhibition will be showing the artwork of nine graduating MCLA students and is coordinated by Melanie Mowinski. The exhibition opening will be at Gallery 51 on April 26 from 5-7, and runs to through May 27.

One of the graduating seniors is PRESS’s own Gallery Manager Pamela Buchanan! Congratulations Pam, we are so proud of your hard work and creative vision!

Below you can find a slide show of Pam’s “Black & Blue” Series and an excerpt from her Artist Statement and Technical Notes about her experiences with the technique of pressure printing on the Letterpress for her final student project.

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Pam Buchanan – “BLACK & BLUE”


“Black & Blue” is a series of twelve experimental pressure prints representing the sequential escalation of domestic violence.  In creating these images, my aim was to show how being a victim of domestic abuse can start from childhood and progress throughout relationships to the point where the victim anticipates the violent behavior.  I also wanted to portray how human hands can be tools of aggression.


“This project was a means for me to experiment with the technique of pressure printing on a Vandercook Universal III letterpress printer.  I wanted to manipulate certain aspects of the process in order to see what kind of results I could get.  I also wanted to print with two colors to test how I could produce results where both colors are relatively visible.

Pressure printing is done by making a relief collage called a matrix.  That matrix is then run through the letterpress with a blank piece of paper on top.  On the bed of the letterpress is an inked plate which comes into contact with the blank paper.  As the papers are rolled through the press, the relief collage leaves an impression on the blank paper and the image is printed.

I created three sets of matrixes made from 2-ply cardstock with which to print from.  The first set was done by cutting away the negative space around the images and building up detailed areas by adhering shapes cut from copy paper.  These were printed on top of a solid blue background with black ink.  The second set of matrixes was constructed by building up the images and details with copy paper on top of the cardstock.  Again, each matrix was printed over a blue background with black ink.  For the third set of matrixes, I inverted the cutout images, leaving just the negative space.  These were printed once with blue ink.  I then used the first set of matrixes to print over those in black.

Printing each set produced different and somewhat unexpected actions and results.  I found myself making a lot more of pressure adjustments than expected in order to achieve the two color effect.  I also encountered problems with registration because my papers weren’t cut perfectly squared.  I was surprised with the murkier tone produced with the first set of matrixes since I thought the details would show through more, especially if printing with additional pressure.  I was equally astounded by how more details came through with printing the second set of matrixes because the details appeared clearly although I used a lightweight paper to define them and much less pressure to print.

Overall, I am happy to have conducted this experiment and would like to try printing other types of matrixes in multiple colors again.  I would also like to create a companion piece at some time in the future depicting the de-escalation of domestic violence in a romantic relationship.”

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