I was reading yesterday on a forum where a linocut printer had raised the issue about letterpress printers misusing of tags on etsy listings and saying that it may be misleading to some people that are apparently not in the know about letterpress printing and what actually constitutes a letterpress print.
If something is printed using a letterpress machine of some sort, does that not make it letterpress printed ?
Above: My Adana letterpress table top machine
I just find it amusing that people think that something can only be letterpress if it has a stupid amount of impression on your type and paper, yes it is something that differentiates letterpress from other sort of printing but it isn't the only thing.
I am a letterpress printer and carved my own blocks for printing out of lino and print them using my letterpress table top machine, I personally think that this is closer to the original letterpress blocks once used hundreds of years ago, than the computer generated photo polymer plates most people are using and calling letterpress, just because a print doesn't have deep impression doesn't make it any less a letterpress print.
When I was doing my apprenticeship as a commercial printer running large windmill presses it was considered very bad workmanship to have any impression shown on a piece of paper that you had printed. it took great skill, knowledge and patience to prints something without any impression showing on a page, that would be evenly printed and be a legible piece of printing .
Above : bookplates a mix of linocut block and handset lead letterpress type
There have been carved blocks used in this type of print right from the invention of printing and the printing press, I don't see anywhere that it is said there were photo polymer plate making machines in use in the 15th century but there is loads of info on handcarved block for printing as this was all they had.
That being said I don't have a problem with the use of modern technology regarding design and printing I think it is wonderful, I just choose to go down a more traditional route in my work.
Above: A mix of lino blocks and photo polymer plates.
I just don't agree with people saying that what I create is less than what other people are making and calling letterpress, when they don't have any idea how much
Linocut block ready for printing & engraving tool
time,work and care goes into carving out my designs, setting handset type and printing one impression at a time.
That being said whenever I list something on etsy I always state that it is and original linocut block that has been printed on a letterpress machine so that people can decide if they want to purchase a print or not.
I guess it all comes down to personal preference and what you consider to be letterpress but I don't have any problems with calling work I have printed on my letterpress machine a piece of letterpress work
Linocut printed greeting card, printed on my Adana letterpress machine.
yes I agree that some of the tagging people use can be misleading but I don't know if they are trying to be misleading or if they personally don't really know the difference between traditional letterpress and something that is designed on a computer and is made into a plate, but then I guess most people don't care as long as it looks good and it had the deep impression that they now assume is how it should be.
Deep impression is a relatively new thing to be accepted and I guess people have been re-educated to think that if there isn't a heap of impression then it can't be letterpress.
letterpress debossed notecards
I have lots of people at markets running their fingers across my work and looking puzzled when they don't feel it, this can be very disheartening for me because it is like they are not even considering whether they actually like the image but want to buy a piece of dented paper bit funny really I think !
Original linocut, letterpress printed om my Adana table top press.
but hey each to their own and people will buy what the like regardless. :)