Watertown artist talks Letterpress Guild of New England 30th anniversary

The Letterpress Guild of New England (LGNE) will celebrate its 30th year with a juried exhibit of nearly 100 letterpress printed broadsides (posters) from the U.S. and Britain between August 30 and September 30, at the Arsenal Center for the Arts. The exhibit represents handset work by professionals as well as enthusiastic hobbyists: printer promotions, concert posters, poetry, general advertising and typographic designs.

 A reception on Saturday, September 8, from 1 – 4:00PM, will feature a talk by master printer John Kristensen of Firefly Pres. In addition, a member from the Museum of Printing in North Andover will demonstrate the printing of keepsakes on a Pearl platen press, manufactured by Boston’s Golding Co. in the late 19th century.

One of the LGNE’s founding member’s, Leslie Evans, helped answer questions for the Tab about letterpress prints.

Q: How long have you been working with letterpress and how did you get your start? When did you join LGNE?

A: I was introduced to letterpress as part of a typography class while a student at Rhode Island School of Design. As a printmaking major I set type for my book degree project, and also used the Vandercook press for printing Film Society posters and woodcut prints. Several years later I took a summer workshop with Ray Nash, a retired Dartmouth Graphic Arts professor, at his farm in Vermont. A small group of students studied the history of printing in the mornings in his library, then worked on our projects in the barn studio in the afternoons. That experience confirmed my wish to establish my own letterpress studio. After moving to Watertown, I eventually bought a press and began collecting other equipment from shops that were shutting their letterpress operations. My press is an old Vandercook proof press originally used to proof linotype. It is a cylinder press that is hand-cranked thus producing one print at a time. I primarily use the press to print my artwork for my illustration business including children’s books, advertising and exhibit graphics. I also print limited edition prints of my wood engravings, linoleum woodcuts.
I was a founding member of LGNE, which was established in 1982 initially as a networking opportunity for local letterpress printers. The group’s activities eventually expanded to include press visits, classes, lectures and equipment swaps and swoops (group purchases).

Q:What is so unique about the letterpress posters?

A: In this digital age, the letterpress posters refer back to a hand crafted approach to design. The printers in the exhibition range from seasoned professionals to enthusiastic hobbyists working with metal and wood type, linoleum and wood cut, polymer plates and even Lego blocks as relief surfaces for printing. The raised image is pressed into the paper, which brings a tactile quality to the poster unmatched by digital technology.

Q:How much of your art will be on display?

A: I printed the promotional poster for the show and will have 3 other posters in the show.

Q: What should people attending the show expect? What will happen there?

A: The opening reception for the exhibition is on Saturday, September 8 from 1 – 4pm. The featured speaker is John Kristensen, proprietor of Firefly Press in Boston. An Emmy award-winning profile of John, produced by Chuck Kraemer, was featured on WGBH’s Greater Boston, and has proved to be a popular YouTube video online. He will speak on the topic “Everything old is new again” at 2pm. There will also be members from the Museum of Printing in North Andover, MA printing keepsakes on an antique Pearl Press. The Pearl is an apt choice as it was manufactured by Golding and Company in the Fort Hill section of Boston in the late nineteenth century. I, unknowingly, worked as an art director at a design studio in one of their former buildings when I first arrived in Boston. Those buildings have since been replaced by International Place.


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