A letterpress diary
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After a summer without our annual LPW pilgrimage to Milan, it was a relief and a delight to be offered the opportunity meet up and work again with fellow letterpress printers in Leipzig (Germany).
With the global impact of Covid-19 I had not been able to leave the Canary Islands since January 2020. Although traveling would not be as comfortable as usual – it’s not the same under ‘lock-down’ conditions (masks, gloves, anti-bacterial hand wash etc), it was somehow still a kind of relief for me to be able to journey to Germany – firstly, to see my family and then to be able to join the printing workshop in Leipzig.
While normally the LPW summit is affected by the quite hot summer climate of Milan, we were lucky enough that in Leipzig we could enjoy an ‘Altweibersommer’ – sunny days, with pleasant, comfortable temperatures. It was a great setting which included an outside courtyard of the museum that acted as a meeting point for our breaks in between printing and an ideal space to catch up with people, discuss prints and share impressions.
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Wednesday 30th September
Day one in Leipzig – Clara Marie Thöne and Thomas Siemon received us with open arms. And throughout the day more and more familiar faces started to appear in the Museum of the Printing Arts, Leipzig.
The focus of our attention (and excitement) was the printing presses in the huge workshop of the museum. This would be our place of work for the following three days.
After a small Aperitif (as is tradition for all LPW events) Thomas gave us a tour throughout the different spaces of the museum. The collection is not only dedicated to keeping the art of composing and printing with letterpress alive, but also has a working archive of machinery for type casting and manufacture, maintaining the materials to do so.
At the end of day we went to a nearby restaurant at the river side of the ‘Weiße Elster’ and enjoyed the local food.
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Thursday 1st October
We started the day with a team meeting – planning the print project, working in teams of two. Responding to the theme: Keep Moving.
We used a Heidelberg Cylinder as our elected production tool – choosing to make an LPW newspaper in an edition of 500 copies. Each pair of printers had two pages to design and print. The composing was done in the first floor under supervision of Dieter Seppelt a staff member of the museum. We were all afforded access the museum’s archive for our project – a huge collection of metal and wood type, and were even able to cast ornaments and lines on the monotype caster in the museum.
In the afternoon the exhibition opened, visitors were invited to attend, welcomed by the director of the museum, Dr Susanne Richter. “From Futura to Future. International Letterpress Workers” Exposition – showcasing the work of eight years of Letterpress printing.
The opening was accompanied by four short presentations – different projects from within the fraternity of Letterpress workers.
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Friday 2nd October
The workshop of the museum turned into a very active printshop! Besides working with the Heidelberg Cylinder for the long run edition, we also had access to a couple of proof presses – a FAG 400 x 600mm and a huge GRAFIX 1040 x 810mm. Producing a special edition of fifty magazines including a dust jacket and an extra inlay.
With the mix of concentrated printing in the workshop and relaxing talks in the museum yard the day passed very quickly. In the afternoon, we had some time for more public presentations – interesting letterpress projects.
In the evening Thomas and Julienne invited us to their printshop CARPE PLUMBUM in the old textile factory “Spinnerei” where they had prepared a delightful buffet. Another enjoyable evening was had by all.
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Saturday 3rd October
We continued printing throughout most of the day – with the addition of one more member from Milan joining the team. Another welcome face – Giacomo Silva had come to say hello from Italy!
By the evening, after three hard days of printing the edition of the newspaper was finally complete – we gathered together in the Museum’s courtyard and celebrated with wine, beer and pizza.
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Sunday 4th October
The LPW team came together for the final day – cleaning up the debris from three days of printing and returning type and furniture into their respective cases. We packaged the prints for safe transportation and it was time to say goodbye. It had been a wonderful and inspiring experience. We could not be more thankful to the museum’s staff who did a great job in taking care of us and hosting the event.
Sadly due to COVID-19 quite a lot of our fellow Letterpress Workers, who had originally planned to join us in Leipzig had to cancel. On Saturday we had a ‘virtual tour’ of the museum and exhibition space – linking to LPW members via Zoom in Holland, UK, Poland, Italy, USA and Belgium. It was great to see everyone (albeit on screen) but sad we could not all be physically together.
Everyone is really are looking forward to celebrating our next meeting – Milan 2021 when we can all be together, once again.
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LPW 2020 – Leipzig Printers:
• Luise Bartels • Matthias Beck • Marc Berger • Francesca Colonia • Annegret Frauenlob • Mr & Mrs Hosoyama
• Julienne Jattiot • Claudio Madella • Aurelia Markwalder • David Maurissen • Mr & Mrs Passerini • Thomas Siemon • Giacomo Silva
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Picture Credits: • Clara Marie Thöne • Mattias Beck