INSIDER: FIRST-TIME LETTERPRESS CLASS

What to Expect in First-Time LETTERPRESS CLASS

There’s a first time for everything. In this series, we introduce you to Lillstreet’s First-Time ARTIST Classes. We love, love, LOVE this lineup of classes, because they are designed with a passion. At Lillstreet, we’re a community. We’re newbies working alongside pros, and our First-Time Classes uphold the fundamental purpose we’re here: to create a space for all artists.

You will always find a place to start at Lillstreet. If you’re brand new to a medium (or art in general) this is the perfect place to embark on that adventure. We all start somewhere, sometime, and these classes are designed to help you master the basics. Each four-or five-week introductory course allows students with no previous experience to connect with an experienced teaching artist, explore different media and meet others new to the craft. We promise you’ll learn new techniques in a no-pressure, supportive environment.

View our current First-Time Letterpress schedule and availability here

Welcome to First-Time LETTERPRESS

What is a letterpress anyway? Letterpress originated in the 1400s and for centuries was the primary form of printing and communication. It served as the primary method of publishing books for over 500 years. Over time it has evolved into an art form moreso than a standard printing practice. In the late 1980s, letterpress printing experienced a revival among small printers who still wanted that tactile, quality feel that offset printing cannot provide. Today, we’re in the throes of that revival. Thousands of independent letterpress shops of all sizes are popping up to crank out bespoke wedding invitations, greeting cards, posters, business cards and printed ephemera. From Pinterest to Etsy, there is no lack of inspiration created by independent artists and designers. During this 5-week introductory course, you’ll explore both classic letterpress techniques and contemporary practices on different types of presses.

This class focuses on the fundamentals necessary to explore both classic letterpress techniques and contemporary practices on different types of presses. This technique uses movable type to create an impression on the paper when printed. Projects are designed to showcase type, color and the printed form. We dive in to group and individual assignments. What’s more, is once you know the technical aspects, you can explore your creative abilities, test out your new printing knowledge and embark on new creative projects.

WHAT YOU NEED: No supplies or skills required. COME AS YOU ARE. 
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Week 1: GROUP PROJECT & THE VANDERCOOK CYLINDER PRESS

The first week starts with introductions and a tour of our sunny, third-floor studio. A pro-printer-teaching-artist will give you the run down of our extensive collection of machines, inks, wood types and capabilities. We start with a full explanation of printed samples (to get your wheels spinning) and the group project commences. As a class, you’ll lock up type and print on a Vandercook cylinder proof press. Day one includes demos on oil-based ink pulling.

Plus, you’ll learn the fundamentals on how to care for and clean the Vandercook. Why is all this important? Don’t forget our classes offer free studio time. Having a working knowledge of our equipment is essential in order to oversee your projects outside of class time.

(Psst: What’s a Vandercook Press? Sounds fancy because it is. In September 1909, Robert Vandercook founded Vandercook & Sons right here in Chicago, Illinois. They were first to develop a geared proof press, a machine capable of providing the industry with high-quality proofs from metal types and photoengravings (read: the height of tech and innovation at the turn of the Century, the Komori Lithrone of its time). For the next fifty years Vandercook & Sons set the global manufacturing standard. In the 1960s, offset lithography became all the rage in commercial printing. So printers began decommissioning their letterpress equipment. Replaced commercially, but not forgotten by artists and hobbyists, the Vandercook presses were adopted by the latter for short-run edition printing and are arguably the press of choice for fine press printers and book artists.)

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Week 2: SETTING METAL TYPE

Letterpress printing uses two types of…well, type. There’s wood and there’s metal, and both are moveable and hand set.  In week two, we talk about the differences and commonalities. You’ll compose one line of metal type using composing sticks, then create a group project. We’ll demo printing on Chandler & Price Pilot platen press and learn about the ace of all organizers: the California job case. Plus, your personal projects start here and now!

Did you know that “to mind your p’s and q’s” refers to hand-setting type…as in letterpress? Lowercase p and q are easy to confuse as they are often mirror image in many typefaces.
JUDY ZEDDIES, PRINTMAKER & DEPT. DIRECTOR
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Week 3: Non-linear Lockup & Hand inking

This week, it’s time to shake things up and let loose (while still staying locked up, of course). We move on to discussions of color and ink, talking about opaque vs. transparent, layering and overlapping. We’ll learn non-linear lock-up including the use of types, borders ornaments, linocuts and commercial cuts. Imaginations can run wild now with these skills! You’ll print in multiple colors and refine your ideas for final personal projects.

 

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Week 4: PRESSURE PRINTING & MONOTYPE

We’ll take a demo of pressure printing (an alternative image-making technique by which a flexible plate  is placed behind the press sheet and run over a type-high, inked surface). Then you’ll learn monotype techniques for letterpress, and we take time for personal projects because THERE’S ONLY ONE CLASS LEFT!

 

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Week 5: PROJECTS + PRINT + PARTY

Our last day is a combination of personal endeavors and celebrating with a new community of fellow printmakers. You’ll lock up those final projects and everyone will show and tell. We’ll talk about what we’ve learned and what’s next. Maybe First-Time Letterpress left a great impression and you’re ready to knock-out a new class. (Trust us, by week 5, you’ll get all the puns!) Advancing into the medium is easy with beginner, multilevel and advanced classes.

FOLLOW LILLSTREET PRINTMAKING & BOOK ARTS ON INSTAGRAM.

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ABOUT LILLSTREET’S PRintMAKING DEPARTMENT:
Explore printmaking and handmade books in our fully-equipped studio. Letterpress and bookbinding complement techniques such as etching, relief and screenprinting. Get creative with traditional, contemporary and experimental approaches to printmaking. With generous open studio time and non-toxic inks and solvents, printmaking has something for students of all skill levels. Open Studio is included with tuition. Lillstreet offers art classes in Ravenswood, Chicago. You’ll find us at the corner of Montrose and Ravenswood. Get to know us>>
Find a PRINTMAKING Class
View all First-Time Classes

Stay tuned for more insights into our First-Time classes in Chicago. In the mean time, what are you waiting for? Get over here and letterpress your heart out with us. Resolve to create fearlessly in

About the author

Kate Bek

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By Kate Bek

Location

4401 N. Ravenswood Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640

OFFICE/GALLERY HOURS:

Mon-Thurs: 10am-7:30pm
Fri-Sat: 10am-6pm
Sun: 10am-5pm

About Lillstreet

Founded in 1975, Lillstreet Art Center is a large community of artists and students working side-by-side in a friendly environment which encourages and inspires artistic growth in the individual. Lillstreet Art Center supports the arts through our education program, artist residencies, gallery exhibitions and retail sales opportunities, studio rentals, and arts-based professional development.

Get in touch

P: 773.769.4226
E: lillstreet@lillstreet.com
W: lillstreet.com