Friday, May 25, 2012

Trending towards the Warm - Surtex and Letterpress Printing

In anything to do with design for commercial purposes TRENDS is the big word - what's not just new, but what will be new and important in the upcoming year or season. I spent a couple of days at the big Art and Design trade shows in New York this week - Surtex for licensing design and The National Stationery Show for - yes - stationery, etc. I was there because my art was there - at Surtex with my agent Montage Licensing. It was a great opportunity to meet people and get ideas - and of course, to hear about what's trending for 2013. Some of it seemed obvious - concern with green products, soothing colors and textures to combat the anxiety of this troubled world - but it was also interesting to have the perceptions coming from professional trend readers. More creativity, more home craftiness, warmer, more personal environments - one predicted a backing away from sterile, cold minimalism with a consequent move to home spaces where we can cuddle, grow plants even in urban settings, and make things with our hands. It may sound like the 60's, but it looks really new and fresh - the standards for quality are a lot higher now. Roaming the vast Javits Center where the shows took place, I found a lot of evidence to back up this trend - in the licensing show a nice shift towards more drawing, breaking the recent monopoly of flat Photoshop patterning (especially nice for me, as my work is all about drawing - though I use Photoshop and love it!) and a lot of quirky, personal fun in the work of many artists. A big trend, right in line with the prediction, was all over the stationery show - letterpress printing! It's hard to get much more hands on than printing cards and notes one at a time with hand-cut plates and hand-set type on a simple platen press. I once had one of these when I was a small-time limited edition publisher - my partner and I set our own type, I cut wood engravings for illustrations, and we turned out - slowly - some very beautiful things. It was a treat to see so much letterpress printing at the show and really exciting to meet the crop of printers, many of them young, enterprising women with a love of the tactile, graphic possibilities and of the messy process itself! Allison Baer of The Lettuce Press, from Portland, Oregon, had a charming booth with tiny plants sprinkled around to accent her clean clever designs - we laughed about the 'clean' nature of the graphics, as she is covered in printer's ink when her work is in process. She draws the art and has it cut into plastic plates, then prints each card one at a time. She also pointed out the deep print of her impressions on the rich thick paper she uses, citing it as a signature of 'new' letterpress that stands in contrast to flat featureless mechanical printing or digital text. Next door to her booth, Emily Harris of The Victory Special Press creates designs using antique wood type, another variation on the new/historical approach. A number of the letterpress printers were showing together under the umbrella of Ladies of Letterpress, an international group that cites 'non-competitive community' as one of their principles. Their corner was a model of that principle, and it was buzzing with activity. There were 10 different distinctive styles on display - Rondi Vasquez of SixPenny Press does strong abstract designs, Val of Bowerbox Press frames her iconic owls in simple effective arrangements, Donatella Madrigal of Tella Press uses a mix of type and graphics - but the medium gave the booth a unified aesthetic that was very pleasing. Each printer was on hand to explain her particular methods and ideas and each was an articulate and charming spokesperson. In the midst of this gigantic trade fair the warmth and personal nature of these women and their work could be a compelling argument for a trend towards a more helpful, cooperative world at large.
Thanks to the artists for images from their website. Photos from Surtex and The National Stationery Show by Marilyn MacGregor
(video clip with working press)


Waseem said...

Is it possible to use letterpress technique in plastic card printing...thanks you share it.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing such valuable information.

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