More about the Letterpress Workers International Summit here.
5th July 2018
My final visit was to Tipoteca Italiana in the town of Cornuda, Treviso province. A legendary museum amongst the typography, print and design communities, the collection and archive was established by the Grafiche Antiga print company. Realising that the equipment and expertise of letterpress in Italy was in danger of being entirely lost, the company spent several years travelling the country acquiring materials, all of which is now installed in a former hemp mill (plus the workers’ lodgings and church).
The museum houses an impressive collection of presses and type (1 and 2), but the real jewels are the archive of crafts related to the world of type: typeface design (3), punch engraving (4 and 5), matrix preparation and casting (6 and 7). The Nebiolo foundry and its chief type designer Aldo Novarese are especially well represented.
6 – Nebiolo’s Nebitype caster is at the front
7 – Monotype caster keyboard wall
Combine that rich archive with the collection of type specimen books (8) and graphic art publications (9), and you can see why Tipoteca is so revered internationally.
9 – Archivio Tipografico, Torino, 1905 (L) and Nebiolo type foundry catalogue (R)
There’s also a well-equipped educational print space which functions as one of two production spaces for commissions. Note the smartly dressed printers.
A full rundown of all the different sections of the museum is here on the Tipoteca site. Far better to read it from the source than for me to summarise what is an incredible experience.
One final thanks to a-n for the bursary that facilitated this invaluable learning experience.
3rd July 2018
An important part of my Italian trip was visiting the studios of other artists taking part in Letterpress Workers. Private working spaces are always fascinating: they offer valuable insights into an artist’s work and methods, which in turn feeds back into one’s own practice, both overtly and subconsciously. In Milan, I was fortunate to be invited to visit Lucio Passerini.
Lucio is credited with teaching many of the Novepunti team so perhaps we have him to thank in part for the existence of Letterpress Workers. He established his studio in 1982 and it’s a serene, carefully arranged space.
That sense of measured calm is reflected in Lucio’s beautiful work, which he issues through his Il Buon Tempo imprint. (tr.- “the good time”.) A really interesting feature of his work is a focus on a specific form – it seems almost like a geometric rendering of the human shape, and it repeats throughout his work with letterpress type, linocuts and the wood sculptures that hang on the studio walls (above).
Many thanks to Lucio for his invitation and his time.
4th July 2018
During the Letterpress Workers weekend, I admired the work that Paolo Celotto was making. As the next leg of my trip meant an overnight stop in Treviso, it was a great opportunity to visit Paolo’s studio in a quiet, residential corner of this lovely city. The studio was established five years ago and a large part of the type collection came from Grafiche Vianello, a Treviso printshop that was closing down.
Paolo publishes work through his “nel dubbio stampo” imprint, which I think translates broadly as “if in doubt, print”. Sound advice.
Much of the work so far comes in a chapbook poetry series, with writing mainly from established poets, but also from Paolo himself on occasion.
As with Lucio’s studio, Paolo has taken time and trouble to arrange the space in subtle ways, incorporating unusual elements like these branches. The result is an intriguing, inspiring environment in which to create and produce.
Once again, many thanks to Paolo for his time and hospitality, and also to his intern Deborah for interpreting.
En route to Treviso I stopped off in Verona to visit Lino’s & Co. As well as a print studio, Lino’s is also a retail store stocking a great range of all-letterpress prints, cards and ephemera.
They print all the stock on the premises using a Heidelberg platen (above) and a large-format FTC cylinder proof press (below). Alessandro Bombieri is the house printer and was kind enough to take time out to talk about their work.
A selection of the studio’s work in the print space.
I travelled to Milan last month to participate in the Letterpress Workers International Summit, an annual gathering of letterpress practitioners. It was established in 2012 by the cultural association Officina Tipografica Novepunti (tr: Novepunti Typographic Workshop) and is now an established short-term residence of around 40-50 letterpress artists coming from countries as diverse as Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, the UK, Brazil, Canada and the USA. It takes place at Leoncavallo Spazio Pubblico Autogestito, Milan’s oldest squat, with a space large enough to take 50 eager printers, around 10 simple proof presses, Novepunti’s excellent wood type collection and enough wall space to hang hundreds of prints.
Each artist who attends LPW is expected to be fully involved in thinking, discussion and co-production around an internationally- topical theme each year. This year’s theme was “true or false”. (2017 was “resist”; 2016 was “fear”.) Each day, groups of 3 or 4 people form and their task is to collaboratively produce a new print that explores the themes, each time negotiating approaches, styles and techniques. An edition of 50 must be finished before the day is done!
On my first day, I worked in the collaborative international style with Armina (Armenia/Belgium), Charlotte (Netherlands/Belgium) and Eva (Spain). The collaboration is the really important thing – how to communicate and negotiate through or around any language barriers. In fact, language was the core of our print. Bu also, you need to work around differences in approach. In our group, two were more precise and two worked in a freer style. Will you vary your style, be influenced or try to persuade that your way is best?!
On my second day, the 35 degree heat started to get the better of people. It was a sparser attendance at the start of the day as people took a stroll out to a gallery, hung out in their Air Bnbs or lounged under the shade outside at Leoncavallo. I was willing to risk the temperature and carry on printing, taking the opportunity to make a solo print. Despite having been to Italy around ten times (both on holiday and working on tour with bands), my command of the language is poor. I took some translation advice from one of Team Novepunti to work out “truth” and its “unbreakability”.
Non rotto = unbroken.
La mia verita é indistruttibile = my truths are unbreakable.
As far as I understood, the exact translation for unbroken/unbreakable varies according to context and the latter denotes more of a conceptual truth.
Once the printing is finished, each evening includes dinner together, talks, an auction and then, on the final evening, a sharing of spirits from each participant’s home country/city/region. A great way to share our backgrounds and approaches, and to relax after several days very hot printing. The Icelandic offerings were my preferred tipple.
And then, on the last day, all the editions of 50 prints are laid out for participants to collate their own archive of Letterpress Workers 2018. A huge thank you to the Novepunti team for creating and co-ordinating such an amazing experience.
In advance of each annual Letterpress Workers conference, attendees are invited to contribute to the annual book that chronicles each year and its associated themes. All contributors then receive a copy of the book as a memento of their experience. Previous year’s themes have covered politically-charged topics as ‘Fear’, ‘Resist’ and ‘Hope’. This year’s theme is ‘Embrace’. Here are some images of the typographic piece I designed and printed in my studio.