I was asked to write a post about why I am fixing up an old letterpress in the basement of St. Bernadine.
The truth is, I’m not 100% sure why. I’ve always held a fascination with forgotten technology and had taken the letterpress workshop at W2 about a year before, but in truth, it was a bit of an impulse buy. I was forwarded the link to a Craigslist ad for a letterpress for sale by a friend, Yvon, of Fox and Found press. (Yvon is somewhat of a letterpress Guru, owning 4 presses himself and has been teaching a few of us disciples here at St. B about his presses as well.) Before I knew it, money was sent via PayPal and I was left trying to figure out how to get to Salt Spring Island to pick up my new toy.
My boyfriend and I made the trek to Salt Spring and camped overnight before heading to the house of photographer Mike Gluss to pick up the press. Gluss welcomed us with open arms and 11 am offers of whiskey and beer (in vintage Great Western Beer glasses no less!). We hung out for about an hour and a half listening to travel stories, gawking at his collection of over 500 vintage cameras, and trying to feed his pet deer “Luke”. After that, we took the press back to Vancouver and it’s been in the St. Bernadine basement ever since.
It’s a Excelsior Kelsey tabletop press that will print 5×8 (with a chase) or 6×9 (with a chase base). I’ve been polishing it up, ordering parts, and trying to pretend I know a thing or two about basic machinery. Now the press is nearly ready to run. I only need a chase base, ink, brayers, paper, cleaning solvent, and a sturdy desk to mount it on. I clearly did not know what I was getting into when I made that Craigslist purchase (thank god I never go on ebay). It’s been a lot of elbow grease, money, and time to get this thing going and still not a clear idea of why except simple curiosity. Maybe that’s enough of a reason. Regardless, buying a letterpress has definitely satisfied that. It definitely has been a learning experience every step of the way.
Now the more important question. What to print?