Print Process –Russell Frost Hooksmith Press, a letterpress Printshop in East London, UK
Russell’s work provides a perfect example of an artist working in the absence of the digital. We are lucky enough to have been sent three stunning pieces designed specifically for our exhibition. If you have moment, have a read of what Russell has to say…
“Letterpress (printing with individual characters of moveable type) was developed, in 1450’s Germany, by Gutenberg & Fust.
This invention allowed mass-production of quality books cheaply and information much more freely accessible to the masses. Prior to the printing press any books would be hand written by scribes.
This style of printing with moveable type remained relatively unchanged and has been widespread around the globe for roughly 500 years.
Offset printing technologies earlier in the 20th Century started the demise of this type of printing and then digital printing (including home printing) from the 1980’s onwards saw all but the extinction of letterpress printing. Most equipment was permanently destroyed and metal was sold for the price of scrap (lead type and cast iron presses).
I recently met a printer in New Zealand who had given the last of his metal type to the local pistol club for melting into bullets, though it could just as easily have been made into sinkers for fishing. Stories exist of wood type burning out the back of printing works for weeks at the end of the letterpress reign, or being taken home by the workers to heat their homes.
Thankfully artisan presses have kept the technology and processes alive supplying the bookart trade and fine bespoke stationary and posters market. Most recently there has been a small revival of the small craft-printer here in the UK and in the US, and art schools and universities in some cases are installing letterpress printing facilities.
At the Hooksmith Press an eclectic assemblage of printing equipment has been collected and scavenged from all corners of the globe and includes woodtype, metal type, proofing presses and a small hand operated platen press.
The past 3 years of printing matters so much that most of my type and presses have crossed the globe twice and moved house 3 times (wouldn’t really recommend it!).
I feel privileged to have been able to build a working collection of recovered printing equipment. This equipment allows me to compose new work with antiquated blocks, wood and metal type, a kind of rebirth, which I refer to as ‘daylighting’.
There is something special in the absence of a computer to produce these works
I am still building my woodtype collection and am always appreciative of any leads on old equipment.
One of my Cylinder proofing presses is so heavy that a previous would be salvager only managed to remove the cylinder from the press and move it only a couple of metres out of the then owners shed. A year or two went by and the cylinder sat out in the weather in her garden. During this time the owner confessed to having used it as an outside brassier toasting marshmallows on a fire lit within the cylinder cavity. Luckily the fire was left to burn out and not quickly extinguished by hose, which would have certainly cracked the cast iron rendering it useless.
The 3 works for this exhibition respond to the current horsemeat contamination scandal. Partly tongue and cheek, they are relevant to the Printed Matter Exhibition as at the heart of the fiasco is labeling. In this case being printed did not guarantee the truth.
All works have been hand set using moveable woodtype and old advertising blocks. Once locked up they are referred to as a form. Hand inking with a brayer or roller is then done prior to printing on the cylinder press. Great pressure is applied and ‘make-ready’ is undertaken to ensure even impression and inking on the printed page. As a result there are slight variations between every printed piece. Where several colours are used as in the print ‘241’, this represents multiple feeding of the printed piece into the press.
I hope you enjoy these works as much as I enjoyed collecting the pieces, concocting, composing and printing them.
SOLD THE FARM
(2013_ 110gsm archival paper, Vansons Rubber Ink,)
This is a rework of a much larger poster created in NZ in 2012 with the same name.
The root of meat production on the farm, here was the starting point for my 3 exhibited works.
Originally the advertising block of the Massey Fergusson tractor came from France and was an advert for a newspaper. The French text was carefully cut from the block to leave an iconic tractor, a symbol of primary production – indeed the red tractor logo is found on UK meat packaging and symbolizes traceability.
Whilst not a farming issue per-see, certain UK supermarkets left the scheme in favour of selling cheaper imported meats- further reducing quality and consumer choice. As yet no horsemeat has been found in any red-tractor labelled meats.
The idea of small farms being sold, and absorbed into monoculture with a loss of connection to the land; are perhaps reflected by the Urban Dictionary’s slang definition of ‘Sold the Farm’ as self harm.
(read Two for One – 2013_110gsm archival paper, Vansons Rubber Ink)
Could have been called ‘50% extra free’, or some other fantastical marketing ploy. A play on the old addage that- “if a deal seems too good to be true it probably is”.
Composed using a collection of horse and beef blocks, old wood type and wooden supermarket ad-words from the 1950/60’s purchased from America – the birthplace of the supermarket.
The horse anatomy block comes from a veterinary publication of the 50’s or later and is printed oriented as if hanging from an abattoirs hook, questioning our perception of horses as companion/sporting animals. The similarity to a printed illustration of the choice cuts of a slaughtered beast (cow) is a bit uncanny. BEEF is set upside down illegibly for obvious reasons – turned on its ear and fleshed out. The horse with a cover represents shrouded truth and deceit as it sneaks into the chain.
(2013_110gsm archival paper, Vansons Rubber Ink)
The word Tasty is an old American ad-block, possibly manufactured by the Hamilton Woodtype company from Wisconsin Illinois for the Supermarket Industry.
The composition is a play on the rare-breed, free-ranging organic Farmers Market style of advertising and marketing. The title also hints at the origin of some meat found to be from Romania
The large Clydesdale horse block is likely from a tack or agricultural implement catalogue of the period. Originating in Clyde and exported worldwide as a superior breed for breaking in land and other heavy work from the late 19th-early 20th Century. Downunder the breed is known as the horse that built Australia.”