It was lovely to see so many new and familiar faces at the calendar-making studio party on New Year’s Day. Jam-packed! Noisy! Scraps of paper flying, gluestick supply running perilously low (then unexpectedly supplemented by a friend in a total deus-ex-machina swoop, woo-hoo!) muffin crumbs sneaking into everything. Miraculously, no orange juice was spilled on anyone’s calendar as far as I am aware, and only one finger was burnt (slightly!) on the hot part of the hot-foil stamper. Success!

We printed the days and months on the Vandercook, of course, and since several people asked me how the printing plate was made, I am going to assume that it is a topic of interest and describe the process here. First, I asked my good friend Jocelyn to do the layout for me: I gave her the dimensions (to fit within a 6 by 9 inch rectangle) and the typeface I preferred (Gills Sans), and she laid it out digitally and then sent the file to another friend, Richard. He made a negative of Jocelyn’s file, and here it is:

 Then he laid the negative, upside-down (so that the type was backwards, which you need if it is going to be right-way-round once it’s being printed) on top of a blank photopolymer plate (which is to say, a thin sheet of steel with a thickish coating of a light-sensitive polymer plastic on it) and exposed the plate/negative sandwich  to a specific strength of light for a specific amount of time. This light hardened the soft plastic where it was exposed through the blank bits of the negative (the numbers, and names of the month) but where the black emulsion of the negative protected the plastic from the light, it remained soft and could be washed away with warm water. Voila! The plate, on the press the day of the calendar printing party:

However, remember I said ‘a thin sheet of steel’? This press was not built to print thin things; it was built to print type, or anything the same thickness/height from the bed of the press as type. Here’s a photo of the plate, edge-on, and one of it next to a nice chunky piece of type. Big difference! (Sharp-eyed readers with an eye for typography may recognize that R from the Mr. Mopps 50th birthday poster).

To get the printing surface of the plate up to the height of the surface of a piece of type, we need to mount it on something. My photopolymer-plate-printing base is magnetic: a milled piece of aluminum with a magnetic sheet stuck to the top surface. The steel backing of the photopolymer plate sticks to it, holding the plate at the height needed, placed wherever on the base I want it.

So: plate made, press inked, paper cut, coffee brewing, doors open!

To the (deliberately) bland printed calendars, folks added pochoirrubber stamps carved from erasers,

collage,

colored pencil, and hot-foil stamping.

Most gloriously, all of the above and more. But I have no photos of those multi-media productions; they were carried away by their (justifiably) proud creators. If you or anyone in your family has one of them pinned to your wall, send me a jpeg and I’ll post it here.

Friends new and old, tasty muffins, art: my year is off to the best possible start. Best wishes to you and yours for a productive, creative and satisfying year!

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