The joy of photopolymer plates is that with them you can print letterpress just about anything you can design on the computer. This is great for designers; they can use the tools they’re already proficient in, including the near-infinity of typefaces they’re accustomed to having at their fingertips, and still get the tactile distinction of the letterpress impression. But there’s a downside: with metal type, when I’m done printing something I distribute the type back into the case and it’s ready to be used again for something else. Can’t do that with a plate.
Being a frugal book artist, when I plan to make a plate, I plan to make more than one meal of it. I am gonna really, really use that plate. That’s why I asked my friend Jocelyn to use Gill Sans for the calendar plate; I wanted to leave the door open for using it for more projects. Gill Sans is a friendly sans typeface, very adaptable to lots of different projects, and I’ve got little bits of it in metal type, both regular weight and bold (of course, since type is mostly lead, “little bits” does still add up to pounds and pounds of type). Having the plate laid out in a typeface I also have in lead gives me more options for re-using the plate in new contexts. Gill Sans is also a good typeface for printing in color; like many sans serif faces, it’s not got much thick/thin contrast so it doesn’t require a strong paper/ink contrast to convey its character.
Thus far, we’re getting good mileage out of this plate. We used it for the party on New Year’s Day, and then both the adults on Thursday night and the kids on Saturday morning used it in projects this week: tidy and neat, sticky and smudgy. Are you thinking it was the kids who were the sticky ones? Think again!
So, here are the two new versions of the calendar. For the first one, I trimmed down the printed sheet to a square, and we did a folding-out form that I’ve seen under two different (equally romantic) names: the Turkish Map Fold, and the Lotus Blossom Fold. It’s a way of folding up a sheet and then hiding it inside a smallish cover; it blossoms forth to its unfolded size when you open the cover.
Next, I cut the plate into four horizontal slices, each with three months on it, and printed them on separate strips of paper. We perforated them on the Rosback perforator, cut them into individual months, and made tiny matchbook-sized pocket calendars.
I loved miniatures when I was a kid, and I am oddly gratified to see that the allure of the tiny replica is still strong for the kids I teach now, but I think using the perforator is really why the kids this morning were so excited by these little calendars. It’s a big cast-iron machine, and to operate it you step on a pedal that’s pulled back up by a spring when you step off again. This spring is heavy enough that smaller kids don’t weigh enough to pull it all the way down and have to be helped out by an adult foot on the pedal; without an adult foot the same kid just bounces gently up and down (for kids, that’s a feature, not a bug). The perforator has a meaty, juicy action when the comb goes through the paper, the tiny punched-out circles fall like snow into a box underneath, the sun sparkles through the row of tiny holes, and the paper tears in the most satisfying way, equal parts sound and feel. Total sensory enjoyment! Everyone loves the perforator, and just about everyone turns to me, post-perforating, eyes shining, and says, “That’s so cool! What do you use it for?”
Honestly? Um, I use it to punch holes.
Here are some of the kid versions of the calendars from this morning: