Lab 6: Pulling the Press

Pulling the Press

There is something very satisfying about printing something manually. The whole process was hands-on and there was a sense of ownership over the unique product. Each piece is unique, a quality that is hard to find in a world of mass production. The resurgence of letterpress printing follows a greater trend of wanting things (particularly material goods) to feel authentic and individualized.

People love to complain about millennials ruining various industries. Young people are not buying diamonds, using paper towels instead of napkins, and spending money on avocado toast. It is all very dramatic. On the serious side, I think these trends say a lot about the values of young adults. They would rather buy artisan beer than the mass produced six-pack and would rather support local businesses than depend on major corporations. I think this sentiment is closely tied to the resurgence of artisan crafts like letterpress printing. Besides simply wanting the handmade over mass produced, owning and using such products sends a message. It was mentioned in class that in modern letterpress printing, the press is usually pulled harder than necessary in order to leave indents in the paper. This was not considered a good thing when letterpress printing was the main technology. The goal would be to have clean prints with as little impression on the paper as possible. Nowadays, people want to see the indentation because it is a feature highlighting the handmade nature of the product.

Since it is now much easier to print documents from a computer, using letterpress printing is a directed choice. By choosing to have something printed this way, the consumer is showing that they value the craftsmanship behind the creation more that the convenience and mechanical precision of a computer. I don’t mean to imply that people who use letterpress printing disregard or look down on computers, but that there is a sense of authority and personal connection in handmade things.