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A Letterpress Revival at Graven Feather

Last month, a group of lucky Artscape staff were invited to Graven Feather for an Introduction to Letterpress workshop. Graven Feather is an arts hub located in the lower level of Artscape West Queen West near Trinity Bellwoods Park. Established in 2011, Graven Feather is operated by Erin Candela and Pam Lobb, it functions as the artists’ studio as well as a workshop, retail and gallery space.

Walking into Graven Feather, you can’t help but be dazzled by the displays of hand-made cards and ephemera, antique type cases and old mechanical printing presses. Presses like these were the primary means of printing for mass consumption from their invention in the 15th century until the mid-20th century when they were supplanted by offset printing. One of Graven Feather’s larger presses was donated by a high school and dates back to the 1920s. It wasn’t in working order when it arrived but it is slowly being nursed back to life.

Letterpress uses movable type, meaning that each word, sentence and page is made up of cast-metal pieces that are held together inside a frame. The movable type is stored inside a job case, a drawer about two inches high with individual compartments for capital and non-capital letters, punctuation, ornaments and spacers. Graven Feather recently acquired a few new type cases from a typesetting shop in Hamilton that was founded in 1911!

Pam Lobb demonstrates how lines of type are held inside a metal frame using wooden blocks or furniture.

A thin layer of ink is applied to the metal type before it goes into the press.

The finished product.

Artscape staff get down to business.

At another station, Artscape Youngplace Project Manager Bruce Rosensweet presses a vintage engraving.

Graven Feather has an extensive upcoming workshop calendar that teaches all kinds of paper and print-based skills. You can take classes in making letterpress greeting cards, pop-up books, handmade book binding and designing tote bags. Artists with existing printmaking knowledge can book time on their presses by appointment. Or if you’re not feeling hands-on, stop by to visit their gallery and retail shop—we love the 2013 Letterpress Calendar.

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