18 November 2009

Another One Down

Yesterday I finished off another print job. This time it was 500 business cards and 1000 hang tags for Lesley Armstrong, a Halifax textiles artist. Even printing two-up, it was a big job and would normally have taken four days of printing, plus a day or so of prep and finishing. As it turned out, the "soon, but there's no rush" timeframe I was initially given was actually more like "right now, but Tuesday will have to do" (from now on, I'm going to insist on actual completion dates). In order to get it done on time, I condensed four printing days into three (thankfully, there were no big problems), and printed on the weekend, which I don't normally do.

While I was finishing the job, I thought a lot about the difference between "perfect" and "acceptable." Usually, I like them to be the same thing. But when printing a big job on a press not known for its accuracy of registration, the difference between perfect and acceptable gets bigger. I always print more than the actual number required, but sometimes it still comes down to weeding out the worst misprints and leaving the rest in. Of course, I'm talking about prints off-register by less than a millimetre, but I can see it's not perfect, and it bugs me.

Another factor, though, is the "handmade factor." When something is handmade, clients want it to look handmade (without being shoddy). A perfect letterpress print by the old definition would be indistinguishable from a digital print, except the printing would be denser, and perhaps softer on the edges. These days, though, the appeal of letterpress is its ability to impress the type or image right into the paper. You can feel letterpress. And the imperfections that would once have been rejected become interesting.

I was speaking about just this concept with Vince (former Dawson co-manager) during his visit from Kingston last week. He commented that people want some of that imperfect look, and I suggested that maybe we need to start thinking of printing from polymer plates the same way we think of wood type--the imperfections will happen and maybe we shouldn't try so hard to get rid of them (with old wood type, it's often impossible to get a perfect print, anyway).

So I finished the Armstrong Textiles job on Tuesday when I weeded out misprints, clean up a few ink smudges, and did the final trim. Oh, and hole-punched all 1000 hand tags by hand. Ouch! Today I finally started on the binding job that's next on the list, sent a quote off for the NSCAD President's Chistmas cards (to be printed next week, most likely), and caught up on some paperwork. I even got an article for Handmade News done (on how to make a little book from a single sheet of paper--it'll go live tomorrow), blogged for About PSP, and tidied my worktables. The studio is still a mess, but it's just a teeny bit less of a mess.

Tomorrow I need to finish a PSP article and maybe get started on a review, and finish prepping the digital files for my calendar and holiday card so I can send them to film on Friday.

Photos (all by Niko): Top - Vandercook Universal 1 proof press inked up in green. There's a little polymer plate on there, ready to print the second colour on the hang tags for Lesley Armstrong.

Middle 2 - Armstong Textiles hang tags and business cards, 4 to a page.

Bottom - A colourful beetle that landed on the ground in front of me while I was taking the air just outside my house.

11 November 2009

One Down

I was going to photograph the order for Halifax stationery shop Duly Noted and post it here, but in my zeal to get the job wrapped up tonight, I packed and bagged the whole lot before I remembered. They ordered three dozen each of four different cards--two are designs by former Dawson co-manager Vincent Perez, one is a design by other former Dawson co-manager Carley Colclough, and one is printed from an old cut.

I also wrote and queued up an article on paper grain for Handmade News. I'm turning my bookbinding "inspiration" column Leaf by Leaf into more of a how-to and have re-located it to the Craft Techniques department. It'll go live tomorrow.

Then there were the usual house odds and ends. My studio space is still a disaster. Maybe I'll have some energy when I get home from the printshop tomorrow to organize a bit. Though I also have to start my "Hot Holiday Games for PSP" article.

Photos by Niko of cards designed by Vincent Perez.

09 November 2009

Or Falling Off a Bicycle

Well, I managed to do pretty well with keeping up on my NaNoWriMo word counts. Until Friday. I missed a couple of days, but managed to get caught back up again. Then came Friday, and snow, and a full day in the printshop, and driving home in the dark and wind. I was both tense and limp by the time I got in the door. I managed to feed myself some leftovers and then collapsed on the couch next to Bill, who'd had an even worse day of driving than me--his driver's side windshield wiper went on the way in the school and he had to drive leaning over to look out the passenger side. To his credit, he made it to school, did the whole day and made it home again.

And the weekend was full of house things and driving back and forth to Truro trying to get the right bits to install the new faucet, and again no writing happened. So anyway, I'm three days behind on writing, which is really just a point of pride. There's nothing saying I have to complete NaNoWriMo, but I'd really like to. And of course, today is such a perfect day that I've had a really hard time keeping myself inside working. There's a gate that needed disassembling, so I could have the boards to put up a shelf, you see. And now I really want to go out a snap a photo of a mushroom I spied in the undergrowth near the driveway, and I have to move those last couple of gate boards up next to the house, and, and, and.

In other news, I'm working on a fairly large job printing business cards and hang tags for a textiles artist. I had hoped to get started on that today, but getting Bill to school takes precedence over getting me to the printshop. He should have his truck sorted out by tomorrow, though, so I'll head down then. The polymer plates are ready, and they look pretty good. Some of the type is quite small, but I've printed type that small before and haven't had too many problems. So main issue is going to be the pressure on the press. The Vandercook Universal 2 that's in the shop has developed a problem where the press bed won't drop as far as it should, no matter how you crank it. By using very little packing, it's still possible to print polymer plates--as long as the paper isn't too thick. I'll be printing on textured card stock, so I hope that I'll be able to get the pressure to cooperate. Otherwise I'll have to print on the Universal 1 in the Design shop. Which I actually like better, but I'll be more likely to be in the way of some class or another, and the Universal 1 has issues of its own.

(Photo: the Dawson Printshop's Vandercook Universal 2 proof press, before it developed press bed pressure adjustment problems. Photo by Niko.)

Anyway, if I can get that job started tomorrow, I might be able to finish it by the end of the week. Then it'll be back to holiday cards, a 2010 calendar, and book jewelry. And maybe a couple of really fantastic blank journals. Oh yeah, and a binding job. I'll need to start that this week, too.

01 November 2009

Like Riding a Bicycle

I haven't written much fiction at all in quite a long time, and that's not a good thing. I've sort of been making up for it by reading a lot, but reading fiction is not the same as writing fiction.

So I signed up for NaNoWriMo this year, hoping to kick-start myself into fiction writing again. With so many other things on the go, I'm not sure I'll manage the 50,000 words by the end of the month, but I'm at 1711 so far, which is just a little over the necessary 1667 a day to reach the goal and "win" NaNoWriMo.

It wasn't until I actually sat down to write this evening that I actually decided what to work on. I didn't really want to work on White Foxes, even though I really would like to finally get it done. I wanted something I could start and finish, not something I was halfway through, even though I'm pretty sure there are well over 50,000 words left to go in White Foxes. I considered writing the second book in the Kentaurs series (I wrote the first one last time I did NaNoWriMo), but I don't really know what happens yet--not even how it begins, except that Octavian goes looking for his brother Archer.

But then I remembered that I had been thinking about making The Fabulous Forays of Aeryn Daring into an illustrated serial novel instead of a comic (hypothetically leaving me more time to work on the long-time-in-progress Fey comic). It's something I already had a beginning for (though in a very different form), notes for the near future of, and a general idea of where it was headed. I suspect it may grow into a series of short serial novels, but I won't know until I get there, I guess. So, 1711 words and it's pretty silly, but I'm having fun and it means that anyone who has actually been reading Aeryn on webcomicsnation might actually have something new to read soon. Cool.

I've attempted NaNoWriMo three times before now, in 2003, 2004 and 2005. The first two times I did really well, ending up with The Secret Common-Wealth (a faery story) and The Madness of Kentaurs (an alternate-world fantasy), both YA novels and both well over 50,000 words. The third time was the year I started at NSCAD and I realized almost immediately that it was a really bad idea to try to do end of term projects, and write a novel. The end of term projects alone almost did me in. So, I know I'm capable, at least.

Here's to hastily written novels!