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.