Fine Press Book Fair

Feeling a little jaded, tired and grumpy, I have nothing of note to record and my hands are cold. Let me take you back through the mists of time, to far off November, when I escaped the village by coercing Andy to bike me over to the Fine Press Book Fair in Oxford.
It was somewhat overwhelming; spending much of my time alone, and rarely going anywhere of cultural interest, I was staggered by the atmosphere of bustling bookishness. At the same time, I felt completely at home, and had a few pleasant potters round the hall with a big dopey grin on my face, for no particular reason apart from being surrounded by gorgeous books, prints, papers and letterpress stands. Several names I recognised, and I was hoping to say hello to a couple of contacts I'd made through that brash (but oh-so-invaluable-for-hermits) newcomer, the internet. I spotted Andy English at once, though not knowing him at all, I hung back from saying 'hello, I know you through Sue's blog'. Which might have sounded a bit - well, weird. When he was not chatting to customers, he was bent over his little cushion thingy, working on one of his blocks. That's him in the foreground, to the right of the lady in the maroon top. He has also done a very good blog post of his own about the fair, with much better photos.

I eventually managed to find Alan Brignull, who runs the Hedgehog Press, (no website, alas) and produces his very own Adanaland stamps. After a few weeks of emails, we finally got to shake hands and say hello - I had bought him a humble offering of some of my cards, and he had kindly brought me some spare parts for my miniature Adana, which is sadly falling to bits. After a chat, we parted company, and I beetled off to find the Incline Press, another grapevine contact. One of those times when you have to say 'hi, we've never met in person but...' and so I became acquainted with the lovely Graham and Kathy who produce the most gorgeous books and whose stall was buzzing with a little crowd of admirers.

When they were busy with punters, I took the opportunity to take some pictures of their beautiful creations-

Some great advice was had from Graham and I realised not for the first time what a tiny and tightly connected world the UK letterpress community is.

Apart from learning the hard way how not to approach a print job, I now realise that what I want to do with my printing is a hundred years away from the kind of amazing craftsmanship I witnessed at the Book Fair. I am going off into the gift stationary side of things, which will involve such heresies as polymer plates and impressioning the card stock (which, believe me, can produce extraordinary - and even vitriolic - reactions in the extreme, traditional branches of the letterpress community). But I am more interested in the end product rather than the process, so I will leave the professional stuff to the professionals. In the meantime, I have found some lovely printing blogs, which are full of stunning work and useful tips - so if you are interested in 21st century letterpress and you don't get high blood pressure from seeing polymer block work or impressed stock, then pop over to - Snap and Tumble, Satsuma Press, Moontree Letterpress, and Poppy Letterpress. Enjoy.


Joanna said...

I have discovered the merits of an angle poised light bulb to kept my fingers warm. Sadly the rayburn is not on all the time for captain rupert, its a preasure jet one so just comes on when needed, whcih is as little as possible to save oil. The fair looked very interesting. Look forward to seeing your new adventures with your press.

John Nez said...

Gosh, looks like someone's having fun with their printing press! I'll bet that's an interesting bunch to chum around with.

There was a printing company here in Port Townsend that started up with an old press... now they just do books of poetry.

Copper Canyon Press is the name.


I guess the printer's got the power when one runs the presses!!


Elizabeth Musgrave said...

Sounds fascinating (if a little ferociously purist!). Loved the sound of your box in the one below too. Hope you weren't wearing yourself out on the tags which are my fault but they do look great, whatever you say about the anguish of the process! I'll email you about them.

Unknown said...

From where I'm sitting ( my dining room across the ccean) a book and paper fair in Oxford sounds incredibly thrilling. I'm excited to see where your adventures take you.

Cowboys and Custard Mercantile said...

What a treat.. I am salivating here at the sight of all these fine letter press photos.. all the more reason to have a go! On list of "To Do's 2008'.

Frances said...

Hello from New York.

The fair sounds like a place that I would have loved to visit. Most days, as I go to and fro in this city, my mind returns to what originally fascinated me about New York. Lots of that might have been a cultural offshoot of immigration courtesy of World War II. That generation of craftsmanship and creativity is now going, going and about to be gone.

I keep thinking that to go forward we must embrace change, but still ... so cherish the hand made and traditional workmanship. So, praises to you, as you find a way to blend yesterday and tomorrow.

Glad to hear that you can listen to NY radio via computer. Perhaps you have heard wnyc.org
Hope so. I am a subscribing member of the station. It once was actually owned by the city and was devoted to classical music all day and all of the night. Now, it is member-owned, and has mostly talk during the day and music on the off-peak hours. Still a lovely place to visit.


Becca said...

You really do enjoy the most fascinating things - mushrooms, illustration, letterpress. I visited every blog recommendation and found such beautiful work. I'm guessing the fair is an annual event. What an inspiring place to be!

Chris.P said...

It's good that you know which direction you want to go in Gretel.

That's half the battle.


Sarah said...

Hi, its me! I shall phone you this evening...can we change lunch to Tuesday, the schedule is getting mad but I really want to meet up...this is just to give you a little warning before I phone.
See you soon...I hope! xx

Anonymous said...

I love wood-engravings which my mother used to do, as well as copper-plate etchings with Dutch acid which she's too scared to use now!

Thanks for sharing links, it's really interesting to read the blogs of those doing these wonderful prints.

Anonymous said...

Ooops, I used to wrong nickname in the last post, it's me! Sorry!


Sounds like a fascinating way to spend a day, and some of it looks really exquisite. However, like you, I think I'm more interested in the end product than the process - and I think your stuff is gorgeous.

By the way - hope you didn't feel I was being sniffy about Facebook. I don't think I'm too cool for it at all - it's just one of the many things I just haven't got the time for at the moment to work out how it's supposed to work and what you can do with it. A bit like the MP3 player I got weeks ago, but is still lying on the table in its packaging waiting until I have time to go through the instructions and work out what I'm supposed to do with it.

Rima Staines said...

Hello :) Looks like a great collection of lovely letterpressy things. I love that breadmakers print.. Have a look at my latest blog post if you'd like to see an old friend ;)
Hope you're happy and busy and warm. We are heading off on a pre christmas selling jaunt, with plenty of pairs of socks!
Love to you both x R