Hello, Blog Friends! I thought I would take this opportunity to celebrate the often under-appreciated “proof sheet.” But wait, there’s more! Stay tuned to the end for a SPECIAL PRIZE opportunity!
A proof sheet, at its simplest, is a waste sheet used to test the position, inking levels, impression, spelling, or other variable about what you are printing before you start using the precious, pristine, perfect sheets that are destined for the edition. Over the course of printing an edition, I print on these sheets with all manner of things in an utterly non-logical way. Text runs in all four directions, images are printed one on top of the other, and often pencil lines cross out rejected placements. I destroy many of the sheets as I use them to lay down plates, or cut them up to check for spacing by laying pieces of them out on a table.
But is that all? No, I say! The chance juxtapositions that result from this kind of automatic process can yield great things. Like, for example:
Have a closer look, though. It really is amazing.
Moments like that force me to reconsider projects and give me the beginnings of ideas for future books and prints. We shall see if this little accident yields anything exciting.
And now, AN OPPORTUNITY TO WIN A PRIZE (of questionable value)!
If you are interested in winning your very own proof (of questionable value) from the printing of this edition, this is what you should do:
1. Write a three to five line poem on any subject of your choice. The only restriction is that the poem MUST include at least three of the following words or phrases: proof, letterpress, bakelite knobs, polymer plate, Pantone mixing guide, pica ruler, and rubber roller.
2. Submit the poem by posting it in the comments section before 10pm UK/ 5pm USA Eastern Standard on Wednesday.
With the help of visiting printer and friend Jessica Peterson of Paper Souvenir the poems will be reviewed and dramatically read. We will select a top three,and the winners will receive a proof in the mail. The proofs might look something like the first image in this post, or it might look something like this:
Or it might look like something else entirely.
The good news: If only three people or less submit a poem, all three of you win!
oh, this is too fun! i’m off to compose!
Room’s spinning ’round like a rubber roller,
Head’s like a bucket of bakelite knobs.
Shoulda quit sooner but just didn’t want to.
Who knew bourbon was so high proof?
don’t know letterpress sarah but
her sweet addiction:
bakelite knobs and rubber rollers
abound around big jump.
some free verse…very free…
a letterpress proof–
anathema to reason
(at least at first glance)–
but like the mathematician’s
hides the pica ruler well.
(N.B. this form is called a tanka, five lines with syllable counts 5,7,5,7,7)
Proof of friendship
Is hand set
not quick from polymer plates.
Long time friends as treasured and as idiosyncratic
As rubber rollers or bakelite knobs.
Polymer plate, registration
Bakelite knobs, depress the section
Rubber rollers make impression
Letterpress inked, in position
Makeready proofed, no objection?
The Pantone mixing guide is fanned out before me.
Much like my life, it gives me choices I never thought about.
I pick one and mix.
Placing the ink on the rollers I turn on my press.
The smacking sound has the rhythm of a flat tire smacking the road.
As the ink warms, the sound fades.
All is good.
Checking roller height I twist the bakelite knobs.
Making adjustments, getting ready.
I peel the backing off the sticky part of the polymer plate
and put it carefully on the base.
Pressing if firmly in place.
I have done this motion a hundred times and still get that butterfly feeling of beginning a new journey.
The hum of the press begins. I’m anxious.
Walking down the press. Turning the handle.
The rubber rollers pass over the plate. Inking it.
Clean paper. The hope of perfection. Once through its’ cycle, I see it. The proof. I use my pica ruler to check details. I live by the numbers.
Am I ready?
This is letterpress. This is life.
Lett er press those bakelite knobs and
Rubb er roller through Pantone mixing guide essence.
Proof of pica ruler’s sovereignty.
It’s a solid letterpress plan;
and then the rubber rollers hum,
and the Pantone mixing guide fans and fans and fans,
and the proof is the proof
that better plans are planned.
From Glenn House:
P. Antone, the friendly cocktail mixing guide, aka “Pierre, the Picadilly Druler ”
With the big red letter A pressed onto his forehead, bit into a baked lite knob of dumpings,
And screamed “No more sticky polymer on my plate, please, and I demand proof of it!”
Then made his hasty getaway on rubber rollerskates toward a bright sunset on the sea.
“The proof’s in the pudding,” she exclaimed joyfully to no one in particular, running her rubber roller across the polymer plate as she hummed a merry tune.
“I don’t think you’re doing that right,” I said. “You don’t use rubber rollers with -”
“Ohhhhh you really know how to twist my bakelite knobs!” she said in mock exasperation, wagging her finger.
“…no seriously. I don’t think you’re doing that right,” I said. “Are you trained in letterpress printing? Like, at all?”
“Oh go measure your dick with a Pica ruler,” she scowled, her mood suddenly reminiscent of the cold grey I’d recently come across in my Pantone mixing guide.
With my Pantone mixing guide
Pica ruler by my side
Bakelite knobs adorn my desk
I’m ready to letterpress!
Makes me feel great
I go through the roof
When I see a good proof
The Pantone mixing guide
Fills me with pride
For I know I’m the best
At such fine letterpress.
Poem 3 (a haiku):
Pica ruler, check.
Pantone mixing guide, check-check.
Time to check the proof!
Hey it’s a late entry but for what it’s worth…
His prints all over the bakelite knobs
the letterpresser professes his innocence
But pressing letters was never enough
The robber revealed by rubber roller
Oh, the tyranny of the pica ruler!
Oh, Pantone mixing guide, your recipes confound!
The rubber roller, it rubs…it rubs.
It rubs up ‘gainst my knobby bakelite heart.