Graphic Artists Guild, Michael Doret, and Letterpress

What do all of these three subjects have in common?

The answer is this past Saturday, October 23rd.

As a member of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild, I helped to plan the Guild-sponsored “Evening with Michael Doret,” a splendid presentation by the accomplished graphic/type designer and letterer. It was a fascinating look into Michael’s history, inspiration, and the process behind such pieces as his design of the Graphic Artists Guild logo, and the Canter’s Food Truck. Here are a few photos from the event:

Before the evening’s event, though, I spent another day at the International Printing Museum in Carson, printing up “Hello! My Name Is:” nametags for the attendees of Mr. Doret’s talk. For the previous Graphic Artists Guild event at Dinah’s in January, I had created similar nametags, but those were inket printed and mounted on thicker card stock. This time around, I wanted to do something a bit more special. Step one was to select my type. I wanted to match the look of H&FJ’s Knockout in metal, but I also had to find a typeface and point-size that the museum had on hand. With computer design, we take for granted the ability to simply choose a font and scale it to any size; with letterpress printing, there exists no such luxury. Each font has to have been cast or carved individually in each face and size.

For the “Hello! My Name Is:” line, I ended up selecting Ludlow Record Gothic Extra Condensed, a gothic typeface designed by R. Hunter Middleton. The Ludlow Typograph, used mostly for setting larger headlines, is an interesting beast. One selects type matrices (brass alloy molds) by hand, setting them into a specialized Ludlow composing stick. Once the matrices are locked up in the stick, the stick is placed into a slot on the Ludlow Typograph, and hot type metal is squirted at high pressure into the mold. Seconds later, a single, continuous line of type—known as a “slug”—is ejected, ready for action. I set the “Hello” line, and then followed the same process to create the “And I Am A:” line in another weight/size of Ludlow Record Gothic. With my two slugs ready, all that was needed was a dotted line. Usually I just conjure one up using the Stroke palette in Illustrator. In this case, I was able to select from an entire cabinet full of metal borders. The borders come from a machine that is able to cast in a continuous loop, extruding an endless stream of stylized lead. I found a 1pt dotted border, cut it to size with a specialized cutter, and then worked on spacing everything out with leading. Once the design was ready, I proofed it on a Vandercook Galley Proof Press, and I attempted to do a small print run that way. Registering each card manually, “best guess” style, I must have looked pretty foolish to Richard, a fellow museum docent and master printer. He generously offered his input and suggested that I do my run on the Pearl, a treadle-operated “jobber” press with clamshell action. After my lesson, I went ahead with my print run:

Video filmed by Dan Craig at the International Printing Museum, using my new T-Mobile / HTC G2 Android phone. Music is “Kelly Watch the Stars” by Air, covered by Old School Freight Train.

And here’s how they turned out:

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  1. The Ludlow Project, Kickstarter, and Mitten’s | three steps ahead — perspectives - October 5, 2011

    […] Out of the many machines we have at the Printing Museum, the Ludlow has a very special appeal to me, both because of its headline-oriented functionality, and because of the time in which it was most active—the 1920s through 1960s. The Ludlow had an amazing set of typefaces that were very much “of their day.” In addition to the more standard set (Bodonis, Garamonds, Caslons), Ludlow had some very cool Gothics, including R. Hunter Middleton‘s versatile Record Gothic family (completed between 1956 to 1961), and his somewhat Futura/Erbar-like Tempo family, completed between the 1930s and the early 1940s. Unfortunately, neither of them have been fully digitized, so the Ludlow is the only way to make effective use of those typefaces at the moment. I made use of the Ludlow’s Gothic offerings in creating slugs for my “Hello! My Name Is” letterpress name tags. […]

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