Some experimental mixed media landscapes I have been working on recently…
I won’t say too much about them at this point, but I am stepping out of my comfort zone a little here and trying something new…
Hello. Sorry I’ve not been very active on my blog recently. No real excuses, but I have been very busy, and just had a little family holiday down south with Mrs. Lestaret, my daughters Upper and Lower Case, and of course, Devo the dog. I would have posted a nice family photo here if they would have let me, but instead I’ll make do with Devo at the White Cliffs of Dover…
I’ll get back to some regular blogging now…
A couple of months ago I went to the auctions with my friend Pete (who I got my perforator from) and came home with what I consider to be a little bargain.
It is two volumes of prints of paintings from the collection of Eugène Secrétan, the nineteenth century French industrialist who made his fortune in copper production. Unfortunately for him, his immense fortune did not last and his large collection of paintings , sculptures, furniture and objet d’art were sold at auction to pay off his debts – these books are, in effect, auction catalogues.
They are quite big (15⅞ x 11⅜” – 381 x 279mm) and are composed of loose sheets taped into pairs and sewn, covered with a light brown card jacket, folded over the front and back leaves. Essentially unbound, but I have since seen a few copies on the web that have been bound in leather.
The text is beautifully set in a variety of metal type and letterpressed throughout. The paper is a heavy smooth stock, which I estimate is about 220gsm and has some yellowing and foxing around the edges, as well as a little water damage here and there.
The first few text pages are quite heavily printed and wonderfully tactile. I know this will have the purists screaming, but I like it.
Each page has a tissue mask tipped in, covering the print beneath:
And followed with a description.
The prints are photogravure – hand printed from copper plates (how ironic) that had been coated with light sensitive chemicals and acid etched. This allows for good reproduction of fine detail and subtle continuous tones, perfect for art prints.
The majority of the prints clearly show the impression of the plate.
Each print is of a different size that follows the proportions of the originals, but to give you an idea of the scale, the image below measures 8⅝ x 6⅜” (203 x 152mm)
There are two volumes in all and they are missing a few prints each, but not many. And the price? £9. Bargain.
I’ll post another selection soon…
It’s been a very busy few weeks over here at Lestaret Towers, so last Friday I took off into the beautiful Suffolk countryside with my friend and fellow designer Jodie Cole to go to the Lettering Arts Centre at Snape Maltings for a bit of inspiration.
The Centre is home of the Lettering and Commemorative Arts Trust and is currently host to an exhibition of the work of the legendary letterpress artist and designer, Alan Kitching. The exhibition included a selection of his work spanning his career that followed his unexpected departure in 1988 from his role at Omnific Studio Partnership with Derek Birdsall and Martin Lee where he had set up a letterpress studio in 1976.
There are of course some familiar images included in the exhibition; the broadsides and typographic maps especially, which are even more spectacular in the flesh due to their scale – about A1 size!
As well as the more recognisable prints from his archive, there were also a number of little gems – mockups and markups and the like, as well a little pile of ‘make-readies’ – offcuts of paper and card used to slip under worn type to raise the surface to type height. These are little things that will be hugely familiar to anyone has experienced letterpress printing, and it is comforting to see the evidence of this wonderfully low tech and time-proven method.
Jodie was as impressed as I was, and I had seen many of these prints a few years ago at an exhibition in London, but there were prints here I had not seen, as well as items from his own archive.I had also booked us a couple of places at a talk by the man himself in the evening, and we took our seats amongst a small number of others in the exhibition space itself, which made for a very intimate experience!
Kitching was interviewed and prompted to discuss all kinds of issues and subjects, where he gave very personal and honest responses as well as answering questions. He also hung around afterwards to chat with people, and Jodie collared him for a photo. Fangirl!The exhibition is to promote a new Monograph by John L. Walters (Laurence King) published next year. There were some copies for sale at the event so I had to indulge myself!
I even got my copy signed! Fanboy!At the end of the talk, he offered out a range of letterpress post cards, of which this is my favourite…
Good times. Many thanks to the Lettering and Commemorative Arts Trust for putting on such a great exhibition, and also to the man himself, for being so gregarious and not anything like the unapproachable grump I had mistakenly understood him to be!
Also, many thanks to Jodie who was great company – and who generously stood in when I forgot my PIN number when I was trying to buy the book! (It’s an old trick, but it never fails!)
Further foraging in my fathers beermat collection has produced another collection, this time focussing on a drop of the harder stuff…
Pony was a brand of British Cream Sherry that was strangely popular during the 1970’s but like many things from 1970’s Britain, it didn’t survive. It did manage a surreal darts sponsorship though – and this was back in the day when even championship darts was played in working mens clubs by usually non-working men who spent an extraordinary amount of time training their darts/drinking arm and smoking a lot to the traditional cry of “Gud Arrers!’ Those were the days…
Unlike many of the brewers that have featured on these beermats, all of these (except for the sherry of course) are still going strong. Cheers.
More beermattery next time…
A friend recently purchased this from a local auction and I was given ‘first refusal!’ Like many things bought at local auctions, this worked but needed a good clean and a bit of TLC. After a settling on a very reasonable price, I am now the owner of an old perforating machine. Yes, a perforating machine. For perforating paper and the like.
It still bears its nameplate too, so I did a little research and found a catalogue and pricelist of theirs from 1902. Apart from that, there doesn’t appear to be much else on Frederick Ullmer Ltd of Farringdon Road, which surprised me as they were manufacturers of Albion presses and were highly regarded.
In the catalogue there is an engraving of a remarkably similar (and much more decorative) perforating machine, which was strangely satisfying!
If anyone knows anything about these machines or the Ullmer Company in general, please get in touch…
A close inspection showed that it was very rarely taken apart to clean or service it. In fact, many of the screws were properly gummed down with a layer of grease and grime, so it was liberally coated with penetrating oil and left to stand for a day or two.
I began to strip it down and found that the majority of the screws were quite happy to remain where they were, but plenty more ‘loose juice’ and some gently applied brute force eventually got things moving.
I was intending to take lots of detail photos of each stage to help me put it all back together, but only managed a few because it was such a mucky job. This was the top of the perforating guide plate just after removal:
It was only when I turned it over that I realised it was made of brass! This part then got a good de-greasing and a polish with the trusty old ‘Brasso’ and it now it even shines a little!
Underneath, the screws holding the lower perforating guide were proving equally as stubborn and needed plenty of lubricant and even more force. These were really tough to remove…
Eventually I got everything apart and gave it a good cleaning. Although the screws were reluctant to come out, they all did – except one which completely disintegrated! Note the seven small screws at the bottom right! Not bad going I reckon.
I’m not sure whether I am going to give this a fresh coat of paint, but I am going to replace the two boards which were very badly worn and probably not original anyway. Thats my next job…
Oh? The perforating? You’ll have to wait for that.
I love Adobe Illustrator. As well as being one of the primary tools for my commercial work as a graphic designer, I still play around with it for my own amusement. I know, I should get out more. This is the first of a series of illustrations of classic mid-century design objects entirely created using vector software.
For those of you unfamiliar with this, vector images are made up of many individual, scalable objects. These objects are defined by mathematical equations rather than pixels, so they always render at the highest quality. Objects may consist of lines, curves, and shapes with editable attributes such as color, fill, and outline. Because they’re scalable, vector images are resolution independent. You can increase and decrease the size of vector images to any degree and the lines will remain crisp and sharp, both on screen and in print.
However, most people are more familiar with bitmap images – also known as raster images – which are made up of pixels in a grid. Each pixel records a tiny portion of colour so if you keep increasing the size of a bitmap image, you will soon see the pixels:
One of the other benefits of working with vectors is that files sizes are much lower. This is because they do not have to record information as individual pixels, but simply reference points, their relationship to each other and their attributes.
For those who are interested in what this means, if I was to save a copy of this file to TIFF format it would occupy 12.3MB of memory to store it. By contrast, the original vector file is just 3.8MB, even if it was enlarged to the size of a house. If you work digitally, this makes a big difference.
Here is a view of the vector lines that form the structure to the illustration:
For those who are interested in the chair, this is a moulded plastic armchair by Charles and Ray Eames, originally designed in 1950.
Note to self: get out more.