Letterpress printing is a relief print process. The printed image is produced by a raised surface (lead type for example) being inked and then impressed onto a sheet of paper. These raised surfaces have historically been anything from woodcuts to wood engravings, from linocuts to type faces. Over the past several years, a new type of plate made from photopolymer have contributed to revival in letterpress printing. At the Arts & Crafts Press, we use all of these methods, from wood blocks, linoleum blocks, to photopolymer plates.
For our limited-edition block prints, Yoshiko first carves multiple woodblocks and linoleum blocks to print from. Like the traditional Japanese ukiyo-e masters, Yoshiko carves one block for each color to be printed later. After making all the color blocks, Yoshiko and her staff then handprint one color at a time, using the antique Vandercook printing press. The result of this laborious process is the rich vibrant colors of our woodblock prints.
Our greeting cards are printed very much in the similar manner at our studio. We print all our greeting cards, one color at a time, using our 1970s Heidelberg printing press. We do not use hand-carved blocks for the greeting cards, however. Instead we make the machine-etched polymer blocks in order to produce a bigger quantity of greeting cards at an affordable price.
Please watch PBS's Craft In America segment on our printing process to find out how our greeting cards are printed in our studio.