Ferrymead Printing Society Preserving the passion for print

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Russʻs Story

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My name is Russ and Iʻm a new member of the Printing Society.
I have recently returned to New Zealand from England after teaching overseas for many years. Being retired and with a little more time on my hands, I wanted to get into doing some of the things Iʻve always wanted to do, art type stuff is really what interests me.
I was lucky enough to complete a course with Sheyne Tuffery, the wood cut artist, he got me really interested in woodcuts. While I was on the course, a young lady said I should go to the Ferrymead Printing Society and see what was going on.
Consequently I visited the Printery and met Gary Parker and I thought, “My goodness - what a place!”
I could see the opportunity to help out a bit in the Printery as well as learning Letter press printing and using the equipment to do my own thing. I had previously known about movable type and printing but had had no first hand experience of it before coming to the Printery. I saw an opportunity combine my woodcuts with text using the range of beautiful fonts available to me.
As a result, I now go every Thursday when the Printery is open, as well as other open days and on the weekend when I can, both to help out with the activities we undertake with our visitors as well as using opportunities to develop my own skills.
I have really enjoyed the challenge of learning about setting type and all that is involved in setting it up for printing. I have especially enjoyed experimenting with making woodcut illustrations and combining these woodcuts with my writings.
I havenʻt always written, but as a teacher, language has always been a part of my life and I have always liked poetry. I have started developing my own poems and stories and using the woodcuts to support these.
The interest in drawing and painting and art in general, has always been there, and I have always believed that printing and prints were a most democratic form of art, you do not have to have a lot of money to afford a quality print. Making prints was attractive to me and to other people and of course, it is a perfect combination in the Print Shop.
Iʻve had to develop my printing skills, learn how to make my woodcuts print high, so they match up with type and how to set and lock up type and Iʻm very proud of what I am achieving.
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Living in Lyttelton Harbour as I do, my environment and the people I meet provide me with plenty of inspiration for my writings and woodcuts, through them I celebrate the world I live in.
Another interesting part of being involved in the Society is seeing the place develop and grow into something special. We are very proud of the past and have to ensure the skills of those that have gone before us are retained and passed on to the next generation.
From my own personal background and interests I can see how important it is to bring people in and show them how the facilities can be used to develop the art side of printing. One of the really nice things about this is the ʻOohs and Aaahsʻ people have when they come in and realise how print works and the creative potential it offers. It is always very positive and rewarding.
Another challenge is learning the language of printing, the terminology used; kerning, leading, and the maths which is not metric nor imperial - it is unique to printing.
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Perhaps the greatest challenge of all in printing is patience - where you can work away for some time; setting the type, getting it ready for printing and then running a print - to find you have one word incorrect. So then you need to go back, find the word, change the incorrect letter, ink up again and try another print - all character building stuff, but so rewarding when it all comes together.
The great satisfaction is the hands-on nature of the craft - the fact I can put together a selection of poems and a selection of images and eventually I can make a book. The quality of the book could be up to the quality of something done at the best of Printing Houses - a high quality, beautiful artefact, where you have so many choices as far as fonts, quality of paper, etc.
While you have those choices using a computer, it is not the same because you canʻt pick up the type, handle it, judge it and make your choices. Setting type is very different and calls on quite different skills than just selecting something from a menu on a computer.
As you develop your skills and appreciate how much it takes to produce something worthwhile, you gain a greater appreciation of how involved the publication process was in the past and begin to look at the written word, particularly older texts, in a new light.
I have recently been asked to be on the Executive that manages the Printery and one of the things I want to see, personally, is the Printery becoming a little printing powerhouse that becomes more wildly known. Also, a place that can say to other writers and artists, “You can realise your particular thing here. We have the facilities and skills to help and support you with your efforts”. There is huge potential in this area.
We are also starting to make greater connections with some of our schools and colleges and supporting them in their printing efforts. So it is very exciting to be involved in that aspect as well.
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