Ferrymead Printing Society Preserving the passion for print

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Liselleʻs Story

I first heard about the Society through The Design and Arts College in Christchurch while I was studying to be a graphic designer there. Some other students I knew on other courses had been able to come to the Printery and have a go at letterpress printing but the course I was on didnʻt allow for that. So I just came in by myself. I thought that by coming in and experiencing it myself, it would help me understand typography in the digital sense, by having worked in the physical way. But it would also help me gain an appreciation of the history behind it. And I really did find that working in letterpress really helped my design improve after being here.
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I really love coming here. I have so much fun creating something and enjoying the imperfections that come with this way of printing. Each time you try printing something, each one is ever so slightly different and I find beauty in that.
While we had learnt a little bit of the history of print and typography on our course, it really doesnʻt sink in until you come in and try your hand at letterpress. It becomes an immersion experience - something that I would recommend anyone working or studying design to come and do.
The terms we use in the layout of text - leading, tracking - it doesnʻt really make sense until you have to physically set type. Then you understand the reason it is there - the letters arenʻt all made with a space underneath them for a gap. So you have to set that for yourself for the formatting. And thatʻs something that a lot of junior designers donʻt think of. Its playing around with how type fits on a page and how its actually going to happen for each different type of press that you are working with as well - they all need a different way of being done. That context is invaluable.
Iʻve fallen in love with this place. As well as the magic and craft of creating a product, its becoming somewhere to meet people as well, now that more people are coming along. Its just a great place to be around other people who are really creative and seeing what they are up to. Some times I come in and I think “I donʻt have a plan today” and I just wander around until I get an idea and something will hit me and Iʻll smash it out - get my idea down on paper, find all my text, and then the next time I come in, I know I am ready to print something. Its very inspiring just being here, a very unique environment - to have the opportunity and honour to spend time here is wonderful.

With a computer, you can really do anything. But it is also nice to sometimes have a ʻboxʻ to work within. And that can actually push you to think beyond your creative boundaries. You canʻt just put a filter upon something, you canʻt just quickly change a colour - you really have to plan and think about it ahead of time. You also have to be okay when it doesnʻt work out. Its like an adventure - sometimes the printing process is supposed to go this way. But it goes this way instead and its kind of nice to see what happens - it has its own voice.
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Learning to be a designer and spending time here using the traditional methods, Iʻve learnt to appreciate white space, the blank space around text, - thereʻs nothing wrong with white space. I think that was actually being a bit of a problem for me when I was studying - of putting too much on a page. Learning to simplify it right down is very important to being a good designer - knowing how little you can put on a page while being very effective. I find it helps me everyday in my workplace, as a result of the time I have spent at the Printery.
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It has been interesting to see the changes happen in the Printery where it has gone from being solely traditional letterpress printing to where it is now becoming a way to express your ideas in an artistic form - while preserving a historical way of communication. And what is more important to people than communication? Its fantastic! We now have people coming along who are masters of linocut printing who are teaching people in schools. So hopefully they will pass on that this place is around to use and weʻll get more and more people coming along. The young ones in the Junior Print Group will grow up and maybe theyʻll find ways to use that in their own artistic careers.
As much as we innovate, it is also very important that we remember the traditional ways of letterpress and keep going back to that - and make sure we teach it to others.
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