For us, we are forever fascinated by the finer details and the process of how something has come to be. As a brewery, it’s not unusual, that this arises from a deep appreciation of all that is made by hand… where one’s personality, attention to detail and energy has carefully been transpired into a product, nursing it from concept or raw material state to completion and enjoyment.
So we love nothing more than collaborating with those in our local community who also share this appreciation. Particularly those who have shafted the comforts of a fast, modern life and now enjoy the rewards that dedicating their time to a craft and working with their hands brings.
For the swing tag on this year’s Barrel Aged Stone Beer Crock, we worked with local letterpress printer Erin Blick, from Inku Press. A love for working with honest materials, playing with textures and type, Erin’s one woman studio is based in Bangalow. Intrigued by her stunning work and handcrafted passion we caught up with her to learn more about the ‘pressing details’…
Tell us about your work, when did you begin letterpress and why?
For as long as I can remember I have loved paper. When I was 10 I would make my own paper. As a teenager, I collected cuttings of different paper pieces. One of my first trips overseas was to Japan – for paper. After school, I went on to study design and found an appreciation for typography. A few years later I stumbled across a 100 year old printing press. Old, rusty, and not in working condition. But what a beauty it was. So, I brought it home and over a few months restored it. I started printing on it in my spare time, and it wasn’t long until I could make a living and leave my job of magazine styling. Paper. Type. Press. Happy days.
In laymen’s terms, describe the letterpress process?
Letterpress is a form of relief printing. One of the oldest printing techniques. In the mid 15th century letterpress printing replaced handwritten calligraphy and was the popular way of printing until the 1950’s when offset printing started. A surface with raised letters and images is inked and pressed into a sheet of paper. Pressure applied during this process creates the impression, or deboss, which makes letterpress stand out from other printing processes. Inks are hand mixed and each piece of paper is hand-fed through the press. One piece at a time.
What is it about working with your hands that you find most rewarding?
Without a doubt, the most rewarding part of my job is the making. Having an idea and producing a design is one thing, but taking that design and turning it into a tactile print you can actually feel, is very pleasing. The mixing of inks, the sound of my press turning over and the process of hand feeding each piece does make me feel like I am creating a print rather than just printing. Today in the design world, I find this is becoming rarer, so I feel very lucky to be using traditional skills to create my work.
Are elements of your life away from work influenced by letterpress’s ‘slower more simpler’ nature?
Hmmm, yes and no. I have a busy mind, like to be on the go and find it hard to sit down for longer than a cup of coffee. Though I’m influenced by letterpress printing’s slower, old school nature and haven’t taken so well to the fast-passed technology and social media world we are living in. I like hand written notes and scribble. I like the old-fashioned diary. I always miss phone calls. Moving up to Bangalow from Sydney has definitely slowed me down.
Do you consider yourself a perfectionist?
100%. I would say most letterpress printers are. Or need to be. Letterpress printing can’t be rushed. It is a handmade product which requires time, skill and precision. I’m not sure which came first – was it my perfectionist side which drew me to letterpress. Or was it the letterpress which encouraged that perfectionist in me… Either way, it works.
What material do you enjoy using most?
I have printed on many materials – fabric, leather, wood and several different styles of paper. While they all produce a beautiful result, there is a reason why most letterpress prints are on paper. There is nothing quite like a print into thick 100% cotton paper. Uncoated stock and quite raw. The softness allows for a deep impression, yet the strength of the cotton fibres withstand the tonnes of pressure used in each print. The rawness of the cotton paper holds the ink like no other.
How has your vision for Inku Press shifted and developed over the years?
When I started printing it was all about learning the trade, working with lead type, and getting to know my printing press like the back of my hand. While I will forever be learning and perfecting the art, this now comes a lot easier to me and my focus is on strong designs and shaping the Inku Press brand.
Pursuing letterpress, what are a few challenges you have faced?
My printing presses are over 100 years old and the letterpress gurus, who were the printers of their time, are sadly few and far between. If something breaks or needs repair I can’t just duck down to the local shop for a ‘spare part’, and at 900 kg’s, my Chandler & Price is a little heavy to take anywhere. Any issues or breakages require a bit of creativity to resolve.
Recently moving from Sydney to Bangalow, what attracted you to the area?
We always loved stopping in Bangalow when on holiday up this way. Plus with a couple of good friends living here already, we thought it a good place to move to… and it has been. Bangalow is beautiful. It’s quiet (but not too quiet), friendly, creative and has a great community. It’s been a welcome change to the busy, rushed pace of Sydney. I feel lucky to be here.
See more of Erin’s incredible work over at the Inku Press Instagram page.