Letterpress 3 class



Okay, yes, I know I've said my follow classmates make or break a class for me. Today simply and completely hammered home the point for me.

Today I went to the last of the three class progression that is required before I can rent time on the San Francisco Center for the Book's Vandercook letterpress proofing printers. The last Letterpress class I had was good, with the photopolymer class not so hot. I'm very glad I had taken the photopolymer class, if only to learn that I'd rather have someone else make my plates since doing so is less expensive, less time consuming and less error prone. If I hadn't taken the class, I wouldn't have known this, so lesson learned.

So, today's class was remarkably and happily hands off from Katherine, the instructor. She gaves us the text of the poem, and the framework of the project we were working on today, but didn't provide much more guidance than that. She showed us where supplies were, and guided us along the general steps, but (appropriately) did little else. This is the last class we take before heading out on our own on the communal printers - if we didn't know how to start the press, mix colors, or clean the printers, we had no right to rent time on the printers. Worse, we risked damaging the printers, so a hands-off approach was pretty much required.

For our book, I set the text for the "about us" page. I spent a good half hour trying to find the dingbats I had imagined when I mentally designed the page, so was still setting text when everyone else was off setting up pages for printing. I did print the background patterns for most of pages, running the printer on pages with translucent white on the pattern. I did manage to share somewhat, but not as much as I could have.

The books turned out nicely. I ended up with books numbered 2, 3, 4 and 6, bartering away my 2 for the book numbered 47. Much nicer.

My classmates were awesome. Once again Ann was in the class. We chatted throughout the day. I'm glad I met her. I hope to see her again.

Who was NOT in my class, I'm happy to say, was the guy who would not shut up in my photopolyer plate making class. I mention this only because he was at the Center today, taking a book binding class. I saw him around class walking back in from lunch. I chose not to acknowledge that I recognized him, still being annoyed with him for not shutting the hell up when I was listening to the last teacher.

Now that I'm trained, it's time to make the May party invites!

If you don't know


Okay, wow, yes, I have completely confirmed that my enjoyment of a class is mostly dependent on the other students in the class. This is a new revelation for me, and might be limited to just hands-on classes, or even just printing classes, but, ho, boy, is the correlation strong (one might say direct).

Today's class was a photopolymer plate making class, where we learned how to make custom, metal backed, plastic plates for letterpress printing. The basic process is to expose parts of a light-senstive plastic which is bonded to a metal plate, to ultraviolet light. The plastic that isn't covered up hardens, the rest of the unexposed plastic stays soft and can then be washed away, revealing a custom printing plate.

The process is straight forward, and very similar to the silk screening screen making process I learned in college, and vaguely recall. The class taught us how ot use the center's equipment specifically.

There were five other students in tonight's class: two students from a local art college, a couple who owned their own printing press and an outgoing software project manager. The "adults" of the class, the four of us old enough to be the parents of the two art college students, spent a while talking outside, which was nice in the warm, summer-like evening. The couple were on their second press, having accidently dropped their first press and ruining it when moving it into their garage. The guy of the couple seemed to know a lot, and explained concepts well. I thought he was very Bob Diller-like, so immediately liked him. The woman was a little spacey, but not in a clueless way, more in a I'm-digesting-what-you-just-said way.

The class material itself wasn't complicated, nor very dense. The instructor reviewed it all fairly quickly.

Turns out, the two art college girls were in the class because they had an assignment due on Saturday and had forgotten how to create the plates necessary to complete the project. The looked online, found this class, and decided to take it in order to relearn the plate making process, make a plate and finish their assignment. Although I applaud their resourcefulness in finding and taking the class, I couldn't help but be annoyed at the too specific questions they'd ask and the just the fact that wouldn't reviewing their own notes or asking at their college been cheaper and more efficient than paying $100 for a new class plus lab time? Or even asking a classmate for help?

One of the two students brought in a negative that, although right read, emulsion down, wasn't reverse, and more than once confused the instructor in its processing (Why didn't this part wash off? Oh yes, this ENTIRE AREA was exposed).

As annoyed as I was by the students, I was far more annoyed by the end of the class by the software manager guy. He had taken the same classes I had taken, but was much more vocal in sharing his knowledge.

The class finished early, so I asked the instructor for an overview of how she handled lining up multiple printing plates (also known as registering) when printing in different colors on the same piece. Now, I didn't want to listen to a know-it-all guy tell me what I myself learned in the various classes I had already taken. I wanted to hear what someone who prints on thousands of dollars of paper a year has to tell me about her process is, what tricks does she use, what bits of wisdom could she share.

Instead, the know-it-all guy stood right next to me talking at a louder volume than the instructor, neither of which stopped for the other. I completely missed what she said and wanted to punch the guy, or at least tell him to shut the fuck up already, you're not telling me anything I haven't already learned and YOU DON"T HAVE PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE so SHUT UP.

Although I walked away knowing enough to be able to rent the equipment, I definitely left the class completely annoyed.

Yay, skillsets.

Boo, know-it-all people who can't shut up.

At least I've learned that even though I do know it all, I don't have to share.