For five glorious Tuesdays in the summer of 2011 I walked from our apartment on Graefestrasse and walked through Kreuzberg to Druckwerkstatt where I would design, set, and print something.

I would arrive in the print shop with an empty mind and a blank canvas, and emerge, 6 or 7 hours later, with a thing. It the annals of my creativity it was a summer to bookmark.

I woke up this morning to an email from a friend that was so full of light that some of it spilled over into me. And it is Tuesday. So I rousted myself up earlier than has been my pandemic habit, and got to the print shop by 9:30 a.m. With a blank canvas.

As I stood in front of the type cabinet, wondering what to do, I looked over at a collection of bits and bobs yet to be sorted and saw T, Y, and R, three wood letters that were a gift last summer from my friend Martin.

T Y R.

T R Y.


T and R an Y

I squirted a squirt of yellow ink onto the platen, such a pleasure, as it’s an intense yellow, the kind of yellow that you could live inside if you had to:

Yellow on the ink disc

I flipped the motor on the letterpress on and let the rollers quietly do their work turning the squirt into a sheen:

A sheen of yellow ink on the ink disc.

While this was happening, I took some letter-sized card stock and cut down each sheet into four to make postcard-sized cards:

Slicing up paper on the paper cutter.

And when that was done, I set the type; not hard to do with just three letters:

TRY set in wood type.

I mounted the chase in the press, put in a piece of scrap paper, and made my first TRY:

First TRY!

This is always the most uncomfortable time of the printing process for me: imperfection. The T and R are too close together. The T and the Y are heavier than the R. And there’s not enough ink. This purgatory makes me nervous, and I set quickly to work to get closer to heaven through the makeready.

First, I buttressed the R with a rectangle of tissue paper taped underneath:

Raising the R with tissue paper.

I added a shim between the T and the R to add some air, added a squidge more yellow ink, and added some additional packing to get a more satisfying print. The evolution was more satisfying:

First satisfying TRY

Even more so on a postcard:

TRY on a postcard

It’s hard to shoot video and to print at the same time while also staying safe, but here’s a glimpse at what printing a TRY looks like:

I was ready to print in earnest!

I zeroed the counter:

The letterpress counter at 00000.

And I printed. When I was done I had 50 TRYs to dry:

TRYs dry.

Letterpress counter at 50.

Would you like a TRY? Email me your name and postal address and I’ll put one in the mail as soon as they’re dry.


Gordon's picture
Gordon on March 31, 2020 - 17:47 Permalink

TRY to stay well, my friend.

Susan White's picture
Susan White on April 1, 2020 - 13:49 Permalink

I love when you write about your printing processes. I find it fascinating.

Oliver B's picture
Oliver B on April 16, 2020 - 02:24 Permalink

I’m calling that yellow “ochre” but you win for poetry