With rows of students, friends and fellow letterpress enthusiasts before her, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at Miami University and Producer, Co-Director and Writer of “Pressing On: The Letterpress Film” Erin Beckloff spoke about her love for the letterpress and what inspired her to create the film. The presentation was a part of the Letterpress Hullabaloo on Monday, Jan. 23, after the reception of the art gallery.
Since its origins in the 1400s, letterpress was the most common form of printing for more than 500 years, according to elationpress.com. The use of letterpress involves taking blocks with letters or symbols carved into them and forming them into words. The website says that ink is then put onto the blocks and transferred onto paper. Beckloff said letterpress is now used primarily for art, design and craft.
According to Beckloff, among the many reasons the letterpress has survived for so long is that the people who use it form a connection with it, and they like the sense of creating something new.
“I think the community is a big reason that it has survived as well,” Beckloff said. “There’s a strong group of people that want to continue to use this process. And I do think that there’s some connection to today’s digital age. Things are moving really, really fast, and letterpress is slow. It’s a way to slow down and focus and be a part in every step of a process. It’s very satisfying to make something with your hands that also communicates.”
According to letterpressfilm.com, “Pressing On: The Letterpress Film” is a feature-length documentary that delves into the lives of people who still use the letterpress and help keep the tradition alive. It was Beckloff’s own interest and connection with the letterpress that led her to create “Pressing On” and start a letterpress program at Miami University.
“I think it started out with a fascination with the type, because I’ve always loved typography, and I started to collect type,” Beckloff said. “But letterpress printing, for me, became about the people. It became about the connection with people and helping preserve their stories and learning with them and spending time with them and printing together.”
With the support of 951 backers, Beckloff and her team raised $71,748 to start filming their documentary. After 72 hours of conducting interviews with people belonging to the letterpress community, the documentary was well on its way. Beckloff said that after listening to all of the stories and knowledge that these people had, she knew she had to create “Pressing On” to preserve and share this knowledge with the world. The documentary is still in progress, but it is set to come out in June of 2017.
After seeing a trailer from the documentary, junior pre-art therapy major Erin Williams said that she thought it was interesting that if the blocks from the letterpress were damaged from falling on the floor, the printer would still use them.
“They went with it, even if they [the blocks] were broken,” Williams said. “Like they said, it tells a history, and I think it shows the art in it more, because artists go with the flow a lot. And things aren’t perfect ever. And if there is a mistake, you kind of have to work with it. And I see that in my art, and I also see it in the letterpress as well. So I saw a connection between what I do and what they do.”