In September last year, unexpected even for me, I decided to team up with Charlotte Van Lancker to set up a letterpress studio in Ghent. Being a volunteer at the MIAT printing department for several years and taking part in Letterpress Workers event gave me a chance to learn the skill from fellow printmakers. Printmaking was always something I wished to keep myself busy with and opening up a studio with a fellow designer seemed like the perfect opportunity to me.
Charlotte, a graphic designer with a passion for letterpress printing, had recently acquired an Asbern RP which had to be transported from NL. Meanwhile, for the last 3 years, I have been collecting printmaking material, became a proud owner of FAG Standard proof press, stored at a friends space on the first floor, and small Vandercook proofing press accompanied with type cabinets filled with wood type were filling my living room due to the lack of space. So when Charlotte suggested to set up a studio where we can combine all our material, I thought 'Yeah! Why not! Let's do it!'. So the adventures began :)
Finding an affordable venue on the ground floor in such small but densely populated city as Ghent seemed challenging, but we were lucky to stumble upon a lovely place which became free earlier than expected. It was a former pottery shop on the corner, a lovely light-filled space with an authentic ceramic floor and tiles on the facade.
We immediately fell in love with it!
As the Asbern RP should have arrived from NL in the first week of September and we literally didn't have any other place to put it in (and it is really heavy), we quickly signed the contract and got the keys. Space includes two large area's, one for the letterpress studio and another for the digital studio as our activities as graphic designers continue to grow.
In the first week of September, the Asbern RP (+700kg) arrived with special transport from NL (operated by Peeters Transport, NL), has been lifted by crane and safely placed on the wood plank prepared upfront to protect the floor. Two weeks later the FAG Standaard, which originally came from Basel (CH) 3 years ago, joined the Asbern. Located in a warehouse in Ghent it had to be moved down from the height of 6 meters with some special equipment and was then safely transported by GMS (BE) to our new place. It was a bit nerve-racking to witness the FAG 'hanging' in the air above your head, but it all ended up well :).
After getting the presses rust free, receiving new ink rolls for Asbern (thank you AKB Longs for a great service) and fixing the electricity issue of FAG Standaard, we've invited Thomas Gravemaker (Letterpress Amsterdam) to come over and help us to get everything run as it should. For two days we worked together on putting new packing on the presses, testing the brand new rollers on the Asbern and sorting out a problem with the trip-print mode on the FAG. Both machines were well oiled and the first test prints have been made. Thank you, Thomas!
In need of type cabinets, furniture and various missing pieces necessary to run a printmaking studio we drove to Dodewaard (NL) to pick up a few items from late Ben Joosten studio. Located in the former school building it is an inspiring place, packed with large format prints, huge size wood type, formes made from Linotype matrices, sculptures and paintings. The works I've only seen in his book 'Tussen brons en Lood' and felt so lucky to get a chance to see them in real. Bold creations of a person who's work we absolutely admire but who's achievements in my opinion are not appreciated enough by the public.
Having 2 printing presses, various type cabinets and other material left us with a little space left. Luckily, a friend of Charlotte, an architect Kenneth Van Nieuwenhuyze, came up with a solution and a self-made hanging drying rack with a rope and pulley system. It holds up to 100 prints held by wooden clothespins. Perfect timing as we had finally chosen the name for our studio - Letterpress Corner (not only because we are literally situated on the corner, but also with an idea to spread the knowledge of printing) and were typesetting and printing posters for some self-promotion.
After months of moving the printing presses, type cabinets and boxes of wood type we finally got everything running smoothly. At the Letterpress Corner we will primarily focus on workshops for groups and/or individuals who would like to acquire a practical knowledge of this craft. In the coming days we will reveal the full program which will undoubtedly include some printing activities ;)
Meet us at the Letterpress Corner!