Category Archives: Letterpress

Featured Graduate: Julia Blom

Julia Blom picking up a can of ink from a shelf.
Julia from Blomworks

1. Tell us about yourself. Have you always been interested in art and design?

Growing up in the Netherlands, design and creativity was always around me. In my family there are landscape architects, photographers and writers, and that was reflected in for example the furniture, books and art in everyone’s home. And of course it was everywhere in the culture too, in the stamps, bank notes, posters for exhibitions. It’s all part of my Dutch heritage which I didn’t actually realise until I studied Design for Visual Communication at LCC. It definitely influences my minimal designs and love for typography. 

Going to LCC was a career change for me, I found myself stuck in a job and wanted to get away from the computer. I loved using the fantastic facilities at LCC and went to lots of bookbinding, box making and print workshops. For every assignment I would want to make something.

Framed letterpress print. Two large characters printed in orange and blue. Hanging on a wall above a coffee table and radio.
Orange and Blue, Blomworks

2.  How did you get started in letterpress?

It started when we studied designs that were made before the computer was invented. I would look at these beautiful typographic examples and think: how on earth was this made? I really enjoyed learning about this as well as kerning, composition, type setting. A lot of things come together for me in letterpress: my love for typography, the nuances of language, and the logistics and mathematical element which meant I could apply my skills from previous jobs.

When you find what it is you love doing, I think you have no other choice then to continue with it in some way. After I graduated, I started volunteering at the London Centre for Book Arts and the Type Archive. A little while later, I created a website and started selling my work.

3.  Where do you find inspiration?

In letterforms and in language. This can be from conversations or those snippets of a chat you hear. Yesterday I walked past two neighbours and all I heard from their conversation was that one said to the other: ‘and you know if they say anything silly…’ and the other replied: ‘yes, then I just let it go’. I love those little moments. Then I think: maybe I can use that in a print. 

My work is about confidence, love and breakup, and mental wellbeing. They are of words you continuously want to be reminded of.

Letterpress print reading 'whoever is dating you is very lucky', on a silver tray with wine glasses and nuts.
Dating You, Blomworks

4.  What does your current work setup look like?

At home I have a proofing press that I use for smaller work and commissions. I print larger work at the London Centre for Book Arts where they have two Vandercooks and a Stephenson Blake. I also have a day job which I enjoy, I use different skills there and have lovely colleagues.

5. Looking back on your time at LCC, what advice would you give to yourself, if you could travel back in time?

Experiment more! I often had thought out a design in my head and have it planned before I started making. Sometimes, it’s good to try something out and see where it takes you. 

6.  Where can we see more of your work?

Have a look at my website or instagram. The exhibitions I had booked have been postponed. My folded print We stumble into being will soon be sold at the Whitegrid gallery in Berlin. 

If you have any questions, get in touch via Julia’s email

Framed letterpress print. The print is folded intricately and hangs in a square black frame. Viewed at an angle.
We Stumble Into Being, Blomworks

Inside The Technician’s Toolbox – Part 2: Klara Vith

Drawer full of multiple containers holing tools.
Klara’s tool drawer

Specialist Letterpress Technician Klara Vith shares her sketching and bookbinding toolbox with us.

Klara’s tools are housed in various boxes, leather and felt roll cases and pencil cases that all sit neatly in a drawer.

We asked Klara:

What is the one must-have basic essential (most used) tool in your toolbox?

Knife protectors for all sharps, this includes cutting knives, scalpels and shoe knives for cutting paper. Sharp covers can be easily made using paper and tape. These covers provide protection and keep points sharp

shoe knife and paper knife protector.
Shoe knife with paper and washi tape knife protector

What is your favourite tool?

My Rotring Isograph technical drawing pen. These pens can be refilled, the ink flows really well and the nibs come in various sizes so you can draw with super fine lines.

Rotring technical pen packaging.
Rotring technical pen

What is the weirdest/quirkiest/most specialist tool you have?

My handmade ‘Nifty Tool’. I designed a clear sheet of acrylic that has a pica grid laser engraved into it. It has a small wooden handle and allows me to make square alignments easily and square off the edges of my prints.

Print Curiosities: No. 3 — Double Dagger

Print Curiosities: No. 3. Is selected and written by Specialist Letterpress Technician, Andrew Long.

Today I am sharing with you Double Dagger. A newspaper printed the traditional way, but it’s not what you might expect. It’s bright and colourful with amazing artwork and a focus on letterpress, unlike your typical newspaper. Every contributor includes an element of their work which makes each issue different and unique.

“The binding agent between all of our pages and contributors is a desire to print from the third-dimension, using both the tools that Gutenberg left us over 500 years ago and the tools of today such as the laser cutter. Printing using wood and lead type cannot be replicated digitally – the look, the feel, and even the smell offer an antidote to much of today’s commercial printing.”

(Loaring and Randle, 2021)

Double Dagger is a collaboration between Nick Loaring, of The Print Project, and Pat Randle, of Nomad Letterpress. The idea was formed, rather oddly, in 2013 on a sunny Somerset field. This was the first year Glastonbury festival had attempted to print their daily newspaper on a Heidelberg cylinder press using hot-metal type. The Linotype machine, which casts the hot-metal type for printing, had decided it no longer wanted to work. The newspaper was still printed on the Heidelberg, but the use of polymer plates rather than hot-metal type was the spark that started the Double Dagger conversation.

The first issue was released some 3 years later. To date they have released 3 issues, all full of letterpress goodness. Each issue is printed with lead type, none of that Polymer they had been forced to use at Glastonbury. Contributors include Stanley Donwood, Dafi Kühne, Ellen Bills and Thomas Mayo amongst many others.

You won’t be surprised to hear Nick & Pat are two of my favourite printers. Nick produces some of the most beautiful bold prints, you’ll find his work at The Print Project. Pat works out of Whittington Press and is the printer of Matrix ‘the finest periodical of the book arts of the 20th Century’. His imprint is Nomad Letterpress, where you’ll find some of the amazing books he has published.

If you want to know more about this publication check out the Double Dagger website, issue 1-2 are sold out but you could get your hands on issue 3. Follow Double Dagger on Instagram for any updates and to find out when / if they release an issue 4.

Print Curiosities – No. 2: Maev Lenaghan

Print Curiosities is back! We have expanded our series to include a variety of print and book curiosities from the personal archives across the Printmaking, Book Arts and Letterpress Team. We have asked our technicians to delve into their collections to select, share and write about some of their favourite, special or unusual works of art.

Print Curiosities: No. 2. is selected and written by Specialist Printmaking Technician, Kath Van Uytrecht.

Having spent nearly a decade editioning prints privately for artists and for Graphic Studio Dublin and Stoney Road Press publications, I have accumulated a good collection of printer’s proofs. Some of these prints are large colour multiple plate prints created by some of Ireland’s top established artists.

Small bear printed in grey and gold ink with hard and soft lines and a pale grey wash for texture
Maev Lenaghan, ‘Small Bear’, etching.

Today I have selected to share something a little more subtle and delicate, but equally noteworthy and special.

‘Small Bear’ is one of the most prized etchings in my collection. The print was gifted to me by artist Maev Lenaghan. Maev studied printmaking at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and holds an MFA from Konstfack in Stockholm. She currently lives and works in Sweden.

Maev is interested in narrative and storytelling across Fine Art, Illustration, Literature and Design. Her work explores our relationship and connection to wilderness, working with media such as books, drawing, painting, pastel and printmaking.

Maev is a contributor to I DO ART, an ‘independent dissemination platform for art, with a focus on personal stories and attitudes, visuality and process’.

“My artistic practice springs from ideas that are in essence narrative, that take stock of life in the face of an imperturbable wilderness.”

In 2012, Maev created a series of etchings depicting oral storyteller Clare Murphy in action on Story Night, a regular monthly community storytelling event in Galway, Ireland. These prints were exhibited as part of a solo exhibition titled ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Woods?’.

She describes this show as “a peek at the richness of our interior lives, and then takes a walk to the edge of our society, in search of wilderness. As a species our strength lies in communities, in imagination and communication, and we are reminded of this amidst lively human interaction. We gather together in communities for protection, vulnerable as individuals. Most of us live removed from places where nature is still wild and foreboding. Yet even amongst those of us who have lost sight of our vulnerability beyond the societies of our making, there are yearnings for wilderness, for the great outdoors.”

Most recently Maev exhibited in The Space Gallery in Shanghai, China, with a show titled THIS BRIGHT EARTH. Another recent exhibition ROOTED IN SILENCE at Galleri LOKOMOTIV, Örnsköldsvik in the north of Sweden received an excellent review. The review is written in Swedish, but you can translate it online.

Open page of book with text on the left page. On the right page is a woodcut image that has an abstract texture and is printed in grey.
Maev Lenaghan, ‘I am a Maev, not a Moose’, artists book

“My latest work encompasses woodblock prints, linocut prints and artist books. These culminated in an exhibition in the north of Sweden which I called ROOTED IN SILENCE. There are two levels to the work: as a balancing of line, colour, emptiness and movement to create energy on the picture plane and to reflect experiences whose very nature are unspoken. Whether recalling the feelings of watching a  bonfire burn on the Swedish traditional night of ‘Valborgmässoafton’, visiting the  zen rock gardens of Japan or observing the exposed roots of trees; these are memories of being mesmerised by something. These are experiences that quiet the mind and speak to the unconscious and that I believe elicit the emotive response of stillness that you are looking for with the exhibition titled ‘Silence’.”

Detail of a small bear shows the bear's head and front paw printed in grey and gold ink. There is a combination of hard and soft line and a pale wash
Detail of ‘Small Bear’ by Maev Lenaghan.

I met Maev whilst working in Graphic Studio Dublin, one of Ireland’s oldest printmaking co-operatives.

‘Small Bear’ was created for Graphic Studio Dublin’s 50 year Anniversary exhibition titled ‘Gold’. The image is only 10cm x 10cm in size, but by looking at it closely you can see that contains a variety of beautiful line and texture that you can look at for hours. I come to it again and again and it always gives me joy as well as inspiring me to want to make etchings. This deceptively simple image contains three different etching techniques. This really demonstrates the quality and expertise of Maev’s drawing, mark making and printmaking. The etching is made of hard ground and soft ground line as well as sugar lift for a textured wash.

I chose this print not only for its beauty, and accomplished technique, but because it reminds me of the spirit of generosity in the printmaking community as well as the power of patience, subtlety and stillness and the complexity and simplicity of storytelling. You can explore more of Maev’s recent narrative works on her website and instagram.

Farewell Ling Chiu!

We would like to say a fond farewell to our amazing Technical Coordinator, Ling Chiu, who is leaving the Printmaking, Book Arts and Letterpress team at LCC to begin an exciting two-year residency at Thames-side Print Studios in London, and a month-long residency at AGALAB in Holland. We’ve been chatting to Ling to find out about her time here at UAL and her future plans.

Ling joined UAL in 2014, as a temporary printmaking technician at Wimbledon College of Art. She was already working as a technician at Thames-side Print Studio, and as a Curatorial Assistant at UCL Art Museum, and thought “why not try something new?”. Like many artists, she was juggling a creative practice with a mixed bag of freelance education and part-time work.

“Wimbledon’s printmaking workshop was magic – tiny but bold and ambitious. I worked with one other technician to run it, and we covered screenprinting, etching, relief printing and large format digital printing! It was exciting to work with a mix of fine art, costume and theatre students, and the technical team was very closely knit. We had competitive bake offs, Friday breakfast fry-ups, and ran lunchtime origami sessions for staff and students.”

Three years later, she moved to LCC as the full-time Printmaking Technical Coordinator. Formerly the London College of Printing, Ling was joining a College and team with deep and wide print knowledge. She wanted to balance that legacy with innovation, inclusive practice, and promoting printmaking in a College without fine art or printmaking courses.

“If I had to look back and pick one thing I’m most proud of, it would be developing the Printmaking traineeship with the team. We started with a single Arts Temps trainee and a ten-day paid programme! Now we’re known for providing good, paid, opportunities for students to train as technical staff, and get experience supporting day-to-day running, or some of our Outreach teaching. We’ve worked with DPS students, students from across UAL, alumni, and I’m especially proud to promote women in printmaking, and women in technical roles.”

Did you know? Ling is something of a Health and Safety nerd. She actually has a NEBOSH qualification in Occupational Health and Safety, which she completed while she was at LCC, alongside as PG Cert and PG Dip in Academic Practice.

“I think people have the wrong idea of Health and Safety – H&S is super-inclusive, and super-enabling. People think Health and Safety is all about paperwork and stopping people from doing what they want, when actually, it’s about how we can do exciting things, but make it safe for everyone to participate – who doesn’t want that?”

Ling is now embarking on a two-year residency at Thames-side Print Studios, where she also has her own studio. She plans to develop her own visual practice, while writing about, thinking about, and delivering printmaking that is inclusive, sustainable, safe, and beautiful. She will return to AGALAB in Holland later this year for a month-long lithography residency, working with vegetable cleaning agents (VCAs), and researching water use and workflows in printmaking processes.

“There is a place for printmaking 10, 50, 100 years from now, but it is incumbent upon us to be responsible makers; to not live in a bubble. We must use what can be grown when we can, and be precious with anything mined, distilled or shipped. We need to include more people, which means acknowledging where there are barriers: these lovely presses and processes were not designed for my body, my person, my ability, and they may not be designed for yours either… but I am going to do it anyway, and help you do it, too. This is how printmaking not only survives, but thrives.”

Ling will be greatly missed by both students and staff in the workshops, as her enthusiasm and expertise is top notch! She kept us all happy and motivated, with an excellent balance of humour, candidness, knowledge, kindness, respect and of course enough sweet treats!

We are super excited for the future that Ling has created, we wish her all the very best on her new adventure and look forward to following her progress on her Instagram.

Matching typeface and paper

When working on a project in print, you will decided on a typeface or more. This choice can depend on the overall aesthetic of a project, its historical context or any other conceptual reasons. There are endless design decisions that can influence it. The same is true for the choice of paper. Its texture and surface play an important role, and so does content. Colour photography may look more brilliant on coated stock, but uncoated paper can emphasize monochrome imagery just as well. But there is also a decision that can be made regarding the combination of type and paper.

A book spread with a page of text on yellowish paper on the left, and a monochrome image on slightly more white paper on the right.
This spread illustrates the use of two paper stocks within one book: uncoated for the main body text, and coated for plates and small, italic serifs.

Not every paper stock suits every typeface. On the contrary – often, typefaces for letterpress would have been designed to compensate for relief impression into paper. Nowadays it is rare that typefaces are designed taking this compensation into account, but optical considerations remain the same. 

Letterpress printed text detailing the font and paper it was set in
Font and paper choice in a letterpress project. Baskerville was designed in the 18th century and suits older printing presses and printmaking papers well.

One way to go is to group old with old, and modern with modern, based on historical usage:

“(…) that Transitionals and Didone groups of ‘moderns’ are best printed on the calendered surfaces which were developed to show off their elegance when they were first designed during the 18th century; and that art paper is not generally suitable for highly refined Didone faces because it accentuates the stroke contrast of these ‘moderns’, producing an effect of ‘dazzle’ which reduces their legibility.” (Warford, 1971) It is also worthy to note that some typefaces were only designed when more modern, precise printing presses were available. In the example of Didot, its very fine hairline strokes are prone to crack when printing is not done very carefully without any excess pressure.

The book cloth covering of a vinyl sleeve was printed with wood type or a plate, whereas an additional label was printed from metal type.

Letterpress is meant to be printed with a ‘kiss impression’, which means there is no actual relief impression left in the paper. An uneven surface will not result in an even, flat print. This includes uncoated paper, printmaking and handmade papers as well as book cloth. On those surfaces, small type and thin strokes will vanish. Bolder, larger sizes are more forgiving. Plates are often more suitable as a slightly stronger impression will leave a more even ink coverage, but would potentially damage type. Even with those materials, details will blur and larger, bolder type will bring better results.

Sources and further reading:

Design for Print Production
H. S. Warford
London Focal Press (1971)
Available at the LCC Library

Lost words of letterpress

A2 Letterpress printed poster of printing terms
Lost words of Fleet Street, Mick Clayton and Catherine Dixon, Printed at St Bride, 2019

For those of you who have been introduced to letterpress, you will be aware of the many confusing terms we use in the workshop. I’m sure you’ve already forgotten what a Quoin is. Well, let me confuse you further.

I am fortunate enough to work alongside others at St Bride Foundation who worked in letterpress when it was a larger part of the printing industry. One of the things I love about my role at St Bride is the wealth of letterpress history that I am taught through my colleagues. They’re constantly reminiscing about the good old days, in specific, the ‘words’ they used to use whilst on the job as seen below:

A.B.P. — anything but print (a lazy person)

Bang Out — celebration of retirement or conclusion of apprenticeship

K.D. — A private job (keep dark)

Knowing Your Boxes — Being aware of what you are doing or talking about

N.F. — a companion who hears or observes something intended for them and ignores it (no fly)

On the Coach — Not speaking to someone

Out of Sorts — running out of the type you need

Pieing Your Case — accidentally mixing the type so that they have to be sorted out

Putting up the Half-Double — ending a conversation on a particular subject

Quire — twenty-five copies / sheets of the same paper

Space Up — an argument

Stop Press — a small stereo added to a blank column, for breaking news while printing

Wrong Fount — a suspicious character

If you are interested in printing history, LCC archive have a fantastic collection linking back to its time at St Bride Foundation. St Bride Library holds one of the world’s most significant collections of books about printing. As well as many physical objects available for viewing, but not until the pandemic restrictions allow. Until then, please stay tuned for the next letterpress post and stay safe and well.

In the mean time, why not watch this short film Banging Out — Fleet Street Remembered a documentary film based on oral history interviews with former printers and journalists.


Mick Clayton and Catherine Dixon, Lost Words of Fleet Street, A2 Letterpress Poster part of the Collections and Collaborations event held on 14 May 2019 as a visual celebration of the St Bride Library. Available at St Bride.

Rowles, G., 1949. The ‘Line’ Is On. London: London Society of Compositors, pp.101-103.

A23D: a 3D-printed letterpress font

capital K of the font A23D with a slightly inky surface
A few years after its realisation, A23D is well used and at home at New North Press

A23D is a 3D-printed letterpress font commissioned by Richard Ardagh of New North Press. The font is a prototype, connecting the newest and the oldest forms of print technology, and looking to the future of letterpress in the 21st century.

A project such as this requires expertise at every level. A font needed to be designed for 3D-printing, materials had to be tested. Letterpress is a precise science. A printable surface must be 23.32mm or 0.918″ high – type-high – and withstand the pressure and consistent wear of the printing press and process.

On-screen wireframe of a capital A
Wireframe drawings of A23D

Collaboration is key in a cross-disciplinary undertaking involving old and new technologies as well as the art of type design. When Richard had conceived the project, he approached renowned type designers Scott Williams and Henrik Kubel, of A2-Type, to design a font that ended up referencing the production method of 3D-printing. A23D SOLID became the starting point, and hidden core for the design of the A23D wireframe font.

part of an alphabet of capital letters in the font A23D, a hand is inserting a slug for spacing
The alphabet set up and ready for its first impression

Testing and production of the font was handled by Chalk Studios. Considering the demands set to the finished font, many tests had to be conducted in search for the right process and material. The letters were produced using polyjet 3D-printing, where layers of photopolymer liquids are built up and cured by UV light.

A23D letterpress setup, being inked in fluorescent green
A23D set up on the press bed for the initial specimen posters, designed by A2-Type

Since its creation in 2014, A23D has gone on to win an award for Typographic Excellence from Type Directors Club, New York and has been exhibited at V&A, London and Pompidou Centre, Paris. It has also been used as the basis for live project briefs at Chelsea, LCC and Plymouth art colleges. The font is now part of New North Press’ library and enjoys regular use in print projects.

Watch Adrian Harrison’s video documenting the project below to learn more about the design and production of A23D.

A23D: A 3D-Printed Letterpress Font, film by Adrian Harrison

Featured Graduate: Noha Salmeen

Noha working in the letterpress workshop at LCC

Noha Salmeen graduated from MA Art Direction in 2019 and is based in Dubai, Bangalore and London. Her graphic design practice is based on curiosity, observation, experimentation, testing, failing and learning.

Tell us about yourself. Have you always been interested in art and design?

I am a graphic designer and design researcher. I believe in forward thinking and design for good. However, that was not how I started off. I was rather nervous when it came to graphic design but the more I learnt the more confidence I got. 

Yes, I have always been interested in art and design. I have always gravitated towards colour and visuals as a child. Art and design was a platform where I could communicate to people. 

Experimenting with how one is influenced by patience and learning a new skill.
The image above represents a proof of a paragraph in progress. The end result was a book.
Experimenting with how one is influenced by patience and learning a new skill.
The end result of carefully fixing the paragraph.

How do you integrate print with your design practice?

Print has definitely influenced my design practice. The letterpress as well as the production studio at LCC help in that. I am able to incorporate printing methods within the digital world, which allows for some interesting outcomes. 

Where do you find inspiration?

It really depends on the project I am working on. I usually like to use objects available from my environment and incorporate it. This usually allows me to express different permutations and combinations which leads to an A-ha moment!

Experimenting with how one is influenced by patience and learning a new skill.
Two books were created with the process and experiment. 

What are you up to now that you’ve graduated?

I graduated in 2019. Not too far back but since graduation and up until now I have been freelancing with various design studios in Dubai and working as an apprentice with Apple.

Looking back on your time at LCC, what advice would give to yourself, if you could travel back in time?

If I could travel back in time I would tell myself to be kind to myself and if you need help ask for it. My time at LCC was great! As I finally found my passion which is print. But, I lived in my head a lot and was not very vocal about it. LCC is a place to learn. So ask, experiment and be free.

Experimenting with how one is influenced by patience and learning a new skill.
Elements that helped me understand letterpress

See more of Noha’s work at: