Monday, May 19, 2008

Notecards for Marie and Questions Answered

This weekend was a long one here in Canada - thanks to the Victoria Day holiday. Yes, we still celebrate the monarchy in Canada. Most people head off to their cabins/cottages for the first time this year as this weekend kind of marks the beginning of summer. It hit 30 degrees celsius here on Friday (86 Fahrenheit), so that was nice.

I spent the weekend getting a few custom printing projects finished up, and cleaning up my printing supplies and packaging materials that seem to scatter themselves throughout the house (instead of staying in the studio where they belong!). I admit I am really, really bad for containing the existence that is my printing business. I receive at least one plate shipment a week, and paper/envelopes supplies regularly as well. All of these arrivals mean packaging and boxes and other stuff. Luckily nearly everything can be recycled - but it's just a matter of taking time to cut it all down so it can go in the recycling bin. When I'm feeling lazy, sometimes those boxes sit randomly in the office on the floor until I deal with them.

I suppose any printer, craftsperson, or artist needs to stick to a strict plan for organization - otherwise chaos ensues. The amount of materials being processed can quickly lead to a state of "pig-pen"-ism.

Above are some photos of custom notecards I printed for Marie from Massachusetts. I admit that I am finally learning to spell "Massachusetts" correctly. I always want to throw in an extra "s" after the "u". Anyways, Marie wanted a blind emboss for the notecards - which I love doing. The envelopes (not shown) were printed with her return address on the back flap in a very light beige - just enough for the postman to read if need be.

I've received a few questions from readers lately about presses - and so I will answer one of them below:

Someone has just contacted me about a 5x8 Kelsey Letterpress they have for sale. It is mounted on a cabinet, includes 24 fonts of type in type drawers, supplies, ink and the press, all for $500. I would be a complete beginner, but am interested. Is this a good price or should I keep looking? It is in my neighborhood, so I would not have to pay shipping. I'm planning to go take a look at it right away to see what condition it's in, but I'd love to have some help evaluating if this is a reasonable, great or not-so-great price. Thanks! Carla

Carla - well, as I tell most people who ask, any working press is only worth what the buyers are willing to pay. This being said, in the past month, I've seen a Kelsey go for $1,500 on eBay. Do I think any Kelsey is worth $1,500 - absolutely not. My first press (also a Kelsey 5x8) was free. But, I was lucky - it's not everyday people are willing to give someone a press.

There are a few reasons why table top presses are selling for so much money these days:

  • there isn't exactly anyone making them anymore
  • lots of people wanting to get started want to start small and see if they like letterpress printing
  • antique collectors like them because they are small and display nicely on a desk, etc.
  • sellers realize people are willing to throw their money at these little gems, and so prices are inching higher

So there are three big questions to ask: 1) Most importantly - does the press have absolutely everything you need to work - ink disc, rollers in good condition, chase, furniture, quoins, etc. - you will need more than just type and ink to get going - 2) Are you sure the press is in working condition? Don't take a simple "yes" from the seller - ask them to show you the press in action and actually print something with it - 3) Are you willing to part with $500 to buy something that you may or may not actually like using?

Most people who ask me for advice on getting started have never taken a class or tried letterpress printing. This is something you should really consider seriously. When I first started, in my class of say 10 people, only two of us actually enjoyed printing enough to look into getting started on our own with our own presses. The other woman in my class, as far as I know, never pursued things further after the class was finished. It's not a hobby or business for everyone, so learning more about the craft before buying a press is a good idea.

Back when I first got interested in printing, a woman in town had a Pilot for sale and asked me if I wanted it for $700. At that time, I had never even touched a press. I debated the purchase for days, not wanting to miss out if the woman sold it to someone else. My mother, the wise woman that she is, said "Just wait and take a class. If it's meant to be, another press will come along." She was right - two presses eventually found me.

So is $500 a good deal? It lies somewhere between free and overpriced ($1,500 on eBay). I certainly don't think it's a bad deal, and if you are very keen, determined, and committed - and have the cash - I'd say go for it. You will find that the printing you can do with a Kelsey is fairly limited - but it's a good starter/learning press. Would I pay more than $500 - no.

Worse comes to worse, you can always list it on eBay and sell it if you decide you don't like printing :)

Happy letterpressing!

1 comment:

  1. marie's notecards are simple, but gorgeous. fabulous work you did on them!


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