Film Review by: THE THIRD
“Do it for the love”
It’s the catchphrase that I kept hearing in my head (really the hook from a Fabolous said titled song) the whole time I was watching Pressing On: The Letter Press Film. The song makes reference to creating your art from a place of true love and admiration for what you do, not letting the sole or primary motivation be the pursuit of money.
In Pressing On: The Letter Press Film it’s evident that all the printers that are carrying on the tradition of the printing press are in a deep and everlasting relationship with their love machines, and they would have to be. Since running a print shop is now more of a hobby that a lucrative business the modern day printers serve as historians and caretakers to some of the best engineering ever done. When you take into account that some of the printers were built over a hundred years ago, I take into account the craftsmanship that built these machines. In a age where we’re lucky for our modern machines to last 10 years, having a device that’s as old as some of our great-grand parents is a testament to a level of work ethic I’m not sure we see today in the engineering world as a whole. And that same work ethic is evident in the printers who carry on the printing tradition.
Printing takes patience. It means paying attention detail. It demands focus. You find and fix machines. You create and/or collect lettering block. You maintain your machinery. You use your hands, not your fingers, but your hands. And there’s a beauty in that. The precision every printer seems to have from scene to scene, to get each block right, the ink, the paper. It’s a process that I wasn’t surprised to see people born in the 1940s and 50s still printing. The printing press was still a thriving industry until their 20s and 30s . But when I see the Winns, who seem to be in their late 20s early 30s I was pleasantly surprised. They had the same love for printing as their elders. Ardent collectors, their red door press company seemed to be the staple for what modern day printing press operations have become. Part hobby or side business for most of them. To be redundant, it’s not about the money it’s about the love. Considering most are collectors, they spend more money buying the machines they find than they probably make. Others have opened museums, which are interactive and that’s cool. But the money is never mentioned. There are a few that still find balance between the creative process and profit like Hatch Show Print in Nashville. Jim Sherraden and his co-workers found a way to reinvent themselves by reselling their history, being the go-to for the Grand old opry and other performers. They were able to reprint posters that were nostalgic to a lot of people and collectors items for others and keep their business viable. There was also a segment where you saw the merging of old and new technology. A type of printing press had been hooked up to a mac and the printers used the Mac to make sure the spacing was accurate. He said less mistakes.
And maybe mistakes, the perfection of imperfection, plays a role in digital ages interest in the printing press. But we definitely know the uniqueness of design and the texture of what comes off a printing press is the reason why there’s been an uptick in marketing and graphic designers return to using the “O.G.” of the print game. From the time the first computers, printers and fax machines replaced the printing presses in the 1970s things have become so uniform. Sometimes expediency and technological precision takes away from creativity. Sometimes mistakes mean creating something by mistake. You can’t get a printer to give you the wood impression that a printing press that uses wood blocks can. Some things just take time to get right. And that seems to really have shaped the outlook of the printers life as a whole. And maybe we all need something in life to slow us down and take our time to get things right. The printing press serves that purpose for a array of people across the nation. The next time I’m at a street fair I’ll be looking for something off a printing press. I feel a need to support and keep it alive because I truly appreciate what it takes to keep the community alive. Press on.