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Looking into Letterpress with Carolyn Fraser - The Presses

14th July, 2011
Jenny Butler
Thursday 14th July 2011

Given how stressful moving house can be, I cannot imagine just how daunting it would be to move a 500kg 1925 printing press from one side of the world to the other. Oh, and the rest of the studio as well. Carolyn Fraser did just that and thankfully everyone lived to tell the tale! - Jenny x

Carolyn's Chandler & Price 10×15 platen press (1925) in her Collingwood Studio.

An interest in letterpress can begin with a book or a business card, but by necessity, is can quickly veer into a interest, or even an obsession, with equipment. Printers love to talk about their presses – their provenance, their quirks, the sheer hellishness of moving a press. One of my students sent me a photograph recently of her new-old press being craned over a hedge!

Loading Carolyn's studio in Cleveland, Ohio onto the back of a truck (in snow!)

My life, I'm certain, has been shortened by days at least by the stresses of moving my equipment. If, like me, you look up from a gorgeously printed book and find yourself in possession of 500 kilos of press, I have just the moving guys for you if you are either in Melbourne, Australia or Cleveland, Ohio! In the meantime, you might want to slake your thirst for cast iron by visiting some presses and getting a feel for the kind of beast you are looking for.

Tying all the studio equipment down and preparing to ship it to Australia

Carolyn's studio off the truck and setup in her Collingwood Studio - see the full tour here.

The Melbourne Museum of Printing is in the process of re-establishing itself in a new location in Footscray, and are looking for volunteers to help. Over the years, Michael Isaachsen has amassed a vast collection of presses and related equipment. Further afield, The Penrith Museum of Printing, 'The Old Dimboola Banner' Print Museum in Victoria, the Whiteman Park Print Shop in Perth and the Gulgong Pioneer Museum all have working displays. Some also offer practical instruction. Sourcing equipment is difficult, but in my experience, printers retired from the trade, riggers and press mechanics will have leads on presses sitting idle and desperate for care.

- Carolyn x

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