Small format offset presses were integral to the independent literary and art publishing renaissance of the mid-twentieth century. Edition work including broadsides and art prints, little mags, chapbooks, and bound editions were produced on small offset presses in independent shops and studios of all kinds. Yet surprisingly this equipment and associated techniques are often overlooked in art school programs.
Clare Carpenter (check out Clare's fantastic work at Tiger Food Press) and I often end up talking about this issue, and thought it would be a great idea and a lot of fun to create a class to introduce artists and students to the basic concepts of traditional offset lithography and touch upon its history and use in the independent publishing world.
We developed a series of classes that introduced students to the equipment and techniques of offset printing while also allowing the opportunity for the participants to create edition prints of their own.
Working with the Oregon College of Art and Craft Studio School program, we first offered the class, "A Survey of Offset Lithography for Artists," at Stumptown Printers on weekends for the month of March.
We had the fortune to work with some fantastic artists who signed on as students. Through hands-on exercises we engaged in mechanical image composition using both traditional and artistic techniques, and collaborated to produce a finished edition of cards printed one pass at a time on single color offset machines.
We touched on the subjects of mixing ink for Pantone matches, use of Rubylith masks and contact screens, burning & developing subtractive metal plates, and the basic machine functions and concepts of traditional small-press offset lithography.
Clare and I had a lot of fun with this class and decided that we'd like to expand upon it next time through. Look out for future collaborations!