Roma Day 10: Composing, Inking and Printing

Jun 08 2016

Photos by Esther Ro-Schofield

By Jenna Blazevich

This morning we aimed for an early start, and met up to board a city bus to Rome University of Fine Arts (RUFA) for a letterpress workshop. The school is located near the residential Quartiere Coppedè, which is a small neighborhood northwest of the city center. It’s known in part for it’s impressive Art Nouveau architecture, with fresco facades and colorful paintings on the underside of sloped roofs. An early arrival to the class allowed us some time to look up, admire the buildings, and take some photos.

Before we headed into the print shop, we were introduced to the history of movable type by means of a little presentation by Mario Fois and Mario Rullo of Vertigo design. Following the lecture, we were lead into the shop by Maria and Livia, who demonstrated a lithography exercise we would eventually create on our own with a high-contrast photo of our choice. Instead of a lithography stone, our image was transferred onto a delicate polyester plate. We then inked up some different colored brayers, and experimented with running our image through a press onto large postcards.

With only six or seven chases for the group, we all paired up with someone to choose a short quote, and set the type by hand. RUFA is extremely lucky to have some rare italian wood and lead type, and we were lucky to get to use both Forma and Aurora in a number of sizes, as well as a handful of others to build out our quotes. Once they were set, a short lunch break to grab sandwiches around the corner allowed us another opportunity to look up at the beautiful line-work painted on Coppedè’s buildings, then we filed back into the shop to print the type over our litho images.

Everyone’s results each turned out to be something special, and Maria and Olivia requested that we each leave behind one print each for them to keep as a set. Each of us got to leave with two or three final prints, (packaged up into a folder with our quote printed in silver ink on the front flap), along with a fresh appreciation for hand-setting type and the history of printing.