In our third installment of the Tools of the Trade photo essay, we are invited into the studio of Red Bird Ink. Red Bird Ink is a small art, design and letterpress studio located in a former candy shop in Olde Town Conyers. Owned and operated by Julia B. Farill and her husband, Red Bird Ink hand-crafts stationary, cards, coasters and other ink and paper artwork. All the works are limited edition, crafted by hand on time-tested, well-loved machinery. This week we get to have a tour around the small studio and see what tools are used to create these one-of-a-kind pieces. To view their products, which range from $4 - $1000, visit redbirdink.com.
1. The primary printing press used in the studio is a 1915 Chandler & Price hand-fed platen letterpress. Found in an old textile factory in Chicago, covered in fuzz from years of fabric production, Farill and her husband purchased it from a seller in Wisconsin, hauled it to Conyers and fixed it up to prime working order.
2. The letterpress machine in motion. The large circular piece at the top is the ink disk where small amounts of ink are applied. A group of rollers rise up and smooth out the ink on the disk, which then rotates in preparation for another pass of the rollers. Actual application of the ink to the paper is not done until the ink is sufficiently and evenly coated onto the rollers. The tympan, or surface on which the paper or object being printed upon is placed, is then allowed to come in contact with the printing surface (vertical metal panel under the disk that contains a frame of lettering or other objects) which has been given a thin layer of ink from the rollers.
3. An array of individual lead typeface letters. Each letter is carved in a mirror-image and must all be exactly the same height to insure proper and even printing weight to each letter.
5. One doesn’t always have to use metal, or wood, lettering in a printing press. Farill’s husband decided to experiment with LEGO bricks. LEGO pieces were mounted to wooden blocks to match the exact height of the lead letters for a proper fit in the chase, or frame used to hold lettering or other inked surfaces.
6. Red Bird Ink uses a variety of oil- and rubber-based inks in their printing designs. The oil-based ink has a much smoother, more liquid texture compared to rubber-based ink. The oil ink used by Red Bird Ink is archival ink, which is extremely long-lasting and water resistant. “You could pour water on it and the paper would dissolve before the ink ever ran.” said Farill.
7. An artist at heart, Farill uses a wide assortment of colored pencils to sketch new designs.
8. Pictured here is the “chase,” which is the metal frame used to hold the lettering in place with is set onto the vertical panel in the press. The wooden blocks are called “furniture” and are used to precisely align individual lettering, shapes or other figures onto whatever surfaces is being printed.