In letterpress training, students learn a traditional printing method that involves pressing sheets of paper across etchings, inked movable type or engravings to produce a page of impressed text or images. Since letterpress technology is no longer used to print large-scale publications, students in these programs focus on learning an artistic print form popular for printing wedding invitations, stationary and other items with small press runs.
Letterpress technology training is available at many universities, art centers, colleges and letterpress associations where letterpress studios are available. Letterpress training may be found as independent continuing education courses or incorporated into degree programs in book arts. Alternatively students can learn about letterpress technology through workshops and apprenticeships.
Letterpress Technology Training
Students in letterpress technology training courses learn to operate and maintain classic printing presses. They then discover how this art form can be incorporated into the demands of the modern printing industry. Common topics covered include:
- Experimental and conventional printing techniques
- Printmaking and printing history
- Layout and design
- Letterpress machine operations
Individuals interested in a career in letterpress printing and operations can apply for apprenticeships, which often last two to four years. This paid on-the-job training is often sponsored by bookbinding and printing shops. Trainees run letterpress machines, create type by hand, stamp foil, emboss and develop press plates. Additionally, letterpress apprentices typically have access to shop supplies and machines for individual projects. Upon completion of such training, apprentices earn journey worker status.
Letterpress training is pursued by artisans, printers and hobbyists. Those who have trained in letterpress may open their own printing shops or businesses. Others may work as press operators for larger printing shops or companies that still use letterpress technology. O-NET online predicts that from 2014 to 2024, employment of printing workers is expected to decline 2% or lower, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). The median annual salary for press operators is $35,240.
Workshops and Seminars
Typically, local art centers and printing organizations, such as Briar Press, are the institutions that host fee-based training workshops in letterpress technology. The workshops are open to both letterpress novices and more experienced letterpress operators and can range from several hours to several days. During this time, participants watch demonstrations, attend mini-seminars and gain hands-on experience with letterpress machines.
Additional Professional Development
Letterpress enthusiasts can look to the Web for a number of educational and informative resources, such as instructional videos and documentaries. Letterpress blogs and discussion forums are available on specific letterpress community sites and can focus on topics such as letterpress troubleshooting. There are also books, as well as virtual and printed periodicals, on letterpress and other print arts.
Students who like working with a letterpress have several options to learn the needed skills, including college courses, workshops and apprenticeships. Jobs for these students may be scarce though, with a predicted decline of 2% or less between 2014 to 2024.