BRIAR CRAIG: ON THE CREATION OF A BROADSHEET

Briar Craig, an artist and printmaker working at the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus, generously donated his time and talent to create the artisan broadsheets of “cat and door” by Doyali Islam, the winner of our inaugural broadsheet contest.  As we approach the December 1 deadline of the contest this year, we asked Briar about what went into crafting the beautiful product that came from this pilot project!

Briar will once again be designing and creating the broadsheets of the winning poem, which will be selected this year by Doyali herself, as our guest judge. This is our only award for single poems, so don’t miss out on the chance to submit! Find out more here, and read an interview with Doyali Islam here to find out what she’s looking for in this year’s submissions.

The studio in which I work (the printmaking studio at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus) is only just getting into the whole world of letterpress printing.  We have very modest sized, table-top platten press and a very limited number of sets of lead type.  When Doyali’s poem was chosen the winner she expressed that it was really important to maintain the structure and spacing in her original document so there wasn’t too much ‘playing’ that could be done in the type setting, and arranging of things.  Additionally, her text required specific symbols like forward slashes (or backwards slashes – I can’t remember which) but those were not available in our modest sets of lead type.  So, we laser cut the poem into a plexi-glass plate and printed it from that on a fairly conventional etching press.  By printing in that way we were able to maintain the embossed quality of the letters into the surface of the printing paper.

For years and years letter press printers worked hard to avoid that indentation into the surface of the paper instead trying only to ‘kiss’ the surface so that no embossment would be visible – just ink sitting on the surface of the paper.  Since the coming of the digital world, laser and ink jet printers achieve that ‘one-ness’ with the surface of the paper and letter press printers have begun to really explore embossment and pressure as a visible ear-mark of hand-printed quality.  Both Sarah and I have always loved that physical look – the look of pressure and ink and paper.  By printing from a laser-etched plexiglass plate we were able to maintain that visual and surface richness.

We also commissioned the production of some really beautiful hand-made paper from one of my former printmaking students, Laura Widmer.  She made us an off-white moderately textured paper with four deckle edges (ragged edges that occur when hand making paper) that is comprised of 100% cotton fibres some of which came from her husband’s old blue jeans.  It was a wonderful surface to print on in part because it took the ink so nicely and it also took the pressure and embossment in a really beautiful way.