Work in progress –

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While You Were Sleeping – Sara Burgess

At Studio B we only infrequently carry out commercial letterpress projects but are always engaged in some shape or form in ‘projects that matter’. Currently we are making work for the ‘While You Were Sleeping’ project initiated by Sara Burgess. The text below introduces the project, its rationale and establishes its emphasis:

In 1440, Gutenberg transformed the way the world received its information, spreading news and ideas to those who wouldn’t have access otherwise. Today’s technology has introduced a barrage of tweets, feeds, email, texts. And as before, a world of good and bad rode in along with it. I live and print in Amsterdam now, but California is still very much a part of my life. But this last year the US morning news has become the painful, daily affront to my morals, beliefs, and principles. I am pained and shamed by what has become of my country in such a short time. I feel a kind of outrage I have not experienced before and often a need to numb and brace myself with an apathy driven only by self-preservation. It often feels that while I was sleeping another irreplaceable piece of land, another human right, another cornerstone of decent values was erased. While I was sleeping. And now it’s gone.

I propose a project to highlight those events that rock our every day. That makes me afraid for the future my five-year-old faces. That makes me ashamed of my privilege. That makes me cry when he can’t hear me. That depletes me, on behalf of our defenseless planet. That makes me fear the new treatment that women will face. That makes me say, just how does someone get away with this?

I call on the letterpress community to join me in print. To return to the truth. To print in facts, images, and type. Because in our type, we can convey beauty and messages, and call attention to ugliness and hope in ways that nobody else can. Please choose one headline from the past year that has impacted you the most. Do fact check it from multiple, established, truthful references. Set it. Check it. Print in black and white, or in color. Print ornate, illustrated, or in austere simplicity. Print in all its letterpress glory. Print it 100 times.

I hope to have one hundred presses from the world over participate. Imagine 100 statements printed and on display in a gallery. Five will hang in gallery spaces. The remaining 95 will be boxed. Some of the boxed sets will be sold to cover the costs of the binding, exhibitions, shipping etc. The physical sets will also be submitted to libraries and collections as a historical and artist document from the past year.

If you choose to participate I thank you in advance. It should be said that I do not stand to profit from this exhibit. It will be tremendous amount of work to make it a success. My hope is that we can make an impression with print. Recharge the words before we fall into slumber and never accept this as the new normal. For some I hope that the process will provide a catharsis. For other perhaps it will bring about new ideas for change.

For further information about this project email Sara at:

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Optical Detailing

At Studio B serendipity is a highly regarded resource and it is often embraced and used as a primer in the generation of new letterpress printed works.

Whilst re-ordering the shelves during (yet another) ‘tidy up’ session I came across a large number of typography related ‘hand outs’. These were used when I lectured at London College of Printing (now London College of Communication). The documents relate to the styling and application of type. On closer inspection I felt they would be useful as an ideal starting point for a new printing project.


Work in progress – the first proof: Optical Detailing – still some way to go before its completed to the correct standard. A little more time to address fine tuning, compositional consideration and this could become page one in a new set of studio instructional posters. But first some kerning by hand.

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The Elusive Oscillating Roller

After almost five years of searching for an oscillating roller, one has finally been found and the refurbishment of our Soldan Proof Press can be completed. Soldan presses were used in large numbers in colleges across the UK to train printing apprentices in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s. Our press was purchased from Somerset College of Arts and Technology (SCAT) in 2012 who had owned it for over fifty years.

The press was being used as a storage table and had a number of original elements missing. These sized presses are becoming quite rare so the opportunity to purchase one could not be missed. After a little struggle and navigating a pallet truck it was bought back to the studio and off we went printing the largest possible posters we could fit on it.

We originally used the press by inking everything by hand as both the oscillating and inking rollers were missing and the electrical motor did not work. Once fitted with the elusive rollers and replacement motor we were off. It is a great press, very flexible and accurate and has become the centrepiece of our studio.

As arts curriculums have evolved and analogue processes make way for digital, large numbers of these presses have been sold off or in the worst incidences given up for scrap! They take up lots of space and need furniture, leading and of course type – so, often colleges elect to adopt etching or screen printing as their primary print process – very few can afford the space to house letterpress / etching / screen etc. SCAT currently have a large Western press and a Farley so they still offer letterpress printing to their students – sadly they are one of a decreasing number of educational establishments that still do within the UK.


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The Soldan Proof Press – Owners Club

A little update on the Soldan Owners Club – our press (serial number – 121: 121) is one of only three known Soldan Proof Presses still being used in the UK. The other two owners are:

• Justin Knopp – Typoretum – Colchester (serial number – 121: 132)

• Walden Press – East London (serial number – not confirmed)

Rod Shaw at Beyond Letterpress has refurbished two over the past five years (121: 125 and 121: 122) these have been sold and exported to printers in Europe.

As described in the Precision Aids for Letterpress Printers publication – 1958:

Address:    Soldans Ltd – 5-11 Theobald’s Road – London WC1

  • Proofmaster No.1      4 ft. x 6 ft. 9 in.    18.5 x 24 in.   £760
  • Proofmaster No. 20   5 ft. x 7 ft. 6 in.    23 x 31 in.    £895

If you have a Soldan Proof Press or know of anyone else who may have one please get in contact – telephone: 01823 401 302 / email:

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