A journeyman is a term used for a printer after finishing an apprenticeship. If work was short in your hometown, you would have taken to the road with your union card to look for work. This project is inspired by the people who made their living on a bicycle, in particular the knife grinders, who lived their life on the road traveling from town to town sharpening folk's knives.
The journey will be made on The Printing Bike: a bespoke bicycle designed and built by my friend Robin Mather three years ago. Its first adventure was a 850-mile journey from Bristol to Mainz in celebration of Gutenberg's invention of printing with moveable type in 1450. This was a successfully funded project through Kickstarter. I will set off in early May from Land's End and will wind my way up the spine of Britain seeking out the makers in towns known for making one particular thing. In celebration of each craft, I will print a set of cards on the Adana 8x5" press mounted on the back of the bicycle. Some cards will be posted and will arrive on funders' doorsteps printed and posted from such fine towns as St Ives, Yeovil, Cheddar, Walsall, Stoke-on-Trent, Northampton, Nottingham, Halifax, Harris and Dufftown. Each card will be illustrated by talented artists, some of whom will meet me on the road to carve a fine illustration celebrating the craft of that town.
The first book to be produced will be a special edition large-scale publication incorporating commissioned illustration work and photographs celebrating each craft. The book will be letterpress printed and hand bound. It will be a limited edition of 100. The Festival of Print is held each year at the Centrespace gallery adjoining the Letterpress Collective printshop. This year it will be from the 4-13th of December and we intend to launch the large scale letterpress book of the Journeyman project then.
The second book will be the third book in the Conversations series. The first book, Conversations on the Coast celebrated the craftspeople I met on my 2009 bicycle journey around the coast of the British Isles. In 2012, I made a similar journey along the Hudson Valley; these stories were brought together in Conversations on the Hudson. This book Conversations from Land's End to John O'Groats, will include transcripts of the craftspeople I meet and print for, along the way.
The budget will cover the costs of the journey, the illustrations for the cards and book and production of the book itself. The funds will not only enable this project to happen, but will also keep the presses (and our own apprentice Ellen) busy printing over the next few months. The Letterpress Collective is not-for-profit and has been printing for artists, local groups and individuals, as well as running workshops, since 2013. On return, The Printing Bike will continue to visit organisations such as schools to demonstrate the 500 year old art of typesetting and letterpress printing (without a computer in sight).
Video soundtrack: If I Possessed a Printing Press by George Hamilton IV
Risks and challenges
The risks are in the logistics of the adventure, carrying a printing press, paper, ink and type as well as finding somewhere to stay each night. Also the aspects of printing on route are tricky so drying eighty postcards somewhere (maybe in the rain) and then mailing them each day (Although my experience during the journey to Germany proved that this was actually a lot of fun). Another challenge is the physical one of riding a bicycle loaded with all that material up and down hills for 40-50 miles each day (again though, this is what I kind of look forward to).Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (23 days)