Nick Hand and Robin Mather both have workshops at Centrespace in Bristol. Robin designs and builds bicycles and also teaches at the Bicycle Academy in Frome, Somerset. Nick, a graphic designer and photographer, runs a not-for-profit letterpress print shop that teaches folk how to compose and print. Nick is no stranger to long-distance rides, in 2009 he completed a 6,500-mile ride around the British Isles recording stories of artists and craftspeople along the way for the Slowcoast project.
The Printing Bike Project brings together both Nick and Robin's interests and skills to recreate what would have been common in Britain not so long ago. A bicycle designed to travel long distances and carry out a trade (though I guess traveling printers were less common!).
The idea includes design and build of the cargo bike not just to carry the Adana 8x5 printing press, but also inks, paper, type as well as camping and day to day living stuff. The next part of the project involves cycling down through England and France into Southern Germany to finally arrive in Mainz, which is where Johannes Gutenberg invented printing with moveable type in 1440. The project is thus a nod to the man that changed the world for the next five hundred years.
The journey involves meeting artists, writers and poets, who will describe the journey in illustration and word. Nick and Robin will print the original artworks on postcards and post these to supporters of the project there and then; creating and sending between 10-15 postcards along the route of this inky adventure.
Robin has been building bespoke bicycles for twenty years and has spent the last six months sketching (his first sketch adorns the top of this page), pushing and prodding the detail of this bicycle. He has built a full-size prototype which was on display at the Festival of Print at the Letterpress Collective in Bristol in May.
The bicycle will be built in July/August and the printing adventure from Bristol to Mainz will take place in mid September. Artists and writers taking part will be announced during the project funding period.
The budget includes the cost of building the bicycle, all materials for the bicycle and printing as well as funding the journey and costs of the artists involved. If there is anything over and beyond the costs of the project, they will be put back into the not-for-profit CIC Letterpress Collective and go towards new equipment needed for the project, including a guillotine and new type.
On return The Letterpress Collective will use the Printing Bike for delivering print in and around Bristol. We will also visit organisations such as schools to demonstrate the 500 year old art of typesetting and letterpress printing (without a computer in sight).
I would like to thank my brilliant friends at Centrespace for being so inspiring and especially the amazing Robin Mather (who you know about already) and Emma Lazenby who made the lovely little film at the top of this project.
Risks and challenges
The risks are in the logistics of the adventure, carrying a printing press, paper, ink and type as well as all the paraphernalia of camping and day to day living on a bicycle. Also the aspects of printing on route are tricky so drying sixty postcards somewhere (maybe in the rain) and then mailing them each day. Actually as I write the risks and challenges it also sounds like a lot of fun already. 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 kind of sounds like fun).Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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