Ho! Ho! Ho! – Letterpress Christmas Card exchange 2015

Well, 2015 flew past. It seemed like yesterday I was racking my brains trying to figure out how to print last year’s snowflake effort. Here’s a writeup of my more restrained effort for the 2015 Grand UK Global letterpress printers Christmas card swap.

This year there were around sixty printers from all reaches of the world, from Argentina to Mexico, from Italy to Shipley, and beyond… With a last-minute trip to Japan thrown in on my only free weekend to get home and use my presses & Ludlow disappeared, so I had to call in some favours to make this year’s concept happen. Firstly, my man Andy Taylor at The Elrod Press sorted me out with some beautifully cast Ludlow slugs*, and once again Simon at LCBA let me borrow a press for the day. Finally I had to beg the boss to let me have a day off for URGENT printing reasons. He obliged. Result.

The last few years I’d made pictures of things with ornaments and type, and I wanted to force myself away from Christmas Trees and Snowflakes, especially with the potential of incoming beautiful glint club submissions that I just couldn’t compete with. I wanted to try and create something with a wordplay link between traditional letterpress printing and Christmas. After a couple of days messing around with the sketchbook,  I came up with the thought of combining the traditional Ho! Ho! Ho! phrase with the words Hot Metal, Hot Metal, Hot Metal. This train of thought seemed to do the trick for me, but it wasn’t enough – how could I show just Ho! Ho! Ho! and then reveal the printing term once the card was opened?

After playing around with some paper mockups I worked out that a ‘Z-fold’ would nicely disguise the ‘T METAL’ part of the saying at first glance and only show my three Ho’s. I’d even figured out a way to get the fold going through space between letters (no-one likes a crease through their E). Great, plan sorted. Next I got on the email to Mr Elrod, who duly obliged with some perfectly cast slugs of 72pt Tempo Bold, delivered at super-fast speed*. All i needed to do to finish the job was a little manual letterspacing (with a hacksaw) to make sure my folds lined up as planned.


Then, last week I rocked over to LCBA for the day, printed the cards on a combination of Fedrigoni papers with Silver and Trans White. They took an age to dry and in getting them home I managed to offset the ink to the inside of all the cards, which was a bit disappointing. I then got out my trusty industrial creaser, making light work of what used to be a nightmare for me, and began filling envelopes.


The Transparent white really worked well on the dark stock, more so than what I had originally expected. Even after drying, it catches the light just enough to make the text readable.


I printed the cards on a combination of Fedrigoni papers. It was a bit of a lucky dip of who got what but there was a combination of the following on press during the day: Fedrigoni Ispira 360gsm – Blu Saggessa / Nero Mistero; and Fedrigoni Sirio 380gsm – Dark Blue / Black.

It was the first time I’d used Ispira, especially for letterpress. It has a beautiful feel to it but it needed an extra day to dry fully. Sirio is also a great paper with lots of depth in the colour and it was a little more forgiving on impression. Each has its merits, and I hope the variation works for whoever got what!


The silver ink worked to give a real shout to my Ho!’s…

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Here’s a test fold before the final run, making sure that the creases fell inbetween letters correctly.


The next day, I set to creasing all of the cards…


I used grey envelopes from PPenvelopes, which I had lying around, they seemed to work well with the contrast against the stock and ink, despite no planning at all. Best of all, they come with double-sided tape applied – no licking this year!

As per usual there are some incredible cards coming through my post box – it’s always such an inspirational thing to receive work from like-minded (or not) folk. Manythanks to all involved. Merry Christmas! More pics below…

*Sponsored Plug for Mr Elrod – buy your hot metal from him!

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