Making trousers in Britain is not easy. The skills and machinery to do this is slipping away. Finding authentic English fabrics is becoming difficult. Doing things right isn’t easy. But it’s worth it. It’s a thread that we find in many industries. Beer is one. We spend a lot of time with beer. But there are other industries and crafts that we share a common passion with. Where we can see that it’s hard to do right. Which makes it interesting. Because if it was easy, everyone would do it.
This goes some way to explaining why Monday morning saw us printing letterpress postcards in the pub. Not a normal start to the week for most people. Not a common thing at all.
Nick Hand has been riding from Lands End, on his way to John O Groats aboard “The Printing Bicycle” – a British made cargo bike (made by his friend Robin Mather) on which, as well as spare pants and trousers, he carries a Letterpress printing press (an Adana 8in x 5in specifically). Nick’s a cyclist, and a printing enthusiast – it’s his business – hand making letterpress formes and printing them on original equipment, as well as teaching others to do so.
It’s actually his second trip aboard the bike – the first trip with this unusual Printing Bike was to Mainz in Germany – the town where Guttenberg invented printing in the 15th Century – this time he fancied keeping things a bit closer to home, and following the towns that still have and used to have industries associated with them.
As Nick was been visiting places “that make a particular thing”, it was obvious that he should come to Trouser Town – as our home town of Hebden Bridge was known. And so with The Printing Bike dutifully installed in front of the bar of Old Gate, he set to, and printed 50 or so postcards which are being mailed to supporters of his project, before he headed on his way to Kendal, to visit a paper factory.
Type is set in a frame is then inked by the press, and the card pressed on with one neat mechanical action. The type is a mix of lead and carved wood lettering.
Hebden Bridge has a large number of local craftspeople and there was a lot of interest in Nick’s bike.
A few test runs to make sure there aren’t any missing bits of type. This one appears to celebrate the town of Hebden Ridge. Because the B isn’t printing right, so Nick fettles it.
Happy with the results, Nick gets cracking on the press.
Before long we’ve got lots drying in the racking.
The pub is quiet on a Monday morning, so we have plenty of chance to spread out.
Stamped and addressed, the postcards head off to the backers who supported Nick’s campaign on Kickstarter.
Many thanks to Nick for coming to visit us. You can see more information about his project here – http://theletterpresscollective.org/uncategorized/the-printing-bike-on-the-road-again
He was assisted by his friend (also called Nick) who runs The Print Project – another Letterpress site with some incredible prints – http://theprintproject.com