Orchid Ink Letterpress

ABOUT ORCHID INK PRESS

Orchid Ink Press was created by Craig Ryan Turner and Teresa Franklin Kern in 2008 after studying at the Ohio State University’s Logan Elm Press. As an artist and a graphic designer, Craig came to appreciate the history that binds great design and great printing. Orchid Ink created a meaningful and functional product by hand, and added to an ever-increasing interest in Letterpress printing. Orchid Ink cards were proudly printed in Columbus, Ohio.

ABOUT LETTERPRESS PRINTING

In 1439, Johannes Gutenberg turned a wine press into a Letterpress. Until the Internet, no other innovation has had a greater impact on the sharing of ideas. Letterpress is a form of relief printing that became the most common printing practice by the 19th Century. Impression is created when paper is pressed directly into a raised, inked surface.

Though Letterpress has been replaced by faster and cheaper printing methods, artists and historians carry on the unique process as an art form. Buying Letterpress products helps to preserve part of the rich history of printing and design.

HOW ORCHID INK CARDS WERE MADE

Orchid Ink cards started with great designs from great designers.

The original design was printed on clear film, called a “negative”. Solid black emulsion filled the design’s negative space, leaving the positive space transparent.

Letterpress printing surfaces can be made from anything that will lock into a press and hold ink. Metal, wood and carved linoleum are common candidates.

At Orchid Ink Press, we made our printing plates from polymer. Polymer allowed great detail and preserved the integrity of the design.

Orchid Ink Press "burned" plates using a custom made exposure unit fitted with UV bulbs. Under the lights, the photosensitive polymers bonded together and hardened. The polymer blocked by the negative remained unexposed, soft and water soluble.

When the plate entered a water bath, the unwanted polymers were washed away forever with a tender bristled brush. The remaining raised surface held the ink that created prints.

After the plate dried, it was post-exposed to becomes even harder and stronger.

The plate was locked in a chase and ready for the press.

THE PRINTING PRESS

Orchid Ink cards were printed on a Chandler & Price 10” x 15” New Style Platen Letterpress. The press was manufactured from solid cast iron in the 1940’s at a weight just under one ton. The rhythmic cycles of wheels and gears created a beautiful and hypnotic motion — a complex and precise construction of mechanical genius.

The press’ disk was inked and the plate was locked into the press bed. Rollers traveled up and down the tracks, moving ink from the disc to the plate.

With each revolution, the press closed, smashing the hand-fed paper against the plate. The result was an embossed ink impression that could be seen and felt.

Each color took its own run through the press. Because Letterpress inks are transparent, a special third tone could be achieved by overprinting the second color over the first. 

Because Orchid Ink cards were made one-at-a-time by hand, no two were quite alike. Small differences existed in the registration and ink consistency from one card to the next. This is part of what made them special.

Each card was folded one-at-a-time by hand. The edges were trimmed on an antique Chandler & Price guillotine cutter named “Buckeye.”

Season's Greetings, designed by Michael Greenler. Printed by Craig Ryan Turner at Orchid Ink Press, Columbus, Ohio.

Photos by Craig Ryan Turner, Michael Greenler and Landon Ramey. 
© Copyright 2010, Craig Ryan Turner.