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Exploring the Creative Limits of Letterpress with @churchoftype

On this day in 1452, Johann Gutenberg printed the very first book using a printing press with movable type. More than 550 years later, Gutenberg’s invention continues to unlock creative expression. To see more unconventional letterpress creations from Kevin Bradley, follow @churchoftype on Instagram.

Kevin Bradley (@churchoftype) has spent the past 21 years pushing letterpress to its creative limits. “It wants to be art,” Kevin says of his chosen medium, which he gravitated towards in school because he saw it as a middle ground between graphic design and fine art. Evolution, he explains, is part of his process. “I’ve tortured the space of 18”x24” in every imaginable way over the years, and moving up in size has been the key to revitalizing the entire experience.”

Kevin recently moved to Santa Monica, California, uprooting himself after nearly two decades in Knoxville, Tennessee. The change of scenery brought with it much needed creative inspiration. “There’s a lot going on here,” he says. “I’m discovering a whole community. I definitely feel as though I’m a new animal here.”

His recent works reshape the familiar forms of typography into pictures. “I approach these more as paintings than prints,” he says. “Each is one of a kind.” By constructing images from type, explains Kevin, “I am able to create layers of information that contribute to an overall narrative.”

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A New Fine Press Edition of “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman

“A holy book of the nation, along with the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence,” - poet laureate Robert Hass on Leaves of Grass

To mark their one-hundredth publication the noted fine press publisher Arion Press has chosen the 1855 first edition of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.

 Chosen in part as a tribute to the publisher’s predecessors Edwin and Robert Grabhorn, whose masterpiece was their 1930 edition of the Whitman poem.

“I thought Arion Press might do something with Whitman’s poetry that was different as to the text and yet pay tribute to the 1930 edition by using a similar format, production methods, and materials, but with a new design,” Hoyem writes in the prospectus for this new edition.

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