Design Elements

My foray into the world of printing has taken me on a wild ride. I've poked through scores of second-hand bookshops seeking musty old volumes on typesetting and letterpress; I've been on a trip to South Korea to represent the Melbourne Museum of Printing at an international convention; I've been dumpster-diving with my dad in the Harvey Norman loading bay, looking for supplies (thanks Dad!); and I've done over 630 hours of travelling between studios, setting type, and slogging it out over a hand-cranked press.

 

This has been a tumultuous and sometimes gruelling journey, one that's involved learning a highly-technical craft, sourcing rare equipment―and plain, nose-to-the-grindstone work. But every challenge has brought so many rewards along the way: the joy of becoming competent at a beautiful, ancient craft and the fulfillment of seeing the tales I've been refining over the past decade appear in the form best suited to their content. Now, this tortoise-paced hare is over two-thirds of the way through printing.

Courtesy of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto
Courtesy of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto

 

I'm fortunate to have my partner on board, the talented artist, Kain White. Kain and I have been working together to define, plan and execute the book's visual theme, which will be expressed in a series of engraved images―one for each story title page and, of course, the cover illustration.The broad theme of the book itself is 'anatomy of the inner life'. My writing style is influenced by the late nineteenth and early twentieth Century authors of tales. And so, I wanted to integrate something of these influences into the book's aesthetic. In resolving the colours and compositions, Kain has been drawing on two sources: engravings and lithographic plates of Classically-inspired anatomical images from this period, and also sacred imagery―especially from the Western alchemical tradition.

 Azoth of the Philosophers (The Seven Operations of Alchemy)
Azoth of the Philosophers (The Seven Operations of Alchemy)

 

 

Initially, Kain thought he would create linoprints for the book, but after realising that lino wouldn't render the detail to the images that we wanted, we decided on a product called Resingrave. This engraving medium, invented in the 1990s as a cheaper alternative to the traditional boxwood, is a synthetic apoxy resin cemented onto thick fiberboard. Kain has encountered quite a bit of resistance using this material, as it's a lot harder than wood and has a tendency to chip, if not worked with super-sharp tools and a refined technique.

 


But his persistence and many hours of work have paid off with five beautiful bi-coloured illustrations already complete—and only another two to go!

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Beck Sutton.

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