Because it's cold! Ha!
In my last post, I covered one of two invitation suites I designed this past year, and this post shows the other. As you can see they are, like the title says, pretty different. Carrie & David's is casual and kitschy, and Josephine & Harrison's invitation is much more traditional and elegant. All this design stuff is still fairly new to me, and these two invitation suites were a great experience. If I was designing for myself, the design would not resemble either of these, but I do like them both, and more importantly, each couple loved them. It's nice to know that I can design for an aesthetic besides my own, basically; that I can have a conversation, and properly translate those verbal thoughts into something visual and pleasing to a client.
Once again I used Holyoke Fine Paper in bone, and the font used in this is Bickham Script, which ever since I used it, I now see everywhere. The original idea was to have a script typeface for the majority of the text and the couple's names would be in some sort of caps display face. However it turned out that the script fonts they liked were of the very cursive, very illegible variety, and the juxtaposition of such a scripty script and the display faces I tried just didn't look right. They really didn't want anything 'modern,' and I think any combination of those two types of fonts that actually looked nice was coming across as too modern. So I switched tracks and we settled on Bickham Script, which is plenty swishy and cursivey, yet also readable (which I'm in favor of). Then I added a simple flourish which I modified from a font of ornaments I had, and we incorporated the flourish into the RSVP and later, into the program and place cards etc. (none of which were letterpress printed).
These invitations are the most formal I've done so far, with both inner and outer envelope and tissue paper in front of the invitation. The calligrapher addressed the fronts of both envelopes, and of course I only printed the outer envelope's return address and the RSVP address, not the inner envelope. But I still ordered all the stock and envelopes so it was something I had to take into consideration. For example, I prefer to use square flapped envelopes (because they're easier to print, registration-wise), but Crane's only sells inner & outer envelope combos with pointed flaps. So I adjusted and put on my registration and makeready hat. You'll have to bear with me photo-wise because I lost my camera around the same time I was printing these, and most of my in progress shots we stored on the camera. Very sad - I loved my camera, but my dad kindly gave me an old camera of his, so I'm making do. Anyway I only have a couple shots that aren't the finished product.
I had so much trouble printing these invitations. It was horrible, and as far as I can tell it was completely the platemaker's fault, with the weather contributing. I've been using Owosso for most of my plates, and I've been getting wood-mounted magnesium plates. The idea should be that choosing those plates makes everything simple, especially when I'm pressed for time. For reasons of storage and flexibility, it would make a lot of sense at this point for me to switch over to polymer plates and a boxcar base, but I just haven't had time or interest to devote to making sure my roller height is set properly. Basically I never get it together to do that before a new job comes along, so I have to revert back to wood-mounted magnesium plates. I also have a honeycomb base, so I could in theory get unmounted magnesium plates, but it's kind of difficult to set the toggles properly. I can never get the plate straight on the honeycomb base, which means that the gauge pins have to be set crooked and I can't achieve a consistent lockup or gauge pin setting for any project that involves multiple plates. So I keep using the same thing despite the fact that I haven't been that happy with the plates' quality. The plates Owosso has been sending me have had recurring problems, mostly in the mounting, but I've always been able to make do, and I've never bothered to complain to them once the printed product came out looking lovely.
I actually didn't call them and complain after this job either, which I really should have. The first and perhaps most obvious problem when looking at the finished products is that the stroke on the RSVP cards is significantly thicker that on all the other plates. I know that this is Owosso's error and not my file-making error because I copied and pasted the swirl ornament from the invitation file into the RSVP file. They should look exactly the same and yet they don't. I also went back and looked at the files I sent Owosso, and the specs are exactly the same across all files. I did send the bride a picture of this after I was done proofing the RSVPs, and she claimed not to care (she's a friend), so we went ahead with it. I'm actually getting kind of angry about this all over again, so perhaps I will give them a call. I really don't understand how that happened, but for printers working on a tight schedule, this kind of mistake on the part of a supplier is inexcusable. Yes, I should allow myself more time to do print jobs (something I've been better about lately), but had I sent the plate back to be remade, the delay would have been at least 3-5 days. I think that would have thrown most jobs off schedule.
The other problem with the plates was far more severe and really impeded the printing process, but was caused by a practice I don't necessarily fault Owosso for. Any wood backed plate from Owosso that's over a pretty small size is going to be mounted on multiple pieces of wood. I don't really have a problem with that because I understand that to be made of one piece of wood would be harder to find consistently, more work to cut and therefore more expensive. That said, it is not uncommon for those pieces of wood to be different heights. I'm used to having to put makeready under one section of a plate so that it locks up all at the same height. Honestly I think Owosso could be a little more careful about that, but it's never been more than a minor pain in the ass, so whatever.
I've also noticed that these problems seem to have gotten worse since Owosso introduced their new plate base. That kind of makes me wonder...but I know many people haven't experienced the problems I have so perhaps I'm just unlucky. There is no way I can afford that base - it's much more expensive than the available polymer bases, but its introduction (if my suspicions about quality are true) could drive me to finally make the switch to polymer. Since both Boxcar and I are in New York state, I'd certainly switch to them over Elum (in CA), and the idea of waiting less time for shipments and paying less than I do now for shipments from Owosso in the mid-west is attractive (as well as less environmentally bad gas-wise). We'll see. If I do switch over to polymer, I can assure you that I will write an excruciatingly long post about setting my roller height! Something to look forward to.
Anyway, all the plates I've received from Owosso have been made of 2 pieces of wood with the grain going the same direction, until Josephine and Harrison's invitation plate. That plate is made of four pieces of wood with the grains of each piece going a different direction, and the plate was only 5x7, so four pieces of wood seems excessive. That plate was different heights from the beginning, but everything might have been okay except that this job coincided with a week and half of the most disgusting rainy humid weather. The city literally felt like a swamp (New Yorkers, this was at the end of September), and the humidity stayed above 85% for days. I couldn't print in those conditions. It just wasn't happening; I ran the window a/c unit in my shop for hours to no avail, and I would ink up, try to print and have to clean up in failure. The paper felt wet and limp, the ink was just acting kind of weird, and the wood blocks that the plates were mounted on went crazy. To set the scene: I had to wait days to print because I really couldn't print until the humidity went down enough that the ink wasn't soupy and the paper didn't feel literally wet. By that time, I was seriously in danger of not getting this project completed on time. I had every piece done except the invitation itself, and although the weather was still bad, the humidity had temporarily gone down enough that I absolutely HAD to print that night.
As you're probably aware, wood shrinks and expands with changes in humidity and barometric pressure. Since my plate was made of four different pieces of wood, with grains running different ways, the high humidity caused each block to expand a different amount and against the others - or at least in tension with each other. The end result was that the magnesium plate was not attached to a flat surface any longer and that different sections of it were different heights. In places, the plate was bowed. Trying to print with it was frustrating in a throw-your-body-on-the-floor-like-a-3-year-old-having-such-a-tantrum-that-she-passes-out kind of way.
Instead of what usually happens (an isolated part of the plate doesn't print clearly because of either problems with impression or inking) the problems were occurring all sorts of random spots all over the plate and it was mostly inking related. I ended up jerry-rigging all sorts of weird makeready. I put some in spots on the back of the plate, and I had to do an underlay on the tympan as well as spot makeready on top of the tympan for individual letters. But the main thing I had to do was tape the rails of the Pearl in different places. Along the rails some areas would have one layer of tape, some would have as many as twelve. I would print between 4-10 invitations and then I'd have to readjust the tape because the compression would change and another area would suddenly need more contact with the rollers while a separate area RIGHT NEXT TO IT would need way less. I honestly still don't understand what exactly was going on. I was just muddling through it, adding and taking away different things and hoping I'd get enough good prints to finish. I think I had 75 pieces of stock that I shouldn't have even used (I had 125 budgeted which included 10-15 for testing and waste) and I used all of those, plus a whole bunch of extra stock that was similar size.
The printing process was really a nightmare, but I did eventually get done, and the finished product did turn out fine, if not perfect. Actually it was one of those things where I thought it looked horrible until like a week later when I was like, oh wait, these look great! I was also briefly convinced that the client's mother was going to hate them and yell at me, but she LOVED them, so that was nice. I'm a little insecure apparently, but it all worked out. Do you guys ever have the problem where the bad experience of the process taints your evaluation of the final product?
Now you printers might be thinking, oh you should check your rollers, or maybe your platen adjustment was off, or maybe your rails really are uneven, and I too had those thoughts, but those are not issues. It really was the plate and not my press and I know this because I have not had a single problem before or since. I've printed with wood mounted magnesium, laser-cut wood plates, and hand-set type, and have not experienced a single problem since then. I've even printed during rain and snow without issue. It was that plate. That plate almost gave me a nervous breakdown, and now that I'm finally writing all this down, I'm wondering if one can still complain 4 months after the fact? I'm also becoming quite resolved in my determination to switch to another system. More on that to follow.