27 Jul The Satisfactions of Just Messing About
Just in time for the summer holidays, a long-plotted and much-delayed project has suddenly borne fruit. Our beautiful printing blocks have arrived! Unexpected wet weather holds no fears for us, affording an opportunity for sitting around the kitchen table, making a fine old mess as we test them to destruction.
C.S.Lewis famously wrote the Narnia books because no-one wrote the kind of books he wanted to read. Slightly less ambitiously, we conceived these blocks out of a similar feeling of tantalising dissatisfaction. So many printing blocks, fun as they are, aren’t quite right. They are too particular, too perfect, too detailed, too finished: all the work has already been done for you. We wanted to make something that was more like Meccano or Lego: versatile building blocks of many uses. And also more organic and like other marks one might make oneself. Not so icily regular and splendidly null: more splodgily approximate and alive.
Blade Rubber Stamps is a small company (our favourite kind) that manufactures printing blocks in Wales. They have a lovely shop full of printing supplies just across the road from the British Museum, in Bury Place in London. It’s been a few years since we first agreed that it would be fun to do something together. Lockdown afforded us the time to concentrate on that at last. We’ve collaborated to make a set of wooden-handled printing blocks in Cambridge Imprint designs. They range from the simplest hand-drawn spots, squares and circles, through slightly more complicated flowers, leaves and crescent moons, culminating with some more substantial folk art-inspired patterned birds, stars and horses.
All the shapes are nicely balanced yet organic and approximate, so that the prints they make carry with them an inherent energy and liveliness. The blocks work together in combination and are simple but powerful tools for the exploration of repetition and rhythm. We’re selling them singly, so you can just pick out the ones you like. Don’t neglect the simplest shapes though. We have found the spots and the small circle to be particularly useful and versatile.
Shape, rhythm, and colour: the colour is, of course, of equal importance. So we have found some very nice ink pads, which stand proud of their base so that they can be used to ink even large printing blocks. The ink is clear and bright and comes in all sorts of interesting colours. (I particularly like Pear Tart and London Fog.) It dries more or less instantly on contact with uncoated paper, so smudging isn’t a problem.
You’ll find everything in a new department in the Shop called ‘Printing Blocks and Inks’ . We hope you’ll have as much fun as we did the day they arrived, as the quick twenty minute trial turned into an entire afternoon of utter absorption, punctuated by the occasional murmur of ‘please can I have the red when you’ve finished with it?’ and requests to pass the biscuits.