Wednesday, February 9, 2011
There’s something special about any handmade valentine. In grade school I remember cutting white construction paper scallops and pasting them onto the edges of a red heart with a poem for my mother. But some of the nicest handmade valentines I’ve ever received or given were printed letterpress.
As children, my sister and I always received hand-printed letterpress valentines from my father Gary Hantke. Each year Dad would go down into the print shop and hand-set the type for a poem for us. It was the same poem, but each year he’d set it fresh, and design a different valentine for us girls. He’d use different paper, different types, different borders. He’d get everything just right, then print only two valentines, one for me and one for my sister. Then he’d distribute the whole form. No saving anything until next year. Each year he went through the entire process — designing, setting, proofing, and printing — all over again.
Now that’s letterpress love. Because letterpress by its very nature is designed to create multiple copies. It takes a lot of work to get the first letterpress copy. The next 500+ are comparatively easy. Usually all you have to do is feed the paper into the press straight and watch the ink level. But to create a new design and print only two copies — that’s something special. And my dad printed another valentine with a different poem for my mother the same way, this time just one copy. I guess you could say that our letterpress valentines were extremely limited editions. The inside of one of my valentines from Dad and the outside of another are shown below.
I wish I could say I’ve followed the family tradition and printed letterpress valentines since. But I haven’t. I always think I need more Valentine cuts to make a good card. But really I don’t. Type and border can be used in so many decorative ways that cuts aren’t even necessary. Below is my sole attempt at a letterpress Valentine, this one created for my husband. Maybe after writing this blog I’ll get inspired and print him one for this year!