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New! Letterpress fiddleheads 🌱

Yippee!! Today is the first day of Spring: the world is unfurling from its winter sleep, and we are unfurling with it. We’re very excited to release Ferns, a new handmade letterpress print featuring the legendary work of Dutch artist Julie de Graag (1877-1924). We teamed up once again with Daniel Gardiner Morris from The Arm Letterpress in Brooklyn to revamp this historical work in richly textured letterpress form.

Originally created in 1920 as a woodcut print, de Graag’s Ferns is both a study in simplicity and a celebration of natural geometry. Tightly furled fiddleheads sprout up from a solid mound, their diamond leaves fitting neatly into their neighbors’ patterns. Seemingly pared down and stylized, de Graag’s rendering is not far flung from the actual plant’s precise puzzle-like growth. Careful and refined, de Graag’s woodcut prints were characterized by fine lines and masterful economy. She employed the use of hard end grain wood, though more difficult to work with, the polished results helped her develop her signature form.

We first collaborated with Daniel Gardiner Morris on our letterpress remake of Albrecht Dürer’s Six Studies of Pillows and Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita’s Animal Pairs. While Dürer’s sketches were originally produced as a copper engraving, de Graag worked in woodcuts—a process similar to de Mesquita. Ink is applied to the raised areas of the carving in the former and to the recessed areas in the latter. Hundreds of years later, both styles of printmaking are still very much in use, albeit with a few modern conveniences. To produce our modern reimaginings, Morris creates a digital vector of the original image, outputs the negative image to film, and exposes a photopolymer plate. This plate can then be washed out to create the relief artwork from which a print can be made. He then inks the plate and creates letterpress prints using a hand-fed 1960s Vandercook press. The final product is an exquisite image in charcoal ink on 10"x8" creamy warm paper, which we are offering with the option to frame floated within a black frame. This is the first time we've ever provided the option to frame a letterpress print—very special!!

It’s been so incredible to work with Morris on bringing new life to these images. Of course it is always wonderful to get a window into an artist's craft, especially a craft as process-based, technical, and tactile as letterpress. And how fitting it is to share a fresh look at a historical image during a time of rebirth and new life; bringing the historical Ferns into the cyclical and ever-changing narrative that is—drumroll—art history, while fiddleheads themselves, off in a misty marsh not too far away, are beginning to push through the soil and out into the world.

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