Meet the Sponsors: Inkwell Modern Handmade
The walls of this Market Street shop are lined with reams of prints, calendars and greeting cards. If you pick one up to read it—maybe the Inkwell original printed with the phrase, “The cure for anything is salt water – Sweat, tears or the sea”—you can see and feel the impression left in the paper by the printing process.
“The modern technique is to leave an impression in the paper. Back in the day, it was really frowned upon,” says Andrea Rahal, owner of Inkwell. While the impression helps to distinguish between letterpress printed items and digitally printed ones, mostly “it just feels nice.”
Old-time letterpress printers never had to leave an impression on the page to distinguish their work, because all “printed matter up until the industrial revolution would have been letterpress printed,” Rahal says. “It basically died off in the fifties, and the presses aren’t even made anymore now.”
Rahal’s two working presses—nicknamed Pretty Izzy and Jasper Oatman—are ninety-five and sixty years old. Inkwell recently acquired another antique press which, Rahal says, “is very conducive to teaching workshops on.” She hopes to offer letterpress workshops to the public in the new year, and there is already a long list of people waiting to be notified when they start.
Having to seek out, buy and repair an antique press may seem prohibitive, yet letterpress printing is popular in Nova Scotia and, judging by the interest in Inkwell’s future workshops, its popularity is only growing. “NSCAD is definitely a big part of it,” Rahal says.
But Halifax also has historical connections to printing: “Halifax being one of the oldest cities in North America, print makers came up from Boston. There were actually quite a few print shops that did letterpress on this street and on Barrington—there were a lot of them.”
This ongoing community of Halifax printers is the reason Rahal continues to sponsor the Halifax Crafters market.
“A lot of the artists whose work we carry do the crafters show. We’re part of the community, we just want to give back and make sure Crafters continues to happen.”
It doesn’t look like the letterpress community will die out anytime soon. There’s just something in the Halifax water—“a lot of type, lead type, the old school kind, out in the ocean, in the harbour”—that keeps this craft alive.