WHAT IS LETTERPRESS PRINTING?
Letterpress printing is relief printing. It is, essentially, the process of inking raised surfaces and then transferring the ink, by means of pressure, onto another material. Usually, the raised surface is metal type; the means of pressure is a press; and the other material is paper. The individual letters, or pieces of type, are set by hand, locked into a press and inked by rollers. The paper is then fed into the press and brought into contact with the inked type, resulting in the printed piece.
Mark Olson has been letterpress printing beautiful books, cards and posters for more than 30 years.
Originally from a small town in Illinois, Mark hitchhiked to San Francisco and back, playing in bands and crashing on couches, before settling in the Northeast where he began to take up the craft. He started printing letterpress books of poetry in the mid-1970s – while the rest of the printing industry was choosing the speed of offset, he was perfecting the hand-crafted method. In 2004, he relocated from Boston to set up shop in Asheville’s River Arts District. Now a master of a craft that has weathered the centuries, Mark continues to crank out the classic beauty of letterpress on his 1936 Chandler & Price Platen Press.
The name “Innerer Klang” came about through a time when Mark ﬁrst heard of the Dada movement. In the late 1970s and early 1980s while living in Boston, he worked a series of less-than-desirable jobs by day and began learning letterpress at night. One of those jobs was in the technical services department at the Harvard Law School Library. The job itself was pretty dull, but the perks of working at Harvard included access to any of the 100 or so libraries contained within the university. Mark was able to access and hold – wearing gloves – real works printed by some of the artists of the Dada era. He read the autobiography of Hugo Ball, Flight Out of Time, and in the introduction to that book he came upon the following quote:
“Just as images are the outward containers of spiritual truths,
so words have two functions: to denote an object or notion, and to reflect an inner sound.”
The words are Wassily Kandinsky’s and were originally in German, innerer klang, or “inner sound.”