you down with opp? / by Elysa Voshell

After years of being down with OPP (other people's presses), I finally made the move to purchase my own last year. It's been a long journey in the making, from learning letterpress in a basement printshop in London during graduate school to honing my craft printing at Oregon College of Art & Craft as an artist in residence, at the Center for Book Arts in New York as a fellow, at the Common Press at Penn during my time in Philly, and at Lala Press since moving to Los Angeles. After nearly a decade of letterpress printing I finally made the jump to purchase and relocate (and name) Eleanor, my beautiful Vandercook Universal I last year.

One of the things you generally don't need to know how to do when you're using OPP is how to dismantle and really fix up a press. I mean, that type of thing is generally frowned upon in communal settings where you have an allotted time slot and other printers eager to get on press with their own projects. And even though Eleanor was in relatively good shape when I got her, she definitely needed some TLC to get her up to optimum printing condition, and I wanted to know exactly how I should be caring for her and how to do repairs so she'll continue to be in great shape into the future.

I signed up for Paul Moxton's Vandercook Maintenance class at the San Francisco Center for the Book, and I could not be happier that I did. Over a weekend spent alongside a fabulous and diverse group of fellow printers, we went through a truly dizzying array of technical information, after which I felt confident that I knew what I needed to do with my press but was completely intimidated and equally sure there was no way I was going to acutally do it. The next day, we took apart, cleaned, lubricated, adjusted, and put back together the presses at the Center, and having had that hands-on experience, I felt completely confident in my abilities to take Eleanor apart and get her back together again, and I couldn't wait to get back to my studio and do the same with my own press. A week of greasy toil and a box of gloves later, Eleanor is all cleaned up and ready to roll again.