June 2nd, Saturday morning, 9am. AGA LAB studio is already busy. Participants are divided into small groups, assigned to each mentor and technique, which they will use to create their own booklet. It is a team work that will result in mastering or at least trying different print techniques. Letterpress, riso print, screen print and toyobo technique. This is not just another workshop at AGA LAB studio, but a special collaboration with NBV (Nederlandse Boekhistorische Vereniging) to celebrate their 25th anniversary.
“Yesterday we had our ‘jubileumcongres’ and today we wanted to combine it with something practical that we actually study so often, but this time in practice. Reliving or recreating things helps you understand certain marks of manufacture that you can see in old objects”, says Herre de Vries (NBV’s board member).
Most of the members are known as book lovers, but professionally ranging from scholars, historians, antiquarian book dealers to book restorers, such as Herre himself. Usually there are 600 of them, but today around 20. Eager to learn with patient mentors such as Thomas Gravemaker from LetterpressAmsterdam and Wasco from Knust Press (riso print), while Eric Levert (toyobo) and Jan-Pieter Karper (screen print) are technical assistants from AGA LAB. Almost eight hours later, the task is done. They have succeeded. Everybody has managed to make their own booklet.
“I thought it was very nice because it combines so many of these perspectives and in the end you are actually producing something. You get the sense of complexity that is involved with people who produce a book”, says Herre.
This is also the first and successful trial from AGA LAB studio to organize a whole day workshop, combining a larger group of people and using more than one technique. This collaboration was done out of mutual love, combining modern and old craft tools in graphic design. But optimistically it will attract others as well, as AGA LAB hopes that this might be a good beginning in organizing more workshops like so.
“We wanted to create a product, or as I like to call it a ‘graphic gem’. A workshop where people have to get their hands dirty and really do something while learning in that process. Today it was all about ‘katern’ as we call it, or press sheet“, says Geert Schriever from AGA LAB, one of the hosts and organizers of this event.
The booklet workshop turned out to be a fun and social event, but also it showed that despite the digital era we are living in, there is still interest in ‘older’ crafts such as letterpress.
“Now it appeals a lot to people. We live in a world of things, but also we get detached from these things. There is a lot going on behind the screens, the social media and so on. I think there is a counter feeling that people have, a sense of tactility (to feel things). And what you can do in AGA LAB, appeals to that. Maybe it will disappear at some point, but it is a part of human creativity, and as long as there is creativity, there is hope in life. If one printing press disappears it doesn’t necessarily means that inspiration, hope and creativity disappears immediately, but it can be a good part of it”, says Herre.
Contribution by Morana Zunec (copy) and Lisa Martina Klein (photography)