Christmas Cards: Maybe you’ll get one next year

Late in the fall of 2014, shortly after actually setting up the press, my wife suggested that I do something useful with it and print a Christmas Card. I said, “Sure, it’ll be easy!” Looking back, after over a year working and learning with the press, it was just short of a miracle that I managed to produce a card…and one that looked fairly decent…and didn’t destroy the press in the process.

The cards were over-inked, the impressions were too deep, the alignment was off, there was offsetting…yet…it didn’t look too bad. I’m not saying anyone would pay money for them (They’re printed on cheap card stock from Walmart), but they were identifiable as  Christmas cards. Note that the one pictured here was a second—the ones I sent were at least a little better. I swear.


Jump forward to the Fall of 2015, Thanksgiving fast approaching…my wife again asks if a Christmas Card is in the works. Thanks to many hours on–a fount of information, confusion, and salvation when it comes to printing–I’d tinkered, adjusted, tested, and played for 12 months. In theory, I’d learned something.

“I’m going to do a reduction print for Christmas,” I announced to my wife.

“Ok,” she said with one of those looks that meaning, I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about, but whatever.

Conveniently, it snowed the very next day. I ran down to the small lighthouse five miles from our house and snapped a few pictures. A little time on Picasa and I’d managed to get a four color image. I traced the first color onto linoleum block and began carving (my technique rudimentary, but developing). I figured a 3 color reduction would be a good introduction and challenge…and make a beautiful Christmas Card.

I mixed up some ink without a formula, took a deep breath, and pulled the first image on a conglomeration of Rives BFK, Arches Cover, and Lettra papers (these all varied, slightly, in weight and thickness…not my best idea). The bigger problem, though, was that I didn’t notice that one of the gauge pins shifted slightly down over the first run (never read about that on Briar Press). This meant that each image varied in its placement…which didn’t seem like much of a concern until I tried over print the second color…and then the third. I tried to adjust for the variance, but the images always seemed just off and looked like a 3D movie without the red-and-blue-lensed glasses (blurry and just kind of off).

In the end, it was a short run…35 cards in all…of that only 9 were worth the paper…another 7 were passable. The final images were discernible as a lighthouse…so I felt fairly good about that part of the process. I found a nice quote and put in on the inside using Bodoni Bold—and added our names. We had a Christmas card.


There were many people who did not receive a Christmas card from us this year. I hope they can forgive us. Honestly, it was my fault. Next year I’ll print more cards…perhaps another reduction or a picture formed from type. It’ll be Something new for me…something pushing my skills just a little bit…but not too much, I swear.


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