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Pay attention, or overcoming operator error

Advent Day Three, 2015

The Vandercook Universal III, the letterpress machine that is the center of my PRESS project is only as precise as the operator. It’s possible to line up very complicated changes of colors, multiple plates, and other ways of designing intricate creations through measuring and placement. It’s one of the more fool-proof ways of printing a reduction cut.  But if the operator isn’t paying attention when feeding the paper into the machine, it adds up to a very long day of printing and fussing. If the paper goes into the machine just ever so slightly off, the subsequent layers will be next to impossible to line up.

One of my students is battling with this right now. But as I often say to my students, there is always a way. To overcome this particular operator error, she has to first print on a piece of clear mylar, then overlay it on her print, adjust the paper settings, take another test, make another adjustment, until she has it right. Then she wipes down the press, prints her print and begins again. Sounds laborious, right? Thankfully her edition size is small.

In overcoming this she is learning a few important things:

  • To feed the paper in as precisely as possible to avoid this in the future.
  • To understand the way the paper-guides work with the form and how to adjust them.
  • To understand the importance of paying attention to all aspects of the process.
  • To problem solve and trouble shoot and be good natured about it.
  • To learn that a big part of being an artist is finding one’s way through a challenge.
  • Patience with herself and with the process.

To get better at anything requires practice, right? During that practice problems will surface, mistakes will be made, failures will occur. What’s most important is how we tackle those moments. It can be easy to walk away, but digging in and figuring out the problem, mistake or failure adds to the skill. (and sometimes, in a very crazy way is a whole lot of fun.)

Here’s to problems, failures, mistakes and operator error, and the patience and willingness to overcome it when it arrives.

Advent Day Three, 2015

Advent Day Three, 2015

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