On Thursday 11 May, Team New Focus took a visit to Leeds Beckett University, with Collections and Outreach Officer Charlotte Hall from The Peace Museum, Bradford. The purpose of the visit was to try and reprint images relating to the 1919 Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) conference in Zurich using printing blocks made from copper and wood found in The Peace Museum collection. Each copper plate had a negative image made up of dots, a process called half-tone. This is a mechanical process used at the beginning of the 20th century to reproduce images in newspapers.
Upon our arrival at the University, we met with Andy Edwards, lecturer at Leeds Beckett and designer of our publication No Man’s Land. Andy showed us the printing facilities and introduced us to other staff members who helped us with the printing process. There was a huge range of many different printing machines. Our first attempt at reprinting was made using one of the oldest looking machines in the room, an Albion Press. The process of using this machine involved hand rolling ink onto the copper side of the printing block, placing it on the press, lowering paper onto the block, rolling it under the press, and pulling a lever to press the paper onto the block.
At first, we were uncertain as to how the images would turn out, and whether the process would even work, as the blocks are so old. But we were soon amazed. The images came out so well. New Focus member Ben commented on how the images were ‘brought to life’ through the printing process. It was brilliant to see the images how they would have been seen at the time, and not just from the blocks.
We were also given the opportunity to use the press ourselves, which was a fun experience. Every print was completely unique and some came out better than others, depending on how much ink was placed on the plate. We even experimented with some fun colours like bright pink!
We hope to use the reprints from the WILPF block in our final publication. So watch this space!
Review by Sarah Bartey
This project is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Young Roots’ scheme