Two vintage letterpress printing blocks, discovered a few days ago in the bottom of a forgotten box while doing a bit more unpacking at the newly refurbished Candy Factory Studio. As early ads for two Rexall Pharmacy products (Bisma-Rex and Brite ‘n Groom), the blocks were preserved by my late mother while working at the Rexall office in Oakville, Ont., and as inherited items, I’ve oddly found them to be of great comfort where they rest alongside other printing blocks by my workspace. As I sit there alone late at night sometimes to render images by hand using pencil and ink before dragging images into Photoshop for further work, I’m reminded of the centuries preceding offset printing and software, when relief printing involved the skilled, artisanal hands of machinists, typesetters and press operators. In the weight and craftsmanship of the blocks, there’s an odd assuredness that somehow transmits itself through time by heft and hand, meaning as much as I love conjuring the digital ether through applications like Photoshop, I’m slowly rediscovering the strange Zen that comes from rendering images slowly by hand into physical form.
For readability, each image has been set beside a flipped version, as letterpress blocks are engineered in the reverse for correct reproduction on a printing press.