Whoop! No proper work this morning. Instead, a trip on the train to visit the wonderful Incline Press in Oldham, owned by Graham and Kathy, old friends of Chetham's.
I almost can't tell you how much I loved this place. From the moment we ducked through the front door into a room crammed from floor to ceiling with stacks of paper, ink, printing machinery, sheets of decorative paper hanging up to dry, books, cases of type, stores of equipment and smelling of linseed oil I was quivering with excitement.
As it wasn't brilliantly lit my photos didn't come out too well but hopefully they go some way to conveying the utter wondrousness of this amazing three-storey warren of creativity and craftsmanship.
The main work of the press takes place on the ground floor and the basement of a small 1820s cotton mill. There are several different workstations for the various stages of the process, and every single surface and wall is filled with boxes, drawers and shelves full of materials and equipment. Where there is any space left, posters, flyers, sheets of typefaces and other examples of letterpress are displayed in frames or just pinned to the end of a bookcase or shelf.
First of all we were shown the bindery, where pages of printed material are gathered, stitched and bound into their beautiful collectors' items. I completely fell in love with the neat, organised stashes of clean, folded paper and card, and would have been happy just to stay there and stroke it, but we were moving on to look at the typesetting area, where pages of print are set by hand, and intriguing paper parcels of new typefaces awaited unpacking.
Our time here was far too short for me. Next we were climbing the wooden stairs to the printing area to see how the presses worked. Tentatively using the treadle, I was shown how to ink the press and produce a real piece of letterpress printing. I had expected it to be heavy, clunky and hard work, but was surprised to find it light, smooth, slick and amazingly fast once you got the knack.
My eyes still darting around madly, desperately trying to take everything in and remember it, we were taken upstairs to the colourful and cosy living space on the top floor, looking out over the 'guerilla gardening' that Graham and Kathy have begun in the municipal green space below. Lovely deep red walls, original art, colourful teapots and rugs, and walls and walls of beautiful books to look at - my head was swimming. Just everything was lovely and Graham even made his own marmalade - with letterpress-printed labels, of course. Whilst we drank tea we all pored over the beautiful work in Graham's latest bundle from the Letterpress Exchange Group which had arrived that morning.
Much, much too soon it was time to brave the bitter cold walk back to the station to catch the return train to Manchester, me clutching the little still-wet keepsakes that we had printed, sandwiched between sheets of newspaper and fluttering like mad in the wind. Calling out our thanks for the best Wednesday morning ever. Riding on the train in a happy, excited daze of remembered images and inspiration.