Malta's 1970’s Printing Press

27 May 2014

Don’t you just love the feeling of holding a paperback novel in your hands, turning the pages as they become worn out with use? Or the texture of printed letters on a fancy business card or wedding invitation?

Although paper is still used in abundance, digital devices and online publications have significantly changed the way we consume media and has also left the wonderful art and technique of printing far behind.  

That’s why people like Michelle Morissey are so great to come by! Michelle is a British artist who treasures the attributes of the printing world. Inspired by traditional printing, the technical and lengthy process and the cogs and wheels of the printing machine, Michelle settled in Malta and bought a spectacular 1970’s Malta Drydocks manufactured Printing Press. This printing press is a two and a half ton press, is in full working condition and today takes pride of place in Michelle’s Art Studio in Valletta

Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to not only meet Michelle but also to see the printing press in action at one of the artist’s printing master classes. The workshop took me to Studio 104, Michelle’s inspirational art gallery.

Although early in the morning on a Saturday, Michelle kindly offered her keen students tea and biscuits, as the English do. The artist introduced us to the world of 1970’s printing.  We learned about contemporary printmaking, engraving, inking and using the press.

She then sent us round Valletta looking for features that caught our eye and requested that we draw them. With a collection of door handles, shop signs and wooden balcony sketches, we returned to the studio to put our drawings through the printing process.  

We started off by forming our sketches into a composition, cutting and sticking where necessary and using a perspex template as a scale guide. The group then traced the composition, flipped it round and engraved it into the Perspex. Using a roller, we then rolled ink into the engraving and finally put it through the press.

After quite a lengthy yet thoroughly enjoyable process, I was able to view my print on paper. Might I say I was quite surprised with the outcome. The press seemed to pick up all of the ink from every nook and cranny in my engraving, bringing out some fine detail. The final result was sharp, clear and very impressive. 

When Michelle speaks about her printing press she is almost overcome with love and pride. The great working conditions of the machine reflect the time and dedication that has been put into this large printing device to make it what it is today. The machine works without any sign of old age and takes you back in time to a world where printing was the result of hard manual labour and revealed genuine art work. Attending this workshop allowed me to appreciate the art of true printing.

You can find out more or book your own printing masterclass by sending an email to Studio 104 or by visiting the Facebook page.
Here are some images to show you what the class was all about and of course, show off my lovely print.    


Author: Sabine Jung

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