How your card is made with help from the princess of printing presses, a melting plastic and a skilled Yorkshireman called James. With video of your cards coming off the press...
Your card starts as an idea in my sketch book which I turn into a digital file for a 'die'. These are the engraved metal plates which press the design into pewter (for pewter compact mirrors), copper (the base for my enamels) or card (for your greetings card!).
Your greetings card die is engraved in a solid but soft-ish metal, magnesium. It then arrives on the table of John, a skilled printer in Bradford, West Yorkshire. John's print workshop is just down the road from my studio, which means I can be a real pest while he sets up and runs the first prints. Your card can go through several changes as we work together to get the best effects out of the foils, card and press.
James is the man responsible for running John's traditional printing press. This is a Heidelberg Platen, the princess of printing machines. Invented in West Germany in the 1950s it's seen by many as the gold standard of traditional presses. I love designing for this whirring, gleaming gentle monster (with its looks straight out of the Ipcress File). And James's enthusiasm for what the press can do is infectious.
James mounts your card's magnesium die in the press and aligns it with a ribbon of transfer foil. We choose a satin silver for the print, after initial running tests with a less elegant silver gloss. James runs more print tests with the foil to make sure that the pressure of the press, combined with the shape of the die, gives the effect I'm looking for.
I make things extra difficult for James by using 'tints' in your card die. These are different textures etched into the metal - which show on your card as glittery areas or surface textures in the silver foil. Achieving a good finish in these areas needs James's specialist knowledge.
At first the tinted shapes aren't embossing as we'd hoped, so James hand-cuts the designs out of a special plastic film, Prago. (Actually he'd first jumped in his car to go for Prago supplies and had to persuade me that the supply shop wasn't an exciting place to visit too). He then mounts these plastic shapes to the reverse plate of the press, which hits your card on the other side to the die. The Prago melts into all the die's contours and textures, forming a 'counter die' to help press all the tricky bits.
James cuts away the extra Prago by hand to achieve crisp lines in the final print. We then run more tests, get excited by the now beautiful foiling, and agree the print run for your card is ready to start. James runs the press and hand-inspects each card at the same time. It means he can stop the press the moment a card emerges less than perfect. Each card is printed in a batch of one hundred or so, and James sets up and checks the press each time.
Your cards are ready after they're foiled and checked by James and his Heidelberg, folded individually, first by machine then by hand, checked again, then carefully bagged with an envelope from another local manufacturer, The Yorkshire Envelope Company. I'm rather taken with the story of your envelope, but that's a post for the future. Enough to say that they're lovely enough to live up to a card with so much skill in its production. I'm hoping to work with John and James on a lot more projects to come…
Some of the finished cards now available via Amazon in the UK & USA
(I'm struggling to photograph these to show how beautifully the foil shines in the light. May have to make another video! You can also see the collection of British greetings cards here.)