I used to own a clamshell press like this one. Steampunky goodness.
For a graphic designer, there are few toys as fun as a printing press. I’m talking about relief printing or engraving. Digital printing doesn’t even come close to the creative satisfaction an artist feels viewing a small run of her poster or book or etching. There’s a hands-on quality that’s part of cutting a woodblock or linoleum block and combining it with metal type to produce a printed work of art.
How exciting it must have been as the Age of Exploration unfolded—when map-makers and printers partnered up to chart continents no European had seen before! That’s the place for an artist to be: right at the front of a new technology, where your work has an audience who’s willing to pay you well for it.
This article conveys the creative energy involved in producing maps back then—and the story of a map that had been missing for centuries. It’s only very recently that Martin Waldseemüller’s map is available for us ordinary shmoes to look at.
Martin Waldseemüller’s map was the first to use the name ‘America’ and show the Pacific as a separate ocean. It was printed in 12 sheets to make a really big map—8’ x 4 1/2’.
The Library of Congress made a composite of the 12 sheets. Click on it to zoom in. https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3200.ct000725C/?r=0.35,0.205,0.058,0.029,0
Small Biz Startup: Bedford Creek Press
Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Time & Space
A former student of mine wrote:
I am having an issue with people thinking just because they know me I should paint portraits of their kids and do graphic design work for them for nothing—or next to it. I have gotten five demands this week (worse yet, 3 of those were rather rude).
I politely sent back a note explaining that I freelance—accompanying a cost sheet for the work, hours involved in the job requested. And a link to my site, also thanking them for being interested. This has not won me upbeat feedback. Or just sheer astonishment that I would ask $300.00 down to begin a medium-sized oil portrait.
What are some suggestions you may have so that I could further appear more professional? I wish I had limitless time and a money tree in the back yard to just make work and give it away to people who love what I do. Unfortunately this is not the case. Any advice would be appreciated.
I wrote back:
Sounds like you’re doing it the right way—professional-looking estimates remind people that you’re in business and can’t afford to give away free samples. I doubt your friends would consider giving up a paycheck for whatever work they do. Moreover, it’s fatal to cultivate the perception that your work isn’t worth anything.
I’ve done the occasional freebie for friends who’ve been kind to me and I wanted to reciprocate—but that’s my decision. Because I’m established, these friends understand and appreciate what they’re being given (if you’re one of those friends reading this right now, I want to underscore that I enjoyed sharing my talent with you). It’s harder for a young artist starting out.
Stick to your guns. The friends who are astonished that you charge for your skills or are outright rude will either come around to respect your talent or they’ll drift away.