As you know, I love the Kaba Ornament. Words cannot describe my happiness for being able to teach a workshop with it, together with Thomas Gravemaker, but I can at least tell you a bit about that special weekend. The workshop was possible because the original boxes containing the ornaments (cast in 10 Didot point size by Lettergieterij Enschedé) and the matrices, together with handwritten instructions by Bram, now belong to the Dutch foundation Drukwerk in de Marge. Only members can use the ornaments, which are kept at the studio of Sander Pinkse, one of the board members.
The first Kaba workshop took place at Letterpress Amsterdam on 12 and 13 of March 2016, with a limited group of 5 students: Baukje Stamm, Leonie Staman, Michael Karner, Muriel van der Meer Mohr and Rolf Rosing. We started the Saturday with an introduction about type ornaments, the Kaba ornament and Bram de Does. After looking at a range of different materials, including the books about the Kaba ornament and some original prints by Bram, the students were ready to sketch. We provided them two rubber stamps cut in a geometric shape resembling the Kaba, which is a quick way to preview a vignette, border or pattern, without having to draw the detailed shapes.
The two stamps corresponded to A and B which relate to the ornament and the mirror image. In the metal type they differ by A having a single nick and B two. Each one of them can assume four different positions, therefore eight in total. There are countless possibilities for playing around with the ornaments, so you can spend as much time as you want sketching and still want more, which means it could be and endless process. So we took a special lunch break at a cozy Italian delicatessen nearby to get some fresh air and amazing desserts.
After some coffee we were able to choose some sketches to start typesetting and before the end of the first day we were able to print the first proofs. During the process we used plastic mirrors, a very useful trick, to see how a small piece would look if it was mirrored in one or two ways.
With the first print in hand, we analyzed the outcomes so far and choose some of them to keep developing, edit others and save the ones that were ready. The typesetting was completed on Sunday, doing some final adjustments in the layouts from Saturday and also creating new pieces. It was time to tie it all up for the second proof, but not before lunch. For the second day we got ingredients to cook a typical hangover brunch: eggs fried on butter with cheese on top, laid over toast, optionally accompanied by some salad. Lekker!
Proofing the final layout was easy, but then we decided to arrange them in a certain order that would be a nice one for the poster. All the shapes that were created, joined together in one single collective layout. We also included the credits, typeset by Thomas.
It was a lot of work to have all the different shapes merged together in the bed of the press. It is specially tricky with the Kaba because... shhh, a little secret: it is not perfect! To our surprise it is a tiny bit smaller than 10 pt, which makes a big difference when you have larger compositions. Therefore, we can only use the white material that comes with the ornaments, otherwise it is a nightmare to compensate all the spaces left in between.
In any case we managed to do it, not without some moments of suspense, which made it even more exciting, but it turned out fine and then each student got to print a few copies to take home. We were so glad to finally have it all locked up, that only later we noticed the differences between what we planned and the final print. Little things here and there that should be different if we had extra time to tweak them, but we were happy with the results.
Through the weekend we also had multiple conversations about random topics, learned how to , got to know more about each other and the multiple talents around the table, such as Leonie, who showed us some of her amazing work with linocuts and custom spirograph letters. To wrap up the work we celebrated with wine and appetizers for a few extra hours. It was as if we didn’t want that day to finish. I can only thank all of them, especially Thomas, for such an incredible experience!
With a successful first class, we decided to do it again! So there will be another Kaba workshop sometime next autumn. If you are interested, or know someone who might be, please check the information and get in contact.
Thank you!!! xxx, Marina