Pressing Letters for The Gathering

This year’s Virginia Gourd Festival is going to be special! The Virginia Lovers’ Gourd Society partnered with Sanctuary on the Trail™ for The Gathering, a three-day celebration of agri-culture that runs Oct. 30-Nov. 1, 2015. Gourd enthusiasts, Native American tribes, and visitors will gather to enjoy gourd culture, gourd art classes, Native American Harvest Dance, a military tribute, a Trading Post, a Twilight Auction of gourd and Native American art and artifacts. [See for classes and auction items or The Gathering at]

For thirteen years, David Lasko has been printing postcards, letterhead, and notecards for the Virginia Lovers’ Gourd Society (VLGS) on his home letterpress equipment which could be any combination of antique metal and wood typefaces, a Vandercook proofing press, and various other hand and machine-run presses. The unique branding of the VLGS has been shaped not only by the stacked-typeface design developed by Lasko but by the process of pressing letters into paper. [See logotype.]

Lasko began his love of letterpress printing in the mid-1970s at Syracuse University where he happened upon a course and a professor who opened the door to this type of printing. At the time, letterpress printing was still a common way to communicate. Since then, digital printing formats have taken the world by storm and letterpress printing has been relegated to specialty jobs, usually custom high-end printing for wedding invitations or letterhead when the tactile beauty of letters pressed into paper produces a visual statement. Although Lasko works as a printing specialist for a local book manufacturer, he is a sought-after mentor among those rediscovering letterpress as an artform.

An event the size and scope of the Virginia Gourd Festival at The Gathering called for a special piece of letterpress printing. David Lasko used the stacked type style he originally developed for the Virginia Lovers’ Gourd Society logotype to produce a 19” x 25” promotional poster.

For a poster of this size, the letters and subsequent lines of text were laid directly onto the bed of the Vandercook to make a form. Letter by letter and line by line, the poster began to take shape. Eventually a black and white press proof rolled off the press for proofreading and editing. Once edits were marked on the proof and corrections were made to the form, the final set up was inked with red (there were red hearts) and the whole form was pressed into the paper chosen for the project.  Once dried, and the hearts (dingbats in letterpress terminology) were removed, the form was re-inked to print over the letters on the same papers to give a rich deep color for the type.

The resulting two-color poster is visually interesting, consistent with the VLGS brand, and worthy of an art collection. Although many posters will be hung around the state and shown at surrounding states’ gourd shows, some will be signed, numbered, and sold for $75 as a limited edition art poster with the money contributing to the Virginia Lovers’ Gourd Society’s public outreach programs.

Let letterpress inspire you to join us at the Clarke County Fairground in Berryville, VA for The Gathering!  Be a part of the friendly fun and hearty laughter gourds can offer. Enjoy learning about Native American culture and heritage. Take home a piece of art or learn to make your own. It will be gourd-tastic – see you there!!