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Words in Progress : Workshops, Seminars & Travel Courses

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Peter Fraterdeus by Tim Olson (Dubuque)

Peter in the original Slow Print Letterpress Studio, Millwork District, Dubuque, 2012 – Photo by Tim Olson, used with permission 

Seminars for the Art and Mind.™


Drawing on Emptiness : Make a Mindful Mark™

Heidelberg Windmill & Other Letterpress Master Classes

Here are a few comments from recent participants in our November and January classes:

 "Peter did a great job explaining and walking us through the process, and then stepping back and letting us work our own way through the rest of the project using the techniques and concepts he equipped us with. It was great!"

 "The way Peter broke down the trouble shooting process into a logical process of elimination until the desired result was achieved was the biggest thing I took away from the class. I also really appreciated, whether intentional or not, all the little "problems" with the project, ie die not being in-line, crop marks not lining up."

 "The workshop far exceeded my expectations."

 "I was overwhelmed with information (in a good way). In all the time I had printed on a Windmill, the press was usually set up and ready to go, or someone else adjusted it. So it was great for me to see how to adjust everything for myself and how to troubleshoot my way through certain scenarios. "

Upcoming Letterpress Master Classes  (Dates TBA)

As part of our series of Letterpress.Expert Master Classes, we're offering a free one-day workshop,  on Typographic Finesse for 21st C Digital Letterpress, including hints for Adobe and Open Source software, font adjustments for letterpress, and polymer platemaking. 



We are happy to schedule workshops and consulting at your location. Please contact me for details.

We've had folks from all over the world come to Dubuque for our classes! The Hamilton Woodtype and Printing Museum is a four hour drive north-east of us (Madison is 90 minutes), Chicago's Newberry Library is three hours east, University of Iowa Center for the Book is an hour and a half away. If you're coming from elsewhere, plan on making a tour!


Sign up for either or both of the Presswork classes and the Wednesday Typographic Finesse class is free!

Perfect Impression on the Chandler & Price Platen Press

If you have a C&P or similar hand-fed platen, this is for you! We will learn how to reset the platen to be parallel to the bed, fine tune the roller height, lock-up and setup for printing with the "Boxcar" base, or traditional hand-set type forms, and get pretty close to perfect registration in two-colors...

Typographic Finesse for Digital Letterpress From Fonts to Platemaking

This workshop is free if you sign up for either the C&P class or the Windmill Class. Learn how to get the best possible results from your (or your client's) digital files. Adjust digital type for letterpress reproduction. Make the best use of your own photopolymer platemaker, or how to get the best from your service bureau.

Heidelberg Windmill Master Class

Dive in the deep-end! Open to all levels, this three-day intensive puts you in firm control of your press. We produce a die-cut coaster, with two-colors on both sides, very tight registration and perfect inking and impression is the intended result!

Experimental Letterpress, Dampened Paper, Wood Type, Imprimaturata on the Vandercook Cylinder Press 

There's nothing like printing woodtype from dampened paper.
Come find out "How John Baskerville squeezed the life out of printing, and what we can do to bring it back!"
Versions of this workshop have been taught at the Hamilton Woodtype Museum Wayzgoose, and the Ladies of Letterpress Type On The Cob, as well as Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Art, et al...


2016 Easthampton, Massachusetts at Big Wheel Press in September or October (TBA)

2016 Two Rivers, Wisconsin at Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum (TBA)


Recent Classes

Pennsylvania, November 8-10, 2015

Hosted by Ksyenia Thomas co-founder of Ladies of Letterpress at Thomas Printers in Carlisle (Harrisburg) PA.  

We had a great time in Carlisle! Here are some photos! Thanks Kseniya! 

San Francisco, Feb 1-3, 2016 

A great session at Sheet Anchor Star Press with Lisé Currie, et al,semi-private intensive three-days in the up and coming Bayview area of San Francisco!   

Sherwood Press, Olympia WA, Feb 5-7 

We had a wonderful time with Jami Heinricher at the wonderful Sherwood Press (printing in this location for over 75 years!) The workshop is hands-on, full immersion!

Easthampton, Massachusetts in mid-January 13-15 2016 

We had yet another amazing group at Big Wheel Press in Easthampton in January!Thanks to Bill, Chris, and all!

Looks like we'll be back there in the late summer or early fall! Can't wait!
On Saturday we go over to visit John Barrett's Letterpress Things warehouse! 


Follow @ideaswords for updates! 

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See for award winning letterpress printing. 


Here are some comments from students in the Master Classes:

I was searching for a pro.  An artist.  Someone who could help start me on my new creative journey in the beautiful world of Letterpress. I searched and searched and stumbled upon Peter's site - and his work!  Attending the Master's Class quelled all of my fears.  His patient instruction was everything I was looking for! — Melody (Colorado)

I like the small intimate courses that allow you to get to know a few more awesome letterpress printers in a short time and all while learning so much! 
I liked it when the unexpected things went wrong and we had to troubleshoot our way out of them. This happens all the time in letterpress printing, and it was good practice overall and we got to see how to fix/adjust some parts of the press, we wouldn't have otherwise gotten to adjust. 
I do appreciate that the workshops are kept small so everyone has a chance to be up close and personal with the press. The hands-on approach is really helpful as well. — Megan (Pennsylvania)

Please get in touch for details! 

Offerings : High-Touch & Hands-On!

Words in Progress : Workshops, Seminars & Travel Courses

Our Mission: High-Touch & Hands-On, with good scents!

I'm offering a number of workshops or seminars designed to bring touch and smell back to the practice of design.

With the evolving explosion of inter-networked technologies unimaginable a few years back, designers and students of design are finding to their dismay that there's something important missing from their practice! The eye and mind may work exquisitely together in digital media, but it's a strange turn of events when the hands, our original digits, are left unloved, mere pointers, as is the nose, completely ignored, that most fundamental sensor of love and disgust! (If you smell your computer, it's time to grab the fire-extinguisher!)


Thus, there's an enormous interest in letterpress printing today, not only for its wood type rough-and-tumble visual aesthetic, or the exquisite impression in fine papers, but in the process, the touch and smell of actually making something with ones hands.

The smell of the ink, and the paper; the touch of the impression, of the cold steel bed of the press—there is nothing—nothing—that designing websites can offer to match this. With the success of the "Sign Painters" documentary, we see the same thing coming to hand-lettering. Sensei Kaz Tanahashi travels the globe teaching East Asian Calligraphy, or The Way of the Brush... Again, bringing the hand and body back to the present place and the present moment.

For example, in Wood Type Experimental Printmaking with dampened paper which I taught at the 2014 Hamilton Woodtype and Printing Museum Wayzgoose, we dig into the history of the passionate menage a trois between ink, type and paper. There is physics and chemistry, there is water and cellulose, there is touch, and smell. In Accentuate the Positive! we bring the smell of the freshly sharpened pencil, and the haptic sense of touch together where the piercing eye can not go...

And so each helps engage the body and the senses in the design process. On the Heidelberg Windmill, the sound of the forme rollers on the ink cylinder, and the rhythmic clatter of the sheet drawn in by the gripper each provide valuable information about the state of the impression... The R-mode brain is the more intuitive and sensual. We want it to be fully engaged, active and bubbling over with creative juices, thus giving the left-brain plenty of inspired material to build on later... Out mission is to bring it to a boil through these high-touch and hands-on engagements!

Please explore the offerings. I value your thoughts and feedback. Please follow @ideawords and my Google+ page (links in the footer below) and let's talk about these ideas!


Accentuate the Positive!

...but, what's missing? 
Drawing Letters without Lines: Learning to Feel the Intangible

Abstract forms are studied first as pure figure and ground relationships, and only then with stylistic consideration. A variety of techniques push our boundaries of observation, using the eye, the mind, and the hands to open doors of perception.
Perceptual drawing exercises help us develop a toolkit of practical approaches to drawing glyphs or sequences of letters. The same exercises also strengthen and refine pure drawing, of any subject.

Typographic Finesse & "Negative Space Counseling"

We offer visual appraisal and iterative refinement services for graphic and typographic designers, as well as workshops in advanced typographic design and techniques with Adobe InDesign and other tools. Typographic Finesse is the appreciation of centuries of visual communication, put into contemporary practice.

Heidelberg Windmill 21st Century Letterpress Master Class

3-5 day workshops covering all aspects of the setup and operation of the "Mercedes" of letterpress platen presses

Wood Type Experimental Printmaking with dampened paper

How John Baskerville squeezed the life out of printing and what we can do to bring it back.


Travel Journals : Sketching & Hand-Made Books

This five-day workshop with Peter Fraterdeus and Alice McMahon is offered by request for small groups. We can arrange for a week or more in locations such as Northern Italy, Barcelona, Andalucia, and Ireland, as well as notable venues in the US.
This workshop combines non-adhesive bookbinding techniques — leading up to making a multi-signature journals with a traditional folded paper cover — with taking our journals into the field to make sketches of the local built and natural environments in a journal format.

Please contact me for more information on the offerings!