„Journeyman Years“ in Letterpress

The journeyman years (Wanderjahre) is a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. After completing their apprenticeship craftsmen went on a journey of working lasting three years and one day. This way of additional training was widespread in crafts like roofing and carpentery but also in the visual arts like masonry, painting and in goldsmiths. These artistic jounrmeymen made a major contribution to spreading art styles and design in Europe.

A few years ago the German association for letterpress (Verein für die Schwarze Kunst) developed the idea of having journeyman years in the crafts of letterpress and hand composing. With practical work in these techniques having almost vanished from daily work in modern printing offices, the „new journeymen and journeywomen“ now travel around studios of book artists, printmaking artists or printing museums. Here they can train in the old crafts of this very special cultural heritage. More than any other craft letterpress and setting metal type has changed communication processes, education and society in general. One aim of the new journey scheme is to make sure that knowledge and experience on how to go about work in letterpress printing and setting metal type is kept alive for and particularly in coming generations. This scheme of the new „Wanderjahre“ wants to make sure that neither knowledge nor experience in theses crafts is lost. 

On 7 April Sabine Fehmer arrived at The Fork and Broom Press for her second placing on her journey. She set out to work on her project of producing a concertina booklet with the poem „Naturspiel“ by Christian Morgenstern. In every single studio or museum she will learn special skills, and artists and volunteers will let her in their secrets and tell about their very own experiences. Professionally Sabine is in charge of the printing workplace at Braunschweig Arts School (Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig) and thus will be able to pass on all the knowledge she collects on her journey to her students. You can follow her journey at her special website „Die Typo-Reisende“ (in German)

This scheme of training in letterpress printing and setting movable type usually runs for two to six months and requires a minimum number of three placings and 40 days with a minimum of five daily working hours. As of 2022 there is a list of 18 studios and museums that can be chosen from to spend one leg of the journey for „learning by doing“. A limited number of grants is available from the association especially for people younger than 30. Details, contact and dead lines for applications can be found here: https://www.verein-fuer-die-schwarze-kunst.de/walz/ (in German)

On 12 April Sabine‘s days at The Fork and Broom Press drew to a close. The last day was spent sorting back type, clearing tables and wrapping up prints. On leaving for her way home Sabine gave me a lovely bunch of flowers. We have spent a few very busy days exchanging a wealth of knowledge, skills and stories around the art of letterpress.

Thank you Sabine for staying with me at The Fork and Broom Press and all the best for the remaining placings to come on your journey!

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