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The Art of Letterpress

With The Letterpress Collective

9 March 2022 - 11 March 2022

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Grab your apron and get messy by immersing yourself into the art of Letterpress! Over this two and half day course, The Letterpress Collective will teach you how to set lead type in a composing stick and how to use a small tabletop press, which can be used to create personalised posters and prints.

The Letterpress Collective will also bring a selection of beautiful wood type and will show you the process of locking lead and wood type into a chase or onto the flat bed cylinder presses. On these larger presses, you will be able to print poster-sized text based images; a favourite lyric, a line of poetry or something of your own. We’ll have some decorative borders and some vintage wood and metal etched illustrations to play with. This 600-year-old craft course requires no previous experience, just an enthusiasm to learn.  

By the end of the workshop you will:

  • Learn how to use a tabletop press
  • How to mix ink and register a two-colour print. 
  • Leave with an armful of your creations 

Accommodation can be provided with this course making this a fully immersive learning experience and giving you the time and space to develop a new peer network.

If you do choose to stay with us a bespoke evening meal as well as breakfast and lunch will also be provided.

Wanting to make our courses as accessible as possible, we have set up a payment plan so that you can spread the cost of the sessions over the next 4 months. You will find the option for doing this as you enter the checkout page.

This course would pair well with Copperplate Calligraphy which is taking place in the afternoon of the third day


The numbers below include tickets for this event already in your cart. Clicking "Get Tickets" will allow you to edit any existing attendee information as well as change ticket quantities.
Letterpress: Create your own Printed Words
£ 350.00
6 available
Letterpress: Create your own Printed Words + accommodation
£ 512.00
6 available


The Letterpress Collective is run by Nick Hand and Ellen Bills.

It is the printshop of The Department of Small Works which was created by Nick as a home for design, photography and print. Both reside in Centrespace, a cooperative of artists and craftspeople, in Bristol’s Old City.

Silently and without anyone noticing, the last commercial letterpress printer shut its doors in Bristol in 2012 after 600 years of continuous work in the city. Nick Hand saw a chance to learn from the last of the printers and compositors in the city, so that a new generation can understand and learn the thrill of working a small press and seeing your creation in ink on paper.

Since 2013, The Letterpress Collective has been gathering beautiful wood and lead type as well as collecting amazing printing presses including a Heidelberg Windmill Platen (winched out of the MShed store by dockside crane), a Stephenson Blake proofing press and a set of  Adana hand presses. Printer Ellen Bills runs the presses for the wide range of projects that pass through the printshop and also the regular workshops and courses.

Nick Hand: The Letterpress Printer from Storm & Shelter on Vimeo.


On this first day we will introduce the language of letterpress including the measurement system (points and picas), as well as the method of preparing type for printing (leading, furniture and chases) You will be shown how to set lead type in a composing stick, how to use a small table top press (an Adana 8x5”), so that you can print book marks, ex libris, postcards, tickets, business cards, anything that is small. We will also introduce you to a selection of beautiful wood type and we will show you the process of locking lead and wood type into a chase (metal frame) or onto the flat bed cylinder presses. On these larger presses you will be able to print poster sized things: a favourite lyric or line of poetry or something of your own. We’ll have some decorative borders and some lovely old wood and metal etched illustrations to play with. It will be inky, you will end up with an armful of print, it will be instructive and lots of fun.

After exploring the process of letterpress and printing on day 1, this second day is about experimenting and creating your own work to take home with you

You will have another half day to work with the presses, before heading home


Bring a set of old clothes that can get inky, and not loose around the cuffs (unless they can be rolled up), also something to tie long hair up (if appropriate) All other materials will be provided. You will receive a sketchbook, notebook and pencil on arrival for mapping out your ideas. The Letterpress Collective will supply each student with a small document that helps them with some technical aspects of the course (eg how a type case is laid out, a list of letterpress terms and their meanings etc).

This will be an introduction to letterpress, aimed at practicing artists, craftspeople and designers. They may be familiar with letterpress without necessarily having had the opportunity to experiment or practice with it. A willingness to engage with this in a ‘creative professional’ context is the main focus.

Yes! We provide refreshments throughout the day and a home-cooked lunch which is freshly prepared in our Granary kitchen. Lunch is served around our communal dining table, offering you a great chance to get to know everyone on the course and share in the making processes you have been developing throughout the day. Please advise us of any dietary requirements before arrival.

Yes! All of our bedrooms here at Clayhill are en-suite so you will have your own private space to retreat to and relax in after spending your day in the meditative space of the Studio. We provide you with your own towels and bathroom products for use throughout your stay and you can enjoy the extensive grounds well into the evening. If you do choose to stay with us a bespoke evening meal as well as breakfast and lunch will also be provided.

Gift Vouchers

We offer Gift Vouchers for use with our courses and events.


Working with Deborah and Michael was such a pleasure. They understood the project from the beginning, what the needs of the makers and our audiences would be, and acted as thoughtful ambassadors for the project when we were not able to be there. Every aspect of the exhibition and events was facilitated in such a calm and confident manner, which made my job of coordinating a group of artists so much easier! The whole event became a pivotal moment for the project, bringing people together in a way I could never have anticipated, and which has altered my thinking about the future of the project. Thank you for making us feel so welcome.


The weekend I spent at Clayhill Arts was a very welcome change of scenery to my otherwise urban setting. I felt calmed yet invigorated by the surroundings, and the accommodation was beautifully tasteful and very homely. The main space is wonderfully considered and very versatile - an ideal space for creativity and dynamic discussion. I left on the Sunday feeling energised and inspired by the experience of staying at Clayhill.


As a singer it has been one of the best spaces to sing in with generous reverberation and acoustics.  It is a space which complemented the type of instruments I was working with and the songs.


I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed being at your venue. It is a lovely and inspiring artistic space. The food was fantastic, homely yet unusual. I really enjoyed the day.


As an artist retreat, the venue at Clayhill Arts provided a warm and welcoming environment, allowing a safe and constructive space where individuals creative needs can be met. 


We were lucky enough to be able to take over the whole venue for a weekend, using the Granary as our base for experimentation, discussion and shared learning. The informality of the accommodation, and the relaxed surroundings, put everyone at ease and offered a space where cooperation and encouragement evolved naturally.


Everything was wonderful! This is a beautiful place. Thank you, we really enjoyed our stay.


Clayhill feels remote which is great but it also is close to Cannington which has everything, so supplies can be bought without travelling a great distance...I also really enjoyed that it is still a working farm, because it feels productive and there is such a lot of life around us which is very inspiring