Bill Ritchie-Halfwood Printing Press

At Design Interviews

(Excerpt) Interview with Bill Ritchie : Frank Scott: What is the main principle, idea and inspiration behind your design?. Bill Ritchie : Hand-worked wood instruments and hand tools, such as musical instruments, craft and artists' tools, plus the grace and fittings of sailing ships, yacht interiors and even navigation devices inspire me. Since I am a fine art print maker, the presses made of wood in the 17th Century (Rembrandt's) and French 19th Century lithograph presses (Lautrec) also inspired me to design a press that was a beautiful artist's instrument. Since I was inspired by great print makers who were also teachers (S. W. Hayter) and I am a professor of printmaking I love to share what I learned over 50 years in the field. However, I am without a venue so I decided to embed my teaching in the press, using a flash memory drive the user can connect to a computer display. .Frank Scott: What has been your main focus in designing this work? Especially what did you want to achieve?. Bill Ritchie : I wanted to design a hand printing press which is beautiful in the same way a violin, oboe or piano is beautiful. Musicians perform their art on beautiful instruments, so why not visual artists? I also wanted it to function well, as a hand printing press must. It was my engineer and steel Wright associate, Tom, who was able to make a miniature which, despite its small size, is capable of professional prints. This provided me with great mobility—I can go anywhere, anytime, and print. It is especially important for me because I can use the press to teach and demonstrate the art. When I realized I can include videos, books, etc. in digital form on a flash memory drive, it was the “PressGhost”, the jewel in the crown and helps me reach my lifetime goal of being a good teacher. .Frank Scott: What are your future plans for this award winning design?. Bill Ritchie : We plan a worldwide network of Halfwood Press Workshops, cottage industry opportunities for people who love prints, printmaking, and print makers. In the USA, my future plan is a teaching company whose core product is the Halfwood press line and also software design for a printmaking teaching method. The software will include serious games based on printmaking and historic figures, such as Rembrandt who elucidate the artistic and cultural value of the fine art print and prints of historic importance. .Frank Scott: How long did it take you to design this particular concept?. Bill Ritchie : The first design was a simple pencil sketch which took seconds to draw. Adapting the sketch to available press designs took one week. Once a wood prototype was done and tested, reducing it to ¼ scale and building a second prototype took two weeks. In all, about one month. The addition of the PressGhost feature—which is an embedded flash memory drive with subject matter expertise for the user, took one week to design and test, excluding the assets. .Frank Scott: Why did you design this particular concept? Was this design commissioned or did you decide to pursuit an inspiration?. Bill Ritchie : Inspiration made me design it, preceded with my need for an etching press to take the place of one I sold. That was eight years ago, and when I took it to an art fair, I discovered there was a market, so I wanted to make them to sell, too. Over the years, we added to the line and 125 people worldwide bought them. They are handmade, “works of art,” and the last phase is the education feature, the PressGhost, which I designed to pursue my teaching goal and share the printmaking experience worldwide. .Frank Scott: Is your design being produced or used by another company, or do you plan to sell or lease the production rights or do you intent to produce your work yourself?. Bill Ritchie : I license the design and provide consulting services, thus far to one Warren Ralls, in England. He is our “test case” to establish best practices plus we want to prove the business feasibility of a worldwide network of Halfwood Press Workshops. My role will be to encourage and share with other people who love prints, printmaking and print makers and who want to develop the cultural and social value of fine art printmaking. .Frank Scott: What made you design this particular type of work?. Bill Ritchie : I saw a problem in the education of young people who want to learn printmaking, and although many artists, crafts people and designers have gone far to teach the methods of relief printing, such as stamping and stencil printing, the more complicated methods, such as intaglio and lithographic printmaking, are stymied because of the press—its size, costs, and sustainability issues. I solved the problem of size and sustainability by miniaturizing, and I reinforced the aesthetic of traditional printmaking by using good design features. .Frank Scott: Where there any other designs and/or designers that helped the influence the design of your work?. Bill Ritchie : Yes, a Canadian provided the basic mechanical engineering plans in 2004 on which I based the first Halfwood press, a large model. Then Tom, of the Kughler Company, elaborated on my design and solved manufacturing design. Ron Myhre contributed to the content development, that is, the marketing theme. Warren Ralls proved the feasibility of the Workshop approach, including the mobility aspect of the small press. .Frank Scott: Who is the target customer for his design?. Bill Ritchie : Women over fifty who are interested in the art, craft and design of prints and the processes of printmaking and, in addition, the social, cultural and community values made possible by owning a printing press. .Frank Scott: What sets this design apart from other similar or resembling concepts?. Bill Ritchie : Printing presses for fine art hand printmaking made for industrial-strength machines mainly for the college market. Economy, durability, and performance were key in printmaking classrooms and commercial publishing houses. The Halfwood printing press is a balance of esthetic design and engineering, a blend of old-world styling, fine, hand-finished varietal woods, colorful metal appointments and, of course, functionality. .Frank Scott: How did you come up with the name for this design? What does it mean?. Bill Ritchie : “Halfwood” refers to the printing press’ components, about half wood and half steel. We say, “Half wood, half steel, all real.” .Frank Scott: Which design tools did you use when you were working on this project?. Bill Ritchie : Off-the-shelf software is ACD See “Canvas” and Adobe “Creative Suite”. The workshop equipment and tools include a range of steel, brass, copper and, on the wood side, various saws and finishing tools—both power and hand tools. .Frank Scott: What is the most unique aspect of your design?. Bill Ritchie : Owners say, at first glance, say, “It is a work of art in itself,” and this asset is possibly the most unique aspect for a printing press. On closer inspection, finding the PressGhost (a flash memory drive embedded in the wood of the press) the reaction is, “You are giving us your mind!” Both assets—the aesthetics and the conceptual “ghost in the machine”—are unique. .Frank Scott: Who did you collaborate with for this design? Did you work with people with technical / specialized skills?. Bill Ritchie : Over a hundred people bought the Halfwoods between 2004-2012, and they provided feedback so I consider them to be collaborators. In the workshops, Tom Kughler was the engineer and the manufacturing engineer of the steel parts, plus he processed wood. Nick Dellos, a furniture designer, helped me with wood selection and taught me characteristics, plus showed me machinery I did not know about. Ron Myhre and Warren Ralls completed their own presses, showing me the way to make the printmaking press experience available to others. .Frank Scott: What is the role of technology in this pa.[ End of Excerpt: Read complete interview with Bill Ritchie on Halfwood Printing Press at design-interviews.com ]

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