Photo by Ted Escobar
The image on the right, Madonna and Child, looks like the one on the left after hand-pressed block letter printing. Guillermo Castaneda used the lettered block to make 120 Christmas cards.
As of Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Many of Guillermo Castaneda’s friends knew him as an engineering graduate from the University of Washington and a credentialed educator who retired from a career in social service.
But, he’s had other interests and talents all along.
He’s a guitarist-singer and his favorite media are prose poetry and painting.
His Labor Day poem, dedicated to farm workers and farmers, was on the opinion page August 31.
Castaneda, of rural Granger, has used the poem to refine another form of art, hand-pressed block printing.
It was used back before the 1800s to produce newspapers, flyers or announcements of any kind.
“They called it typesetting in the old newspaper days,” he said.
Hand-pressed block printing, the way Castaneda does it, can be painstaking work. It certainly was on the Labor Day poem. It took half a year to make the block.
The payoff is the product.
While the poem, printed in black on white paper, is pleasing, it’s also eye-catching and entertaining after seeing the hand-pressed block printing… especially when Castaneda hangs it at an art event.
Hand-pressed block printing reverses everything. The finished product is the poem written in white on a black background.
Castaneda paints on six of the crops grown in the Valley. He sells a large version of the block printed poem for $65 and a smaller version for $45.
The process is time-consuming because it is meticulous. One mistake while making the letter-bearing wood block renders the entire block unusable. He must start over.
“I didn’t make any mistakes on this one,” he said.
The process starts with the original work, in this case the poem. Using carbon paper, Castaneda traces the image onto the block, reversed. In this case, it is a 2-foot by 4-foot piece of plywood.
Using special cutting tools, he goes over the traced letters, engraving them into the wood. When that task is completed, he applies ink to the face of the block and places the final image-carrying paper onto it.
Castaneda proceeds through the final process of making sure everything has printed as planned. He applies pressure to the paper using four methods. First, he uses his fingers. Then, he uses a special tool called a balen. The next tool is a table spoon, and the final is a double doorknob.
“The tablespoon is the key,” he said. “It gets deeper into the smallest cuts.”
At the end, Castaneda has the poem in white on black, re-reversed, or un-reversed.