About the lead gardens
The lead gardens play on the delicate, ornate patterns that can be made with metal type. The patterns possible from printing dozens of ornaments are both delicate and intricate. The individual elements are not, quite, organic.
As we explore the idea of a lead garden a little further, we can explore the nature of lead itself. On its own, lead is too soft for letterpress printing. It must be mixed with other metals so that it flows easily into the moulds (tin), and is hard enough to maintain its shape when used for printing (antimony). So we have the softness of flowers, and the softness of lead.
Finally, we can explore the softness of lead type. Eventually, through use, all lead type will eventually wear down to the point where it can no longer be used to print a fresh, crisp impression. Some flowers, perennials, will come back year after year. At the end of its season, lead ornaments can be melted down to form new shapes. Internationally, there are fewer than a hundred remaining practitioners who know how to create metal type from lead using traditional techniques. These practitioners are limited to the designs whose moulds are still available.
But the shapes can only be made new again if the moulds still exist. Where they don't, we maintain the analogy through annual flowers. They grow once, but do not come back again. For these flowers, we enjoy them while we have them and replace them with a different one in subsequent designs.
For the rare flowers, there are no longer matrices, or moulds, that could be used to cast new (lead) flowers. There are only the flowers that remain. Each time they are used, they are a little closer to the end of their season.
How the lead gardens are made
These prints are made from four unique impressions on our Stephen Blake galley proofing press. For each of the four impressions, the individual ornaments are inked by hand using a colour fade, and a single dot of colour (shown in the media gallery for this item). Between each impression, the flowers are rotated to a new position, and the ornaments are inked again.
Limited edition: Due to the very manual process, every print is unique and only a very limited number of gardens are available in each series (usually fewer than 20). Each garden is inspected for quality, signed, and numbered.
Paper: The paper for these prints is from a UK mill, supplied to us by British paper merchant Paperback Paper. This colour is not light fast and will fade over time, leaving the printed metal ornaments to stand in higher contrast against the now lighter paper. An example of the faded paper is shown in the media gallery for this item. You can see the outline of a bulldog clip with the original paper colour. If you would like to speed up the fading process, place your image in direct sunlight. If you would like to slow down the process, place your image out of direct sunlight. You cannot reverse the fading process.
Frames: the framed gardens are finished in an FSC-certified, British-made frame. The outer dimensions are 205 X 205mm, and the frame has a back flap so that it can stand upright.
Choosing your lead garden
We will choose our favourite from the available prints at your time of order. If you have a preference, please let us know as an order "note" and we will do our best to accommodate.
We think they look pretty. Sometimes it really can be that simple. 🤷♀️