Community Papers

Okanagan College print shop opens doors

Shvaugn Craig lines up sheets of paper to run through the press at Okanagan College’s print shop. The shop will hold an open house Thursday. - jennifer smith/black press
Shvaugn Craig lines up sheets of paper to run through the press at Okanagan College’s print shop. The shop will hold an open house Thursday.
— image credit: jennifer smith/black press

Okanagan College has gone back in time to give students a rare, hand’s on experience with words.

And the Vernon campus would like to show the community its one-of-a-kind classroom during a special open house Thursday. Students in the college’s print shop, The Bunker, are opening the doors to the public from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Instead of the traditional computer-filled classroom, this class houses an impressive collection of letterpress equipment, including close to 400 cases of metal type from old newspapers around the Okanagan.

Using the almost archaic equipment, the students configure individual letters of type into sentences onto the printing press.

“It’s like a puzzle,” said Cheyenne Boyko, while trying to place a spacer into her paragraph and then knocking over half the letters, forcing her to re-place them all.

Despite how time-consuming and meticulous the work is (compared to the ease of typing in a sentence on the computer), and the fact that she doesn’t even like puzzles, Boyko happily takes it all in.

“I’d like to work in the publishing industry,” said Boyko. “This kind of gives me the fundamental tools I need to get into that.”

The Bunker has also sparked Jillian Rowe’s interest.

“It’s really cool to know,” said Rowe, who joined the class due to her love of books and reading.

“Gotta keep the legacy going.”

While the art of  the printing press is not used in commercial printing anymore, there is a market for it in fine press work and high-end printing jobs, like wedding invitations.

But one of the biggest reasons instructor Jason Dewinetz brought the printing press to life at the college was for the hands-on experience.

By working with each individual space and letter, Dewinetz says the students get a stronger sense of white space than computers can permit.

Without the ease of spell check, they are also learning proofreading skills, and they become more aware of layout and structure.

“It’s also just a really welcome break for these kids who are on computers constantly,” said Dewinetz, who spent more than three years collecting equipment for the class to use in establishing The Bunker.

“Now that it’s finally going we want people to know about it.”

High school students and the general public are invited to the open house, where there will be a printing demonstration and opportunity for the public to and try their hand at setting type, then see that type locked up and printed on the presses.

“This semester, students of the diploma in writing and publishing, normally kept busy writing, editing and designing books on the computer, are also setting, proofing and correcting metal type by hand,” said Jane Lister, OC regional dean.

“Their work will result in the printing of two new books to be released by Kalamalka Press, and this event will showcase their hard work, allowing a view into how books were printed 500 years ago.”

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