Just shy of three years ago, James Tucker created The Aesthetic Union, a San Francisco press shop that is built to fill the gap between designers & production — and his career has only mushroomed since. With the blossoming business, Tucker has found that he’ll now have more time to enjoy sailing in addition to teaching & printing the finer details of letterpress.
LETTERPRESS LINKS The Aesthetic Union was created about 3 years ago as a need to fill a gap I saw between designers and production. Usually designers would be designing for web or digitally printing and wanted to explore letterpress and more traditional ways of printing. Their designs weren’t translating well with traditional methods and the final product showed a lack thereof. Through a direct collaboration with a team and making sure designers know how the method of printing is done and what the limitations are of letterpress and how to better to push the boundaries, I immediately saw an improvement in the finished products.
HOOKED BY HATCH My first exposure to letterpress was back in college. I was studying printmaking at Maryland Institute College of Art when I saw some work by Jim Sheridan at Hatch Show Print. I was immediately hooked and found myself there that summer as an intern to study with him and Brad Vetter. I continued to work as a pressman after I graduated and moved to San Francisco.
I was first introduced to Heidelberg Windmills and Boxcar plates at a five year stint working as the lead pressman for Hello Lucky and fell in love with those machines and the simplicity of the process of platemaking.
SAN FRAN FUN I’m currently looking for a new space in San Francisco to house my shop, as for now I’m carrying the venerable torch of a tramp printer. I print for many places in San Francisco and in exchange I use their shops as my own. I also teach a number of classes at SF Center for the Book, which just moved into a new space and obtained some great equipment.
FULL TIME FUN Up until recently I was printing full time, but since I started my own business I have had more time to pursue my love of sailing and working on tall ships. So when I’m not in the pressroom, I’m out on the San Francisco Bay chartering large schooners.
PRESS HISTORY My first press was a 10×15 Old Style C&P. I pulled it out of a woman’s basement in upstate NJ in pieces and rebuilt it. I’m currently selling it to pay for my new investment, a late Heidelberg Windmill with lock ups and a rare Asbern proof press.
BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar has made registration extremely efficient with the help of the gridded base and transparent photopolymer plates. This decreases makeready and saves time and money.
SHOP TIPS If I could pass along some advice to my fellow printers I want to convey that working smart, clean and efficiently will save time and your sanity.
WHAT’S NEXT The rest of 2013 will be eventful for The Aesthetic Union. We are on the search for the perfect space and once we have it, we’d like to ramp up production and tackle some in house projects I’ve had on the plate for a while. We will also be teaching more at SF Center for the Book, The Arm in Brooklyn, at Skill Exchange and will be giving some more lectures.
Big round of thanks to James Tucker at The Aesthetic Union for letting us catch up with him!