Tight Registration with Slackline Press

Connecticut-based Lourdes Irizarry of Slackline Press balances printing life with outdoor adventures in her garage-turned-printing haven. With her Golding Jobber press (which she rescued from dust-covered days), Lourdes enjoys creating punchy, colorful designs and incorporating her love of travel into her work.   In our chat with Lourdes, topics flow from selecting the perfect paper for large solid jobs, to the allure of letterpress and sketching out her future line of wedding invitations.

PRINTING PASSION  My name is Lourdes. I’m a digital art director by day and run Slackline Press as a passion project for now. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, lived in Orlando, Florida and now reside in Connecticut with my boyfriend and two dogs.

LOVE AT FIRST IMPRESSION I started my letterpress journey in 2013 as a creative outlet from my day job. As a designer, I had always been interested in letterpress but had never looked into what it would take to get set up. After researching different types of presses, I decided a Golding Jobber or Pearl would be the right size for my studio and the type of work I wanted to create. I started poking around online and found a Golding expert in my area that did workshops. It was love at first sight and I immediately became obsessed with building a letterpress studio.

CREATING IN CONNECTICUT My shop is in half of a detached garage behind our tiny cape on the CT shoreline. The detached garage was a selling point when we bought the house but it was in pretty rough shape. We hired a contractor who worked with my crazy vision of building a tiny loft in the crawlspace. It’s definitely my favorite thing about the space. It turned out way nicer than I ever would have imagined.

SURROUNDED BY ADVENTURE I love that I can bike to the beach in our town. There are also a number of outdoor adventure opportunities in the area. Rivers for water sports, plenty of forested trails for hiking and letting the dogs run around as well as a number of quaint town greens with farmers markets, shops and restaurants.

My favorite landmark is the shoreline trolley museum which renovates and runs old trolleys from East Haven to Branford. We’re also 1.5 hour train ride from New York City.

PRINTING MENTORS Yes! John Falstrom of Perennial Designs connected us with our first press and offered an incredible amount of knowledge on the best way to move and renovate our Jobber. Also John Barrett of Letterpress Things whom I acquired my other 2 presses from. His warehouse is packed with supplies and letterpress ephemera. They are both a huge wealth of knowledge and are just wonderful people to know.

Inspiration is everywhere in our surroundings but I’m particularly inspired by travel and culture. I am currently infatuated with Mediterranean patterns.

PART TIME PRINTING, FULL TIME FUN I have a day job so I work my printmaking schedule around that. I’m still working out my long term goals for my letterpress business and figuring out the balance between custom work and my own stationery line. But I would love to build relationships with other crafters and artisans who need branded stationery or packaging.

THE CREATIVE FLOW I always start with really rough thumbnail sketches on paper, on my iPad or just write down ideas. I then try to choose a few that I keep coming back to, develop the sketches a little further and then illustrate them in Adobe Illustrator. Lately I’ve been designing vector art on my iPad Pro to save time going from sketch to digital. I then send my designs to Boxcar Press to get plates made and then print in my studio. I love to photograph my travels and surroundings and often times I use that as inspiration or reference vs having to go online and look for visuals.

PRINTING FEATS I’d say my biggest accomplishment so far is just getting a dedicated space built to house my presses and that I can work in through the seasons. Having it separate from the house but still easily accessible is really convenient.

PRESS HISTORY A Golding Jobber 8×12 platen press that was cooped up in a tiny stone cottage in the mountains of Vermont and unused for 7 years.

BOXCAR’S ROLE First and foremost, Boxcar customer service is the best! They helped guide me when I got started, and are very quick to get on the phone when there’s something wrong with my order or if I have questions. A moment that stands out to me when Boxcar went above and beyond happened when I was having an inking problem. They worked with me for hours (some of which were after business hours) to help me solve my issue. Boxcar has a quick turnaround, convenient real-time uploading and proofing, and fast shipping. Overall, it’s been an affordable way for a small press like me to get started.

PRINTING TIPS The more I print, the more I realize how inking varies depending on the paper I use. If I design something with larger areas of solid color or want smoother inking, I try to print on smoother paper and tend to over-ink. If I have a design that has more fine lines or has a grungier style to it, I try to print on a more textured paper with less ink to add to the grunginess of the design. Also, the brighter white paper is less forgiving in terms of showing imperfections.

WHAT’S NEXT I’m growing my stationery line of greeting cards as well as adding more personalized options like wedding invitations. I would love to attend the National Stationery Show for the first time next year and am learning as much as I can in order to get me there.

Inquisitive Printers Want To Know – Even More Eye-catching Things

Keeping sharp eye on the lookout for more cool things & intriguing “must-bookmark-this!” items, this week’s installment of the Inquisitive Printers Want to Know features a Wisconsin-based printer and bookmaker, a new specialized coating that is the “blackest of the blacks”, and a celebration for a book series that inspires one of our printers. Read on to learn more!

Cathy:   I recently found a website with a blog that pleased me.  It is called Letterpress Book Publishing and it belongs to Mike Coughlin of Superior Letterpress of Cornucopia Wisconsin. He calls himself a Printer and Book Maker and his blog reflects on his love of his profession. His posts are comfortable and friendly.  He hasn’t posted since December 2017 so I am hoping some new visitors to his page will prompt him to give us something new to read.

He is at the tip of Wisconsin before it drops into Lake Superior so come “chat” with the rest of us, Mike, and let us know what is on your mind or on your press.

Rebecca Miller: While we do love a good, deep rich printing black (a printer’s bread and butter), we often wonder about Vantablack.

(Photography credit: Surrey Nanosystems)

Hailed as the “blackest of blacks”, this is borderline cartoonish-ly black coating is neither really a pigment nor paint per se. Instead, the specialized coating (made by Surrey Nanosystems) is made up of series of long, extremely tightly packed (and quite microscopically thin) carbon tubes. So dense is this “forest of carbon nanotubes” that any light shined onto it is immediately absorbed (99.96% to be exact). 

The very precise need for those densely packed carbon nano tubes to be laid in a certain way limits how the coating can be applied. Currently in the works is a not-as-dark version in a spray variety aimed at the STEM community (and it will set you back a pretty penny).

Bonus: The “Vanta” in Vantablack stands for “Vertically Aligned Nanotube Array”.

Leanna: Happy Birthday, Harry (July 31st)!  I have been a huge Harry Potter fan since it was introduced to me by my fourth grade teacher. It was subsequently banned from the school a couple months later, so I had to sneak it in my lunchbox to read during break. Over the years since last book and film were released, I took to mainly searching Pinterest for fan art and periodically listening to the audiobooks while I work in the shop (and people wonder why I’m tearing up at the press, it’s cause I’m listening to Snape die for the 100th time!).

(Photography courtesy of monsieurmonsteur.co.uk)

Did you know that 2018 is one of the years in which the book ‘The Cursed Child’ takes place? According to the timeline, Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is 1991. The Battle of Hogwarts is in 1998 making the “19 years later” of the epilogue of ‘The Cursed Child’ to be in 2017. Weird right? Now imagine the movies taking place in the early 90’s instead of the 2000’s!

In honor of Harry’s and J.K. Rowling’s birthday today, here are a few of my favorite Harry Potter things to inspire a bit of “magic” for their next print project! 

Artists to Check Out:

Wonderful Potter-related Articles and Exhibits:

Do you have a cool thing you’d like to share with us or see something that tickles your printing fancy? Email us at info@boxcarpress.com as we’d love to hear from you! We’re always on the look-out for fun + wonderful things!

Letterpress Passions with Puro Papel

Join Boxcar Press on this “adventure of a lifetime,” as we get a first-hand look at Miami based printer, Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel and find out how she brings the heat when it comes to passionate letterpress printing. Best known for her vibrantly colored projects (both printing and non-printing) discover how Catalina’s worldly travels inspire her work, creativity and how she shares this printing tradition with her local community.

Catalina Rojas sets up her Pilot Press for a new letterpress print project.

LIFE’S ADVENTURES & LETTERPRESS  We all have a starting point, an origin. In many cases, they shape and determine the type of person you become. I was born in an area that was rooted in the Catholic faith and traditions. While this was my origin, the dialogue I have with myself, I believe I don’t come from a place … more so, I come from a way of life that was instilled by my parents.

My parents were travelers and never ceased to seek the zest for adventure. With two kids on the hip and a Great Dane, they were never deterred by what others might think and managed to stay true to their “hippie-chic” ways. At one point, my aunt and her boyfriend joined our entourage and many people would confuse our family for a circus troupe.

Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel prints on her Pilot Press.

Book arts and fine press printing by letterpress printer, Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel.

During my first five years, we traveled through South America. Quite literally, through the roads less traveled by. Zigzagging through cities, towns, forests, plains, deserts, and jungles. However, there was one significant life trip that would determine how I would experience life, my sense of self and ultimately my creative process.

All the details and memories of this trip come rushing back … like having bananas for breakfast, or crossing rivers in long wooden canoes and sleeping in hammocks. I remember feeling the heat from the bonfire and seeing the ashes flying and floating like dragonflies. I remember hearing the speaking drums and the chanting.

All of these things on the trip seemed to me like a lifetime and an irrevocable art of me … despite the fact that neither my parents seem to remember it in full detail (and color) as I. They would even go as far as saying that trip was rather uneventful. This trip shaped how I look at life – I live in adventure and in meaningfulness.

My work is an inextricable part of my life. I take every assignment as an adventure, in which I try to discover essence, textures, tones, colors and other delicacies. To later bring together these elements and materialize them in a simple design, or concept.

Book arts and fine press printing by letterpress printer, Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel.
(Project Notes: Norton Box- Vineyard in Mendoza. I did a limited edition of 30 boxes to send to  30 journalists  with a bottle of wine, some postcards of the winery (belly band is letterpress), a wooden note from the president of the company (letterpress), a leather notebook, and the press kit).)

Every project, I take the challenge of telling a story by communicating its purpose through design and artisanal ways of printing. I believe life is an experience made of a small act, where the beauty of small details grounds us and turns each moment in a unique ritual.

THE PRINTING BUG  I took a class in Parsons, and my teacher was a typography designer and a letterpress printer. After several trips to his studio I was bit by the letterpress printing bug. I fell in love with the technique of letterpress printing and how this could take printing to a higher level.

Book arts and fine press printing by letterpress printer, Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel.
(Project Notes: Leather Book (covers are letterpressed), Accordion book – A family gift for a Portuguese grandmother! )

MIAMI MARVELS  I have a tiny studio, with more windows than walls, located on a sunny corner of Miami Ironside in a bucolic garden. When I first saw this space, I knew it was “the one,” due to all the natural light coming in during the afternoon, I felt this space was going to illuminate me. WIth the natural light and the abundance of windows … I feel like the garden is part of my studio. Behind the studio are train tracks, and several times a day, I can hear the train pass through. Next to the studio, is MiMo (AKA: Miami Modern) a neighborhood that is bringing to life the Art Deco hotels and restaurants of the great era of the Magic City!

Catalina Rojas sets up her Pilot Press for a new letterpress print project.

PRINTING INSPIRATION Although he probably doesn’t know this … my first inspiration was Peter Kruty, my professor at Parsons because he taught me how to respect typography.

Book arts and fine press printing by letterpress printer, Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel.

FULL TIME PRINTER I became a full-time printer in 2004 after I bought my first letterpress.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS  My creative process starts with a conversation with my clients, so I can understand the essence of the message. With each project, I design every aspect and incorporate elements and details of the message into their piece. I like to think of what will surprise me … because it will most likely surprise my audience, and will help keep it innovative and fun!

Book arts and fine press printing by letterpress printer, Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel.
Project Note: Don Perignon Party invitation- all digital and lots of assembly! This gentleman was turning 80 and celebrating in style  with family and friends in his hacienda in Argentina. The cork top part opens to reveal a message)

PRINTING FEATS When a project evokes magic, emotions and becomes a conversation piece, I feel accomplished. When I’m at a moment that it feels close to my soul, that is when I know I’ve achieved “good-design.”

A beloved Pilot Press awaits for the next printing adventure in the Puro Papel studio.

PRESS HISTORY  I still have my first press(!) which is a C&P Pilot press.

BOXCAR’S ROLE  When I find a good vendor, I stick to it! Throughout my years of printing, Boxcar Press has come to my rescue. Whenever I have a rush job, they are always availble to help and save me. There is a sense of loyalty to one another, and I feel they are a part of my team. 

PRINTING TIP  When you don’t know something, ask your colleagues! And if they are not around, don’t be shy to experiment!

SHOP TIP Mmm, I don’t have any particular one, I just know that when it gets very frustrating and it doesn’t work out, I let it rest and start again a few hours later.

WHAT’S NEXT  I want to focus more on doing limited editions and special packaging.

I also love to give back by sharing my passion and expertise with paper. This year I’m involved with missionaries in the desert of Peru who train people in disadvantaged communities on how to make handmade cotton paper. This wonderful community and its artisanal workshop, Papelera Don Bosco, has a letterpress machine, so I will be teaching them all I know about letterpress and box-making so they can fly high!

An immense round of appreciative applause out to Catalina for letting us get a sneak peek at the magic behind Puro Papel!

The Call of the Press at Creative Beasties Workshop

Most letterpress printers find a sense of home in the happy clinking & whirling of the press. Danny Rhoades of Creative Beasties Workshop is no exception. The IT-by-day and printer-by-night found the letterpress bug bit hard after planning his own wedding. Turning part of his garage into his printing mecca, Danny finds inspiration in exploring creative options with his clients, his supportive family, and letting the press provide valuable teaching moments. Since our last visit with Danny, he caught us up on new printing tricks, the feeling when registration is spot on, and the wonderful rhythms printing has played in his life.

PRINTING JAM SESSIONS + FAMILY LIFE I’m a 37 year old married father of 2 adorable twin girls (age 2). It’s mostly me by myself printing since my wife is usually dealing with the kids. I sometimes have creative friends come over for printing sessions but other than that it’s just me.

BLOSSOMING PRINTING LOVE When my wife and I were planning our own wedding we both got super interested in the invitation options out there and came across letterpress. I instantly fell in love and that eventually blossomed into Creative Beasties Workshop.

PRINTSHOP EFFICIENCY Our workshop is in the tandem portion of our garage. It’s only about 288 sq ft so it’s very limited. My favorite thing about it is the Heidelberg Windmill 10×15 press that brings it all together.

AT HOME PRINTING  We’re in a pretty new constructed suburban neighborhood. The most interesting thing about our home is that it backs up to a 20 ft. sound wall for Highway 65.

PRINTING MENTORS One of the first people to teach me about letterpress was a gentleman I met on the Briarpress.org forums who goes by the handle, Inky. He taught both my wife and I the basics and helped us really understand the foundations of the process. I owe him a lot.

PART TIME PRINTING, FULL TIME FUN I wish I could print full time, but with a mortgage and budding family, I can’t afford to do that just yet. I work in IT and my day job pretty much supplements our workshop quite a bit.

DESIGN BROUGHT TO LIFE I don’t design as much as I’d like mostly due to time constraints, but when I do it’s usually after a lengthy conversation/meeting with the client to fully understand their motivation and inspiration so I can bring it to life and elevate it the best I can. One of my weaknesses is not knowing when to stop. This is something I am working on, and think I’m getting better … but I know it’s a flaw of mine.

PRINTING FEATS One of my proudest moments occurred when I was able to produce a 3 color work, shortly after having trained only for three days on the press. The registration was perfect and the colors were spot on.

PRESS HISTORY I learned on a C&P old style, but when I bought my own I went straight for the kill and got a Heidelberg Windmill 10×15. I didn’t even know how to use it! I was super scared at first and had to take a three day training to understand how to work it.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Anytime I need any advice … or help with a job I can always count on Boxcar to be there to walk me through it.

PRINTING TIPS For just starting out, don’t blame yourself too much. I blamed my inexperience a lot before I realized there was an actual problem with the press that needed to be fixed. The same thing happened with rollers. Once I changed to a different supplier things worked out much better. Sometimes, it is actually the equipment.

WHAT’S NEXT I hope to continue printing and eventually build a client base that can support me printing full time.

A big, huge Windmill-size round of thanks out to Danny of Creative Beasties Press! We look forward to seeing what cool, new projects come his way.

Shop Tour With Lourdes Irizarry

East Haven, Connecticut hugs the shoreline of Long Island Sound and is home to Lourdes Irizarry of Slackline Press. Lourdes’ self-proclaimed printing hideaway has cool tunes playing in the background, a loft nook above the main printing floor, and a treasure of letterpress tools collected over the years. Stepping back from her platen presses, Lourdes gives us a tour of where the printing magic happens, thanks in part to the support she has found in the New England letterpress community.

MINIMALIST PRINTSHOP Our shop is small so I like to keep it light and tidy. It has neutral, recessed lighting throughout and natural light from two windows and a sliding barn door that opens to the outside. The floor is a sturdy but affordable, wood textured linoleum over a leveled cement floor that I don’t have to worry about damaging. We built shelving from old wood we salvaged from the renovation, as well as a 7 ft. workbench with storage for large sheets of paper.

MOST PRIZED POSSESSION My favorite thing about our shop is a small crawl space in the rafters that was converted into a tiny loft for storage. I outfitted it with an old letterpress tray table I made. It’s a great space to hide with my laptop or sketchbook when I need quiet time to design. My prized possession is my first press – a Golding Jobber #6 named Brumhilda.

SHOP SIZE The entire space is approximately 300 sq ft.

CONNECTICUT SPLENDOR Our shop is a half of a detached garage that was drywalled and insulated to be functional throughout the seasons. It’s located behind our tiny cape on the Connecticut shoreline close to New Haven. It’s a short bike ride away from the town beach and town green where the library and farmer’s market is.

TYPE OF SHOP Our garage turned studio is in a residential neighborhood, on the border of a commercial part of town.

PRESS FAMILY I have 3 platen presses – a Golding Jobber #6 8×12, Golding Pearl #11 7×11 and a Sigwalt Nonpareil 6×9 tabletop press.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL  It sounds silly, but I can’t live without my pocket ruler, to help center or square artwork while printing.

INK OF CHOICE I print with Van Son rubber-based inks. My favorite is rubine red. It never gets tacky, is easy to mix and looks lovely by itself.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE I find mineral spirits work best for me. Easy Street, which was recommended by someone at Boxcar, is a huge help when switching colors, cleaning up dark ink or if ink has been on the rollers for more than a few hours.

BASE SYSTEM I’ve had the Standard Boxcar Base for the 5 years I’ve been printing. I started with KF95 plates then switched to 94CHFB but I can’t decide if I like one more than the other.

OIL OF CHOICE I use 3-in-1 oil.

PREFERRED CLEAN-UP RAG just use old t-shirts that I collect from anyone getting rid of them!

PIED TYPE I don’t have a lot of metal type but what I do have came nicely sorted, so I don’t think I have any lying around.

KEEPING IT ORGANIZED Clean as you go! Everything in my studio has a home, and if I didn’t put things back in their place I either wouldn’t find them when I need them or I wouldn’t have enough space to work. I think my favorite organizational solution is plastic shoebox size bins to store printed cards. They’re stackable, easy to see what’s inside and keep dust out.

SHOP TIPS I feel like I will always be learning. I did notice very early on, how friendly and eager the letterpress community is to share advice. I think acquiring presses that needed some elbow grease and restoration helped to get to know the ins and outs of my presses. They all have their own unique quirks. It takes time and patience but I think it’s a really valuable way to learn.

The Inquisitive Printer: Extra Things That Caught Our Eye

From cool printing events happening in central New York and across the border into Canada (as well as a nifty pitstop for an unusual store in Alabama), we focus in on amazing things happening that captured our attention this week. We hope you enjoy this latest edition of things that caught our eye (and maybe jump-start some new project or travel destination plans!)

Madeline Bartley: Outside of working in the Boxcar printshop, I play with other forms of printmaking. Such as carving a woodblock. Like a really big 4 foot by 4 foot block. I really enjoy working with large scale imagery. The making of this woodblock is leading up to an outdoor event called the Big Ol’ Steamrollin’ Print Invitational.

Instead of a large printing press, you rent a steamroller to apply the pressure to transfer ink onto fabric. This will be my third year participating in the Big Ol’ Steamrollin’ Print Invitational and overall my sixth time I have been involved with steamrolled prints.

The Big Ol’ Steamrollin’ Print Invitational will be taking place on Friday, June 29th during the 2018 MWPAI Arts Fest. It is free and open to the public.

PrattMWP Gallery is located in the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Museum of Art
at 310 Genesee Street, Utica, New York.

Cathy Smith: I have been emailing with a gentleman from Canada who bought a press last year – a Heidelberg Wiindmill 10×15 – and he says it’s part of his retirement program!  He also enjoys a little public speaking and wood engraving. Why buy the press?  He started a Butterfly Conservatory in Cambridge, Ontario 18 years ago and it’s time to embrace a new challenge.  Check out the Butterfly Conservatory as it is beyond impressive in terms of programs, exhibits, and gardens.  I love when customers share cool things with me!

Rebecca Miller:  For your next trip to the library or bookstore, we heartily recommend checking out “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” by Mason Currey. A delightful book that logs the daily routines and anecdotes of famous creatives from Charles Dickens to Benjamin Franklin (a fellow printer, we might add). This delightful book is a page-turner for the trivia-enthusiast as well as the creative artist or printer seeking inspiration for organizing their day-to-day workflow.

Ever wonder where some of unclaimed luggage goes to? Although we can’t say whether the Unclaimed Baggage Store in Scottsboro, Alabama has a container of pied type or a case of vintage lead type, we love the notion that there is a “catch all” brick-and-mortar store for those bags that are never claimed.

Never fear, the items & luggage that are in this store go through a rigorous 3-month tracing period by the airlines. Once the all-clear is given, the Unclaimed Baggage Store buys the items before putting anything on the shelves for sale. If something cannot be sold but is still in good condition, the store then donates them to those in need.

Do you have a cool thing you’d like to share with us, an awesome printing event coming up that you’d like to give a shout-out to, or see something cool that catches your eye? Email us at info@boxcarpress.com as we’d love to hear from you! We’re always on the look-out for wonderful + fun things!

Inquisitive Printers Want to Know – Unique Things that Caught Our Eye

As letterpress printers, we’re always aiming to keep our curiosity on its toes, we round up this week’s feature of unique things, beautiful wonders, and items that keep the mind buzzing with creativity. We hope you are fascinated in this week’s finds of farm-friendly temporary tattoos, the gorgeous world around us and new technology that can “read” a book without opening it. Enjoy!

From Cathy:  Tater Tats – Who doesn’t love fresh food from the garden?  Boxcar Press is a big supporter of Community Supported Agriculture and small-scale farms, so these fun tattoos with fruits and vegetables that also fund small sustainable farms are a huge appeal.  

tater tats(image courtesy of tatertats.com)

A cool read about the preservation and use of one of the largest private type collections that now resides at two Northwestern colleges – purchased over his lifetime by William “Bill” Thorniley.

A video from the UK on letterpress printing.  It’s so rich and soothing to hear a printer talk about and ink-up a forme, like you are just hanging out with them in their shoppe.

From Chris: As I walked my dog back home after a passing storm, I couldn’t help but gaze into the sky and take a moment to enjoy what I saw. A moment that God himself created for me and others to view. As His word teaches, even a storm can bring something beautiful.beautiful-world-chris

From Rebecca:  For our history-loving printers who just happen to have an antique book that is too fragile to open: Swiss engineers at EPFL have developed a technology that can “read” a book without opening it. The technology uses both x-ray tomography and an algorithm to “read” letterforms by scanning the levels of iron in the ink on each page layer of the book or document. So far, a sealed and unopened Italian letter from 1351 has been “read”.

Researchers and engineers at EPFL are continually improving the technique. Imagine what new information historical old tomes can reveal (including undiscovered typefaces and calligraphy)!

We hope you enjoy some of our links and perhaps learn a smidgen bit more about what interests us here at Boxcar Press. See something cool that catches your eye? Email us at info@boxcarpress.com as we’d love to hear from you!

The Nature of Creative Beasties Workshop

West of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range and northeast of Sacramento is the beautiful city of Lincoln, California.  It’s home to the Creative Beasties Workshop and printing abode of Danny Rhoades.  The garage-turned-printing haven features the thrum of a Heidelberg Windmill on which Danny creates his latest colorful creations.  Danny throws open the doors to give us a tour of his studio.

EVERCHANGING WORKSPACE The workshop is in the tandem portion of our garage. I had a bunch of fluorescent tube lights installed to give better lighting. Other than that it’s pretty sparse. We tried to finish it with some texture and paint but we didn’t know what we were doing and made a mess. Then we decided just to leave it half done because we ran out of time and had to stop for equipment delivery.

THE HEART OF THE SHOP My favorite thing in the shop is my Heidelberg Windmill. It’s the heart of our workshop and is what makes all of our letterpress projects happen.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP It’s right around 288 square feet. 14’8″ x 19’8″

CALIFORNIA NEIGHBORHOOD Our house backs up to a highway, so our backyard view is a 20 foot sound wall. We’re in a recently developed suburban family neighborhood.

TYPE OF SHOP I’d actually really like to open my shop up to community printers and let them use my equipment to allow budding printers get started. However, I don’t know how to make that happen yet since I’m worried about the legality of it and if it creates any liabilities or risk which I’m sure it does.

THE PRESSES We rely on our Heidelberg Windmill 10×15 press from the late 70s to print all out letterpress projects. We also have some digital printers, a hobby laser cutter, vinyl cutter, and a heat press.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL There’s so many things I rely on heavily, but if I had to pick one, I’d go with my oil can. It really makes maintenance a breeze.

FAVORITE INK Van Son Rubber base inks are what we use. Current favorite ink color is probably Orange. I used it in a split fountain test run along with Purple and it really took me by surprise how nice of a color it is.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE We took Boxcar’s advice and use California wash. It seems to do the best job overall. We’ve also use odorless mineral spirits from time to time along with a roller wash we got from a local distributor, but usually come back to California wash again due to its reliability.

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE We use a Boxcar Base system, of course, along with KF95 and KF152 plates depending on the job. We’ve been using this system since inception in 2014.

OIL OF CHOICE We use Mobile DTE Oil Heavy.

WHAT TYPE OF RAG DO YOU CLEAN UP WITH We use Scott shop towels and white cotton rags that we cut from t-shirts.

PIED TYPE No type, we do everything on photopolymer.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE I keep all my packing materials in a drawer pre-sorted by weight for easy setup. I do the same with pretty much all my materials, but that’s the best example.

PRINTING ADVICE Spend the time to line up your plates on the Base. If you’re careful, you can save a ton of time on press.

Keeping the Printing Rhythm With Tom Virgin

From Midwest to Miami and to teaching art by-day and printing-by-night, Tom Virgin of Extra Virgin Press weaves a letterpress journey of printmaking.  We caught up with Tom after hours on what makes his printing clock tick, the tales of teaching art in the high-school classroom, and the excellent food fare that is a must for a late night printing session in Miami.

Tom Virgin of Extra Virgin Press prints on a Vandercook.

PRINTING, SLUGS & ROCK’N’ROLL I was born and raised in the Midwest, just outside of Detroit. Fueled by blues, jazz, Motown, and rock & roll, I made my first print in 1972. I am now in my sixth childhood, having spent twice as much time in South Florida than in my native Great Lakes State.

IN TYPE-TOP SHAPE In 2004, I took a letterpress class with Kerry McAleer at Pyramid Atlantic Center in Silver Springs, Maryland. We made cards with a short quotation of our choice. Mine was:

“The course of true love nevər did run smooth.”– William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream | Act 1, Scene 1

I quickly realized my mistake, reset the type, and reprinted. I decided the typo was more in the spirit of the original quote, and returned the position of the second “e” to the first version. This is my first love of letterpress story.

THE PRINTING TRANSITION I am a bookworm (and a storyteller). Printmaking eventually led me to book arts. The ability to create archival editions from press printed text and images was what made me finally get into letterpress.

Tom Virgin of Extra Virgin Press prints beautiful broadsides.

I have always worked in communal studios as a printmaker, so the transition to letterpress was a natural step. The first presses I printed on solo, were at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts in Boca Raton, Florida. Arthur Jaffe bought my very first book for the Jaffe Collection, and mentored me for the rest of his life.

SPLENDID IN THE SUNSHINE STATE Nestled in the middle of Little Haiti just north of Downtown Miami, I am a five minute drive from Korean fusion BBQ, Haitian cuisine, Thai food, awesome burgers and, right next door, Clive’s Jamaican Jerk Shop. Four blocks away is the Little Haiti Cultural Center. I am a white guy in Miami, living the cushiest minority experience on the planet. Extra Virgin Press has a Vandercook 4 Proof Press (formerly owned by Gaylord Schanilec, and lovingly donated to EVP by Regula Russelle of Cedar Fence Press- both from the Twin Cities in Minnesota). Our second press is a Challenge 15KP. Both presses are bringing back letterpress printing to the Miami community. The presses keep me from eating all of that amazing food, every waking hour.

The printing abode of Extra Virgin Press in Miami, Florida.

PRINTING MENTORS I am fortunate to have had many teachers and mentors, all of whom have contributed mightily to my printing practice. I am especially indebted to Arthur Jaffe, who welcomed me to the Jaffe Center for Book Arts, and John Cutrone (Convivio Books/Jaffe Center) in South Florida. Stephanie Shieldhouse at Highway Press, in Jacksonville, Florida gave critical support when Extra Virgin Press became a reality in 2016.

In Red Wing, Minnesota, in my home-away-from-home, the Anderson Center at Tower View, I have been well schooled by the proprietor of Red Dragonfly Press, Scott King. Scott and Robert Hedin, the retired Director of the Anderson Center also introduced me to Regula Russelle (Cedar Fence Press), Chip Schilling (Indulgence Press), Monica Edwards Larson (Sister Black Press), Amanda Degener (Cave Paper), CB Sherlock (Seymour Press), Gaylord Schanilec (Midnight Paper Sales), and Richard Stephens, all from Minnesota Center for Book Arts, one way or the other. Moe Snyder and Maria Cardenas set me straight in Portland, Oregon. Many others have lent me assistance and support.

Tom Virgin of Extra Virgin Press prints beautiful broadsides.

GETTING INSPIRED My Instagram feed is a constant inspiration. I follow all I can find. Regula’s Russelle’s books offer me a sublime view of the world of color that helps me escape from black and white woodcut prints. (Mary) Bruno Press, another Minnesota great, keeps me smiling, Amos Kennedy in Detroit offers a powerful moral compass, and damn fine work to back it up. Another Motown great is Signal-Return. When I grow up, I hope to create a community of dedicated printers like Lynne Avadenka has, in Downtown Detroit. Can I just say, “Hatch Show Print in Nashville?” Writers have enriched my life immeasurably.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS My visual arts practice included printing, painting, drawing, book arts, and public art, prior to my entry into letterpress printing.

Teaching high schoolers letterpress printing with Tom Virgin.

Teaching a full spectrum of arts classes in Title I Public High Schools in the fourth largest school district in the United States helped me with design. I suspect the students teach me more than I teach them. My colleagues in grad school, as well as fellow Professors, Adjunct Professors, and working artists have helped me to bring some skills to the letterpress world.

Tom Virgin and helper set-up Vandercook printing press.

PART TIME PRINTER, FULL TIME FUN At this point, I am printing after school and on weekends. That is the bulk of my waking hours. My retirement from the public schools will make it possible for me to print full time.

PRINTING FEATS —In 2006 I received the Florida Artist Book Prize for Right There, an artist’s book about Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and a semi accurate account of my childhood in Michigan.

–I have taught five or six thousand teenagers about art.

–Extra Virgin Press has received support from the Knight Foundation, Cannonball Miami’s Wavemaker/Long Haul Grant, Miami Dade County Cultural Affairs, and the Miami Foundation, in its quest to bring letterpress back to Miami.

PRESS HISTORY [My very first press was] a Vandercook 4 Proof Press, Serial #13622.

Vandercook presses inside Extra Virgin Press in Miami, Florida.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Cathy and Rebecca make it possible for me to function in a letterpress world, answering far more questions than can be reasonably expected. The words on the website about setting up a letterpress shop are revelatory. Thank you Harold and Company.

SHOP (AND LIFE) TIPS I am still learning, but you will be the first to know.

WHAT’S NEXT I look forward to more printing, more books, more kids, more grant applications, and teaching new printers, so that I can run both presses every day.

A triple round of applause & thanks out to Tom Virgin of Extra Virgin Press for letting us take a sneak peek at his wonderful + tropical printing world!

Top 20 of ’18 Mother’s Day Letterpress Gift Guide

From being your Queen Bee to the one who knows whether you like the crust cut off your sandwiches (or not!), we rally up the 20 of ’18 of the most beautiful, humorous, and heartfelt Mother’s Day letterpress gifts to show Mom who’s tops. See a gorgeous must-have that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

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1. Therapist-Approved Mother’s Day card by Shed Letterpress  | 2. Wine Bottle Tags for Mom by Chez Gagne |  3. What I Learned From My Mother Broadside by Campbell Raw Press  | 4. Mom Yelling – I Love You card by Ladyfingers Letterpress  | 5. Super Mom card by Hello Lucky

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6. Mom’s Recipe card by Blackbird Letterpress  | 7. Super Mom card by The Fingersmith Press  | 8. Mother-Daughter Timeline letterpress card  from Chez Gagne |  9. Orange Bouquet card by Sesame Letterpress  | 10. Needlepoint Mother’s Day card by Greenwich Letterpress

11. Buy Mom a yearly membership in Ladies of Letterpress  | 12.  Happy Mother’s Day Tulips by deeandlala |  13. Mom Heart by Karolin Schnoor from Bison Bookbinding & Letterpress

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14. Tip-top Mother’s Day card by Anemone Letterpress  | 15. Mothers day specialty letterbox from sky of blue cards  |  16. Gal Who Fixes Everything card by Igloo Letterpress  | 17. Beautiful Letterpress Coasters by Haute Papier (pick a fun one for mom!) |  18.  Fun and colorful letterpress notebooks from Hammerpress  |  19. Letterpress Flower coasters by Ruby Press  | 20. Boxcar Baby T-shirts from Boxcar Press (for moms-to-be)