Margery Cantor: On Why I Love Letterpress

I first learned about letterpress at the West Coast Print Center, where I was employed working in the camera department. There was a Vandercook Proof Press and Joanna Drucker was printing a book. I was enchanted and watched closely, the process seemed both logical and magical. Sometime after I left the Print Center I began to work for Adrian Wilson and that is when I really fell for the craft. What was it, the smells; the texture of papers; the rhythm quiet, thoughtful and methodical; the mastery of a machine that changed history? And then to see that all the patience and attention gives way to page; a broadside; a book that is simply beautiful to hold and to read. Why do I love letterpress, I think because the craft encourages the practitioner to give oneself over to the process and that giving over shows a willingness to try for perfection, again and again.

Margery Cantor has designed books for many presses in California, such as the Stanford University Press and the University of California Press.  She is currently at The Impermanent Press in Norwich, Vermont and is still printing.  A recent work is the letterpress version of Illustrated by Lynd Ward: From the Collection of Robert Dance (The Grolier Club).

Passionate about printing? Head-over-heels for letterpress? Let us know why you are love with letterpress in the comments below!

Let’s See That Printed: Bryan Baker’s Hypnotic Print

A myriad of eye-catching and pop-culture surreal characters snagged our attention when printer Bryan Baker and artist Jasper Wong’s fun order passed through our custom-made photopolymer platemaking service department. So much that we couldn’t resist the urge to reach out and get the scoop on such a brilliant and wild project!

The ever-wonderful Bryan helped illuminate how such an bright, hypnotic printing project came to be.

This project was printed at Striped Light in Knoxville Tennessee, by Bryan Baker. The artist who did the design is Jasper Wong. It is the second time that Striped Light made an edition of his work through an ongoing collaboration with a Detroit publishing company called 1xRun.  

This particular piece was printed to coincide with a rather large street art event call “Pow Pow” in Hawaii. The print was run in four color ways: Trans on Pink, Trans on Teal, Black on Black, and Green and Black on Teal.  All finished with hand torn edges.

Striped Light is often commissioned by 1xRun to do limited edition letterpress prints for the artists that they represent. It it a pretty exciting relationship, because they work with artists from all over the world, and are now in their fourth year of working together. It first began while Bryan was up in Detroit running a shop called Stukenborg Press, and has continued with his new community letterpress shop that he opened with his partners Sarah Shebaro, and Jason Boardman.

On My Own Time Art Gallery Exhibition at Boxcar Press

By day, the majority of our staff here at Boxcar Press is surrounded by creativity during their workdays— whether it’s designing and illustrating invitations and stationery, or putting ink to paper and printing heirloom pieces. When it comes to their downtime, though, many of our employees have artistic skills beyond the world of letterpress. We had the pleasure of getting to see some of the art from our employees through an exhibition as part of the On My Own Time program through CNY Arts — in total, we had 21 pieces on display from six artists on our staff. Three of the pieces were selected to go on to the larger On My Own Time exhibit that will take place at the Everson Museum in Syracuse this fall. Here’s a peek at our gallery!

The 2017 On My Own Time Boxcar Press art gallery exhibit

The 2017 Boxcar Press On My Own Time Exhibit

The 2017 On My Own Time Boxcar Press art gallery exhibit

Artist: Jennifer DeRoberts

The 2017 On My Own Time Boxcar Press art gallery exhibit

Artist: Jennifer DeRoberts

The 2017 On My Own Time Boxcar Press art gallery exhibit

Artist: Madeline Bartley

The 2017 On My Own Time Boxcar Press art gallery exhibit

Artist: Madeline Bartley

The 2017 On My Own Time Boxcar Press art gallery exhibit

Artist: Clayton Estey

The 2017 On My Own Time Boxcar Press art gallery exhibit

Artist: Rebecca Miller

The 2017 On My Own Time Boxcar Press art gallery exhibit

Artist: Carrie Valenzuela

The 2017 On My Own Time Boxcar Press art gallery exhibit

Artist: Carrie Valenzuela

The 2017 On My Own Time Boxcar Press art gallery exhibit

Artist: Carrie Valenzuela

The 2017 On My Own Time Boxcar Press art gallery exhibit

Artist: Thomas Abbamont

Clean Prints at Spotty Boy Press

Molly Kempson of Spotty Boy Press wears many creative hats and has a knack for inspiring those around her. From making art (and joy!) with a local research hospital’s patients to working full time as an elementary art teacher, there is never a dull moment. The recent Coffey resident book artist (University of Florida) and Hamilton Wood Type’s New Impressions exhibitionist sat down with us to talk shop about life’s inspirations (from patients she has worked with to working with her local artist studio collective), exploring the 21,000 acre wildlife preserve mere minutes from her studio, and the Eureka! moment of when she used a linoleum block in her press for the first time.

Molly Kempson of Spotty Boy Press (Floriday) serves up fresh prints and good cheer.

ADVOCATE FOR THE ARTS I’m an elementary art teacher and I make art with patients in my city’s research hospital as an artist-in-residence. I learn so much from teaching and take it to the studio with me. I’m pretty awful at science, but I like to think that I missed my chance as an understudy for Audubon and Bartram – I am obsessed with creatures.

Molly Kempson of Spotty Boy Press (Floriday) serves up fresh prints and good cheer.
Molly Kempson of Spotty Boy Press (Floriday) serves up fresh prints and good cheer.

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT I finished my M.A. in art education at the University of Florida last spring (2016). I pursued that degree with ambition for both becoming a better art teacher and to work alongside MFA printmaking students. I had been making linocuts for years, and took a class in intaglio and spent a miserable semester on the same plate – I couldn’t just leave it alone. I decided to take letterpress the next semester with Ellen Knudson, whose work I already loved. It clicked right away, and when I found out I could put linoleum blocks in the press it was all over.

   Molly Kempson of Spotty Boy Press (Floriday) serves up fresh prints and good cheer. Inking up a C&P with Molly Kempson.

PRINTING COLLECTIVE I print in a collective of artist studios in Gainesville, Florida. Some folks are faculty or alumni of the University of Florida, and many aren’t – we’re a small town with a vibrant arts community outside of the university. Each studio is separate, but I love opening my door and connecting with the 19 other artists in my space.

It’s my personal gallery of prints from friends. Trading with other multiple-makers (ceramicists as well as printmakers) has provided me with a space that is just buzzing with colors and details that want to keep me moving forward.

FAB IN FLORIDA North Central Florida is full of springs, bright blue pools of water in the forests where manatees warm up in winter and alligators stay scarce. Being able to kayak in clear fresh water all year is something people don’t associate with Florida. I spend most weekends on the water without making it to the beach, which baffles some people.

Molly Kempson of Spotty Boy Press (Floriday) serves up fresh prints and good cheer.

Gainesville has a ton of parks in city limits, too. I can bike to a 21,000-acre preserve full of sandhill cranes, bison, wild horses, and massive gators from my studio within fifteen minutes.

Molly Kempson of Spotty Boy Press (Floriday) serves up fresh prints and good cheer.

PRINTING MENTORS Ellen Knudson (Crooked Letter Press) taught me impeccable studio manners and problem-solving skills. Martin Mazorra taught me at Penland and helped me work through ideas faster using negative space more effectively. Sarah Shebaro (Striped Light) showed me what linocut letterpress can look like in a style that riffs off of modern quilting. It’s amazing.

I am always entranced with Jennifer Farrell‘s ingenious typesetting and her ampersand series. 

Ashley Taylor is a Florida printer constantly changing and mixing print mediums with intention and perfectly honed craft. She’s as comfortable making wood veneer letterpress matrices with Eileen Wallace as she is mixing day-glo puffy screenprinting over traditional etchings.

PART TIME PRINTING, FULL TIME FUN I don’t print full-time. I would say 40% of my “work” time is spent printmaking, the rest teaching in my school and hospital. My work is reciprocal – I make work inspired by the people with whom I work. If it’s a kindergartener’s drawing of a snake she saw (or imagined) or my experience making a portrait of a patient/wildlife rehabilitator’s fox, it’s working material. I take it to the studio with me. My students and co-collaborators fuel my practice completely.

PRINTING FEATS Last summer (2016) I was the Coffey resident book artist at the University of Florida’s special collections. I was able to continue working with Ellen Knudson, who did nearly all of the binding and most of the typography (I can carve all day, but I don’t consider myself a designer). Working with the natural history collections in UF’s special collections, I created a print portfolio of all of Florida’s woodpeckers with three-color reduction prints of each bird. We made an edition of fifty artist’s books of eight prints each in portfolio cases.

I was recently selected for the New Impressions exhibition at the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum along with some serious print heroes.

PRESS HISTORY  My current press was actually my very first press! It’s a C&P 8×12, and I love it. I can’t print the big stuff I’m used to, but I’m adjusting. I have been carving linocuts in the chase and my reduction prints have never been better!

I’m a teacher of small children and used to planning for the worst case scenario. Planning for a press move took months for me, and I was blessed with a wonderful seller (a great stationery printer in his own right – Matthew Wengard) and very enthusiastic & almost dangerously cavalier movers. If you’re a control freak, my only advice for a press move is to surround yourself with optimists experienced in moving heavy things.

Chandler & Price (Florida).

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar lets me focus on my strengths – linocut and woodcut carving – while producing high-quality plates for book arts and stationery purposes. My artist’s book (the Woodpeckers of Florida) was printed and bound in eight weeks and wouldn’t have been possible without photopolymer plates – this project required 2400 passes through the press, leaving no time to set or distribute type.

SHOP TIPS For platen press relief printers, carve in your chase! And for you reduction block printers on proof presses, watch and make notes on those quoins. Ghosts can haunt your registration, and no matter how neurotic you are, cut more paper than you will ever need for a reduction print.

WHAT’S NEXT Another book arts project on North Florida vernacular language for plants, animals, and buildings is in the works.

A huge round of applause out to Molly of Spotty Boy Press and we’re excited to see what new book arts & printing adventures she’ll be embarking on soon!

Letterpress Art Prints for Obvious State’s Kickstarter Campaign

Obvious State is a New York City-based creative studio and literary brand meant to inspire through their art prints, tote bags, and other items for bibliophiles, word lovers, and art lovers alike. We recently partnered with Evan at Obvious State to create these large, 11″ x 14″ letterpress prints featuring their “Martini” artwork, in black ink on our Heidelberg Cylinder Press. The prints are available for sale (along with 11 other styles that we’ll be letterpress printing, too!) now through June 8th as part of their current Kickstarter campaign. Learn more and get yours today!

Letterpress art prints from Boxcar Press

Letterpress art prints from Boxcar Press

Letterpress art prints from Boxcar Press

Press Pursuits With Texas-based STUDIO 204

From middle of the night press checks to early morning calls to her printshop mentor, Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 has carved out a beautiful living printing to her heart’s content in her spacious Arlington, Texas studio. Teaming up with her wonderful husband, Kim enjoys the freedom of press pursuits, sharing the alluring hum of printing with workshops, and inspiring a new generation of designers & printers.

Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.

A STUDIO BUILT FOR TWO I have practiced graphic design for the past 39 years. The last 10 years involved learning and practicing letterpress printing and bookbinding.

Purchasing a 219 Power Vandercook required more space, so my husband and I decided to relocate the studio to his father’s former 1950’s television shop in Arlington, Texas. Studio 204 is located in the historic area of downtown Arlington which is going through an extensive revitalization.

Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.

LETTERPRESS’S ALLURE As a designer, I learned printing in the middle of the night when I received a call that my job was on press and they needed someone to approve the printing. Hardworking pressmen held the press until I arrived to review the work. There were no female printers in those days and it could be intimidating but that is where I learned to print. All those years press checking paid off when letterpress reemerged. Now “I” can print and experiment with no restrictions.

Bold prints: Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.
Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.

PRINTING MENTORS Casey McGarr of Inky Lips Press is my print mentor and hero. He was and still is my 24-hour print crisis line and I owe him a great deal. My husband — a print designer as well — and I share the studio and presses. He is my constant inspiration and biggest fan.

Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.

FAVORITE INK COLOR Favorite ink at the moment is any fluorescent printed on Astrobrights neon paper.

DESIGNER & PRINTER I am a graphic designer, printer, bookbinder and a teacher. My process begins with research, design, experimentation and fabrication— though not necessarily in that order.

A EUREKA MOMENT One time I scanned a python skin, created a bitmap and sent it for plates. Before Boxcar made the plates they called to ask what it was? A bit skeptical, the next question was, what are you going to do with it? I told them I was going to print it on Pulsar Red Curious Cosmic. Curious Cosmic is a soft matte metallic coated paper, but when I printed on it became glossy and reflective. Eureka, it looked like I had foil stamped it. My client who designs couture handbags made from python was impressed. So we printed all her invitations with the python pattern on different metallic paper. She is now making a python clutch bag. Metallic foil is applied directly to the skin before the bags are sewn.

PRINTING FEATS For 10 years I was fortunate to work with David Carter Design developing print collateral packages for five-star resorts on many continents. My last assignment was rebranding The Stoneleigh Hotel in Dallas, Texas, the place I called home.

PRESS HISTORY First and still is my 219 Power Vandercook.

Boxcar custom-made plate on Boxcar Base. Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar’s customer service is a rare commodity and I talk about it all the time. Their knowledge is the best in the business.

LIFE (AND SHOP) TIPS Keep print alive. Pay it forward.

Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.

WHAT’S NEXT More printing, more experimentation, more design, more teaching and cooking lessons in Southern France.

A huge round of thanks & applause out to Kim of STUDIO 204. May the future printing roads always rise up to meet you!

Big Prints at The little Blue Chair

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer. From enjoying the whirling clinking of her C&P, the heartfelt pride of raising a family (toddlers in tow), and the bliss of walking into her backyard studio, Hope’s infectious energy & passion resonates in her close-knit client relationships and breathtaking, colorful, & airy letterpress printed goodies.

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

LETTERPRESS LABOR OF LOVE In college, I focused my course training in Printmaking. I spent many hours in the basement print-lab at Louisiana State University. My hands were callused and ink covered 90% of the time, and from then on, a labor of love was born. Fast forward six years, I’ve acquired two (new to me) presses for my backyard studio. My company, THE little BLUE CHAIR has found its home in my heart.

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

INK IN THE BLOOD My first dabbling in letterpress printing was an elective class that I opted to take in college, a book arts and binding course. I always knew I loved the texture letterpress left on fine papers, but to be honest, I had NO idea how it was done. I just knew it was something I was attracted to. After a year’s worth of printmaking courses, pulling lithography and intaglio prints off of relief presses, I finally asked my professor about letterpress printing. Unbeknownst to me, I had been working in the lab 20 feet away from a Vandercook Letterpress all this time. That following semester, I enrolled in the book arts and binding course offered and I knew I had found something special.Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer. Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

HOMEGROWN STUDIO My printshop is located about 20 yards outside my back door in a Mayberry-type town near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. My first press was a tabletop Chandler and Price that sat in my spare bedroom (now home to a head-strong toddler).

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

My husband built our home, and when he began to add an outdoor living area to our garage, we decided (well, maybe I decided) that we should build a studio attachment as well. I’ve since acquired a 10×15 Chandler and Price that proudly sits in that backyard studio. With two little ones now, it’s an unbelievable blessing to be able to have my work so close to my family.

PRINTING MENTORS While at LSU, one of the professors was Kathryn Hunter, owner of Blackbird Letterpress. My book arts teacher was a grad student that worked for Kathryn for many years. They both had such passion for the art and inspired me to continue learning and perfecting the craft. 

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

DESIGNER + PRINTER As a mother, I wear many hats. I’m a chef, chauffeur, referee, and of course their mom. When I enter my studio doors, I wear the designer & printer hat (and the accountant, social media manager, business coach, and customer service). I absolutely love having both roles as the designer and printer. I feel I have maximum control over the final product and it amplifies my pride in the finished piece of work. I primarily work with the soon-to-be-wed as their personal stationery designer. My work is extremely process driven and involves a creative input from all hands involved. It becomes a true collaboration.

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

The end goal for me and my clients is to create a branded design throughout …in a way that really speaks to the wedding guests and tells the individual story. This may look like an illustrated monogram or crest, a handcrafted map of the venue’s city, along with venue illustrations that help narrate the feel of the hosted event. I love working with handmade papers as well …there’s nothing better than letterpress printing on a natural cotton, wrapped in silk ribbon, sealed with a wax seal stamp. Add on some vintage stamps and I’m a happy lady.

FULL TIME FUN Over the last five years, I have grown from part time to full time. It’s the dream to be able to wake up (walk out the back door) and have my job be what it is …creating something new every day. I’ve honestly had a hard time calling it a job, because I love it so much. People can love their jobs, right?

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar has played a colossal role in my workflow process. Since 2012, I’ve outsourced all of my platemaking to Boxcar and have had such a wonderful experience doing so. I use a polymer plate for both my Chandler and Price presses and have produced work from intricate illustrations to bold typefaces.

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

I have to give a special shout-out to the printmaking department at Boxcar. The customer service I have received over the years has been nothing short of grace & love. This crew knows what they are doing, but they have such heart for their printers and a passion for the art. Boxcar is a company I will always stand behind. 

WHAT’S NEXT This year, I am excited to be releasing a wedding stationery collection that will reflect and support as many handmade artists as possible, from the platemakers at Boxcar to the papermakers around the country. This collection will be geared towards the refined and organic bride and groom with a special story to tell. I can’t wait!

Thanks Hope for the beautiful peek into THE little BLUE CHAIR. We tip our hats to you and your amazing printing adventures and keep up the fantastic work!

Top 20 of ’17 Letterpress Mother’s Day Cards

She’s the witty, smart, caring, and generally all-around-awesome human being that is the anchor in your life. Count down with us the top 20 of ’17 of the sweetest, funniest, and gorgeous letterpress Mother’s Day cards to say “Thank you, Mom!”.  Let us know what you are getting your Mom this year in the comments below!

2017 Letterpress Mother's Day cards featuring sweet, flora, funny, and beautiful messages for Mom.

1. You’re The Bomb Mom by Hammerpress | 2. To A Mother Like No Other by Hunter Paper Co. | 3. Mother’s Day Sitcom Moms by Papillon Press | 4. Queen Bee by inkwell | 5. Happy Mother’s Day postcard by DD Letterpress | 6. Wonder Mom by Luxe Papery | 7. Homebrewed by Slackline Press | 8. Good Job Mom by Steel Petal Press

2017 Letterpress Mother's Day cards featuring sweet, flora, funny, and beautiful messages for Mom.

9. Mom Thank You For Everything You Do by Color Box Letterpress | 10. Marquee Mom by Oddball Press | 11. Cheers To The Best Mom Ever by Lucky Bee Press | 12. Madre by Alee Letterpress | 13. Chillax by hello! Lucky | 14. Love You Mom by indepent1

2017 Letterpress Mother's Day cards featuring sweet, flora, funny, and beautiful messages for Mom.

15. Thank You Mummy by Paper Elephant Press  | 16.  Strongest Woman I Know by Ink Meets Paper | 17.  Right Here by Smock | 18. Mom, You’re Like a Candy Bar by Loudhouse Creative  | 19. Merci Mama by Cherry Laurel Studio |  20. Lucky Mom by Sugar Paper

Letterpress City Tour: San Francisco

In our third excursion of our letterpress city tour series, the cheery Kim Austin of Austin Press shows us the brilliant printing world that weaves its way through the vibrant San Francisco, California community. Beyond the year-round fog, iconic Golden Gate Bridge, and rows of colorful Victorian Houses, San Fran offers a haven for printers and artisans alike. Kim shows us around her historic Pier 70 neighborhood and beyond. Similar to her beautiful letterpress prints, the city is “where elegance meets function.”

Kim Austin of Austin Press (San Francisco) tours us through her creative and brilliant community.(All photography courtesy of Kim Austin unless otherwise noted.)

CALIFORNIA DREAMING I moved to San Francisco in 1988, just after graduating from college. I came here out of my life long desire to move to the city from the suburbs and also to go to graduate school to study photography.

DAILY LIFE Well, mostly my studio. I work a lot. But it is such an amazing place. Pier 70 is one of the oldest shipyards in the country. Lots of history and texture. My quarter of the town is also quite great. Bayview, the Mission, Dogpatch, Soma … all great neighborhoods with lots of functional and fun outlets.

The Noonan Building in the Pier 70 disctrict of San Francisco houses Kim Austin of Austin Press.Kim Austin of Austin Press (San Francisco) tours us through her creative and brilliant community.

MUCH LOVE FOR SAN FRAN I love SF. Always have since I was a kid. It is a beautiful city and it has always had a funky edge, which is such an important quality for artists. I made art here for years before I ventured into letterpress. It was a seamless transition for me. And yes, letterpress is much loved in our city.

The Mission of San Francisco has beautiful murals and creative energy.(Photography courtesy of The Bayview Performing Arts Workshop.org)

RICH IN LETTERPRESS RESOURCES There are some great resources here: Center for the Book being one of them. We also have Dependable Letterpress that has recently opened its doors for public events. The American Bookbinders Museum and Arion Press/ M and H Type are also great.

Center for the Book Arts in San Francisco. Center for the Book Arts in San Francisco.(Photography courtesy of Center for the Book Arts)

FAVORITE LOCAL COLLABORATION The open studio organized by Artspan is a fun event that artists participate in city-wide. We open our studios to the public for a whole weekend to share our work and process with the community. It is fun to welcome everyone from kids to grandparents and share the curious world of letterpress with them. Everyone is always fascinated. Letterpress seems to have a universal appeal.

Kim Austin of Austin Press (San Francisco) tours us through her creative and brilliant community.

SAN FRAN STYLE Well, of course, there is Hatch and Hamilton. We all bow to them and their brilliance. But I think anyone who takes the time to learn letterpress and struggle through the physical and emotional process is deserving of admiration. It is something you really have to work out on your own and when you do that, it speaks for itself.

COMMUNITY SUPPORT Lots of printers find their way to Kelly Paper for the basics: ink, paper, solvents, etc. Logo Graphics is another print shop that lends a helping hand to those starting out or in need of assistance.

FAVORITE NEIGHBORHOODS Pier 70 has long been a favorite spot for me: abandoned brick buildings, the bay, stray kitties… it is such a unique place – unpolished, with lots of texture. The Mission has also been such a fun part of my life here in SF. Ever-changing, lots to see, and do, and eat. again unpolished and lively! Artists work in Pier 70, every slice of life lives in The Mission. Pier 70 was the port where ships were built and rope was made. Workers flooded here during the day. The Mission has historically been the Latino neighborhood full of small shops and eateries to meet the locals needs.

 Pier 70 in San Francisco offers thriving creative and production scenes.Pier 70 in San Francisco offers thriving creative and production scenes.Pier 70 district.
(photograph courtesy of www.pier70sf.com)

FOOD + EATS El Toro for a great taco. Zuni for roasted chicken and oysters, Serpentine for great local SF vibe, Out the Door for the best Vietnamese, Mitchell’s for ice cream, All Good Pizza for sitting outside on a picnic bench in the center of the city.

SHOP ’TIL YOU DROP  The Mission is full of great interesting small shops. Dog Patch has lots of local makers, and of course, you have to go downtown to Union Square, right?

FESTIVAL + FAIRS We have lots of open street fairs, food fairs, holiday markets, and makers markets. You can also find music venues, lectures, and performances. Check out Yerba Buena for ongoing events. Bottom of the Hill has a great calendar of contemporary music. City lectures for the arts are also quite fun.

A LIVING, BREATHING CITY So many changes! Bayview is a neighborhood in transition but still holds tight to its history and locals. Dog Patch is now on the world scene. Pier 70 will be one of the most visited ports in the near future – think the Highline in NYC.

Center for the Book Arts in San Francisco.The Dogpatch in San Francisco.(top: The Bayview photography courtesy of Bayviewperformingartsworkshop.com | bottom: Dogpatch photography courtesy of Peter DaSilva)

FUN + DOWNTIME SPOTS Love Kabuki Spa for total chill. Also driving a bit down the coast to Sam’s Chowder House is such a treat and nothing is better than a healthy walk in Lands End.

CITY SPIRIT Well, we are good people. SF/CA is a place for those who think a little bit differently. We come here to find a path that is unique, not cookie cutter. We strive to look out for others and do the right thing. The weather helps and so does being close to water- on both sides!

Friend of the Urban Forest helps clean up neighborhoods in San Francisco.

HIDDEN GEM Kelly’s Mission Rock. It has been here forever and sits right on the water. Funky, lots of old wood including recycled bleacher seats to create the facade. Seagulls, views, and the best fish and chips and seafood salad anywhere. You can eat outside on the wooden deck and look across the bay to Oakland. Often there are huge container ships from far-off lands in the dock of Pier 70. The vibe is local and mellow. Dogs are welcome!

LETTERPRESS STUDIOS IN SAN FRANCISCO
San Francisco Center for the Book – San Francisco, CA
The Aesthetic Union – San Francisco, CA
Dependable Letterpress – San Francisco, CA
Noble Impressions – San Francisco, CA
M and H Type / Arion Press – San Francisco, CA
In Haus Press – San Francisco, CA
Paperflirt – San Francisco, CA
Ladybones Print Shop – San Francisco, CA
Thrysus Press – Berkeley, CA
Set In Motion Press – Berkeley, CA
Peter Koch Printers – Berkeley, CA 

MUST-SEE STOPS
American Bookbinders Museum – North America’s only museum dedicated to preserving and sharing the beautiful artistry and craftwork that is bookbinding.
Golden Gate Bridge – No trip to the San Fransisco area would be complete without stopping in at this iconic bridge with breathtaking views.
Chinese New Year Festival and Parade  Internationally-renowned Chinese New Year parade featuring a 270-foot Golden Dragon and thousands of parade-goers each year.
Seward Street Slide – Let your inner kid out and slide down these public concrete slides.
John’s Grill – The infamous diner where Sam Spade of 1941 noir film classic The Maltese Falcon orders his “chops, baked potatoes, sliced tomatoes”.
Lombard Street – Like the Golden Gate bridge, this landmark is worth the 27-degree incline uphill walk.
POPOS – 68 privately owned public open spaces scattered throughout the city.

We hope you enjoyed our third installment of our letterpress city guide! Interested in showing your city some love? Contact us today! And if you’re planning a letterpress-centric trip, be sure to check out the print trip map on Letterpress Commons!

Letterpress Party at Bay View Printing Co

Ashley Town of Bay View Printing Co. in Milwaukee, WI cultivates printing camaraderie amongst its 75+ members while artfully conducting the printing festivities of the by-day commercial and by-night whirl of workshops, co-ops and print parties. Ashley sat down with us to talk shop about how two and half beautiful years that have flown by since buying the shop (and taking the full-on plunge as full-time letterpress owner) to how teaching, supporting her family, and sharing the joys of letterpress have more in common than meets the eye.

Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co.

A PRINTING COMMUNITY TREASURE A little about me…I’m a mother, a teacher, a wife and a super curious and anxious body that prefers to be in constant motion. At the shop, I love crossing items off of a to-do list, thinking of new ways to flex my creative muscles and try really hard to stay engaged in my community. At home, I love wrestling and reading books with my son, cooking together as a family and drinking local beers with my husband. Prior to owning the shop I worked as a designer and faculty at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design.

Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co.

A little about my shop…it’s amazing! Bay View Printing Co. is 100 years old this year and I’m incredibly lucky to have fallen into it 2.5 years ago. In 100 years of existence I’m only the third owner (first female – huzzah!). We have 8 letterpresses, 3 offset presses, a small foil press, an Intertype, and upwards of 350+ wood and lead typefaces all crammed into the basement of a once Protestant Church in the Bay View neighborhood of Milwaukee. Historically, the shop has always been very involved in the Bay View community and supportive of other local small businesses and organizations, but somehow relatively hidden and unknown to a large percentage of the public community. I lived in Milwaukee for 12 years as an active member of the art community before I had ever even heard of its existence. So, when I bought it 2.5 years ago my goal was to take that treasure chest and share it with the community, to make letterpress design and printing accessible to anyone and everyone in the community who has an interest. It’s been about two years in the making, but it’s happening! We teach one to three print-related classes a week, have a print co-op of currently about 75 members and people are making beautiful stuff within our walls on the daily. I like to say that during the day we’re a commercial design+print shop and at night we’re a print party.

Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co.

THE LURE OF LETTERPRESS The tactility and the physical labor are what initially drew me to letterpress and what continue to do so today. I went to grad school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and spent most of my time in the writing department. I began investigating my personal memories and the lines, or blur rather, between truths, lies, memory and the construction of each. I was documenting really personal, gritty, hard memories on a daily basis and creating drawings/illustrations to accompany them. I ended up writing a book, but every time I printed proofs I knew something was off. The feeling of holding these stories, touching the letters and really feeling the experience or reliving those memories was completely gone. So I knew I had to print in a way that would allow for that. I needed the tactile quality that only letterpress printing can offer. And the physical labor and real work that went into typesetting and printing each and every page of the book just felt right. A cathartic experience that couldn’t have happened any other way.

Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co. Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co.

WISCONSIN’S OWN My little shop is located in Bay View, in my opinion the best neighborhood in Milwaukee. Historically, Bay View is the most diverse neighborhood in the city and there is a ton of community pride here. Neighbors still shovel for one another, have morning chats in the alley, and genuinely support one another.

Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co.

Milwaukee in its entirety is also the perfect place to have a community print shop – the arts culture here is vast and growing and currently in love with craft and handmade goods.

MENTORS + INSPIRATION In terms of the letterpress community, I’m a baby so I’m constantly looking at and learning from other printers. Sometimes that means creeping on Michael Hepher’s (Claw Hammer Press) process videos or drooling over Kathryn Hunter’s (Blackbird Letterpress) linocuts on Instagram. Sometimes that means sitting down in the studio and pouring over all the boss babes and their work in my Ladies of Letterpress book. And sometimes that means calling Jim Baker (the previous owner of Bay View Printing Co) and begging him to come show me that little trick on the Kluge just one more time. Although, as I grow as a printer and a curious student the latter is being replaced by hours of tinkering on my own accord.

Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co.

DESIGNED TO PRINT I’m a designer + printer + artist. Although in my opinion, anyone who prints is an artist. The decisions that go into creating perfect prints are most definitely artistic ones and the process itself is an art form. In terms of my process…I’m lucky enough to work with a lot of clients that have seen our portfolio of work or known someone we’ve worked with and they offer up complete creative freedom with their business, packaging, branding, wedding invitations, etc. etc. That means I get to make design decisions that embrace ideas that can only be realized through letterpress printing so the client truly gets unique work.

Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co.Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co.

I just finished a wedding suite for a bride that saw one of our “Nasty Woman” posters in the shop during our consult and said, “Can I have that for my invites?!” She was talking about the inking technique which was me going nuts with 5 ink colors and a brayer. I thought, “for an entire wedding suite? That’s insane. But oh so beautiful. YAAAS. Let’s do it!”

FULL TIME FUN Yes. Most days the hustle is real. Trying to balance designing, printing, hosting print parties, teaching classes, keeping co-op members engaged, running the business and remembering that I have and love my family is a disaster of a balance but I’m also 100% living the dream. I hear my dad in my head on most days saying, “You can sleep when you’re dead”.

Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co.

PRINTING FEATS The accomplishment I’m most proud of is raising my son, Oliver. And doing so while running a business. Neither one is an easy task and every day that he continues to grow into an awesome human is a notch on our belts. I’m also proud of the change and growth that Bay View Printing Co. has gone through in the past 2.5 years. When I made the decision to buy the shop someone said to me, “Don’t buy that old man’s shop – you’ll be wearing his clothes for the rest of your life.” That was really scary. Jim is an amazing person and a super talented printer, but had zero interest in design or teaching classes or anything of the things that I wanted to do. The bulk of his work was offset printing for local small businesses and crash imprinting banking forms. The idea of taking over a business whose current focus was completely opposite of what I saw myself doing was a bit terrifying. But here we are. Doing all the things. I maintain if you do awesome stuff, you attract awesome people.

I couldn’t be more proud to work with all of the incredible Milwaukee folks that we work with in all the different capacities that we do.

PRESS HISTORY I guess my story is a little weird and atypical. Most folks that I’ve met or read about dreamt of acquiring a press for years before they found one or they spent a decade piecing together a type collection, whereas I was lucky enough (or crazy enough) to acquire the whole shebang all at once. But, the first press I fell in love with at the shop is our 8×12 C&P platen press. The model was manufactured in 1894, it’s the oldest press in the shop and still my reliable little babe. But I’m currently in a love affair with our Vandercook No 4. There’s something about hand cranking every print through the press that’s really satisfying right now. Feels like work. Really beautiful work.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Ah man, thank god for Boxcar Press!! When I first started designing and printing wedding suites it was all handset type all the time. But we just grew so dang fast and the wedding work was out of control. Designing with all handset type wasn’t sustainable if I wanted to continue to grow that part of our business. And then I found Boxcar and holy smokes did the doors fly right open. The idea that I can design digitally and send proofs back and forth to clients and then have polymer plates at my door days later and STILL get that sexy impression on paper that everyone is looking for…well, that’s mind blowing. I remember the first time I printed with a polymer plate from Boxcar I felt like I was cheating. Ha! I still do sometimes, and there is still a part of me that needs to slow down and design with our type collection as much as humanly possible, but having other options is incredible.

SHOP TIPS Focus on continuing to listen to all the advice and filter what works for BVP Co. and what doesn’t. I suppose that might be good advice for anyone, huh?

WHAT’S NEXT Keep on keepin’ on. We’re babies and we’re growing our commercial print client base and our portfolio of wedding work and our assortment of classes and our print co-op community. We’ve worked really hard to get here and I think it’s time to settle in for a bit.

Immensely huge round of thanks and appreciation out to the ever-brilliant Ashley of Bay View Printing Co. Keep up the awesome & inspiring work!