Letterpress Printing Journeys: Amy Redmond of Amada Press

A mindful approach to letterpress (and life) is the buzz behind Amy Redmond of Amada Press. When we last caught up with Amy, she had a ball visiting & touring the Boxcar Press press floor. Now, the Seattle-based printer, visual artist, and instructor for Seattle’s School of Visual Concepts is blending a sense of creative well-being into her craft while nurturing a closely-knit community of printers. Between collaborating on her next project, keeping the fire lit under her fingertips, and happily giving back to the community with her involvement with the SVC Childrens Broadsides project year-after-year, Amy lives up to her press’ Spanish name origins: beloved.

RENAISSANCE WOMAN + PRINTER I’m a self-employed visual designer and artist, and teach beginning and advanced letterpress classes at Seattle’s School of Visual Concepts. In my private studio, Amada Press, I work with metal and wood type, fabricating stories inspired by my collection of old ad cuts and
half-tones, and adding linocuts when inspired. In recent years, I’ve been incorporating collographs and pressure printing into my work. I primarily print on a Colt’s Armory 13×19 platen press, but also work on a Vandercook 4.

This is the form for the keepsake from my first studio tour under the name Amada Press. All photos courtesy of Amy Redmond unless otherwise indicated.

My Colt’s Armory Press has a long history of fine press book work for me to live up to; years before Stern & Faye acquired it, our friend Clifford Burke used it to produce his book “Printing Poetry.” 

View of the Amada Press studio from behind the Vandercook 4, which also came from Stern & Faye Printers.

THE LURE OF LETTERPRESS My first job out of college was as a book designer, and it turned into a quest to learn more about the finer points of typography. I was also feeling the loss of not working with my hands — computer design time had been balanced by working with tangible materials while earning my BFA. Although gainfully employed in the creative field, I was effectively starving myself creatively.

That changed when a friend saw a listing for a weekend workshop with Seattle artist Bonnie Thompson Norman (Windowpane Press), and I thought letterpress would be the perfect remedy for me. It was, and still is. Halfway through the first day, I was hooked on setting type by hand, so much that Bonnie had to politely kick me out of her studio so that she could go have dinner — promising that the type would still be waiting for me in the morning.

These accordion books were the first letterpress project I ever typeset and printed, in collaboration with 3 other students. Bonnie runs an admirably tight ship: we wrote, printed, and bound these in just 2 days! 

Six months later, in October of 1998, I met Chris Stern and Jules Faye (Stern & Faye, Printers) at a Seattle Literary event called Northwest Bookfest, and fell in love with their work. The following week I drove up to their Print Farm in Sedro-Woolley, Washington to share my portfolio. The interview turned into dinner, and soon after I began apprenticing one day a week in their shop, doing whatever was needed in exchange for learning. A few years later, I put all of my things in storage, moved into a small corner of the upstairs bindery in the print barn, and worked in exchange for rent.

This was Stern & Faye Printer’s “print barn” in Sedro-Woolley, WA. The concord grapes would hang heavy on the barn, and it was impossible to resist snacking off the vine every time you entered the shop. 

Here I am mixing ink at Stern & Faye Printers, sometime around 2002. This may have been taken during the 6 months I was living at the print farm. Credit: Jules Faye

The 180-mile round-trip drive up to the Skagit Valley each week was well worth it. It’s hard to believe it’s been 19 years since then; it was such a pivotal moment for me. It not only instilled a sense of creative well-being and fine craftsmanship, it also introduced me to an amazing community of artists, designers, and printers that have become dear friends.

Pictured left to right: Rebecca Gilbert, Jules Faye, Brian Bagdonas, Amy Redmond. Rebecca & Brian, of Stumptown Printers & C.C. Stern Type Foundry, recently visited me and Jules Faye at her home in the Skagit Valley. Getting together with them is always a fabulous family reunion, and never without homemade pie. Credit: Stumptown Printers

NORTH SEATTLE’S BEST KEPT SECRET My private studio, Amada Press, is just steps from my back door in a quiet neighborhood in north Seattle. I describe it as a garage with a detached house — because that’s exactly how I went about looking for space: the studio came first. When Jules Faye approached me in 2008 about becoming the next steward of Stern & Faye’s Colt’s Armory 13×19 Press, I knew it was time to get serious about buying a place. I’d been in Seattle long enough to know that I couldn’t own a press that big and be at the whim of a landlord. The stars happened to align at the right time with both work and the burst of Seattle’s real estate market, making it all possible.

Inking up the Colt’s Armory Press. Cleaning up the press, and all 8 of its rollers, takes me about 30 minutes. 

Close-up of the badge on my Colt’s Armory Press. 

In spite of being large enough for 3 cars, my shop has never had one in it — the previous owners were also artists, and built it as their painting studio. It has flat, alley access with high overhead clearance for big trucks, smooth cement floors and plenty of outlets. What really charmed me was its wood stove — that’s exactly how we heated the Print Barn at Stern & Faye. I took all of those things, along with the apple tree (Stern & Faye also had a tiny orchard), as signs that this was the right place for me. The press was the first thing that got moved onto the property — it took another week for me to move my personal things into the house. So you can see where my priorities lay.

My shop’s sunny location makes it the perfect spot to grow tomatoes. A little bit of Seattle history lives in this photo: those red bleacher chairs are from the Kingdome, saved before it was blown up to make way for a new stadium. 

What truly makes my shop special is what’s inside of it — it has all come from local printer pals, many of whom have since passed. Most of it, like my presses and type, is from Stern & Faye and Byron Scott — but I also have a cabinet and slant top from Jim Rimmer (Pie Tree Press), and a handful of choice cuts from Maura Shapely (Day Moon Press). It’s all very beloved to me… which is how I came to choose “Amada” as my press name, the Spanish word for beloved. It also happens to be the meaning of my first name.

Upper lefthand photo: Everything in my studio is up on 4×4’s so that it can be easily moved with a pallet jack.  |  Upper righthand photo: Thanks to the careful curation of past printers, I have many lovely typefaces — but Spartan (ATF’s version of Futura) claims most of the space in this row of cabinets. |  Lower righthand photo: These are my two main work surfaces: the cabinet in the foreground is a staging ground for my notes, and the larger work table in the background holds my stone.  |  Lower lefthand photo:  This photos is the view when you walk into my studio — the cabinet on the far right is the very first one I got (complete with the obligatory case of Copperplate).

PRINTING MENTORS AND INSPIRATION Chris Stern & Jules Faye will always be my number one mentors; even though Chris passed away in 2006 and the context of my work with Jules has evolved, I consider my apprenticeship to be lifelong. They have given me so much of their time and talent, and never restrained their passion for print & typography. When the two of them collaborated on personal projects, the final print was always a tapestry of fantastic stories and captivating imagery. Their print, “The Typographic Horse,” exemplifies the “love at first sight” effect their work had on me.

Shortly after Chris Stern passed away, I wrote an article about the passionate process of artwork for the Society of Typographic Aficionados . You can view more work by Chris Stern & Jules Faye on SternAndFaye.com. 

I also find inspiration from my ever-growing network of printer pals and students — they all keep a fire lit under my fingertips, and Instagram has played a big role these past few years with feeding me a steady drip of amazing work. Those who really stand out are the ones with determination and a clear vision in their work as a whole; I really admire that — it’s not something I come by easily.

From an aesthetic standpoint, I’m drawn to the graphic design work that took place between the 1910’s and the 1950’s. As a design student I didn’t understand how the work I admired by Fortunato Depero, Piet Zwart, El Lissitzky, H.N. Werkman, and Jan Tschichold was produced — becoming a letterpress printer who works with handset type brought a whole new appreciation to it. It’s like I found a missing piece to the puzzle that is myself.

DESIGNER + PRINTER I fall into the designer/printer category; they are very intricately related and it can be hard to tear one apart from the other. Design is what led me to letterpress, but letterpress is what reinforces my attention to detail and ability to think about how a design will be produced — whether it’s a website or a printed piece. When you’re printing your own work, you’re the one that pays the price when you design something that’s hard to pull off. And so you learn how to plan.

I find the mindful approach that letterpress requires to be blissfully consuming; it’s a nice contrarian lifestyle to the on-demand parts of life. As I browse my collection of metal type and ornaments, I slow down, I notice, I contemplate, I dream, and I plan. I form connections with things I’ve seen or heard. Stories materialize as excerpts from imagined conversations.

This text, from my print “Scavenger,” was taken from a scrap of paper I’ve been carrying around in a sketchbook since 2006. 

The computer has no place here — pencils, scissors, Xacto blades, and glues sticks are crucial to my work’s development; the tangible trace of my hand is evident yet invisible. Ideas become sketches, ink is drawn, mock-ups take shape. Text is set, one letter at a time. Images may be old ad cuts, or created with collographs, pressure printing, or carved linoleum.

A snapshot of the design process for the broadside for “The Thirst of Things” by poet Alberto Ríos, for Copper Canyon Press. See the finished print here. 

Precision on press requires planning, but with my art I allow room for migration once ink hits paper: colors may shift, misfeeds inspire new compositions. The process of acting/reacting is cathartic; committing an idea to paper simultaneously invites resolution to old problems and invites opportunity for new ones.

In the dead of winter this mindfulness is emphasized even more: my shop is heated primarily by a wood stove, and I can’t just start printing without some planning. The night before, I bring the inks and photopolymer base into the house to warm up; I check to make sure an air quality burn ban hasn’t been triggered by a stretch of cold, windless days; I prep a pot of homemade soup for lunch. On press day I get up early and get the studio’s wood stove started so that it can pick up the electric heater’s slack, and simmer the soup on the wood stove next to my coffee. Once I get going, I hate having to stop to make lunch… and it makes for the most delicious-smelling print shop.

PART TIME PRINTER, FULL TIME FUN There are days when I think I could be a printer full time, but I don’t think I really want that — it’s having variety in my work that keeps me sane. I currently set up my work week so that I work Monday–Thursday for my design clients (web & print), and spend Fridays in my studio. Anyway you slice it I’m just a one-woman shop, so there’s a lot of pressure to stay profitable and still be able to invest in my retirement.

If I could spend my days playing on press, making art without a care for income, then yes I’d do it in a heartbeat. But if I have to take on a job printing what someone else has designed, then no — I’d rather that time be spent doing digital design, so that my print studio remains a stress-free place to be creative. There’s enough separation between how I think about the two different types of work that they fuel, rather than drain, my energy for them.

PRINTING FEATS I consider it a great honor to have been teaching letterpress at the School of Visual Concepts for the past 14 years, and to play a part in building our program. I was cautious when Jenny Wilkson first invited me, as my mentors Chris Stern & Jules Faye were also teaching there — and who was I, with just a few years at the press under my belt, to be teaching? Upon hearing my concerns, Chris and Jules invited me to assist in their class — and gave me their encouragement to accept Jenny’s offer. This wasn’t an issue of confidence; it was about respect for all the years Chris and Jules had spent in front of presses.

top photo: We have a well-appointed shop at the School of Visual Concepts, and our volunteer Teaching Assistants do their part (and then some) to making sure it remains a gem. Credit: Radford Creative. |  bottom photo: Elizabeth Mullaly (right) is one of my current Teaching Assistants. The way she quietly jumps right in when she sees something or someone that needs attention is a work ethic I admire. Credit: Sukhie Patel.

PRESS HISTORY I was about to say it was a Pilot Tabletop Press — but truly, it was a toy press given to me in elementary school, the Fisher Price Arts & Craft “Printer’s Kit”. I’m really hoping it’s still stashed in my parent’s basement, as I’d love to get it back and play around with it.

But as far as “real” presses go, the Pilot really was my first. In June of 1999, I went to Bellingham, WA with Chris Stern & Jules Faye to visit their friend Rob. We were talking about printing and I was admiring his 7×9 Pilot Press sitting in the corner on its original stand. After a while Chris turned and said, “Well Amy, you can have it if you can pick it up.” I laughed and then saw Rob nod his head — Chris was actually serious, and Jules confirmed it. Together we moved it out that day.

My first studio was efficiently tucked into a tiny breakfast nook in a shared house. We didn’t use the dishwasher, so it became my ink table— I kept ink and tools on its racks. 

Chris and Jules then helped me put together a cabinet of type from their collection, and Scotty (Byron Scott, their adopted grandfather and avid letterpress collector) contributed some things as well. I still have that cabinet today; on the back, scrawled in chalk, it says “Scotty,” and I love that. Also in that cabinet is a 50-pound case of figures from various typefaces, all displayed face-up. It had been sitting in a stack of cases in the print barn & I remembering cooing over it with Chris when he said, “Yeah it’s purdy, but ya don’t ever wanna buy a case of junk like that.” He then turned to me with a sly grin. “Ya want it?”

I lovingly refer to this 50-pound case of figures as one my apprenticeship “hazing” moments. 

I had the Pilot for 2 years, and when I moved into the bindery loft of Stern & Faye’s Print Barn, they convinced me that it was time to move on to a bigger press. To this day, the Pilot still lives in Seattle with John Marshall, former owner of Seattle’s Open Books Poetry Shop in Seattle. It’s nice to know it’s still in our Pacific Northwest literary letterpress family.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar has been making my photopolymer plates since — I think — 2003 or 2004. At that time there weren’t many options, and most required faxing in a proof of the artwork — which was a royal pain. But Boxcar spoke my design language and accepted PDF proofs (revolutionary!) and that was the hook that got me in the door.

But the real reason I keep coming back is the people — everyone is so helpful and accountable to doing good work, and I appreciate the time spent helping me troubleshoot. As an instructor I know I can direct my students to Boxcar and that they’ll be well-taken care of. And as a participant in SVC’s Poetry Broadside project with Seattle Children’s Hospital and Seattle Arts & Lectures, I know that the project would not be financially possible without plate donations from Boxcar and paper donations from Neenah. On behalf of the printers at the School of Visual Concepts, thank you!

PRINTING TIPS Roller bearers are my best friends — I never lock up a form in a chase without them. Also, always use protection: slipsheet your prints. These two simple things can prevent so many problems.

Wide, type-high rule placed on the inside edges of the chase act as roller bearers, preventing ink slur as the rollers roll on/off the form. 

Document your work. David Black, another letterpress instructor at SVC, once advised starting a shop log to keep track of press maintenance. I do, and it has become so much more than just a record of press oiling. I document ideas, typeface choices, and archive my mockups. These logs are valuable resources that I refer to often.

I currently have 4 studio logs, and added a fifth just for the projects I do for APA (Amalgamated Printers Association), of which I’m a member. 

And finally, when it comes to buying equipment, be patient. The right press, the right type, it will come along. Talk to people, get to know them… there’s an underground current of dedicated printers that offer a far more rewarding experience than a whirlwind bidding session on Ebay will, and you’ll meet people genuinely interested in your success if you take the time to invest in your local community.

WHAT’S NEXT I’m finally — finally!— going to set up an online store for Amada Press. I’ve been in several group and solo shows over the years, but the positive response my work received in the 2017 “Pressing On” Exhibition at Hatch Show Print really highlighted the importance of investing time into making my work more accessible.

I also have several ideas on my perpetual project list in different stages of production, including two book concepts and a long-form broadside. The more I cross off, the more room I have for new ideas. My work is fueled by motion.

The red and blue flags in my studio logs mark ideas that have not yet been printed. I’m happy to say it’s a never-ending list. 

Immensely huge round of applause & thanks out to Amy for the gorgeous peek into the printing realm of Amada Press. Keep up the beautiful work and we look forward to seeing more of your printing adventures unfold. Find her on Instagram too (@AmadaPress)!

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper and Handmade Paper: Part 1

Seeking to add a special touch or extra “wow factor” to your next letterpress print project? Specialty papers (such as seed paper and handmade paper) add texture, personality, and eco-friendly advantages to invitations, business cards, and more. In this roundtable, we reach out to paper vendors and printers alike for their weigh in, tips, and advice on printing on such unique paper stock to create a lasting impression.

Annika Buxman – De Milo Design  I’ve only printed on Porridge Papers’ seed paper a few times. It’s similar to Mr. Ellie Pooh’s handmade paper in that the larger seeds (or in the case of Mr. Ellie Pooh, the chunky grass) can bust the plate. Lightweight type can break. I try to use bolder, stronger fonts. And always make two plates in case I need to replace it.

I have a handfed C&P and SP15 Vandercook. I don’t know if the following would work on a Windmill [for printing with hand-made paper]. When printing on handmade marble paper, I arrange each sheet in the stack beforehand to make sure the print will read legibly over the marbling.

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - Annika Buxman prints elegant and memorable letterpress Happy Birthday card on handmade, marbled paper (De Milo Design).

If there’s a rough deckle edge against the guides, the print can sometimes look crooked. Here’s my hard earned trade secret. 🙂 Eyeball the paper so it looks square on a large post-it note applied to the back. That way the guides have a straight edge. This is especially helpful with registering more than one color. Even with the post-it note edges, it often won’t look perfectly aligned. Accept the imperfection…

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - Annika Buxman prints elegant and memorable wedding invitations on handmade paper (De Milo Design).

If trimming handmade paper it can easily tweak in the cutter no matter how hard it’s clamped because it’s so spongy. I interleave cheap printer paper and that helps wtih the tweaking. I also do two cuts. The first 1/8″ away from the trim guide. The second is shaving off that last 1/8″. I don’t know why it works, but it works.

[I’d recommend] Porridge Papers for seed paper. Of course my favorite for handmade paper is my own Sustain & Heal marble and Letterpress line because it supports fair trade artisans in Bangladesh. I recently did some marbling and printing on Fabulous Fancy Pants paper and that was a lot of fun! […] The handmade fluffy surface takes the print so well. I don’t mind the extra work because the end result is so unique.

Kelly Caruk – Botanical Papers When using letterpress on seed paper, we recommend using minimal ink coverage as the pressing nature of the process may damage the seeds. Less ink coverage will ensure you get more viable seeds to grow in your finished piece. We also recommend you do some testing with a small batch of plantable paper before placing a large order.
(source: https://www.botanicalpaperworks.com/printing)

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - Seed paper from Botanical Papers adds eco-friendly touch to wedding invitations and business cards. Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - Seed paper from Botanical Papers adds eco-friendly touch to wedding invitations and business cards.

We only produce and manufacture seed paper and seed paper products at the moment [and] we love printing on seed paper because it has a unique texture and very natural feeling to it. The fact that grows into plants that benefit the environment makes the pieces extra special and symbolic.

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - Seed paper from Botanical Papers adds eco-friendly touch and memorable impressions.

Christopher James – Porridge Papers When printing on seed embedded paper or handmade paper with inclusions the most important thing is NOT to use wood or lead type or old cuts. Because the seeds can be hard they will dent the soft material. We recommend and use photopolymer plates.

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - Plants sprout from eco-friendly seed paper from Porridge Paper.

While you can and most likely will create small indents in the polymer it is easy to replace. That being said, if it is small areas or type most of the time, you will not see it.

We are in the process of coming out with our new line of seed papers. There are about 8 colors, mostly all light so that they will work well for printing. While white is the dominate color we like Ecotan which we describe as the color of Khaki pants. In our new color line, the light grey and green are our new favorite colors.

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - Porridge Papers Blue Collar Handmade Paper line prints with character and uniqueness.

Aside from seed paper, we have the Blue Collar [handmade paper] line which was specifically made for letterpress printing. There are 7 colors in that line and all made with, or inspired by, Blue Collar professions. Overalls is made from denim, Pallet is made from chipboard and cotton trimmings, [and] Brewhaus is made from spent grain from a local brewery. These papers by far have been our favorites. After years of printing, we wanted to make and offer a paper that had some interesting characteristics, was a little thicker, would make for a wonderful impression, and something that would be different from what is currently out there. We launched it almost 2 years ago and it has been exciting to hear what people have said and done with it!

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - Stacks of colorful handmade paper from Porridge Paper. Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - In-process papermaking seen at Porridge Papers.

With handmade paper, it tends to take a wonderful impression; and a lot of times you can get away with double sided printing where with commercial paper you tend to see the “punch through” on the reverse side.

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - Porridge Papers handmade papers print elegantly for invitations and wine labels.

Keep in mind that handmade paper, ours in particular, is soft, textured, and fibrous. Because of that it can be hard to get 100% solids. You tend to have more of a mottling effect. That can lend itself well to the design, so when we are printing, we always like to point that out ahead of time.

Printing on Specialty Papers: Seed Paper or Handmade Paper - In-process papermaking seen at Porridge Papers.

Our favorite paper to print on is Timecard from the Blue Collar line. It is such a great recycled sheet. White in color with interesting recycled bits in it. Aside from that, almost all of them can find their way into that perfect project. Our other favorite papers that we have made and love to print on our the ones embedded with silver and gold leaf or iridescent powders and if the project arises, scented paper can be a lot of fun!

In addition to our stock papers/lines, we love to work with the client before they begin the project. To have the opportunity to create a paper that specifically shows their personality, or is embedded with materials they provide, is what makes it so unique.

 

Feeling as excited and inspired as we are? Share your tips and thoughts in the comments section below–we’d love to hear from you! And stay tuned for upcoming Part 2 of this awesome blog article feature on these eco-friendly delights!

Fresh Impressions: Ladies of Letterpress 2017

The Ladies of Letterpress annual conference never fails to deliver an amazing week of printing, creating, and inky, hands-on, up to your elbows fun.  Add to that two letterpress movies, and the time in St. Louis, Missouri was pretty much letterpress supreme delight. 

Cathy Smith I often find it hard to describe to other printers what the conference experience is like and to give it justice.  You are in a bubble for five days where conversations center around printing and antique presses and it’s never boring. The energy is great and I usually end up saying, “you have to go there next year”.

This year’s conference was in Saint Louis and was a collaboration with StL Print Week which is offered through Firecracker Press and Central Print.  St. Louis itself has a lot going on in terms of attractions, housing renovations, and pockets of strong community sustainability projects.

Boxcar Press has printing fun at Ladies of Letterpress conference 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Our activities centered around Firecracker Press and Central Print which share a wonderful joint storefront space.  The neighborhood has little “pocket parks” on many of the blocks, and is on the cusp of bursting into a vital place to live and work.  That just added to the appeal of our conference headquarters.

Boxcar Press has printing fun at Ladies of Letterpress conference 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri.

It was easy to get excited about our printing space because of the many vintage presses, the aisles of type cabinets, the retro and bohemian décor, and so much natural light.  With the help of Peter Fraterdeus, I gained a larger appreciation for wood type as we learned to look at the letters as art forms of negative and positive spaces,  I tried my hand at linoleum block carving taught by Rachel Kroh and have a new passion for this.  I love the endless possibilities of photopolymer plates; however, it was freeing to work with other tools to create printed projects.

Boxcar Press has printing fun at Ladies of Letterpress conference 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri.

What I really love is meeting fellow printers as we talk about all things letterpress.  I revel in the information sharing and passion of panel discussions, and can highly recommend Pressing On: the Letterpress Film.  

Boxcar Press has printing fun at Ladies of Letterpress conference 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri.

If you have an opportunity to see it, do so, and then watch it again.  This year, I was joined by three of our printers from Boxcar Press, plus owner Harold Kyle, and it was great to share with them the experience and value of a Ladies of Letterpress conference.

Samantha Peck Samantha is one of our windmill printers here at Boxcar Press and she agreed that being able to attend the event this year was an unforgettable time.

The opportunity to learn letterpress printing from the most advanced printers in the industry left me with a wealth of new knowledge, tips, and tricks to incorporate into my daily printing at Boxcar. Thanks to the great workshops offered, I now own my very first press that I built from household materials!

I also was able to use a variety of different presses and type to create unique prints that I turned into the covers of my handmade journals. I even got to try out linoleum block carving.

Boxcar Press has printing fun at Ladies of Letterpress conference 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Through hands on learning and expert printers’ shared stories and advice, I gained some absolutely invaluable experience and memories. It was very rewarding to see so many inspired and creative printers all in one place carrying on the art of letterpress printing together.

Madeline Bartley Another one of our windmill printers recalls that her best moment from Ladies of Letterpress was during her workshop, Advanced Windmill with Graham Judd.

During a demo we became curious about the condition of the windmill’s impression lever. Why doesn’t the lever release back to its usual position? The red ball lever didn’t move back far enough. The lead to Graham and I pulling out old die cut scraps from the base. Together we pulled out two waste baskets of oily paper detritus. 40 years worth!  It was like an archeological dig into letterpress history.

Boxcar Press has printing fun at Ladies of Letterpress conference 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri. Boxcar Press has printing fun at Ladies of Letterpress conference 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri.

This Boxcar Lady had a wonderful time attending the conference and is looking forward to more in the future!

Leanna Barlow My experience at Ladies of Letterpress/ Print Week was absolutely amazing.  Spending time in another city surrounded by people who love the same thing you do is surreal. I have only worked at Boxcar press for about 2 years. At Boxcar we don’t set type, so this was my first time seeing such a vast collection of type! And actually getting to use it. Firecracker Press has such a great space and the staff was so talented and passionate about printing. I think what I took away from the experience overall was the willingness to teach and be taught, particularly by some who have been printing substantially longer than me. It was nice to see that there was no “generation gap,” as they call it. The older generation of printers was genuinely excited to be with the new and up-and-coming printers like myself. For me, making my own press out of everyday supplies, along with the advanced windmill class, has helped me develop as a working printer and an artist.

A huge shout-out to all the amazing participants at the Ladies of Letterpress conference this year! Have a fun story or cool thing you learned at this year’s meet-up? Let us know in the comments below!

The Paper Giveaway To Teachers at Boxcar Has Encore

Just when we thought the last scrap of paper was carted off last week, Boxcar Press was able to secure an unexpected bonus of more paper for local area art classrooms.

Free paper and printing supplies lured Central New York art teachers to Boxcar Press’ warehouse for our annual Art Paper Giveaway on October 25th.  However, Paper Giveaway Part 2 is coming up this Friday and Saturday,  November 3-4, 2017, during our print shop Open Studio event.

Paper Giveaway encore event at upcoming Open Studio for Smock paper and Boxcar Press in November 2017.

A frenzy is not too strong of a word to describe the scene where excited teachers came, saw, and carted away boxes and armloads of paper.  The colorful papers, foil rolls, envelopes, and plastic transparencies will find their way into journals, collages, mixed media art, and more in the coming months.  One teacher was tasked with finding art supplies for her whole district, a daunting task as art budgets are trimmed every year.  

Local area art teachers benefit from annual Boxcar Press Paper Giveaway. Spurs creativity in the classroom with donated paper, envelopes, and much more.

Throughout the year, Boxcar Press employees earmark papers, print projects, and supplies for our giveaway.  We like the idea of passing on our extras to kids and creative art teachers to design new artistry. It was a nice surprise this week to get notice of more paper arriving to our dock so we could turn around and place more supplies in the hands and on the art shelves of teachers.

Local area art teachers benefit from annual Boxcar Press Paper Giveaway. Spurs creativity in the classroom with donated paper, envelopes, and much more.

Art teachers who are interested in this latest stock of papers can come to Boxcar Press during our Open Studio event at the Delavan Building during the hours of the event – Friday, November 3rd from 5pm – 8pm and Saturday, November 4th from 10am – 4pm.  Please come to our front offices at Suite 135 through the 509 entrance and tell us you are an art teacher there for the giveaway.   Picking up paper is on a first come, first served basis and questions can be directed to Boxcar Press at 315-473-0930.

School Art Budgets Get a Boost from Boxcar Press’ Annual Paper Giveaway for Teachers.

Pulaski Academy Art Department teacher Stacey Walton reached out with photos and praise for our Boxcar Press paper giveaway for art teachers.  “If not for your generosity my budget would not allow for my students to have so many more opportunities and variation in art supplies as they do now,” writes Stacey.

The Pulaski, New York art instructor is referring to our annual giveaway of printing papers and more to art teachers at local schools.  Boxcar Press gathers a wide variety of items no longer needed for printing projects and it’s not just limited to papers.  It varies from year to year but can include papers of all types, patterns, and sizes, envelopes, surplus cards, packaging, transparencies and colored foils.

2017 OctoberTeacher Giveaway

Stacey included photos of just a few examples of how creative her classroom students were.  Some of the paper is perfect for oil pastel and acrylic painting. They use the patterned papers in their art journals a lot. They also use them for after school craft projects, including Fall signs, wreaths, and ornaments (by curling the paper and putting it inside glass ornaments – they come out beautifully!)  The solid colored papers (especially black) are great for mounting backs.  

2017 OctoberTeacher Giveaway

Some of the items offered are not papers or materials but plastic boxes formerly used for card sets and the cards themselves.  The students use the boxes of plastic covers as palettes for painting, printmaking, etc.  They are perfect because students can close them up and save them from day to day rather than washing the paint off every class.  Stacey writes, “This is a huge saver on paint for us, and super convenient for the students as they do not have to re-mix colors from class to class.”

2017 OctoberTeacher Giveaway -art journals

2017 OctoberTeacher Giveaway - art

“I have had students paint little boxes to use as stands for ceramics and sculptures for displays.  We used the foil rolls we got last year as decorations for our school dances. I also use the “Thank You” cards any time an organization or business donates something to our program.  Our secretaries use the Thank You cards as well (I found a set with our school colors, so they were perfect).  We even give them to students who need thank you’s to send out when they get things like awards and scholarships.”

Thank you Stacey for the feedback and artwork.  We enjoy providing what we can to enrich school art programs and are astounded by the creativity and breadth of how the supplies are used. We encourage other art teachers to let us know in photos and words how you have used our give-away items.

This year’s annual paper giveaway for teachers is Wednesday, October 25th, 2017 from 2:30-4:30 PM and questions can be directed to Boxcar Press at 315-473-0930.

2017 Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadsides: Part 2

Part two in this year’s inspiring blog feature of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadsides project explores the work of five more clever printers and their young poets as part of the collaborative effort between the Writers in the Schools program (WITS – a poetry program spearheaded by Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplick), long term patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and the School of Visual Concepts. These five printers share with us how they brought to life the young poets’ colorful imagination in a cornucopia of color, text, texture, and fun imagery.

Jane Suchan While at Seattle Children’s Hospital, 14 year old Mary McCann learned to knit and wrote the two poems used for her broadside.  I was drawn to Mary’s poems because of their emotion and imagery.  I work at Seattle Children’s, so I had the good fortune to visit and get to know Mary a bit.

Jane Suchran letterpress prints for 2017 SVC Children's Broadsides.

As Mary and I were chatting she gave me some great design input: her favorite colors, the fun to be had with a ball of yarn, the sense of coziness and comfort she feels from sitting quietly and knitting.  Mary is creative, energetic and playful, so I sought to reflect those characteristics in my design.  Since we both have orange cats, and cats and knitting just naturally go together, I knew I wanted to include a cat somehow as our shared secret.  

Jane Suchran letterpress prints for 2017 SVC Children's Broadsides- knitting imagery.

The big, cushy arm chair and a playful cat ready to pounce on a ball of yarn tells a little story to go along with Mary’s poems.  This line in Mary’s poem “Fabric coming off the end of the needle” made me think of knitted sweaters with intarsia motifs, so that’s where I got the idea to create a stockinette pattern with Mary’s name.  I printed in yellow behind the stockinette to create a fifth, blended color as a nod to Mary’s love of color.  Mary’s vision is impaired, so I kept images simple, used easy to read fonts in a larger size and high contrast colors.  My goal was to honor Mary and her poetry, to produce a keepsake that she would love and her family and friends would cherish.

Jane Suchran prints on a Vandercook for SVC Children's Broadsides.

These broadsides were printed on a Vandercook SP15 press at the School of Visual Concepts over three days.  In my first pass I used a large Boxcar base to print a block of soft yellow that would become the background for Mary’s name across the top of the broadside.  Printing the yellow behind the teal was an easy way to get a fifth color out of four passes on press.

Jane Suchran prints on a Vandercook for SVC Children's Broadsides.

 I had photopolymer plates made for the rest of the design elements, and pass number two was a run of teal for the chair, Mary’s name and the colophon.  Pass three was the orange cat and ball of yarn, followed by a fourth pass in dark charcoal for the poems.

Jane Suchran prints on a Vandercook for SVC Children's Broadsides.

The only tricky thing about my design was the tight registration of the orange cat and the back of the teal chair.  I had the photopolymer plate made with the cat and chair positioned together as they would be when printed even though I knew they would be in two different colors.  Before printing the chair I used an Exacto knife to carefully cut away the photopolymer plate for the cat and set it aside, along with the plate for the ball of yarn.  After printing the chair, I left the photopolymer plate adhered to the Boxcar base in the press bed.  I cleaned the teal ink off and added the photopolymer plate for the cat and yarn onto the base.  I pulled away the photopolymer plate used for the chair and other teal elements, re-inked the press with bright orange and was ready to roll in no time.   

2017 SVC Children's Broadsides meet-up.

Jenny Wilkson This year, Jules Remedios Faye and I collaborated on one poetry broadside. There were three letterpress processes we were excited to use: photopolymer for the text, because our chosen poem was the longest of the bunch; laser cut imagery, just because lasers are great, and collographs for detail in the illustration, which is Jules’ specialty.

Jenny Wilkson prints on a Vandercook for SVC Children's Broadsides.

First, we double-hit a solid with straight rubine red, to achieve a saturated dark pink background. After it dried, we overprinted purple laser cut butterflies, being careful to add cobalt drier to the ink so that it would dry on top of the pink pass.

Jenny Wilkson prints on a Vandercook for SVC Children's Broadsides.

Jules created a collograph for the light purple detail in the butterfly wings by gluing lace and sealing it with acrylic gel medium on an identical laser cut block, making registration a cinch. Finally, the gold text was printed using Boxcar plates.

Laura Bentley The broadside is a three color design printed with handset metal type ornaments, metal type, and photopolymer plates.   Type was set and printed on a Vandercook SP-15 printing press from the 1960s. The ornaments were arranged dripping down the page with the spacing growing such that the ornaments were breaking apart in a nod to the poem’s title.

Laura Bentley printing on a Vandercook letterpress press.

Simple shapes in dramatic colors echo the everyday and extraordinary experiences mentioned in the poem. The poem text and colophon was printed in a fourth pass on the same press with photopolymer plates and a metal base from Boxcar Press. Laura Bentley prints on a Vandercook for SVC Children's Broadsides.

I didn’t get a chance to talk with either of the young authors this time. Sometimes with all that’s going on it isn’t possible. But I enjoyed learning about their experiences through their words. Poet Ann Teplick works with patients in this classroom and helps the students express their experiences through poetry.

Laura Bentley prints on a Vandercook for SVC Children's Broadsides.

While I have a good variety of metal type ornaments to print with, and found a great font to use for the author’s names, my metal type collection came up short when it came to typesetting the poem text and colophon. Using a photopolymer plate opened up the possibility to print any typeface available on the computer, but for this design I chose a digital version of a typeface (Venus) from the age of printing with metal. While I have a couple of metal fonts of Venus, none were appropriate sizes. I like that Boxcar can fill in gaps in my metal type collection!

(Laura’s full blog article goes in-depth here on this year’s printing journey)

Leah Stevenson As I was thinking about my poem for this year’s Broadside project, I was instantly inspired by the recurring presence of red and yellow/gold. I was also struck by how much more space was devoted to the thorny devil desert lizard compared to anything else Ewan wrote about in his poem. Because of that, I really wanted to have that be a focal point of this piece.

Leah-Stevenson letterpress prints for the 2017 SVC Children's Broadsides.

Toward the beginning of my process I received an email with some scans of drawings Ewan had done. They represented what he saw in his mind as he wrote and read his poem so I really wanted to find a way to incorporate them. While beautiful, I was a little stuck on how to use the drawings I had received from Ewan while remaining true to my own style. I ended up just starting to draw a desert lizard to see where it would take me. Eventually, I realized I could use Ewan’s drawings as little ‘tattoos’ on the lizard.

Leah-Stevenson uses a Vandercook to print.

One of my favorite things about doing letterpress printing is combining my experience in digital design with the analog system of printing by hand. I was able to design the broadside digitally and used those designs to get photopolymer plates made. I printed the whole piece on a Vandercook SP15 press in SVC’s letterpress studio.

Leah-Stevenson uses a Vandercook to print.

I ended up with four passes through the press. I had actually planned a fifth pass (a blue for the baseball cap to bring in the Cubs in stanza three), but was on the fence about how much it really added. Once I pulled a proof of it, I decided it wasn’t necessary and left it out, giving me some extra time for paper cutting and sorting.

Leah-Stevenson letterpress prints for the 2017 SVC Children's Broadsides.

Unfortunately, I was not able to meet with my author this year but I did get a little insight into his mind when I received the drawings he had made for the poem. I really loved having that extra bit of my poet’s creativity and imagination that I could incorporate into the broadside. It was fun to get a glimpse into his mind and see what he had envisioned when he was writing the poem and use that as another place to take my design.

Carol Clifford For this annual project I usually work with the assumption that the young poet will see the finished piece I created for them, and in the past my hope has been to create an image for them to grow up with. This year’s piece was different though because I learned during the poem pick meeting that sadly Julissa had passed away. Knowing this influenced the feeling I wanted to convey. I didn’t want to make something too frivolous or silly. I usually don’t, but felt particularly aware of that this time. Plus, Julissa’s poem was serious and reflective, so I wanted to honor that as well as create a piece that felt more reverent.

Carol Clifford letterpress prints for SVC Children's Broadsides.

Initially, I had planned to combine several techniques: pressure printing, hand-set type, collagraphs, and linoleum cuts. However, I decided I didn’t want the “chatter” from pressure printing which is often a result. Nor did I want the heavier lines from linoleum cuts. I chose instead to use all polymer plates. In part for simplicity, but moreover for the clearer lines and shapes that I felt suited this poem.  

My hope for Julissa’s family is that I created a piece that is quiet yet witnesses her questions. I, too, would like to believe that birds walk on the clouds.

Carol Clifford letterpress prints for SVC Children's Broadsides.

Immense round of applause and thanks to all of the wonderful printers who donated their time and efforts to this truly beautiful project!

2017 Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadsides: Part 1

For its seventh year running, Boxcar Press has the immense pleasure of supporting the magical outcome created by this year’s 2017 Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project. Guided by Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplick of the Writers in the Schools program (WITS) and the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, an inspiring group of young poets and artist/printers collaborated together to produce 21 broadsides in a limited run of 110 broadsides. WITS worked with big-hearted printers as well as long term patients at the Seattle Children’s Hospital in this exceptional opportunity for fun, creativity, and stirring works of art. This first installment of a two part blog showcases four printers who share their creative printing process and capture the wonder of the children’s writing.Boxcar Press donated photopolymer plates for the 2017 Seattle Children's Hospital Letterpress Broadsides, a project by WITS + the School of Visual Concepts.

Sarah Kulfan I was very excited to print Merrick’s poem for this year’s Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project. As someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, his colorful descriptions of the natural world resonated with me and provided a rich trove of inspiring imagery that would pair well with his words. I printed a total of 6 passes on a Universal I, combining a linoleum block, metal type, and a Boxcar plate.

Sarah-Kulfan-letterpress prints for the 2017 SVC Children's Broadsides.  Multicolor letterpress printing from Sarah Kulfan.

This was my fifth year printing for this lovely project which brings together so many talented and generous folk. I was immediately drawn to Merrick’s poem. His words remind me of all the many blessings that nature provides, discoveries that I have found in my own wanderings outside. I haven’t met Merrick yet, but I hope to get a chance so that we can compare our adventures in nature.

Sarah-Kulfan-letterpress prints for the 2017 SVC Children's Broadsides.

This year, I wanted to try my hand at a reduction cut that would combine split fountain layers. Using high-drama imagery of a hurricane worked really well for this process as it provided a big-sky, full frame backdrop. The poem speaks to the cycles of nature and the process of destruction and darkness followed by light and new life. The gradients capture the weather transition from light to dark and the reduction cut allowed me to build up the dark layers of the passing storm clouds. There were four total passes on the reduction cut and these included two split fountains. I printed a fifth layer of metal type for the poem. The final pass was the colophon text, printed from a Boxcar photopolymer plate, which saved a lot of time hand setting and proofing tiny type.

Chris Copley Each year, I find myself wanting to push my artistic envelope in the Children’s Hospital Poetry Broadside Project — exploring a technique or concept while still making a piece of art that might appeal to people who know nothing of me or the poet or the project. I also try to reflect the feeling or personality of my poet.

Chris Copley letterpress prints for SVC Children's Broadsides.

Nandi, my poet this year, was not quite 5 when she wrote her piece about a huge stuffed animal that fell on her while she was in her hospital bed. The poem features strong emotions, and moves from upset and angry (at the big bunny) to loving and heartfelt (toward her mom). I tried to bring that out in the frame around the poem.

Chris Copley letterpress prints for SVC Children's Broadsides. Chris Copley letterpress prints for SVC Children's Broadsides.

I also embedded folk-art-style drawings of animals and a few “easter eggs” in the frame, just for fun. I drew the original art on black paper, then cut it out with an Xacto knife. I scanned the cut-paper art and ordered a polymer plate from Boxcar; this was my third (and fourth) pass. The first two passes involved the technique I wanted to explore — perpendicular split fountain printing. I printed a red-to-mustard-yellow pass (the color blocks behind the text blocks), and then turned the paper 90 degrees to print a blue-to-olive-green pass (the highlight colors in the frame).

Unfortunately, in trimming the paper to permit it to fit on the press, I unthinkingly cut off my gripper edge. So when I went to print the polymer frame, I couldn’t. I quickly went through a list or three or four options for solving my disaster, and decided the least bad solution was to cut the polymer plate in half. The problem was compounded when printing the second half of the plate, when my favorite press inexplicably fish-tailed my paper a different direction on every pass, making close registration virtually impossible. I cried almost the entire run, convinced the broadside was ruined. But I finished the project, hand-setting the poem and colophon in Bodoni and printing it without a hiccup. And it didn’t look too bad, in the final analysis. Five passes through the press.

I never met Nandi, but I met her mom, Adele. Nandi was camping with Dad the week we met. We chatted for nearly an hour about Nandi’s poems and how her health crisis brought out Nandi’s strong spirit. I saw the connection between Adele and Nandi, and saw photos of the little girl and the big bunny. I wanted to bring out in my design Nandi’s playful, vibrant personality, and her love for her mother.

I used two other techniques: hand-set metal type; and pressure printing. I wanted soft edges to the color blocks behind the stanzas of Nandi’s poem, so I used the back side of a Boxcar Press base (with the swirly pattern of the grinder as a design element) and a paper pressure “plate.” I did the same thing with the color highlights in the frame. I like the contrast between the crisp polymer printing and the softer pressure-printed colors. And I like the way the metal type echoes the sharp edges of the polymer plate. This is another of those projects that turns out better than expected, with different parts contributing to a unified whole.

Heidi Hespelt As always, it was a privilege to illustrate one of these wonderful poems by these talented children. My poet was Nick Gerdin, age 9 and he wrote 2 poems, titled Orange and Red. His plan is to continue the series by writing poems about other colors of the rainbow. I love the word pictures that Nick painted. He is obviously an insightful guy.

Heidi Hespelt letterpress prints for SVC Children's Broadsides.

I used several different methods to bring my illustration to life.  The titles, Red and Orange, are done in large antique wood type, the rest of the type is polymer from Boxcar Press (thanks, Boxcar, for your support!), and I carved the tiger, the cheetah on lino blocks using photographs as inspiration.

Heidi Hespelt prints on a Vandercook for SVC Children's Broadsides.

The setting suns and the bottom border are also carved from lino blocks. All of the printing was done on a Vandercook press at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle.

Heidi Hespelt prints on a Vandercook for SVC Children's Broadsides.Heidi Hespelt letterpress prints for SVC Children's Broadsides.

Much of the joy of participating in the Children’s Hospital Broadside project each year (this is my fourth year!) is the camaraderie between the printers and the creative way each printer (artist) interprets the poem that they are given. I like to think that our efforts will live long lives on the walls and in the portfolios of the poets and their families, and that our artistic visions will add a dimension to the poems that brings out a deeper meaning.

Sukhie Patel I love carving linoleum and engraving wood, so I knew I wanted to draw and then hand-carve the poem’s illustrations. Carving is, for me, a form of meditation, and it was a beautiful way to contemplate this young poet’s life and honor her through that process. It was hard to narrow down what to illustrate, as the poem had so many vibrant images to choose from. I wanted the broadside to capture as much of the visual levity and sweetness of the poem as possible, so I chose to carve this metallic gold ice cream cone of whimsical pastel cotton-candy-esque clouds, with Mount Rainier popping out amidst them. It ended up being 6 separate blocks, and including text, 8 passes.

Sukhie Patel letterpress prints for the 2017 SVC Children's Broadsides.

I found out two days after receiving the poem that the lovely young poet, London Marshall, had passed away at age 9. My approach thus shifted from designing a broadside to delight a 9-year-old audience, to designing a commemorative broadside for her family. I wanted to create something the family would want to return to at different stages in their grieving, that did not preclude a path of healing, and could bring them a smile. I hoped the illustrations would capture the levity of being nine years old, the vivacity of being a young girl, the earnestness of feeling in love with the world around her. It was an honor to print London’s poem, and spend time with her words.

Sukhie Patel letterpress prints for the 2017 SVC Children's Broadsides.

My print consisted of 6 hand carved linoleum blocks and two photopolymer plates. I don’t know how I would have pulled this off without the help of Boxcar. I had never printed with photopolymer before, but with the structure of this poem (each line began with “I am”), I didn’t have any cases of metal type with enough capital I’s! Incorporating photopolymer also allowed me to select a more contemporary and youthful typeface. It was such a pleasure working with Boxcar on this project, and (despite being a sucker for handset type) I can’t wait to incorporate photopolymer in more of my designs. It really did open up my eyes to a whole new set of techniques and approaches.

Stay tuned & read on about this amazing Broadside project in the upcoming Part 2. The ever-inspiring work of both poets and printers and the brilliant results are why Boxcar has a big soft spot for such an amazing tradition year after year.

Printing Community Spirit: Ladies of Letterpress

With the upcoming Ladies of Letterpress conference plus Print Week happening just around the corner (September 28, 2017-October 1, 2017) in St. Louis, Missouri, we catch up with Kseniya Thomas on the Ladies of Letterpress’ excellent camaraderie, fun, and cool happenings (and don’t worry fellas, Ladies of Letterpress is happily open to men as well!). The Ladies of Letterpress conference features more than a dozen workshops, panels, printers’ market, as well as a must-see showing of “Pressing On: The Letterpress Film“.

When Jessica C. White and I started Ladies of Letterpress nearly ten years ago, our goal was pretty simple: make it easier for new printers to figure out what they were doing, and why. It doesn’t seem like that long ago, but it wasn’t easy in the aughts to get good info on how to operate letterpress presses with a minimum of frustration. And the letterpress community was localized and largely offline.

A lot has changed in the ensuing near-decade. Help is readily at hand online no matter what the letterpress problem, Wayzgeese abound coast-to- coast, and our own conference has grown to include workshops, business talks, technical instruction, and more. You never have to print alone, unless you want to! Ladies of Letterpress has grown and changed, and its mission now includes community cultivation, conference planning, trade-show wrangling, group projects . . .

It’s been interesting and rewarding for me to see how letterpress and printing have changed since we started LOLP. Seeing people struggle and succeed in the service of letterpress is inspiring; letterpress isn’t the easiest gig out there, but people fall hard for it and make printing work for them, and keep the art and craft of printing growing and evolving. This evolution inspires me to print my own work when I take a break from my regular jobs.

Though two people started LOLP, many, many people and organizations keep it going with their generosity, enthusiasm, and continued interest. The creative helpfulness of our fellow printers has only increased, and keeps growing as our numbers grow. LOLP represents one thing printers can make when they come together.

Boxcar Press salutes the Ladies of Letterpress and all the other organizations and clubs who are the mentors, tutors, trailblazers, and backbone of the art of letterpress.

www.briarpress.org
www.collegebookart.org
http://printinghistory.org/
http://www.apa-letterpress.com/
www.letterpresscommons.com
http://woodtype.org/
http://vandercookpress.info/
https://listserv.unb.ca
www.penland.org
http://www.thearmnyc.com/
http://www.fpba.com/
http://thebeautyofletterpress.com/
The more than dozen Book Arts Centers across the world

The Art of Printing: Prose, Song, and Poetry to Entertain Those in the Trade

Who doesn’t love a rousing, good ditty, or a clever, snappy poem with a wicked twist of words?  And what better than an ode about your favorite topic – printing – written by and for printers?

We recently found a digital copy of a poetry book about printing from 1833.  Turning the pages makes you feel like you are at a comfortable British pub house a couple of hundred years ago, raising a glass with inky nails, saying, “Have ye heard this one?”

The title of the book is Songs of the Press and Other Poems Relative to the Art of Printing, gathered by T. Kirk, Printer of Nottingham, 1833.  It is available for download at www.openlibrary.org.

One of the gems we found included a curse or censure by a printer who called down mayhem on his colleague.

Printing Prose Song and Poetry: Vintage pressman illustration(illustration courtesy of Briarpress.org)

The Poet’s Anathema by R.S. Coffin

On a printer who had displeased him.
May all your columns fall in pie,
Each chase be gnawed by rust;
Weak, weak as water be your lye,
Your cases filled with dust.
May all your sticks untrue be made,
Your frames too high or low;
No page upon the stone be laid
Where it should rightly go.

Printing Prose Song and Poetry: Book an Job Printers Illustration(illustration courtesy of Briarpress.org)

How about a song on the Origin of Printing by Dodd, in particular, one that praises good printing and the demise of hand-copying.

Aided by thee, the printed page
Conveys instruction to each age;
When in one hour more sheets appear,

Than Scribes could copy in a year.

An anonymous poet captured that moment when a printer gets what he is looking for…

Printing Prose Song and Poetry: Printer's Kiss poem

Print on my lip another kiss.
The picture of thy glowing passion;
Nay, this won’t do— nor this — nor this —
But now — Ay, that’s a proof impression!

One more thought to give some perspective on what it meant when you held a book in the 1800’s and the nice thought that countless of our fellow fine press printers still handle many of these tasks themselves.

The following twenty-two occupations are engaged to produce a single book (circa 1873):-The author, the designer, the rag merchant, the paper maker, the stationer, the type founder, the press maker, the ink maker, the roller maker, the chase maker, the reader, the compositor, the press­man, the gatherer, the folder, the stitcher, the leather seller, the binder, the coppersmith, the engraver, the copper-plate printer, and the bookseller.

Are you inspired to pen your own sonnet or lyric to printing?  Send us your verse in the comments section below!

In search of the perfect printing ink – why not do it yourself?

Letterpress printers have many tools at their disposal, such as presswash, line gauges and quoins. Not the least of these is their favored printing ink. Broach this subject with a group of printers in person or an online forum and most can hotly debate the one they can’t live without.

(photograph courtesy of coloranthistory.org. Those interested in purchasing a 13″x19″ archival poster print can reach out to Andy here. )

Yes, we are going to step into that debate and ask specifically which black printing ink do you hold in high esteem but before we do that, we want to entertain you with an article from a book that gives the recipe for making your own.  Looks pretty simple to us but you decide.

The sage instructions of experience come from this book found on openlibrary.org

Six Hundred Receipts, Worth Their Weight in Gold by John Marquardt of Lebanon, PA.

Turn to page 75 – Receipt No. 138  How to make Black Printer’s Ink.

“Printers’ ink is a real black paint, composed of lampblack and linseed-oil, which has undergone a degree of heat superior to that of common drying oils. The manner of preparing it is extremely simple. Boil the linseed-oil in a large iron pot for 8 hours, adding to it bits of toasted bread the purpose of absorbing the water contained in the oil; let it rest till the following morning, and then expose it to the same degree of heat for 8 hours more, or till it has acquired the consistence required; then add lamp-black worked up with a mixture of oil of turpentine and turpentine.

The consistence depends on the degree of heat given to the oil, and the quantity of lampblack mixed up with it; and this consistence is regulated by the strength of the paper for which the ink is intended.

The preparations of printers’ ink should take place in the open air, to prevent the bad effects arising from the vapor of the burnt oil, and, in particular, to guard against accident by fire.”

If one receipt isn’t enough, another is available on page 264 , No. 597  An Excellent Printing-Ink.

Balsam of copaiva, (or Canada balsam,) 9 ounces; lampblack, 3 ounces; indigo and Prussian blue, each 5 drachms; Indian red, 3/4 ounce; yellow soap, (dry,) 3 ounce. Grind it to an impalpable smoothness. Mix with old linseed oil. “

In case you are wondering – the drachms is a unit of weight formerly used by apothecaries, equivalent to 60 grains or one eighth of an ounce.

Letterpress printers, as a group, seem to be interested in trying new things for their art, so we hope that these two recipes might get a try-out or two from someone.  However, it is also fun to note that within the 598 other receipts in this book, you can also find a recipe for peppermint cordial, a cure for the bite of a mad dog, and treatment for scabby heads on children and toothaches.  

Back to our original question, we truly are interested in hearing about your favorite black printing ink, either ones you have used in the past and can’t find anymore or one you use everyday.

Tell us in the comments below!