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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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
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
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
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.”
(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.
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.
(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.
(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.
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.
(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.
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.
(top: The Bayview photography courtesy of Bayviewperformingartsworkshop.com | bottom: Dogpatch photography courtesy of Peter DaSilva)
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!
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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!
Part two in our blog feature of the 2016 Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project features six more artistic printers and young poets as part of the collaboration between Writers in the Schools program, long-term patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, Washington. These six printers share with us how they brought each writer’s words to vivid life in the 2016 edition.
Nicole Cronin 2016 marked my fourth year participating in the Children’s Broadside Project. Each time, I am excited to create art for a good cause alongside my fellow printers!
I was immediately drawn to Jasmine’s poem because of her detailed imagery and playfulness in her writing. It felt whimsical and fancy and hopeful… so I wanted my broadside to depict her words so the reader felt like they were right there, watching acrobats performing and climbing ribbons! One of my favorite things in designing for letterpress is linoleum carving, so I decided to carve a hand drawn wreath and the pink ribbon. The most time consuming and also enjoyable part of the process was carving and printing the wreath. It was challenging to line up the acrobat between the ribbon and the wreath (which in hindsight sounds crazy, but so true).
I printed the poem, acrobat and gold dots using Boxcar Plates which produced the most consistent passes on press.
This project is personally fulfilling, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to design and print Jasmine’s poem. With great leadership by Jenny Wilkson at SVC, we have a strong team that provides time, paper, plates, etc. and I am so grateful to have contributed a small part.
Carol Clifford This will be my 7th year of working on the Children’s Hospital Poetry Broadside Project. Each year we are presented with poems from the children to read over and consider. Then we all meet as a group and each chooses a final poem to interpret and print for the young poets. I usually sit down with a cup of coffee and take time to read each child’s poem. Then I reread.
Many of these kids are heartbreakingly wise beyond their years.
I will connect with some of the poems more than others. A few suggest ideas and images fairly quickly. I usually draw thumbnails right away in the margins, percolating on others until we meet to get our final assignment.
I chose Two Constellation Poems by Matthew Whitesel because I liked that this was one of his first attempts at a poem, and it turned out so visually rich and funny. I liked the challenge of creating a dark field of color with letterpress printing. As a bonus, I just happened to have a unicorn image I had recently used for another project.
Because of the line “Why he has a pet unicorn, I have no idea,” I knew I wanted the unicorn to be front and center and gold (Right?! I used MS-1151 Rich Gold Paste from Hanco Ink Co) Printing gold as the featured color directed building up the background. With experimentation and suggestions from other printers, I learned that highlighting the shine quality of the gold ink is more successful when printed over another color, especially a darker color. To form the dark background, I was inspired to use two colors that overlap and create another color with a lot of depth.
I try to work out all the steps of a broadside before going on press, but inevitably, once I am in the studio, I tend to combine techniques to accomplish my ideas. This method of working can be maddening, but also allows for a lot spontaneity and, fingers crossed, happy surprises. The image was created with a combination of linoleum blocks and polymer plates.
I had planned for a four color run. It turned out to be nine! Two runs of red to get the saturation and color I wanted, 4 runs of gold to solve registration woes and for clarity on the colophon and then black and blue runs with linoleum blocks. I am really pleased with the final result.
When I come up with ideas for the broadsides I keep in mind the age of the poet. Ultimately though, my hope is that the piece will not be too “childish” and that the broadside will give both the poet and his family moments to enjoy for years to come. I haven’t met Matthew but I was told that his younger brother thought it was really cool to have something he wrote printed. This experience has inspired both of them to write more.
Leah Stevenson The Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project was a fantastic and challenging experience. I was equally excited and nervous to be a part of the collaboration. It was my first time and I wanted to ‘get it right’. These kids go through so much and being able to create a piece of art with them felt special and so important, even more so because we knew some of the kids wouldn’t and didn’t make it to the end of the project . I unfortunately never got the chance to interact directly with the kids but just hearing their stories through the poetry was extremely powerful. This was not just a piece of artwork that we were creating but also a piece that represented these kids in a way that a lot of people don’t get to see.
I selected poetry by a young student of 6 years who had four short poems together, each in English and Spanish for a total of 8 pieces of text to work with. Having grown up in South America, I felt an instant connection to the poet through her use of Spanish & English in her writing.
It was a challenge to figure out how to piece all these separate poems into one cohesive broadside. I had recently visited L’Opéra de Paris (the Paris Opera House) and was inspired by the mural on the ceiling for this piece as it depicted various scenes from different operas all together. I decided to take that concept and separate the poems into four sections surrounding the sun in the middle. This gave each poem it’s own stage, so to speak, while still tying them together.
I used a combination of pressure printing and photopolymer plates on this broadside. I used pressure printing for some of the background colors, as I wanted a little more fuzziness around the edges – not so clean and precise. To contrast, I used photopolymer for its clean lines for the more details work as well as the text. I actually hand wrote the poet’s name, age and title of the piece and digitized that to create a photopolymer plate. It felt like it gave a different emphasis on the poet that paired nicely with the illustrations around it.
I had a lot of registration going on in this piece, which proved challenging to control with the larger run. I had at least 8 passes and getting everything to line up was tough (and in some cases impossible) but it was definitely a learning and enriching experience and worth every minute I spent on it.
Jill Labieniec This year I worked on the group poem which combined words and ideas from different children. It was challenging to include all the imagery from the poem so I opted to add my own idea into the mix.
The overall theme was kissed by the rain so I figured a mermaid who lived in a puddle would be very appreciative of a little rain.
Amy Redmond I am a Seattle-based visual designer, a letterpress instructor at the School of Visual Concepts and letterpress printer since 1998.
I work with photopolymer but absolutely fell in love with handset type. For personal work and special projects like the Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project I work only in handset type. The focus it requires, and the time, is my way of paying my respects to both the poet and the poem. I become fully immersed in the words and the process, and the extra time it takes is worth it. The poems the children write represent a huge amount of energy and heart on their part; it’s only fair that I attempt to meet them on equal ground.
This is my 6th time as a contributor. I do it for several reasons: to bring the poems into light, to be a part of a larger community project, to challenge myself, to learn from my mentors, to work side by side with the Seattle letterpress community. It is a very closely connected group and this Broadside project is one of the ways we maintain that association. The artistic work on this project gets better each year. We all work hard to out-do ourselves, and put to use new tricks we’ve learned throughout the year. We learn from each other to push the traditional boundaries of broadside design.
My poet, Zack Edge, incorporated a lot of imagery into his poem. I used large wood type (front and back) to help create a landscape in which his words would live. On the left the orange words form a wide tree trunk; on the right a sky and a field are formed. I used pressure printing techniques to create the white cloud when printing the blue sky, and it was serendipity that the wood type I chose happened to have a few stars carved out of from its backside.
For the smaller type, I handset everything in metal type – Spartan – on a 1903 Colt’s Armory Press. With all the various weights I was able to play with the cadence of the type, and pushed — as far as I felt comfortable — the composition of the poem itself. By placing the last line of the poem to the far right in the cloud and having it stand alone, I hope to give it emphasis so that others also take note of its gravity.
Laura Bentley I received a reflective and powerful poem by a 16-year old named Mackenzie who worked with poet Ann Teplick. I was struck by the earthquake imagery in the poem. It made me think I could do something with shifting plates of earth or seismographs. After weighing several options I was excited about the thought of using metal type ornaments that look a bit like layers of earth and thought I could put something together that imitated seismic faults, albeit in an abstract way. The bars of ornaments can also reflect just the abrupt ups and downs that life can take. Thank you Mackenzie, it was an honor to print your words.
For colors and typeface I was leaning towards both “earthy” and “mid-century modern, particularly, a typeface from the age of printing with metal, even if I would be printing it with photopolymer.
The metal type ornaments were set to the correct lengths, and arranged in position in the press bed. Each color is printed in a separate pass through the press. For an edition of 110, I started with 120 pieces of paper. For those of you counting that meant that 120 pieces of paper through the press four times meant feeding paper through the press 480 times!
Laure’s full blog article covering her printing adventure can be found here.
A huge round of applause and thanks out to all of the printers who donated their time and efforts to this amazing project!
In its fifth year of running, we’ve teamed up with amazing young poets, and inspired printers to share with you 2016’s Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project in a two-part blog feature. The collaboration of 22 artists and pediatric patients is helmed by poets Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplick of the Writers in the Schools program and the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle. WITS works with long term patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital to write poetry, out of which printers & artists create beautiful letterpress broadside prints. Boxcar Press supports this project with photopolymer plates for the limited run of broadsides. Participating printers share their experiences bringing each poet’s words to life in this year’s edition.
This first installment features six printers who share their printing process and experiences with the youth writers of the program.
Bonnie Thompson Norman Every year, I feel a strong connection to the young person whose poem I print. I know each person who works on these broadsides feels the same way. We don’t always have (or choose to have) the opportunity and/or privilege of meeting our poets, but the bond is a strong one. As the project comes to an end, we all gather for a potluck dinner. All of the completed broadsides for that year’s project are displayed. Each of us reads “our” poem and talks about the process of creating the image, designing the text, printing, etc. The sharing that takes place as we read and talk about our connection to the young person who wrote the poem and our experience in interpreting it for others to see, is a meaningful bond for all of us and each of us…to the writers, the poets who work with them, and one another. It is what keeps us looking forward to coming back year after year. It isn’t just a legacy for the poets and their families. It is our legacy, too.
Here is a video of the creative process for a few of us:
One last comment on the bond between printer and poet… last year, I wrote a blog post about my young poet who I was able to meet on his 17th birthday. He teared up when he saw how I had interpreted his writing. We met at the Children’s Hospital where he was (again) a patient when I gave him his copy of his poem that I designed and printed. We were both emotional when he saw how I had interpreted his writing. It was so gratifying to see how he appreciated what I felt was our collaboration though we had not met before.
Chris Copley 2016 was my second experience with the Seattle Children’s Hospital poetry broadside project. My 2015 project was both artistically challenging (still a rookie to letterpress, I carved three 10-inch-by-13-inch linoleum blocks to illustrate the poem’s text and images) and emotionally poignant (the poet I worked with, 13-year-old Ahmie Njie, died about a month after I printed her poem). Exchanging a few Facebook IMs with her before she passed away remains one of the highlights of my life.
I liked the idea of incorporating the text of the poem itself in the illustration of the poem, so I planned to do that again in 2016. I worked with a poem by 12-year-old Kayli Jones, a Chinese-born adoptee living with her American parents and three brothers in Idaho. I exchanged a few email questions with the poet’s mom to learn a little more about the poet.
The primary design concept for me revolved around Kayli’s Chinese origins. So I decided to use the poem’s text to represent branches of a Chinese-style cherry tree in bloom. Cherry blossoms are considered a symbol of good luck in Asia, and Kayli’s poem ends on a note of hope and determination to beat her cancer.
I hand-drew the letters of the poem, then ordered a polymer plate from Boxcar. This was my first polymer plate print run, and it worked SO WELL. I couldn’t have been happier. All of my text was printed in black. I then hand-set a tall, thin column of text for the colophon; the form was intended to evoke the look of a column of characters on a Chinese-style painting.
I decided to print the second color, red, using a different technique — pressure printing. I used a print from the first color run to cut out the cherry blossoms, and then glued them onto another print to create the pressure-print “plate.” I used the print with the blossom “holes” as a frisket to mask the speckling you get with pressure printing. Printing the blossoms also went pretty smoothly, although I had to recut the frisket twice to try to get the blossoms the way I wanted.
(An added disaster-turned-blessing: I forgot to bring a linoleum block as required for pressure printing, so I used the backside of a Boxcar base, and the swirly pattern on the base’s bottom side left an absolutely beautiful effect on the cherry blossoms.)
Finally, I added another element, at least to some of the prints: several hand-drawn Chinese-style chops, also in red ink. Two of the chops spelled Kayli’s name in characters reminiscent of ancient Chinese text. I printed them freehand on only a few prints, using an ink-stamp pad because I worried they would distract from Kayli’s poem.
I was really happy with the broadside design and printing, and I felt it represented Kayli well. As much as I enjoy the artistic and technical challenges of portraying a poem, it’s important to me to represent the person whose work I’m illustrating.
Darcie Kantor It was an honor to be part of the Children’s Hospital Broadside project. This was my second year participating.
For my process I combined Boxcar plates for the poem and did a linoleum block reduction for the fire/flames. It was a fun project to work on.
Juliet Shen The boy who wrote this poem was a registered member of the Swinomish tribe whose lands are north of Seattle on Puget Sound. I had designed a font for the Lushootseed language (indigenous to this area) and asked my contacts in the Tulalip Lushootseed Department to have his poem translated so it could be typeset in both languages.
When it comes to making art work, I am against the appropriation of traditional Native American art styles by outsiders because my research for making the Lushootseed font revealed that the iconic imagery used by Northwest tribes has deep cultural significance. I decided to design to my particular strengths, which are typographic, not illustrative, so I typeset the poem in a shape that I hope looks like an elk to readers. I rely on polymer plates because my primary focus is on typographic design and I need the control that using polymer affords me.
Heidi Hespelt I do want to say that our printing community is amazing! I had a terrible back injury at the end of last year and was pretty much out of printing commission. Amy Redmond offered to do the actual printing for me if I wanted to be involved in the design. She made it possible for me to participate by giving of her time and printing expertise.
Project supervisor, Jenny Wilkson, selected a younger poet for me, not knowing that she chose what was secretly the one I wanted. Serendipity. My poet was Alex Enderle, and the poem was “I Am Me”. Alex was 7 when he wrote the poem.
I think of it as the cupcake poem. I wanted a younger poet because I have a now 5 year old grandson that is a big part of my life and felt like I could probably tune in to what a little guy might find interesting. Bright colors and yumminess that you can see seemed important and I loved what I was able to accomplish with Boxcar plates.
Annabelle Larner I’ve participated as a printer in the Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project since its inception about 6 years ago.
Most of my work is all hand done. This year’s project, from April 2016, was printed using a hand-cut wood block as the printing base, with a lightning bolt used as a pressure print. It was printed with a split fountain ink in dark blue, then the final polymer type was printed in red.
Working on this project is extremely rewarding, and also hard. I want to really get into the words of the printer and try to convey their feelings in a way that is not too literal or childish, as I know kids can appreciate darkness, and what they are going through is pretty dark. Sometimes I get to meet the kids and it’s always special. Their parents are often very grateful, and seeing the kids talk about their poems is amazing.
Stay tuned & read on about this amazing Broadside project in the upcoming Part 2. The creativity and intensity of both poets and printers and the dazzling results are why Boxcar is proud to have a part in this project every year.