The Printing Rhythm at One At a Time Press

Patricia Barron of One At a Time Press lives life to the fullest daily in her garage-turned-studio in the picturesque Sierra Madre mountain range of sunny California. Her ambitions to pursue her passions in letterpress have been fostered by exceptional printing mentors and the thrill of the creative challenge. We caught up with Patricia to see how her part-time printing adventure is treating her.

Patricia Barron of One At a Time Press lives life to the fullest daily in her garage-turned studio in the picturesque Sierra Madre mountain range in sunny CaliforniaPatricia Barron of One At a Time Press lives life to the fullest daily in her garage-turned studio in the picturesque Sierra Madre mountain range in sunny California

THE JOY OF CREATING I am a born and raised, Southern California lady through and through. I live in Sierra Madre with my husband, Jeff. I went to college at UC Santa Barbara in 1969 and then transferred as a junior to UC Berkeley, where I graduated with a B.A. in psychology.

I began my business on my 60th birthday in 2011, after having raised two boys to men as a stay at home mom. I was lucky to be able to take art classes at Pasadena City College, the local junior college. These included drawing, life drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture and photography. I love the challenge and joy of creating, and am inspired by nature, people, places, music, books and life. Sierra Madre has beautiful views, mountains, and green spaces so there is much to inspire.

Patricia Barron of One At a Time Press lives life to the fullest daily in her garage-turned studio in the picturesque Sierra Madre mountain range in sunny California

LETTERPRESS LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT My first exposure to letterpress began at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena. I immediately became enthralled with the process, from imagining what to print to making it a finished product. At first, I though I’d have trouble thinking of enough ideas of what to do, but I’m way over that!

MEET THE FAMILY My first press was a 1950’s Chandler & Price Pilot Tabletop Press that I bought in 2011. In 2015, I was very lucky to buy a Vandercook SP-20 press that I had shipped out from Chicago.

SERENDIPITY IN SIERRA MADRE My studio is in our garage. We have two garage doors, a double and a single. The one car garage is my studio. My favorite thing about my studio is that I can open the garage door and get lots of fresh air, light and a view of the mountains. 
While it’s cold in winter, I can use a space heater. In the summer, I am up very early or very late, printing in the cooler part of the day.  I am very proud of having my own business and the quality of my work.

Patricia Barron of One At a Time Press lives life to the fullest daily in her garage-turned studio in the picturesque Sierra Madre mountain range in sunny California

PRINTING MENTORS Denise El-Hoss is my teacher and mentor, and I have been taking classes from her at the Armory for almost five years. Through her encouragement, I began my business. She is totally awesome as a teacher and friend. In fact, I bought my first press from her.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS I design my work using old blocks, my linoleum carvings, designs I create on Adobe Illustrator and have made into blocks, as well as images I find that are copyright free. I also use wood type and metal type that I either have or can use at the Armory. Lastly, I use Illustrator to create words or sentences that I need to be made into a block.

Patricia Barron of One At a Time Press lives life to the fullest daily in her garage-turned studio in the picturesque Sierra Madre mountain range in sunny California

PART TIME PRINTER, FULL TIME FUN I do not print full time, but do print as much as I can. My goal is to do more custom work and larger scale prints. I love to experiment to create original work. My process is often a combination of planning and serendipity. I often begin without knowing exactly what will come next. I love the challenge of solving for the answer! I sometimes begin with an image I like and then bring it to life with words. Or I’ll find a poem or saying that I like and come up with a background.

PRINTING FEATS My art prints, Fauve Look I & II, make me proud, having hand-carved three different linoleum blocks (one for each color) and succeeding in printing them to my satisfaction. I love the way they turned out. The image is based on a textile design from France, 1925. 

I also printed a 2016 letterpress calendar which turned out to be worth all the work involved! I was very happy with the result.

Patricia Barron of One At a Time Press lives life to the fullest daily in her garage-turned studio in the picturesque Sierra Madre mountain range in sunny California

SHOP TIPS Use AlignMate! Their product helps in making sure your text is straight and centered.

WHAT’S NEXT I have been accepted into various shows, including the Patchwork show in Long Beach in June and a show in Claremont. I also have my work in Lulu Mae’s in Pasadena and at Creative Arts Group in Sierra Madre.

Patricia Barron of One At a Time Press lives life to the fullest daily in her garage-turned studio in the picturesque Sierra Madre mountain range in sunny California

A huge round of thanks to Patricia for letting us take a sneak peek at her creative world at One At a Time Press!

Learning Letters with The Alphabet Press

Like letterpress, the city of Selengor in Malaysia sits on the crossroads of both traditional techniques and revolutionary technology. The country also is home to Zeejay Wong of The Alphabet Press, a custom letterpress print shop that offers unique letterpress stationery featuring bold colors and bright imagery in the form of endangered Malaysian animals and favorite food delicacies of the country. We caught up with Zeejay to see how the letterpress journey started with an across-the-globe trip to Melbourne, Australia and resulted in a thirst to make print come alive again in Malaysia.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

HANDMADE CREATIONS I was trained as a web designer and it was my profession for eight years before I got into letterpress printing. Shifting from high speed digital works to something that seems to be technologically backward; it was truly a transition. I am now a full-time printmaker at The Alphabet Press and I enjoy creating products that are made by my own hands.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Three years ago, we were a web design company who set out to look for something special for our business cards. We believe that the first impression is very important. I have been looking for printing technique such as letterpress in Malaysia, but we lacked the knowledge and resources. We decided to fly all the way to Melbourne to learn the craft itself from Carolyn from Idlewild Press. Since then, intrigued is an understatement to how I am at awe of the attention to detail that goes into letterpress printing.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

MARVELOUS MALAYSIA I co-founded The Alphabet Press with 3 of my fellow partners. We rented a small shop in Selangor which is the second busiest town in Malaysia. Compared to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, Selangor is less busy a town with good neighborhood. Everything is easily accessible. Our shop is located in a small town in Selangor surrounded by suburban neighborhood, which fits the nature of our business and choice of lifestyle a lot.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I am both a designer and a printer. I graduated from Multimedia courses in a local university, and I was trained to do everything that design entails from graphic to video to 3D modeling, web design, and more. But now, I have found my niche, which is letterpress printing.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS Malaysia is a big pot of culture. The vibrant nature of our nation that makes up from different races, cultural, food, and architecture really inspires me. I like to observe the little things that happen around me. Before I start doing any design, I will walk around in the town to get myself some fresh air and let the surrounding inspire me. And hopefully, I can find something that interests me and make it into a design subject. There are too many things to learn in Malaysia and the only thing that worries me is that I do not have enough time and resources to make it into something tangible. I usually don’t see this as just design but the documentation of our culture.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

FULL TIME FUN Yes, I have been a full-time printmaker for two years, since we started The Alphabet Press.

PRINTING FEATS We finally released a series of social cards, notecards, and notebooks featuring the endangered animals in Malaysia and favourite foods of Malaysians. We launched the debut at Kinokuniya Book Store in Malaysia and to us, it’s more than just a product launch. We did a letterpress demonstration as well to educate people about the old craft of letterpress with the lead types we salvaged from the old printing shops around Malaysia.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

BOXCAR PRESS We’re loyal supporters of Boxcar Press! There aren’t many resources for letterpress in Malaysia, and Boxcar Press has truly been our lifesaver. We started The Alphabet Press by purchasing most of the important tools from Boxcar Press. It’s not an exaggerated statement to say, without Boxcar Press, it would be pain in the arse to start a letterpress studio here. Oh, and the videos are particularly helpful for a beginner to start to learn how to use their Heidelberg platen press.

PRESS HISTORY A 1969 Heidelberg Platen Press (Windmill). We acquired this press from an old veteran printer. At first, he was quite reluctant to let it go. It took me 2 months to convince him to sell the press to me and promise that I will take care of it. Since then, we became good friends and he is also a good mentor of mine.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

SHOP TIPS Paper is expensive for us, especially when we import most of our papers. We used to have a big margin on our printing. Now, we have reduced it to just 14mm (0.551 inches) for top and bottom and 10mm (0.393 inches) for left and right of the paper. We usually stick the plate to the very edge of our aluminum base and use a gauge for my print jobs most of the time as I require a perfect registration. Besides, I will always have rosin powder around me to fix the most irritating problem – the ghosting when I print a large blotch of colors. Apply a little bit on the roller track and it can solve most of the problems.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

WHAT’S NEXT We will be focusing on our bespoke services. People love their wedding and business stationery printed with letterpress. Besides that, we will keep on participating in local art festivals to promote the craft of letterpress to the people in Malaysia. We want to make print alive again in our community and to upkeep the traditional printing skill that would otherwise become obsolete in the fast-moving world of technology.

Huge round of thanks out to Zeejay Wong of The Alphabet Press for letting us catch a glimpse into his vibrant printing world!

Greenboathouse Press Navigates a Smooth Course In Fine Press Printing

Jason Dewinitz of Greenboathouse Press, is a fine press printer who hails from Western Canada. He is also an award winning book designer who has thrown open his studio doors to give us this friendly and laid back tour. His current studio isn’t on a waterway anymore, so for the interesting background story on the name, read more here.

Take a virtual tour of Greenboathouse Press, the laid-back Canadian letterpress printing workspace and abode of Jason Dewinitz.

THE LOCATION Greenboathouse Press is located in Vernon, British Columbia, a year round tourist destination in the lower southern region of BC. The workshop is attached to the house and is 20 by 24 feet (480 square feet), otherwise known as not big enough. While I certainly appreciate the community that a shared space offers, I prefer to work alone (or with an apprentice), so I cherish my private space.

Efficiently Productive Shop I was going to say my space is simply a glorified two-car garage, but “glorified” is a bit of an overstatement. The upside of a garage is, of course, the garage doors, but in my case it’s also helpful that both the electrical panel and furnace room are off the garage, as I needed to run a 220V line and running water to my Monotype Super Caster. The ground-level entry and concrete floor are also great, considering that the casting machine likes to spill molten metal all over the place. As for a floor plan, as can be seen in the photos, I’ve set up a number of workstations, for cutting paper, setting type, printing, casting, and working on machine bits & pieces. Although every square inch of space is taken up, it’s an efficient and reasonably comfortable area conducive to getting things done.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP I’m pretty fond of every single thing in the shop, likely due to the fact that only about 30% of my equipment is currently set up there. The bulk of my stuff is at the print shop I’ve set up for my students at Okanagan College, so what’s in my shop at home is the best of it. Aside from the machines and tools, likely the two features I appreciate the most are the long work bench at the back of the shop (for setting type) and the shelving unit behind the press, which holds all of the stuff one needs while printing (ink, reglets, leads/slugs, furniture, tools, etc.) at arm’s reach while printing.

PRESSES I work almost exclusively on a Vandercook 15-21, the adjustable bed of which is crucial in my shop given that I have quite a bit of European type that’s not .918”. At the college shop I also have an SP-25 Power and a giant 14.5” x 22” C&P. I’ve had a couple of SP-15s pass through as well, which I sold to get the SP-25, although I’m currently looking to sell the 25 in order to get my hands on a 219 or Uni III (I need another press with an adjustable bed, and the 25 is simply more than I need in terms of size).

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL Where to start…value, of course, being relative, I have a handful of tools that are worth a fair penny, and a few of those are also extremely valuable to me in terms of utility. At the top of the list would probably be my point-micrometer, which is one of only a handful in existence that measure in (North American) typographer’s points, with increments of 1/16th of a point. This is extremely handy for casting type, but also great for simply measuring type & spacing while setting & finalizing forms. Next to this would be a good alignment gauge and lining gauge, both used for casting. In terms of printing I’d have to say my favourite tool would be a pair of stamp-collecting tweezers that are ideal for pulling out sorts & spacing when correcting forms. And, by the way, I can’t seem to find these things anywhere, so if anyone has a source please let me know!

Favorite Ink & Color When I inherited my first press & etc. from Caryl Peters (of Frog Hollow Press in Victoria, BC) with whom I very informally apprenticed, she also passed along two partial cans of a black ink that has, in my experience, no equal. It was a formula developed by Stephen Heaver and produced by Hostmann-Steinberg. The stock is long gone, but even after 14 years in the can, the stuff prints like nothing else I’ve worked with: perfect viscosity, deep, rich but matte black, and holds up for hours on the rollers. My two cans are almost gone now, so I contacted Hostmann-Steinberg in Canada who pulled the formula up from their US division and they were kind enough to make a big tub of the stuff for me, but I have to say it’s just not the same. I’m pretty sure they scrimped and used synthetics, and the new formulation is far too thin and soft. I’ve found, though, that if I work some out on the glass and (gulp) leave it exposed for about 3 days, then skim off the top skin, it works pretty well. Wish that I could find a stash of the old stuff though!

CLEAN-UP ROUTINE I have a very simple wooden cradle that holds both my oscillating and rider roller carriage, as well as my two rubber rollers, and this makes clean-up pretty easy. I use California Wash, mixed 50/50 with water, and paper towels to get most of the ink off, and then do the final cleaning with straight Wash and clean rags. I’ve got clean-up down to about 15 minutes. I use a lot of heavyweight Bounty paper towels, and chopped up old cotton sheets for rags.

OIL OF CHOICE I use pretty much any non-detergent oil, I’m not fussy as I use very thin coats on the rails and just a few drops in the oil holes.

BOXCAR BASE + PLATE SYSTEM I use the standard Boxcar base with standard plates. As I’m not doing job work and thus don’t feel the need to pound deep into chipboard, this simple configuration has worked very well for me. My most challenging job with polymer thus far was the Feliciano book, which was an alphabet book with each letter having two fill plates and a stroke plate with VERY fine lines. The registration was near impossible, but the plates did their job and the results were darn solid (see images).

PIED TYPE It all goes in the casting machine. Last summer I melted down over 2,000 lbs of old type and cooked them into fresh ingots for the Super Caster. Now there’s a fun job.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE Mostly I just follow  “A place for everything, and everything (usually) in its place…”

PRINTING TIPS Roller bearers. Sure, the Vandercook allows for careful height adjustment to the rollers, but that does nothing for maintaining inking with uneven or gapped lines of text. Bearers actually control the height of the rollers, and can be taped here and there to address the text arrangement. And, change your packing/tympan with every new form. And, keep your press clean. I’ve seen presses that look as though they haven’t been cleaned in decades, and the result is always crappy printing. And one last secret: keep the ink light on the press, just a kiss of contact between roller & type, and then double-ink every pass.

Take a virtual tour of Greenboathouse Press, the laid-back Canadian letterpress printing workspace and abode of Jason Dewinitz.

Many thanks to Jason for this look inside the Greenboathouse Press! Visit Jason’s Pinterest page to see more of his presswork.

Keeping Creative With London Bellman

Diving into the letterpress printing realm sometimes starts like an archaeology adventure: layers of beautiful history and technology are uncovered, past projects are found as remnants on the tympan paper of newly discovered (and obtained presses), and and entire chasm of knowledge is revealed when the printing press starts to clink, buzz, and whirl to life. London Bellman knows this thrilling adventure all too well. The creative virtuoso has been been discovering new ways to apply his innovative passions from past endeavors such as a toy sculptor, painter, and tattoo artist into letterpress printing. His command over line and layout in his tattoo work has translated breathlessly and beautifully into letterpress printing (and it’s quite easy to be enraptured by it all as well). We caught London in both of his ink shops to see how the printing journey started and where the creative momentum has taken him.

London Bellman (of Atomic Press in Oregon) prints beautifully intricate letterpress designs that pull from his background professions as a tattoo artist, sculptor and painter.

INKING UP PAPER AND SKIN I’m a guy who married an awesome lady who puts up with all my scattered visions. We walk a lot, garden, cook, live simple and enjoy the hell out of each other. I’m very thankful and fortunate to have Steph in my life. Career-wise, I have been in the tattoo world since 1991 and that is my primary income stream. This last year I shifted my focus on what it is that I want to convey in my work tattoo wise and personal art. I was a toy sculptor for about five years before I entered the realm of tattoo. The company I worked for did prototypes for the toy industry such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, McDonalds give-aways, Garfield, Felix the cat, etc. I learned a lot there but also realized sitting in a factory type environment was not for me. Tattooing gave me the life I have now and I owe so much to it. Almost every person I am acquainted with has been through artistic or tattoo endeavors. I also started painting and now sculpting again is in the works.

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT Letterpress seemed like the simplest way to reproduce my art with the least amount of equipment and is the least toxic. That’s what I thought. 😉 Compared to screen printing (with lots of solvent fumes) which a close friend of mine does. I like that you can use soy solvents and not lose a liver over it.

London Bellman creates beautiful letterpress prints inspired by his own work as a tattoo artist.

I started reading Briar Press’s blog and was going crazy with all the information. Learning the difference in presses, how they worked and performed different tasks. Searching, searching, searching for the right press. In the beginning I would buy a press, dismantle it, clean it and test print primarily. It was a slow process. At one point I drove to San Francisco from here in Portland, Oregon straight through, loaded up a Pearl No.1 and drove home. My wife thought I was press crazy. I’ve had them shipped, get broken, repaired them, all to just find the right fit for my needs. When I would realize a press was not for me I would look for another one and start all over. The movement and mechanical beauty of the machines themselves is a big part of the magic of letterpress. The history of these machines is a big part as well, and where they have been & what they have done. A few times a press has come with boxes of type, quoins, all the extra printer’s goodies and there would be remnants of past projects. Sometimes layers of past projects still on the tympan paper. That part was a fun kind of archaeology. I have not printed a ton of projects, it took me most of the time gathering my equipment and momentum.

London Bellman (of Atomic Press in Oregon) prints beautifully intricate letterpress designs that pull from his background professions as a tattoo artist, sculptor and painter.

OREGON’S VERY OWN My home and studio are one and the same. I like to call it Atomic House. The actual business is Atomic Art Tattoo Studio and that’s the basement of my home. The main floor is where Steph and I live and the attic space is where my presses and paper cutter reside. I am a hobby printer at this point and really enjoy it when I do print. The best thing about my home, shop, and studio is that it’s all right here and at my fingertips whenever I want to make something — I don’t have to leave the premises to make it happen.

THE CREATIVE FLOW I would say I design for tattoos and my personal art whims but I don’t design for peoples’ personal projects. I am very low tech as far as designing goes. I play around with some small sketches, decide whether I like the composition, and let it rest in my stack of images. If I like it enough to proceed to making a print, I’ll redraw the design, ink it, and have a plate (or plates) made. I keep a sketchbook going daily and have lately been going back to my past imagery and borrowing from there.

FUTURE PRINTING As I mentioned before, I am a hobby printer but would love to make more images and find a market for my art. I have been pushing towards that lately. I haven’t fully figured it out but I have some ideas in the works.

PRINTING FEATS I am proud of what and where I am at this point in my life. I’m rich in love, imagery, where I live, whom I am surrounded by and the country I was born in (I mean this in a not crazy patriotic kinda way). I feel lucky in general when considering the state of the planet as a whole.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar Press is awesome! I have not used you for a ton of services but you did make me a couple really cool base plates for my presses and your online video tutorials are indispensable.

London Bellman (of Atomic Press in Oregon) prints beautifully intricate letterpress designs that pull from his background professions as a tattoo artist, sculptor and painter.

PRESS HISTORY I’m not sure which was my first press? I’ll try and go down the list, which are mostly tabletops. I’m sure I’ve had a couple Kelseys 5×7’s; a Sigwalt or two have arrived broken; Three Pearl No.1’s: basically a tabletop with cute cabinetry below; my largest was a 10×15 Craftsman (unfortunately I let it go but it was a beautiful beast); and one Pilot 6×10 old style which I sold. Currently I am printing on a Craftsman 6×10 and I have a Craftsman Monarch 9×12 made out of aluminum.

SHOP TIPS I’m still learning and always will be. My advice would be: don’t rush, take your time, walk away and come back to it later. If you screw it up… re-run it and print it again. I did this just the other day.

WHAT’S NEXT This time last year I started a letterpress project based on Bio-Mechanical inspired art. The artists in the first set of five prints provided me with a design of their choice in the aforementioned genre. I printed 120 of each image mailed them to the artists to sign and number.

Once they send them back to me I collate them into sets and each person gets 20 sets of prints to sell, gift, or whatever they want to do with them. I am onto a second and third set currently. I recently printed a few images in the same vein (Bio-Organic) as an off shoot of Bio-Mech, but it leans more towards nature-inspired forms. I would like to increase my inventory of prints, nature-inspired stuff primarily, sticks and stones, mushrooms, bones, landscapes etc. I have been offered a couple opportunities to show so hopefully more of that will happen in the near future.

London Bellman (of Atomic Press in Oregon) prints beautifully intricate letterpress designs that pull from his background professions as a tattoo artist, sculptor and painter.

An exceptionally large round of thanks and applause out to London for letting us get a larger glimpse of his creative world!

New North Press Pushes Printing Boundaries

Richard Ardagh of New North Press pushes printing boundaries by uniting technology and old-world printing traditions. The UK-based letterpress printer melds his traditional printing background, his reverence for type (and boy does New North Press have a few fonts… 700+(!) typefaces), and his love for technology. We caught up with Richard about how working with the 3-D printed typeface A23D (a first of its kind) continues to inspire him on a daily basis.

Richard Ardagh of New North Press pushes printing boundaries by uniting technology and old-world printing traditions.

LETTERPRESS IN LONDON My name is Richard Ardagh, I’m a partner of New North Press letterpress studio in London, UK. I studied graphic design at Central St. Martins and that’s where I was first got a flavour for letterpress. A few years after graduating, around 2008, I met Graham Bignell (who had founded NNP in 1986) and we began working together producing posters. In 2010, with the help of Beatrice Bless, we held an exhibition called Reverting to Type, showcasing contemporary letterpress from all over the world. New North Press is now run as a partnership, focusing on keeping the craft alive through teaching, working on commissions, and producing our own work.

Richard Ardagh of New North Press pushes printing boundaries by uniting technology and old-world printing traditions.

SHOP STORIES The building we’re in is an old shoe factory on a cobbled street in Hoxton, a previously industrial and now increasingly gentrified area of East London. The press shop is full to the rafters of type treasure. I love seeing people’s expressions when they visit for the first time. We have over 700 wood and metal fonts and three large cast iron hand-pull presses – two Albions and a Columbian – plus two proofing presses and an Adana.

Richard Ardagh of New North Press pushes printing boundaries by uniting technology and old-world printing traditions.

PRINTING MENTORS Beatrice and I are hugely fortunate to benefit from Graham’s 30 years of experience and enthusiasm.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT We set type by hand, so design is an integral part of what we do. We’re lucky to have clients who appreciate that and want to work with us because of it. It’s also an important part of our teaching to help people understand how to best communicate their intended message.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS Personally I start with a pencil and paper, getting ideas down and thinking through how to order the information. I prefer to start with a fairly clear vision, but have learnt to accept and work with the quirks of the process.

PRINTING FEATS In 2015 I ran a project to produce a 3D-printed letterpress font, with the idea of making a prototype that connected the newest and oldest forms of print technology. Thanks to an Arts Council grant I was able to commission the best people I could think of to work with: A2-Type to design the font and Chalk studios to fabricate it. The result, called A23D, is a font like no other; a wireframe design with each character made up of 0.3mm lines giving them a 3-dimensional appearance similar to an architectural plan. I’m very proud of it and hope it inspires the next generation to keep evolving what letterpress is and can be.

PRESS HISTORY Graham’s first press was the Albion and this was the press I learnt on too.

Richard Ardagh of New North Press pushes printing boundaries by uniting technology and old-world printing traditions.

PRINTING TIPS Pressmanship is a complex art, I seem to learn something on each job I print.  There are a million little tricks with hand-presses, ways of using the tympan for makeready and masking using the frisket.

WHAT’S NEXT We’ve been invited to be part of some exciting projects and also hope to attend the International Letterpress Workers Summit in Milan again.

A huge round of thanks to Richard of New North Press for letting us catch up with the delights of his printing abode.

Printing In the Mitten: an interview with Lynne Avadenka

Following the hum and surge of industrial buzz that abounds in Detroit, Lynne Avadenka uses letterpress printing to create distinctive mixed media works in the forms of prints, artist’s books, and personal art. Coming from a printing background that boasts over 35 years of passion, printing curiosity, and a love for type, Lynne re-crafts the components of being a power printer in today’s market by combining these sought-after traits and being able to share the joys of printing by pioneering Signal-Return — a community based print shop. We caught up with Lynne between print runs to get the scoop on how life with letterpress keeps one’s heart skipping a beat.

Lynne Avadenka of Detroit, Michigan and of Signal-Return Press.

FALLING FOR LETTERPRESS I have lived in the Detroit area all my life and I studied art and printmaking at Wayne State University. I’ve always loved letterforms, books and prints, I’ve worked as a professional calligrapher, and I fell in love with letterpress printing while in graduate school.

DETROIT INK When I graduated with an MFA in 1981 there was very little communal printmaking activity in Detroit, so I set up my own studio/print shop. I now have an SP-15, but began printing on a small platen press, moved up to a Vandercook #4, and then traded that for the SP-15 around 20 years ago. I also have an etching press. I love the fact that my studio is steps away from the rest of my house and that I can go to work in my pajamas.

A look inside Signal-Return Press in Detroit Michigan

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT When I was in graduate school, Susan Kae Grant came to teach photography at Wayne State University. She learned letterpress and book arts at University of Madison-Wisconsin and wanted to share it with Wayne students, so she set up a shop (one Vandercook #4 and some type) in the basement of the Fine Arts Building. I took her class and everything I loved ‐ books, letterforms, making multiples, and hand printing ‐ all came together.

Letterpress work samples from Lynne Avadenka of Signal-Return Press.

left: Gone I, 2014, letterpress from wood type and photopolymer, powdered graphite
right: Gone III, 2014, letterpress from wood type and photopolymer, powdered graphite

I was in graduate school before there were degrees in book arts and printing, so I learned by printing on my own, reading as much as I could, and taking workshops (thank you Center for Book Arts New York).

DESIGNED TO PRINT I am artist/printer. I use my press to create limited edition books and prints, but I also consider it a crucial art-making tool to create unique mixed media works.

Letterpress work samples from Lynne Avadenka of Signal-Return Press.The Solutions to Brian’s Problem, 2011 (written by Bonnie Jo Campbell), pochoir, letterpress from photopolymer, wood veneer

PRINTING FEATS My limited edition books and prints have been acquired by institutions all over the world: The Library of Congress, The Meermano Museum, in the Netherlands, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, The Detroit Institute of Arts, The Biblioteck zu Berlin, The New York Public Library, The British Library, The Jewish Museum NY and numerous university special collections libraries.

For the last three years I have served as Artistic Director of Signal-Return, a community letterpress studio in Detroit. I am one of a talented team of four sharing the beauty of letterpress printing with a wide community of artists and arts enthusiasts across the Detroit area.

Letterpress work samples from Lynne Avadenka of Signal-Return Press.
The Solutions to Brian’s Problem, 2011 (written by Bonnie Jo Campbell), pochoir, letterpress from photopolymer, wood veneer

BOXCAR’S ROLE I started using Boxcar plates on a particular limited edition project, the first in a series of works devoted to contemporary Israeli writers. I didn’t have enough Hebrew type in metal to produce the edition, so I designed the book pages using a digital design program and then had Boxcar make plates from my files. I can’t remember who first recommended Boxcar Press, but after trying several other companies, I have been using Boxcar Press exclusively for years now for both text and image photopolymer plates.

A look inside the Signal-Return Press shop.

PRESS HISTORY My first press was a small Chandler Price platen press with an 8 x 10 chase.

SHOP TIPS Years ago an excellent Detroit letterpress printer, Leonard Bahr, shared an invaluable trick with me — and although the better-trained letterpress printers might frown at this, I’ve found it to be invaluable. If you want to set type in an asymmetric shape, or “sprinkle” type on the bed, roll up snake like coils from oil based modeling clay and form them around the type to hold it in place on the press bed.

Letterpress work samples from Lynne Avadenka of Signal-Return Press. Letterpress work samples from Lynne Avadenka of Signal-Return Press.top: Lamentations 2009, (Chapter 5), woodcut, pochoir, letterpress from photopolymer
bottom: Lamentations, 2009,(title page) letterpress from photopolymer

WHAT’S NEXT I intend to make some real progress on limited edition projects that have been languishing: one is a tribute to the Dutch letterpress printer/artist H. N. Werkman, and the other is a book project based on a prominent contemporary writer’s story written and published totally on Twitter.

An immensely large round of applause out to Lynne for letting us get a look inside her wonderful printing world!

Printing Inclinations With Jennie Putvin of Nane Press

Part-time printing doesn’t have to mean small design. Big-hearted printer Jennie Putvin of Nane Press excels at breaking the mold as a side-business letterpress printer. The tactically inclined and design-centric Jennie has been printing up a storm in her unique studio that gleans its creative current from surrounding artists within the building and from the fact that her studio is part of a refurbished church. We caught up with her between late night print runs to check out how beautiful the perfect balance of makeready can be to the thrill of holding the final finished custom letterpress piece.

Jennie Putvin of Nane Press works expertly on her Vandercook printing press.

photograph courtesy of Eliza Gwendalyn

A LOVE FOR PRINTING At my day job I’m a graphic designer, but at heart I’m a craftsperson. Letterpress printing is a great marriage between the two; making something wonderfully tactile with your own two hands gives you a sense of satisfaction you just can’t get sitting in front of a computer.

Letterpress work samples from Jennie Putvin of Nane Press

HOME IS WHERE THE PRESS IS My studio is in a refurbished church with gorgeous original details and kooky additions. While I’m the only printer in the space, other artists of different disciplines are always working and creating. Feeding off the creative energy in the environment is definitely something that keeps me going.

A peek inside the Nane Press letterpress print shop

NATURAL BORN PRINTER I took printmaking classes in college, and as a designer, I’ve always been interested in type and book design. So it sort of came as a natural progression to take my first letterpress printing class at the Center for Book Arts in New York City. It was also great to be able to rent studio time in their facilities before I bought my first press.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I design and print my own work, as well as print other people’s designs. Other designers’ work always poses an interesting technical challenge, and I think makes me a better printer.

A peek at the type inside the Nane Press letterpress print shop

THE CREATIVE FLOW I’m always collecting images and writing down ideas. For custom jobs, I always make an inspiration board with a color palette. Some of my projects are hand-illustrated, and some are only type-based. In the past, each of my designs has been tailored towards a specific client, but I’ve got plans to start building cohesive ready-made designs that look more like my personal style.

Letterpress cards from Nane Press Letterpress work samples from Nane Press
(above photographs courtesy of Eliza Gwendalyn)

FULL TIME FUN I don’t print full-time, but I would love to one day!

PRINTING FEATS Paper has the ability to impact people’s daily lives in a very unique way. I’m always excited when my work is shown in galleries or published in a book—but when I hear that someone has received an invite or card I’ve printed and loved it enough to save it, well, that’s the best compliment a girl can get!

Letterpress work samples from Nane Press

BOXCAR’S ROLE The great folks at Boxcar help me troubleshoot along the way. If there’s a part of a design that’s going to be challenging for the plate to print (usually with punctuation in a thin font), I get a call from them with the heads-up. Knowing more about the limitations of the photopolymer has probably saved me dozens of hours of headache on the backend.

Letterpress work samples from Nane Press

PRESS HISTORY A Vandercook Universal I. Her name is Phyllis, and she’s a great press.

The Vandercook press at Nane Press

SHOP TIPS I couldn’t live without my calipers. My shop isn’t humidity-controlled, and I spend a decent amount of time getting packing right. I’m always swapping in and experimenting with different types of paper, and knowing how thick your makeready is before you disassemble what’s under the drawsheet takes out a lot of guesswork.

Letterpress wedding invitation samples from Nane Press

WHAT’S NEXT I’ve got a collaboration in place with a calligrapher that I’m super excited about. I also just got a die-cutting jacket for the press, so I’m really looking forward to experimenting with that!

A huge round of thanks to Jennie of Nane Press for letting us catch up with the delights of her printing abode.

Shining Brightly at Dogs & Stars Press

Lafayette, Colorado is an award winning small city where Dogs & Stars letterpress shop calls home.  This “Best Place for Young Families” and “Top Fifty Best Places to Live” community is an inspirational place for the edification and admiration of letterpress printing. Brian Wood of Dogs & Stars is banking on that to advance his craft in his new workshop. Getting into letterpress has evolved over a ten year period for this graphic designer.  His early influence was old letterpress posters with inspiration drawn from wood type.

Take a virtual tour of Dogs & Stars Press, the printing workspace and home to Brian Wood and a plethora of printing adventures.

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS  My first press was a Showcard 8×12” sign press. I took over our second bedroom and started a very makeshift shop, continuously adding the needs of a print shop bit-by-bit, eventually resembling a studio of sorts. Once more equipment and  type cabinets arrived it was time to take over the next logical area of our home – the garage.

The shop has undergone a recent renovation thanks to the generous Kickstarter community. Before the conversion it was just a basic garage with letterpress stuff in there. It now features reclaimed chicken feeder lights, recessed can lights, solar tubes and four windows for lighting. The garage door remains, so it can be opened up during the warmer months for both natural light and fresh air. A fellow printer once told me to paint the floor to help improve temperature control. So the floor is painted a nice blue-gray using epoxy paint, so it’s durable as well.

THE SIZE AND LOCATION Our house had a 2 car stand alone garage that I have converted into a fully functional 400 square foot letterpress shop. It’s in the back of the yard so it’s tucked away. We live in a historic area of town that is starting to see some really cool shops, breweries and restaurants opening. I’m about 2 blocks from a coffee shop that carries my greeting cards and also hosted a letterpress poster show of mine. The local arts community is very supportive in Old Town Lafayette. There’s an excellent brewery less than 5 blocks away as well. I’m in good company.

THE PRESSES The work horse is a Golding Jobber No. 7 (10×15). I also have 3 sign presses: A Showcard, Nolan and Fremont. And a Golding Pearl that needs parts.

NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN THE SPACE It’s a one-printer show right now. It’s open by appointment only at this point due to location. But I’m happy to host anybody who wants to see what I have going on.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP My prized possession would have to be a toss up between my Golding Jobber No. 7 and the cabinets we had installed.  They are impressive and have created an organized workspace for me. The Stik Wood reclaimed wood we installed on one wall is warm and inviting and everyone who visits loves it.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL I really value my quoin key. Without it, I would not be able to print on my platen press. My base and plate are the 6 x 9 boxcar base and the Jet 94FL plates.

PIED TYPE I do have some pied type floating around my shop, but I let it lay.

FAVORITE INK I use Van Son rubber based inks. My current favorite color is Warm Red. It always seems to cooperate, looks great on the press and prints well.

CLEAN-UP ROUTINE Boy, do I hate cleaning up. I use kerosene with Scott shop towels to clean up the majority of my mess. I use a paint scraper to get up ink on the ink disk and mixing stones.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE I do a good solid clean up after each project so things don’t get too hectic going forward.

PRINTING ADVICE Know your presses and what the limits are. Knowing what you can and can’t do on your specific press from the beginning can be helpful carving out your niche in the letterpress world.

Take a virtual tour of Dogs & Stars Press, the printing workspace and home to Brian Wood and a plethora of printing adventures.

Brian’s work at Dogs & Stars Press will continue to be type-driven and he laments that he was a few decades late on being a lino-type operator instead. Thanks for the insight and look into your creative new workspace.

Top 20 of ’16 Letterpress Valentine’s Day Cards

We count down the top 20 of ’16 Valentine’s Day letterpress cards and why not treat yourself (or your letterpress lovin’ sweetie) to a hand-picked (and pressed!) card or two for this upcoming Valentine’s Day! Let us know what you are getting your special someone this year in the comments below!

2016 Valentine's Day letterpress cards featuring sweet moments, funny cards, and letterpress beauties!

1.I Love You A Bushel And a Peck And a Hug Around the Neck card by Cherry Laurel Studio | 2. Scandinavian Folk Style Rose Pink card by Fluid Ink Letterpress | 3. Amore Forever badge card by Hammerpress | 4. Rococo Valentine Heart card by Foglio Press | 5. I Love You As Much As…. card by Paper Plates Press | 6. Cereal Love card by Paper Parasol Press

2016 Valentine's Day letterpress cards featuring sweet moments, funny cards, and letterpress beauties!

7. Hotspot Love card by Kiss and Punch designs | 8. The Moments card by Ditto Ditto Works | 9. Lobster Love card by ShedLetterpress | 10. Like Campfires card by Smock | 11. I’m Mad For You card by Rise and Shine Paper | 12. My Heart Belongs to You card by Pup and Pony

2016 Valentine's Day letterpress cards featuring sweet moments, funny cards, and letterpress beauties!

13. Lots of Love Heart card by Sugar Paper | 14. Love Ledger Paper by favorite design. | 15. You Rock My Socks card by Flyaway Paperworks. | 16. Happy Valentine’s Day card by Grey Moggie | 17. Love Bracket card by A Favorite Design | 18. We’re Purrr-fect together! card by Ratbee Press | 19. Love You Like No Otter card by McBitterson’s | 20. For Fox’s Sake I Love You card by Runaway Press