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

Printer’s Paradise at Vahalla Studios

Passing the decade-mark of printing & creating adventures (from first getting into the printing rhythm of a Vandercook to adding ink to his ’57 Heidelberg Windmill), Dan Padavic of Vahalla Studios continues to amp up his letterpress design game with eye-popping pieces, expertly designed (and memorable) prints, and a creative edge that pushes the boundaries of letterpress. We were able to catch up with this cross-discipline printer (have you seen their screenprints?) for a chance to talk shop and to catch up on what keeps him motivated, covered in ink, and ever creative.

Dan Padovic of Vahalla Studios

A DECADE OF EXCELLENCE I graduated from the University of Kansas in 2004 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design. My entire time in college I took numerous printmaking classes as electives and always incorporated a tactile process into my design work. I officially began Vahalla Studios in 2006 only a couple of years after graduating college and have been running the studio ever since. We are approaching our 10th year in business and it’s amazing to think about how far we have come in such a short time. I am married to my wonderful wife Melissa who helps run the office and books here at the studio, she is a talented seamstress and amazingly creative as well.

We have a 2 year old son, Tucker, who keeps us on our toes at all hours of the day and we are expecting his baby sister here soon in April. My family and our business keep me motivated, challenged and ever so grateful that we get to do what we do and work with such amazing clients and friends.

A peek inside at the presses and letterpress printing samples from Vahalla Studios

THE FIRST PULL OF LETTERPRESS My first experience with letterpress was at the University of Kansas. We had an elective letterpress class that was a great introduction to the craft. If my memory serves me correctly we had 3 Vandercook proof presses. I cannot recall the models but some had powered inkers and some you had to ink by hand. We worked on typesetting the old school way and had fun projects such as greeting cards and poster making.

Metal type ornaments at Vahalla Studios

THE PERFECT PRINTING ABODE Our shop is small and we really like it that way. We have about 2,000 sq. ft. tucked around the backside of a building that is a little difficult to find if you do not know exactly where to look. Honestly we kind of enjoy the privacy and the fact that we don’t have much walk up business.

We typically schedule meetings by appointment only, but the majority of our work comes in through the web. In that 2,000 sq. ft. we have 2 Windmills and a paper cutter, as well as a composing table, type drawers, and an ink mixing station for the letterpress work. We are also a full service Flatstock screen printing studio.

We like the term analog printmaking because both the screen and letterpress processes on paper share so many similarities. It’s spot color printing at its best!

A look inside Vahalla StudiosVahalla Studios letterpress print shop

DESIGNED FOR PRINT + BEYOND Design has been an integrated part of the studio since day 1. I have my degree in design and have taught courses in typography and printmaking as well. I see design as an integrated part of printmaking. The better the design work, the more fluid the printmaking process becomes. I like to say that what we do is 75% prepress and 25% production. With this approach the printmaking process is an extension of the design process and successful projects are achieved when the two process are thought of as one.

Letterpress business cards by Vahalla Studios Wooden type + letterpress business cards by Vahalla Studios

THE CREATIVE PROCESS  Everything starts in my sketchbook. Even typographic layouts. Ideas can be sketched & hashed out much more quickly and fluidly with a pencil and paper than in the constraints of a computer, and I think that is super important. Once a concept or sketch has all the elements it needs, I then begin to execute the design in the computer. Whether that is scanning in a key line piece of art or composing a typographic composition, I try to use the computer as a tool and not so much a platform for idea making.

Edge painted business cards by Vahalla Studios

FULL TIME FUN Yes, I have been printing full time for almost 10 years.

PRINTING FEATS I was super stoked to receive a best invitation award for the wedding suite that I designed for my own wedding. I entered it in the Neenah Un-Show a few years back and was awarded best in that category. The contest was judged by some very respected designers in our community and that is why I felt so honored to receive the award. Below are a few photographs of the suite for reference.

Our work has also been featured in many design magazines and print annuals over the years, and we have had the great honor of working with such clients as Square, Kickstarter, Ralph Lauren, Ray-Ban, Myspace, Warner Music, Disney Music, Zynga, and many others.

Custom letterpress wedding invitations by Vahalla Studios

PRESS HISTORY My first letterpress was a 1957 Black Ball windmill. I knew that any form of proof press or hand crank / hand fed press would be limiting from a production standpoint, and so I decided to jump in with both feet.

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BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar has given me a seamless and efficient resource for ordering my letterpress plates. They are also a great resource for inks and pressroom supplies like my swing away lay gauge and pins.

SHOP TIPS The best advice that I can give would be to try and be as systematic as possible. The mistakes I made learning to letterpress were all due to inconsistencies with paper grain, cutting down, grip and guide, etc… keep everything in the same direction as it comes off of the cutter and pencil mark your stacks with the grip and guide edges so that you can keep everything nice and tidy! Oh yea, and ALWAYS CLEAN YOUR ROLLERS!!!

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WHAT’S NEXT My plans for the new year are to keep pushing, keep growing and keep refining our processes. Maximize efficiency but also keep in mind our goals to stay small and manageable. We like the personal attention we can give our clients and we love building lasting relationships with designers. I also really want to up our social media game to highlight more work that we have produced and give more exposure to the artists and designers that we work with.

A huge round of thanks out to Dan of Vahalla Studios for letting us get a glimpse of his letterpress (and screen) printing paradise.

Letterpress On Campus

We are all thankful and proud that letterpress is enjoying such a notable degree of success at so many levels.  From one print-person studios to large community print workshops, it’s exciting to think about all the presses that have come back to life for our artisan craft.  Before this surge in the early 2000’s, letterpress was mostly a small part of university and college printmaking courses. Higher education was where letterpress was happening, quietly and without huge fanfare. Now, it’s a whole new story and we checked in with some colleges and universities around the country to find out the status of letterpress instruction today.

Miami University in Oxford, Ohio — Erin Beckloff of “Pressing On – The Letterpress Film,” also wears a hat at Miami University’s Department of Art, where letterpress is part of the graphic design program.

Erin Beckloff of Curmudgeon Press heads the Miami University (Ohio)'s letterpress program.

The press shop at Miami University is called Curmudgeon Press. They operate a Vandercook SP-20, C&P Pilot, and Vandercook no. 1 proof press. They also have around nine cabinets of metal type and a large flat file of wood type fonts. The class has been traditional handset combined with some lasercut experiments and lots of linoleum carving for illustrations. Their brand new photopolymer platemaker is going to open up even more opportunities!

Undergrad and graduate students who use the studio will take Art450, Alternative Design Media: Letterpress. They usually major in Graphic Design, Interior Design, Architecture, Art & Architecture History, Journalism, and Printmaking. Some like Katherine Fries of the University of Indianapolis even went on to create and teach letterpress at other universities. It is hoped it continues to be a diverse mix because the combination of areas of study and approaches to the process produce the most interesting collaborations and work.

Beautiful student postcard projects are printed at Miami University (Ohio).

There is a community education part of the letterpress program for non-students. Letterpress has been taught for three summers as a part of CraftSummer, which is open to anyone. It has brought in students from Nashville, Chicago, and all over Ohio — many are K-12 art teachers.

A poster project featuting hand-set type is produced at Miami University (Ohio)'s letterpress program.

 

Festive and bright letterpress cards are printed by students in Miami University (Ohio)'s letterpress print classes.

Over the past few years Miami University has hosted several Visiting Artists introducing the letterpress community to Miami students and faculty. Kyle Durrie made a stop in Oxford with the Moveable Type Truck; Brad Vetter was a visiting artist, and taught workshops and gave critiques; Scott Moore of Moore Wood Type brings his pantograph for students to learn the history and get to cut wood type themselves; and Chris Fritton The Itinerant Printer will be visiting later this school year.

Community exposure to finished letterpress projects include works that have been selected for the annual Best of Class Graphic Design show and less formally, the posters have been used for their original purpose, to promote events around Miami and the broader Cincinnati community.

Beautiful and eye-popping color is printed at Curmudgeon Press ... a lettepress shop that is part of Miami University (Ohio).

Florida State University – Tallahassee, Florida— Letterpress is a new class within the FSU Printmaking curriculum, and started in the Spring of 2015 under the direction of Denise Bookwalter (Director of the FSU printmaking program) and Allison Milham (former FSU adjunct professor). Allison Milham designed and executed the entire letterpress studio, and taught the inaugural class last spring. The class is built around learning traditional letterpress printing techniques (hand-set metal type, etc.) in combination with more experimental techniques (pressure printing, laser etched printing plates, etc.). Students are taught the fundamentals of how the press works, so they can take that knowledge into any studio and find success on any press they come across. The pressroom has two Vandercook 219s (one is an Adjustable Bed), and one Chandler and Price Pilot Press.

Florida State University is headed by Denise Bookwalter and Allison Milham.

Denise Bookwalter created the letterpress class so that it is open to both printmaking students, and students outside of the printmaking program. Ashley Gorham is teaching a Printed Book class in the studio in which the advanced printmaking students are using the Vandercooks to make artist’s books. For many of her students, this is their first experience with letterpress printing (and look how much fun they’re having!). The programs are still very new but possibly in the future there will be a community education program to broaden the interest and knowledge in letterpress.

Happy students letterpress their hearts out at Florida State University.Florida State University offers a new letterpress class within its printmaking curriculum.

University of Arizona – Tucson, Arizona — Karen Zimmerman says ASU has a course called Letterpress and the Multiple for graduates and undergraduates. It is an elective in the School of Art. Students can use the facilities for their own projects after they have taken the class or have experience. They have a lot of type, cuts, a photopolymer platemaker and digital output for “negatives”. The University of Arizona School of Art has BFA, BA and MFA students.

University of Arizona The Letterpress Lab contains a bounty of beautiful presses and lots of natural light.

The Letterpress Lab is a couple of blocks north of the campus. The building used to be a restaurant, so the layout and style is a bit challenging, but it does have lots of windows, natural light, and a patio. There are five Vandercooks of varying sizes, three Chandler and Price, one Baltimorean and one Midget Reliance iron hand press (circa 1890).

University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona is lead by Karen Zimmerman.

There are 30 students on average and they can continue to use the facilities for projects after their class. Most are School of Art students, MFA Creative Writing students and Book Art Collective members. In addition, there are community workshops that typically take place during school breaks.

The letterpress lab at the college is about 10 years old.  At first the equipment was used just for projects in a typography course, but the curriculum has grown in scope over the years. Now letterpress is a stand alone course. School of Art has poster shows in their student gallery showcasing the work from these classes or around visiting artists like Amos Kennedy, Paul Moxon or others.

University of Arizona letterpress classes usually average on 30 students.

Donations of equipment have led Zimmerman to learn how to move heavy equipment, rent machinery, and fix presses, all due to necessity. Organization has been a huge undertaking and it is still evolving. Social media is also a huge effort to get the word out about the lab and projects. The letterpress studio is slightly off campus in its own building, so it is hard to get people to it and parking can be an issue but it’s an exciting place to print and worth the trouble.

Madison College Center For Printing Arts – Madison Wisconsin  Beth Ketter is an Instructor of Graphic Design at The Madison College Center for Printing Arts. The Center also houses wonderful instructors such as Deb Vogt and Dave Stuber and a lab manager, Nick Loveland. They are in their fourth year of offering two sessions each of a 3-credit Principles of Letterpress course and a 2-credit Advanced Letterpress course as electives in their Graphic Design & Illustration Program. The 16-week classes are also open to anyone in the community and capped at 12 students. Typically there are 2–3 instructors present for each class and classes meet for 6 hours per week with 12 to 16 hours of open lab time each week.

Madison College Center for the Printing Arts is headed by Beth Ketter.

Topics covered include designing for letterpress printing; hand setting metal and wood type; generating photopolymer plates using artwork created using computer graphics software programs; creating linocuts and pressure prints; press maintenance and press set-up. Students also learn how to mix inks by eye and using a scale. Students run projects on a variety of papers and inks and learn how to select the best paper for a project. There are guest-led workshops on special printing topics as well as guest speakers. Classes also go on tours/field-trips to tour small and large letterpress businesses and they are fortunate to be close enough to visit the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum.

Madison College Center For Printing Arts boasts a huge array of type, wood type, and cuts in its Printing Arts Center.

Madison College owns ten presses made up of three Vandercooks; a Heidelberg Windmill; three Chandler & Price platens; a Kelsey Excelsior 5×8; a Washington Hand Press; and a Showcard. In addition, they own a Ludlow, and the lab has finishing and binding equipment, plus two offset presses and screen printing capabilities.

A plethora of presses and printing items can be found at Madison College Center For Printing Arts.

Persons of all ages and backgrounds take the classes. The courses are offered as electives to Graphic Design & Illustration Associate Degree students, enhancing their portfolios.

They also serve the Madison area where many take the course because of an interest in handmade books, printmaking, and commercial letterpress printing and entrepreneurship. For some students, this may be their first foray into making art. They are just getting into having short term workshops. Over the summer, workshops were held for high school students interested in printmaking and there are many requests for more of this in the future.

A huge galley of type stands alluring at the Madison College Center For Printing Arts.

Every semester the Center for Printing Arts has 2–3 pop-up sales where student work is packaged, displayed, and sold. The proceeds help cover the cost of materials. Products include cards, calendars, prints, notebooks, ornaments, hang-tags and other paper goods. They use an iPad for sales and keep track of inventory. This experience also gives students a chance to see how to market their work at craft fairs and other such events. In addition, there is an art gallery which exhibits student-produced prints and they’ve also had shows at local galleries showcasing the students’ work.

The Book Arts Program and Red Butte Press at the University of Utah – Salt Lake City, Utah In 1996, Gene Valentine, who now teaches at Arizona State University and runs Almond Tree Press and Papermill, began teaching summer letterpress intensives to community members. And In 1999, the first academic letterpress class was taught by Chris McAfee. Beginning in 2000, Marnie Powers-Torrey began teaching academic and community letterpress classes. She was joined by David Wolske in 2009. Currently, Crane Giamo and Marnie Powers-Torrey run the letterpress programming.

A beautiful iron hand press awaits to be used at the Book Arts Program and Red Butte Press at the University of Utah.

The shop has many, many presses: eight cylinder proofing presses including Challenge, Asbern, and various Vandercook presses; three Chandler and Price platen presses; two iron hand presses – a Columbian and an Albion; four bench-top platen presses, and 15 table-top presses.

The Book Arts Program and Red Butte Press at the University of Utah is headed by Crane Giamo and Marnie Powers-Torrey.

U of U has 2 academic letterpress courses—Letterpress I and Book Arts II, each of which are requirements for students pursuing a Certificate or Minor in Book Arts. Letterpress I also fulfills the general education Fine Arts requirement.

A diverse swath of students take the classes. Graphic Design, English/Creative Writing, and Art students are mainstays of their printing economy. They have 25 students for each letterpress course, 50% of which arrive from the Art and Art History Department. They also attract many independent studio users —community members and former students — who have access to the print shop.

Cylinder and Vandercook presses stand in a beautiful row at A beautiful iron hand press awaits to be used at the Book Arts Program and Red Butte Press at the University of Utah.

For community members, a multi-session letterpress class is taught for 8 weeks over the summer. As part of this, they reserve two slots of the academic letterpress courses for community members through lifelong learning/continuing education partnerships, and teach several single day and weekend workshops throughout the year.

To bring letterpress courses to the school, the idea has been “If you build it, they will come“ — marketing strategy a la Field of Dreams. Also, the school has generated a variety of digital marketing campaigns and community outreach programs. The underlying idea is that CONTENT=PROMOTION, so they curate 2-6 exhibitions per year, all of which feature some aspect of letterpress printing. Currently there are two exhibitions on display, one showcasing work from the Women’s Studio Workshop, the other featuring work from the 14 instructors who will be teaching community workshops throughout the 2016 calendar year.


There is much printing in the halls of academia and we applaud all of the colleges and universities that are keeping our art alive for their students and their communities. Does your college offer a letterpress program or print shop? Tell us about other programs in the comments below! terpress on campus

Keeping in Touch With Gutwrench Press

Letterpress has always been an ingenious outlet for creative and informative expression, and Hope Amico of Gutwrench Press is an avid subscriber to both. This California-based printer keeps the inspired gears turning each month via her community-involved postcard Keep Writing Project. We caught up with Hope as she let us in on the fantastic letterpress journey that has her smitten with printing.

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FOR THE LOVE OF LETTERPRESS  I have always loved letter writing and storytelling. I have had penpals since I was 10 and have been self-publishing stories since high school. Learning the craft of letterpress was one more tool for me to express this. Postcards are my favorite thing to print, and my monthly interactive postcard subscription, the Keep Writing Project, is my reason to keep printing.

INK IN THE BLOOD I was already printing woodblocks and etchings. A friend had a little tabletop press and some type and let me print a few woodblocks with captions for a print show I had coming up. After a few terrible prints, I got enough work together to apply to school. I went to art school as an undergrad in my 30’s because they had letterpress and papermaking equipment that I wanted to learn to use.

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MY PRINTING ABODE I rent space from Painted Tongue Studios. They have a Heidelberg Windmill and a Vandercook 4 and a platemaker, which is about everything I need to print postcards. I print on the weekends alone. The other aspects of my work are so social I love having the quiet studio to myself. It is located about a mile from downtown Oakland but what I love is that it is about 6 blocks from my house, so I can usually get back and forth with just my bike.

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PRINTING MENTORS Vintage postcards. I was an intern at Blackbird Letterpress and Kathryn taught me about patience, precision, and making good choices. I still write and read zines. I love collecting things, eclectic styles and experimenting.

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THE CREATIVE PRINTER I do it all [designing & printing]! Though sometimes I team up with illustrator friends who design a postcard for me, most of the time it is all me! I am also a part time yoga teacher, and work 2 nights a week at a restaurant. I would eventually love to give it up to just print and teach.

THE DESIGN PROCESS For the Keep Writing Project I come up with a design that has both a theme and a question every month. I keep a list of ideas in my notebook and draw from that, sometimes trying to match ideas with timely events or holidays. This year for December I printed a holiday fill-in-the blanks card which was a challenge and a lot of fun. Writing your own mad lib-like story is tricky. The image I create is usually based on function — either trying to convey a message or an excuse to try a new trick.

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PRINTING FEATS Maintaining the Keep Writing postcard project since 2008 despite multiple moves and 2 long-term stays in Italy. During my second trip, I brought a gocco printer and a bunch of cards with text already letterpress printed on them. I added the images with the gocco while my roommates slept. It was a lot of trouble to print with the little press — I accidentally packed it on my carry on and almost missed my flight because I forgot about the exploding flash! But I love that I have this monthly challenge for myself and it is also part of my job.

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I also printed a broadside for a bookstore in the city as a part of California Independent Bookstore day. It was designed in collaboration with John Waters, so when he read at the store later that month, I asked him to sign it for me. I told him I was the printer, but he was more interested in talking about how easy it is to find blue hair dye nowadays.

PRESS HISTORY I still don’t own a press! I had 2 presses that were given to me because they had been flooded during Hurricane Katrina — both were tabletop presses, one for etching and one was a proof press. I gave them both away to friends who needed them. I’ve always been lucky enough to be able to share presses when I need to. I’ve also moved around a lot, and I think I have been hesitating to commit to a press until I think I might stick around for a few years.

BOXCAR’S ROLE I ordered my first plates from Boxcar! Two years ago I bought myself a base so I could use the windmill I had learned on to increase production and efficiency. It was a big step for me. I have been slow to move from passion project to full-time business, and I am en route. But Boxcar has been supportive in every step, with every question.Hope-Amico-img2

SHOP TIPS I got great advice once in school that stayed with me — find the thing that makes your work yours and push that aspect. This was something I needed to learn about process — that despite all my training in letterpress and love of craft, I am not a minimal or precise or neat printer, so I learned to work with those aspects that made my work unique. I can print very fine lines with super tight registration and I did that as I printed other people’s work, but for myself I tend to keep it a little more loose. Also, staying true to my love of postcards has been a more difficult business choice but I love what I do so much, I am willing to find ways to make it work.

WHAT’S NEXT I want to print more yoga-themed cards, integrating my two favorite things. And maybe more collaborations this year. A few artists have asked and I love the idea of it.

Huge round of thanks to Hope of Gutwrench Press! Keep up the amazing work!

2015 Letterpress Holiday Gift Guide

Round up some holiday cheer this fabulous year with our ultimate holiday gift guide for the letterpress lover & printer. We’ve got great printing supply musts (and splurges!) as well as letterpress printed goodies that you + your crew will gush about for years to come! Let us know what is on your wishlist in the comments section below!

The 2014 Boxcar Press letterpress gift guide has gift ideas for the type-loving letterpress printer in your life - including letterpress t-shirts and more.

1. Hand Quilted Letterpress Job Case Layout Baby Quilt from BettyTurbo | 2. Different cities / tool kids pattern journal from Hartford prints | 3. Cheers for Beers art print from Baltimore Print Studios | 4. 2016 Letterpress Standing Desk Calendar from dittdittowork | 5. Star t-shirt from Starshaped Press (printed using type) | 6. Whole Bean Coffee – Printers Devil Dark Roast from Baltimore Print Studios | 7. Letterpress Printer t-shirt from Outridder | 8. Customizable letterpressed picture frame mats from Typothecary Press | 9. Pantone Universe A4 Sketchbook from Pantone | 10. Letterpress Now DIY Guide to Old and New Printing Methods from Boxcar Press

letterpress gift guide 2015 featuring aprons, books, and letterpress goodies.

11. Letterpress Type floor mat from PaperBellaPrints | 12. CMYK Earrings by Matters of Delight | 13. C&P Throw Pillow by alicing | 14. ‘Staching letterpress card from Boxcar Press | 15. Family or Friends Journal from Journaling Jane | 16. Christmas Holiday L Letterpress plates from Boxcar Press | 17. Letterpress Wallpaper in Silver Typography by Brewster | 18. Press On letterpress greeting card by Penelope’s Press | 19. Big Dictionaries bookmark from Hartford Prints | 20. California Job Case Letterpress Apron from wnybac

Letterpress coasters for The Lab Creative

We recently worked with The Lab Creative — new neighbors of ours here in the Delavan Center — to create custom letterpress coasters for a recent building-wide open studio event. The team at The Lab created a cool video showing their entire process, including the coasters being printed on one of our Heidelberg Windmills. Take a look!

Let’s See That Printed: Primer Scares Up Fun

As soon as we found out the electric and spooky illustration designs of Primer were passing through our platemaking service department, we had to learn more about eye-catching letterpress poster designs. The printer behind Primer, Brian Isserman, and his wonderful wife gave us a sneak peek at the chilling yet beautiful tale behind these letterpress pieces.

Brian Isserman's halloween and spooky illustratrations going through the letterpress plateaking process from film to plate.

Brian helped fill in the blanks on how such captivating project came to be:

“Primer is a brand development agency located just north of Philadelphia in the historic town of Hatboro, Pennsylvania. We specialize in brand strategy development, graphic design, web development and video production, but what we really love, is print.”

Our "Let's See That Printed" article features the spooky letterpress posters by Brian Isserman (and wife) of Primer.

“Several years ago we purchased and restored a GEO. P. GORDON platen press circa late 1870’s. It was a 6 month labor of love to get it back up and printing (and see here for the journey!). Especially considering we knew nothing about letterpress printing when we started. Now we use it every few months for personal projects and small promotional runs for our clients.”

A beautiful Chandler & Price letterpress press stands ready for printing fun at Primer.

“Every year we put together a Halloween promotion as a thank you to our clients, friends and family for their continued support. It allows us to step away from coding and web development so we can get back to our roots, ink and paper. We usually create a short run limited edition series of prints. Two years ago the theme was Day of the Dead, last year it was the Universal Studio Monsters, this year we decided to go with vintage Halloween.”

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“Once we had the concept in place, we collaborated with the super talented Michele Melcher to illustrate a series of three iconic Halloween images. The flat graphic, off-registration look of those vintage Halloween decorations gave us a safe zone margin of error that helped us tremendously. This was our first multi-color print run and we wanted to create a design that was forgiving. It really worked out well. The prints that were in perfect registration looked awesome, the ones that were really off looked even better.

The print run itself ran over 15 hours and for the most part went pretty smooth. We learned a lot from the experience and I am totally looking forward to tackling another multi-color job. Everyone really loved the prints. We received numerous calls and emails and got lots of social media love.

PRO TIP – Our press is old. I mean really old – and although it still prints amazingly well, we knew it would be extremely difficult to keep the plates and prints registered. We do not have a paper cutter so we opted to not include crop marks of any kind on our plates and ordered pre-cut paper instead.”

Brian Isserman of Primer sets up manual color registration mock ups for his letterpress broadside poster.

“So, how do you keep everything in register without crop marks? Boxcar sent us a large press proof. We cut out the individual images and spray mounted those proofs onto our paper. We placed a small piece of tape on the front of the plate and aligned it face down onto the paper. Once in position we removed the sticky back of the plate and ran it through the press. The plate would then attach itself to our base. We then carefully peeled off the paper and tape, and we repeated the process with each of the 3 plates per illustration. Using the master proof helped keep all of the plates aligned.

I think one of the most interesting parts of printing is figuring out the little tricks and treats to make your vision come to life. We could not have done it without the guidance, plates and custom ink colors from Boxcar Press. Thanks Boxcar!”

Huge round of thanks out to Brian and his lovely wife at Primer for letting us get a closer look at these brilliantly colored poster designs!

Let’s see that printed: Dueling Dictionaries

Here at Boxcar Press, we may be centered in the photopolymer world, but we love the look of print blocks and old time illustrations as much as anyone. So we were instantly intrigued and excited to see the artwork from John Carrera of Quercus Press come through for platemaking.  His art makes us feel nostalgic and paired with the one word text, we definitely wanted John to know we were eager to see what he was printing.

John Quercas' letterpress files are going through the platemaking process at Boxcar Press very quickly!

John not only told about his project but sent us a final copy of his fascinating book – Dueling Dictionaries. The artwork came from two dictionary companies, G. & C. Merriam and Worcester, who were rivals in the nineteenth century and tried to outdo each other with their illustrations. What’s fascinating is that the two companies shared the same engraver.

The Dueling Dictionaries letterpress printed book looks beautiful!

This saloon-door styled book also has another feature to it: by flipping open each page, the words that read across on the top and bottom change meaning with each pairing. The book also includes a great use of silver ink on the front cover, and intricate illustrations on the backs of the pages.

John also shared some of the experiences of his process on this print job.

“You can see that after I printed the first run of pages that I had laid out for the initial plates, I then cut up the plates to get the proper overlap and look. This is one of the benefits of polymer – you just can’t re-arrange and cut magnesium or copper blocks as easily. (I remember cutting many a block on the band-saw). I enjoyed working with the Vandercook on this project because it allowed me to look at each of the images as I printed them and tweak them before I got too far along. Printing these backsides has been one of the most exciting parts of the project so far.”

John Carrera of Quercus Press adds black and cool grey ink to his "Dueling Dictionaries" letterpress print project.

Using polymer plates also added some interesting aspects to the job that John describes:

“I have given a lot of thought to the difference of using polymer vs. using magnesium plates. One of the things that has been a challenge for me is that somehow knowing the plates are plastic has made me more prone to sending in copy that is not quite ready for prime time. This has happened twice to me and I don’t think I’m alone in this sloppy attitude. Although I have cut and pasted copy it’s better to remake the whole page and I have to take a little more time with my files.”

Inset details of the Dueling Dictionaries by John Quercas look beautiful!

“I also think I have pushed the envelope of how long these polymer plates can hang around, too – as I printed on some of these after they had been sitting for almost two years – the trick was keeping the edges from peeling up. In some instances I went ahead and folded them down so hard that they cracked – and in some of the plates I believe you can make out the hairline cracks in some of the images – the flunk fish had lots of little cracks. Most people won’t even notice nor will they realize that some of the lip actually broke off the image.  However, I kind of thought they looked cool and fit the book style.”

We thank John for revealing the story behind this gem of a book and for the enjoyment of his illustrations.