Sweet Prints at Typebee

Typebee studio’s very own Breanna White’s extraordinary printing journey started with a curious stumble over a classified for a letterpress internship. After the pull of the trip, the instantaneous (and quite insatiable) hook set in. Fast forward a few years later and Breanna is bridging the gap between old generation printing and new printing techniques at her cozy shop. With a small pile of chocolate at the ready (as she’s unabashedly a chocoholic), she sat down with us between ink runs to talk about her escapades for printing with DOMA coffee, the joy of working with her hands, and her inspirational (and aspiring printer) daughter, Jaedah.

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

CREATIVE CHOCOHOLIC PRINTER In a nutshell, I’m a biodynamic gardener, book nerd who loves chocolate, not coffee… I know, designer’s sin, guess that’s why I’m a printmaker for a coffee company? Wait, how’d that happen?

LUCKY WITH LETTERPRESS It all began as a child, being handed the assembly-required gifts at holidays. I was attracted to the process of building. Starting with a myriad of unfamiliar objects, working through the technical illustrations labyrinth to arrive at a complete, usable item. One could imagine clicking a mouse eight hours a day wasn’t exactly filling my cup. So when I was tasked to find an internship, I began researching the tail end of design. Printing. I stumbled across a listing for a letterpress intern at Steel Petal Press reading ‘hand skills required’. That’s me!! Embarrassed to admit, I didn’t even know what letterpress printing was at the time, but I remember the very moment when I pulled the trip, making my first impression. I was hooked. Not just the impression, the whole of the process. There is something magical about process, the unfolding of a project over time. Since we are by design process-oriented beings, process-oriented tasks help us connect at a deeper level.

Letterpress work samples from Breanna White of Typebee studios.
Letterpress work samples from Breanna White of Typebee studios.

With that, I found myself traveling to Webster, NY to purchase my first letterpress. A C&P Pilot from Ray Czapkowski at Dock 2 Letterpress. After meeting Ray, I realized his generation of printers understood the process from a practical and mechanical point of view. Which is necessary in the modern, because who are you going to call when the drive wheel from the 1924 New Style C&P decides to fly off at random, rolling towards your boss innocently sitting in the corner? Or when the original wood spool cracks during a lecture to NIC Students causing the belt to slip? It’s helpful to understand how the equipment functions so you can identify and fix malfunctions. The drive wheel was stripped, so I tapped new holes. The spool no longer had an evenly arched surface causing the belt to ride the higher route jamming it against the motor, so I evened it out with duct tape for the sake of continuing the lecture until it could be repaired. These are lessons learned from people like Ray and Ed Regan who taught me the historical and technical aspects of letterpress. There’s a lost generation of printing knowledge, it’s important to bridge that gap, and ask questions because knowing the limitations of the output gives way for good input. Start with output and work backwards.

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

COZY PRINT SHOP It’s 400 square feet of pure bliss. If there were a shower, I’d highly consider moving in.

DESIGNED TO PRINT My initial training is in Visual Communications with a BFA from the Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago along with typographic studies from HGK in Basel, Switzerland. So I wear both hats but I enjoy printing most. And the fact that I get to wear an apron to work is pretty appealing. I’ve been fortunate to work with a diverse group of clients and designers and enjoy the collective efforts. Having had prior experience with the design process does give the ability to communicate effectively with clients and designers alike.

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS Research. Research. Research. Then long walks to visualize the final idea and from there work backwards taking into consideration the output of the design before creating a roadmap, also known as the lost art of sketching. Coupled with many chocolate intermissions. If I find myself spinning the wheel, I take another walk to get the creative juices flowing. Once I have a tight comp, I’ll bring it in digitally. My least favorite part of the process…

FULL TIME PRINTER I letterpress full time in parts for the last two years and have been printing for five. I own my business, Typebee Letterpress Printshop and also subcontract for companies like DOMA Coffee Roasting Co.

COFFEE TIME Finest coffee you’ll ever taste. It’s of an unfortunate irony that I cannot drink it. Here’s the story:

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

As a recent arrival from Chicago, I soon understood searching for studio space in Spokane, WA would become a Quest of Epic Proportions. And as the universe would have it, a trail of crumbs led me to the front door of DOMA Coffee Roasting Co. in Post Falls, ID. I have had the fortune to work unique jobs in my lifetime, cleaning a coal mine for one but in no way did I know solicitation for letterpress restoration would be one of ’em.

Following my 30-second elevator pitch to Mindy, Jack-of-all-DOMA, I awkwardly lingered in the front entrance. I’d like to believe before words were ever exchanged between Rebecca, owner of DOMA, and I that we knew something magical was already in the making. After The Wonderful World of DOMA tour, we came upon our last stop, The Press. If you have ever felt motionless in a point of time whilst all else carries on around you… The Press was that point. And some employees would admit, a hindrance between point A and point B.

If you can imagine a 5’3” lady weighing approximately 120 lbs. soaking wet wearing denim coveralls too many sizes too big, with nitrile gloves and a half face ventilator mask… well, there I was with wire brush and mineral spirits hand scrubbing a 2,500lb. cast iron beast of a lady clad with God only knows what. I think too often we perceive the old as something to avoid or something to replace. Letterpress printing is more than ink on gorgeous paper; the process represents a historical pivot, one of equal corporative between craftsman and machine.

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios. A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

After the letterpress was restored, well someone needed to operate it. For a time I flew back and forth between Chicago and Idaho to fulfill orders. It was in November of 2014, DOMA was having an open house for the Winter Wonderland coffee bags and Lee from Letterpress USA stopped by asking a lot of questions. At first I thought she was interested in the process but later realized I was being tested on my expertise. Less than ten minutes of her departure I received a phone call asking if I’d like to work for Letterpress USA. I said yes without thinking, hung up the phone and realized that I lived in Chicago!! Ha. So naturally I went home and packed the car and then headed west. I currently work part-time for Letterpress USA as a journey(wo)man learning Die Cutting, Perforating, Scoring and Foil Stamping.

On the side, I offer private lessons and lecture about the history of letterpress & the process of printing. Also just began a joint Greeting Cards venture: CardCo Lab is a collaborative letterpress project managed by myself, printmaker Bee, and creative writer Michal Bennett. Our purpose is to craft exquisite and one-of-a-kind letterpress greeting cards that connect brilliant artists, creative minds, and judicious consumers. Each card that we create is printed as a limited edition run and is only available until sold out. Then it’s on to the next beloved project.

PRINTING FEATS The first one that comes to mind, is restoring DOMA’s New Style C&P. It had sat for 30+ years and needed some TLC. When we fired Er’ up for the first time, Rebecca, owner of DOMA, and I just looked at each other in a state of ‘is this really happening?!’. Another was when I finally mastered printing on bag gussets without a break in the ink. The Addy Award was a proud moment too.

PRESS HISTORY My first letterpress was a C&P Pilot from Webster, NY. In a few weeks Bootup (boo-dup), will be having a new home in San Jose, California. Er’ is a well-traveled press: New York to Chicago to Post Falls to San Jose. Tear tear, Er’ will be missed. Other presses in the shop: Pulowech (pul-lah-wetch) a New Style 12 x 18 C&P, Nukumi (noo-goomee) an Old Style 10 x 15 C&P and hopefully coming soon Nakuset (nah-goo-set) a Heidi 10 x 15 Windmill from Seattle. Much needed for my poor back.

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Letterpress in the modern would not exist at its current capacity without Boxcar Press. This is where technology and old world methods meet. As I’ve said before, letterpress is a process in a non-process oriented world. People want to push buttons and enjoy instantaneous gratification. If it weren’t for platemaking services like Boxcar, I’m not sure how practical letterpress would be from a turn-around standpoint. Personally, Boxcar has helped me from the very beginning from understanding what base/plates to use, troubleshooting and same-day turn around when you’ve overlooked placing the headline in your artwork. Oops. As Michael at Letterpress USA says, “Print Happens.” Thank you Cathy, Rebecca and the Boxcar team for all you do!! And I have to say, I think it’s important to create and foster relationships within the printing community. It’s exciting to see people joining the craft, which keeps us moving forward. Boxcar has always been that pillar in the letterpress community.

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

SHOP TIPS Never count anyone out, by that I mean we all have something to teach and something to learn. Ed is a great example. He was considered a mere mover of presses. After striking up a conversation he became one of my greatest mentors. And has a treasure box of information and history one couldn’t believe. One of my favorite stories of his is about simultaneously running three Heidi Windmills as a youth. I remember being in awe, now I can do the same. Picture your vision, and enjoy the process of getting there.

WHAT’S NEXT I’m working towards offering everything under one roof; design, letterpress, packaging and finishing. I’ve spent the last seven years learning each part of the process in depth and would like 2017 to become a year of transition from being a solo printer to having multiple people of their respective fields working together with Typebee. Press on.

LAST THOUGHTS The most important piece to all of this, are my daughter Jaedah and her sidekick MoMo, a rainbow stuffed sock monkey. They’ve always been at my side and eager to spin every flywheel we come across. She’s my little inspiration and aspiring printer.

Immensely huge round of thanks out to Breanna of Typebee for the unique glimpse into her exceptionally awesome printing realm!

File Preparation Tips: Deciphering Spot Colors and Your Swatch Palette

Here in the pre-press department at Boxcar Press, we unapologetically love 100% CMYK black. It’s the best way to send your files 95% of the time. However, on occasion, when you are printing in two (or more) colors, you may be interested in setting up your file in spot colors or using Pantone swatches.

CMYK

To first understand spot colors, let’s go back to CMYK process colors. We like your files to be 100% of the black only of the CMYK process.

  • C= Cyan
  • M= Magenta
  • Y=Yellow
  • K = Black

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100% CMYK black means black is 100% and C,M, and Y are set to 0%.  There is only one color channel visible/used and the other 3 colors are missing and/or removed. If going this route, we are not looking for 100% of all of the color channels – just black.

If you want to print with spring green, in the process color system it might be made up of Cyan 63.5% and Yellow 100%. The mix of these two colors does not work for letterpress and for this, we turn to a spot color approach.

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Spot Colors

In letterpress, for a good film and plate, you want just one color and not percentages of other colors. In this example, you want spring green in a spot color or Pantone Swatch.

In contrast to just using 100% CMYK black, a spot color is a special per-determined color, usually identified by a Pantone PMS number or name.  The PMS number will come from a color-matching library. Illustrator and InDesign both have color-matching libraries. For letterpress, you will want a solid spot color, usually from the color library of the Pantone + Solid Uncoated book. A spot color is a separate channel from your CMYK process colors.

Where do you access these libraries to choose your color?

With Adobe Illustrator:
Select your swatches from the color book library

File prep & How to Use Spot Colors for letterpress plates: Adobe Illustrator showing how to access Pantone Swatches (Pantone + Solid Uncoated swatch library book).

(1)  From the navigation bar at the top – Click Window > Swatches. A Swatch palette window will open. In the upper right hand part of that window, there is a set of 4 lines with a small drop down arrow (this icon indicates a fly-out menu). Click on this to open a list.

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(2) Scroll to almost the bottom to Select > Open Swatch Library. Click on this for another list of options. Select > Color Books. Another click here to Select > Pantone + Solid Uncoated. A click on this will open this color-matching library with your spot colors.
(3) The top colors are the Pantone colors such as Warm Red and Purple. Next are the Fluorescent colors  followed by Metallics. After that are all the PMS colors by number found in this color library (and your formula guide, if you have one).

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Use the Find space to type in your PMS color number.  Click on the color to add it to your Swatch palette where you can now apply it to any text or image in your art board.

We now have spring green defined by Pantone 375 U in our swatch palette and our text is 100% of 375 U. Notice that the spot color will also show up on your Separations Preview window also, at the bottom below the CMYK colors.

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With Adobe InDesign, load your color library swatches:

(1) From the navigation bar at the top – Click Window > Color > Swatches. A Swatch palette window will open.
(2) In the upper right hand part of that window – there is a set of 4 lines with a small drop down arrow (this icon indicates a fly-out menu). Click on this to open a list.

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(3) Select at the top – New Color Swatch – and a window will open. Change the Color Type to Spot. Click on Color Mode for the list of color libraries and change CMYK to Pantone + Solid Uncoated. Choose your PMS color and it will be added to your swatch window so you can apply it to any text or image on your art board. Your spot color will also show up on your Separations Preview window, at the bottom below the CMYK colors.

File prep & How to Use Spot Colors for letterpress plates: Adobe InDesign showing how to access Adobe Pantone + Solid Uncoated swatch library.

When might you want to use spot colors on your files?

You may also be printing in two or more colors that touch each other. Sending a spot color file will help us output and trap correctly for you. If you are setting up a file to show color selections to a client, it is helpful to choose the actual ink colors for printing by their spot colors. (Please note that unless your monitor is calibrated correctly the on screen color may not match exactly the printed color).

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When it’s time to submit your files to our pre-press department, we can output with those spot colors and provide a plate for each color. We encourage you to try your color libraries and some spot colors on your own so you can enjoy a little burst of Pantone in your files.

One Last Dance For Photopolymer Plates: Ink Stamp Pads

Here at Boxcar Press we’re always looking for new ways to give printing supplies “one last dance” before recycling or dismissing items into the wastebasket. One of our clever and resourceful platemaking customers, Meredith Pinson-Creasey of Purple Dog Press shares with us an experimental & last-time use for her custom-ordered photopolymer plates: using ink stamp pads to apply ink to the plates. Meredith weighs in on the pros and cons of using ink stamp pads for printing (and with some rather nice results).

Helpful note: please do remember that our custom-made photopolymer plates work best with letterpress printing inks (such as rubber-based or oil-based inks) which are rolled on to the surface of the plate.  Many other art inks are water-based and since our plates are water-wash out, using these products can degrade the quality of plates. Please use caution and good judgement if experimenting with water-based ink stamp products.

THE EXPERIMENTAL PROJECT I have been experimenting with some of my old polymer plates, trying to get my logo to print on the cotton twill fabric tape and boxes I use to wrap my letterpress cards for gifting. You guys may have already tried this and I may not be sharing new info, but I’ve had great luck.

My 82 year old mother continues to be the most fearless artist and crafter I know. And her father could repair or make just about anything. It is their “eat first, ask questions later” attitudes that inspire me. As a sports, landscape, and baby photographer, and an amateur letterpress printer with a 1940’s 10 x 15 Kluge, I wanted the packaging for my photo/letterpress cards to be personalized with both my logo and the recipient’s name, or a greeting. The most economical route was to purchase blank ribbon, boxes, and bags to customize as needed. I have printed my own packaging using silkscreen and linoleum blocks, but wanted something faster with less set up time. Having dozens of rubber stamps made was too expensive. So I decided to experiment with some of my retired polymer plates from Boxcar Press.

Using photopolymer plates experimentally with ink stamp pads for a final use.

INK PAD TIPS Working with dye or solvent ink pads produced the crispest image, due in large part to the firm surface of the pad. Pigment inks have a foam pad which can cause the ink to go down into the recessed portions of the polymer plate producing a blurred image. A brayer may also be used to transfer the ink from the pad to the polymer plate to provide even coverage and less mess.

Using polymer plates as a stamp works best when attached to a block of wood or a clear stamping block to ensure only the image or text comes in contact with the fabric. The wood block I used has a slick finish designed to release the temporary stamp easily. Three brands of ink pads worked well for me: Ranger Ink; Hero Arts; and StazOn. Ranger Ink’s “Dye Ink Pad” and “Archival Ink” in all colors I tried worked well. Hero Arts makes terrific “Neon Dye” Ink colors. StazOn’s “Solvent Ink Pad” worked equally well. These inks are waterproof, permanent, acid-free. and the pads are refillable. My guess is that most brands of dye or solvent ink would produce great results.

Using photopolymer plates experimentally with ink stamp pads for a final use.

MATERIALS TO TRY (AND ONES TO AVOID) A few of the materials I’ve stamped with polymer plates include: birch wood tags, twill ribbon tape, glassine food bags, kraft gift boxes, and paper. Although pleased with all the results, the glassine takes FOREVER to dry and the wood tends to bleed sometimes. The bleed may be the result of over inking or applying too much pressure to the stamp because some of the images did not bleed. Kraft paper enhanced the grunge look of one of the fonts. Ink wipes off easily easily with a cloth but will stain the recessed portion of the plate.

(Boxcar’s note: One important thing to note about polymer plates versus rubber stamps which can affect your results and determine which materials are best to stamp on. A polymer plate is a hard surface on a thin substrate. In contrast, a rubber stamp is soft, pliable and cushiony. These properties will work for or against you when you are stamping and experimenting will be key).

THE RESULTS Text of various sizes and weights, and line drawings as thin as .75pt printed well. Because the inks are translucent, this alternative use of polymer plates will not produce a silkscreen type effect.  My faux postage cancellation polymer plates worked great and the uneven application of ink makes it look even more authentic. Expect to see the fabric beneath graphics containing large areas of solid polymer. For best results, I recommend using plates no larger than about 4 x 6 inches, or about the size of your hand.

Using photopolymer plates experimentally with ink stamp pads for a final use.

I love it when my tools can do double duty and this is much more economical than having dozens of custom rubber stamps made. Now if I could get my Kluge to churn butter or something, maybe my husband wouldn’t grumble about the space it requires.

WHAT’S NEXT No longer limited to someone else’s rubber stamp designs, I am looking forward to putting some of my own quotes and graphics in polymer. When I gang up those plates for my Kluge, I’ll be squeezing in another stamp idea. While this alternative use of polymer plates may not appeal to a commercial print shop, I do recommend the idea to anyone looking to complete their branding with a personal handmade touch.

THE FINE PRINT So here’s the fine print: polymer plates degrade with water. Rubber stamp inks are water based. Polymer plates don’t really play well with rubber stamp ink and will degrade over time. I think I’ll go through quite a bit of ribbon before that happens, but I’ll keep my stamping plates separate from my printing plates.

A huge appreciative round of thanks goes out Meredith of Purple Dog Press for her excellent advice and tips!

The Printing Realm of Genghis Kern

A decade has passed and the creative gleam in Jason Wedekind’s eye still outshines even the brightest of metallic ink accent in his impressive printing portfolio. The Colorado-based printing realm of Genghis Kern has grown from two dozen cases of lead type & a single press to setting-up camp (and shop) in his dream workspace (not to mention acquiring a drool-worthy collection of hand-set and metal type). With one foot rooted in both the design & job world, Jason and his exceptionally gifted team have repeatedly pushed letterpress printing boundaries and amped up the creative oomph to their printed work. We stopped in to chat with Jason about the joys of printing, working with his mentor Tom Parsons, balancing life with two wonderful kids, and keeping up with the flow of community workshops.

Jason Wedekind (left) of Genghis Kern in his Colorado-based letterpress printshop.
(from left to right: Jason Wedekind and Jeff Shepherd of Genghis Kern)

DECADE OF PRINTING INGENUITY I founded Genghis Kern 10 years ago this May when I started printing for friends while working as an art director for a small design firm in Denver. I still remember the day when I bought my first press, leaving with 24 cases of lead type banging around in the back of my SUV and saying “what the hell did I just do? I don’t even know if I like this?!?!” I had been introduced into this wonderful world by Tom Parson, Denver’s poet/printer grandfather of letterpress, and founder of the Englewood Depot Letterpress Museum. The letterpress bug bit hard and hasn’t stopped biting yet. I spent many a night printing all sorts of fun stuff while learning the trade.

Silver metallic letterpress printed invitation piece amps up the wow-factor at Genghis Kern.

The firm I worked for got hit hard during 2009 and I was thrust into the world of self employment. With an 18month old daughter, it was stressful, but the payoff was rewarding. From day one it’s been a nice mix of design work and job work, with the goal being producing tactile work that makes both us and our clients proud. “One foot rooted in each world” is how a recent shop visitor described what we’ve built.

CREATIVE IN COLORADO Our current shop is my dream space. I drove by it in 1999 and said “That’d be a cool place to work” and now we do. It was a Hispanic Furniture and Record shop 2 blocks from my house. We have 2,000 square feet up front which we turned into a co-working space for creative types, and our 1,000 square foot print shop is in the back.

Pressman and presses alike convene beautifully at the commercial letterpress printshop that is Genghis Kern.

When I brought my current pressman/designer Jeff Shepherd on over a year ago, he mentioned he had a windmill in his folks’ garage. My garage shop was full to the gills at that time, but I knew growth was in our future. You see, I had moved my design arm of Genghis Kern out of my bedroom 2 years prior into a shared work space with 4 other creative firms. When I brought a pressman on, they worked in my garage and I ran back and forth the 5 blocks from the new “office” to the print shop. It worked, but grew tiresome. Let alone having to keep my house clean in case they needed to pee. I started looking for a new space that would allow us to combine a print shop and office space, and reached out to the owner of the furniture store blocks from my house. It had been vacant since 2005.

He agreed to my crazy plan and we broke ground in January of 2015, gutting the space and crossing our fingers that our floorplan for the pressroom would work out. Then the dominoes began to fall. We started with my original 10×15 C&P, an Asbern ADR-1 (German SP-15 Clone), a 10×15 Windmill, and a 30″ Challenge cutter. While doing the buildout Jeff saw a Heidlberg KSBA at auction that had inkers on it. My “dream” press. So we added that to the mix, quickly shuffling our floor plan to be to make room. Then one of the printers from our bimonthly printer’s lunch in Denver walked into our garage and said “Did you guys see that Vandercook for sale on the western slope?” Jeff ran inside and put an offer down on it. HIS dream press, a Vandercook 4.

Pressman and presses alike convene beautifully at the commercial letterpress printshop that is Genghis Kern.

We figured we’d deal with the floorplan when we had a floor to plan. SOON. So that became our current shop. We set the two proof presses up in our “type alley” where we host an occasional workshop. It’s fun having different presses to turn to when something goes south.

TL;DR: Our shop started out in my garage 10 years ago. 1 C&P and a cutter. I then moved 3 blocks and built my second “garage” shop, large enough to fit a C&P, Proof press (not yet owned), and a windmill (not yet owned), a stone and a cutter. What I neglected to tell my wife when we were designing the floor plan, was that if the presses were to move out one day, my dad’s vintage BMW motorcycle collection could slide right in where the presses once stood.

Colorado-based Jason Wedekind of Genghis Kern prints letterpress with creativity and panache.

INTRIGUED BY LETTERPRESS While working as an art director back in 2003, someone brought in a beautiful custom duplexed letterpress/foil stamped card and said they wanted to add 3 initials to their name in 6pt. I looked at my print broker and asked “How the hell are we going to do that?” She told me letterpress. Hand-fed letterpress. I was intrigued. I knew of letterpress from the design annuals but had never been up close. That was about to change in a big way. I walked into the printshop of Tom Parson, our local “godfather” of letterpress and was transported to a different time. Tom printed that job and I said “I want a press (like every designer in the mid 2000s)” and he put me on the list. I asked him to teach me the process and he showed me how to do everything from hand washing plates to treadling. When it came time to print, he started kicking and I asked if I could try. He let me. The rest is history. I ended up kicking 600 cards in 40 minutes to which Tom asked “where did you learn how to do that?”. I told him my childhood was spent working in a decorating tool factory in Chicago, our family business which was started in 1908. Slave labor at its finest. But that slave labor instilled some hand eye coordination that I surely don’t complain about now.

The beautiful printing presses gleam in the sunshine of Genghis Kern (Colorado).

FIRST PRESS 1922 10×15 C&P

PRINTING MENTORS Tom Parson will always be my first mentor, but my inspirations are the people out there pushing the boundaries and keeping the art of letterpress alive like Jen Farrell of Starshaped Press in Chicago. A day rarely goes by when I’m not wiping drool of my phone thanks to her instagram feed.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I’m a designer and a printer. I’ve been hiring designers and printers. And we’re on a quest to turn some designers into printers. Feet in both worlds.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS My design process has been greatly influenced by the door that letterpress opened to the typographic world. Being faced with a design challenge and combining passions when applicable is the best feeling. Whether it be typographically or texturally, or both.

Jaw-dropping tight registration and beautiful letterpress printing are regulars at Genghis Kern (Colorado).

FULL TIME FUN, ALL YEAR ROUND Lately I’ve been printing a little more, but as the workload grows, I find myself printing less and less but enjoying the time in front of the presses even more. I’m also a member of the Amalgamated Printers Association, which is an incredible group of 150 printers from around the world who print 4x or more times a year. Each member gets a monthly envelope with everyone’s work in it. So creating for that keeps me on my toes and up to my elbows in type.

PRINTING FEATS I’m proud that I’ve been able to grow a business from a passion, and employ people with similar passions. I’m also proud to keep these ancient machines and type from the scrap heap. Those two kids I’m trying to instill a work ethic in before it’s too late? They make me proud on a daily basis. I think I complained more about “helping Dad” when I was their age. Eva and Jasper? Thanks for putting up with me!

BOXCAR’S ROLE The quality of Boxcar plates are unparalleled in my opinion. We have local photopolymer plate makers but letterpress isn’t their main focus. I know that if I get my artwork in on time, I’m going to get plates back quickly. And when there’s an issue with my plates, the help that the staff provides is top notch.

Eye-popping color and beautiful blind deboss letterpress pieces are hand-crafted with care at Genghis Kern (Colorado).

SHOP TIPS Embrace your local community. The amount of knowledge gained by the “olds” out there who aren’t getting younger, by the way, is invaluable. And most of them love sharing. If there’s no active community that you know of, start one by inviting over some old printers for coffee and donuts.

WHAT’S NEXT Just keep on organizing our new space. Offer a few more workshops. Streamline work flow. And continue to produce work we’re all proud of.

A huge round of applause (and thanks!) out to Jason of Genghis Kern for letting us get a sneak peek at his wonderfully creative printing world.

Unique International Printing Presses

Across the globe, letterpress printing has captured the heart of many a printer, be they from Italy, Brazil, the U.K. and beyond. Each country has dipped its own pen and added to our collective letterpress history through the beautiful creation of presses and the ingenious pressman at the helm of these metal beauties. We reached out to some our printing colleagues to check out what unique international printing presses are founded in their country or rare presses they have had the honor to ink up. Some are of their own countries’ origin in production and some are foreign-born masterpieces. Either way, the global letterpress community grows stronger as more of these special presses are inked up and shared with others.

Davide Tomatis – Italy – Archivio Tipografico  our latest press is a Schelter&Giesecke – Phoenix IV. This press is a sliding platen press, designed and produced in Leipzig at the beginning of last century (around 1905). The maximum printable format is 40 x 66 cm and its weight reaches 1600 Kg. It has 4 inking rollers that work in couples: one couple inks the form on its way down and the other couple on its way up. It’s a very sophisticated inking system that we’ve only ever seen on this kind of press. It ensures a perfect inking of the form, as the active inking rollers are always evenly inked and don’t carry back on the form the sign of the type they just inked.

Davide Tomatis of Archivio Tipografico (Italy) prints on a Phoenix IV (German press) | Unique International Printing Presses feature

We acquired it in January 2015; our friend Luca of Anonima Impressori told us about a place near Bologna with an incredible collection of platen and piano-cylinder presses. We weren’t in need of any new press but – as you can imagine –  we couldn’t help ourselves. We immediately went there and what we found was a very big, dark, cold and humid warehouse with presses everywhere. We never saw such a large place before.

Most of the machines were quite conventional: Saroglia, Heidelberg, Nebiolo… but just around a corner, hidden by a Nebiolo Urania 70×100, Emanuele couldn’t believe his expert eyes when he recognized his dream press: the Phoenix!

Davide Tomatis of Archivio Tipografico (Italy) prints on a Phoenix IV (German press)

The Phoenix press series, produced by Schelter & Giesecke, are a particularly big and sturdy model of presses and one of the biggest ever built in the history of printing. As far as we knew the only working Phoenix in Italy was in Enrico Tallone’s printshop; what’s more, the model in the warehouse, was the biggest one of the series. No need to specify that seconds after the discovery a decision was taken: we had to make place for her in our printshop. We had a lot of work to do on her: she had no inking rollers, no engine, no cleaning system and she was covered in years and years of dust and dried ink.

Davide Tomatis of Archivio Tipografico (Italy) prints on a Phoenix IV (German press)

The restoration was quite a long and difficult process; as we didn’t have any manual or technical info we pretty much had to guess everything, from the size of the rollers to the right kind of engine. After a few tries we found the right size of the rollers and we were very lucky with the discovery of a super engine by our trusted and experienced electrician (a beautiful original AEG model). After that we engineered a cleaning system for maximum practicality of use.

Davide Tomatis of Archivio Tipografico (Italy) prints on a Phoenix IV (German press) | Unique International Printing Presses feature

We had to come up with an original solution as the machine wasn’t originally equipped with any cleaning system: the printer had to dismantle the rollers after each use and clean them manually. Lastly, to look as beautiful and as majestic as she deserves, we restored the amazing details embossed in cast-iron on the body of the machine, as Schelter & Giesecke mark on the side of the press and the name of the model on the front and we brought them back to their original golden color.

Davide Tomatis of Archivio Tipografico (Italy) prints on a Phoenix IV (German press)

Now the Phoenix press holds pride of place in our space: it’s the most elegant, powerful and historically relevant press we’ve ever owned, and we’re very proud for having brought her back into printing shape!

Marcelo Pinheiro – Brazil – Carimbo Studio The first press we had was a small tabletop one. We found it with a guy who buys and sells graphic equipment here in Brazil. He also had some metal type with it (in fact he was going to sell it to the junkyard and have all the type melt). Its original colour was black, but they had it painted with this green hammered textured paint, that helps disguise imperfections, but on the other hand is good for cleaning with solvents.

It is a Japanese press, manufactured by Osaka Printing Ink company (serial number L603) but we don’t know much more about it.

Osaka Printing Ink Company press | Unique International Printing Presses

Here in Brazil this kind of press is called ‘socadeira’ or ‘prelo de soco’ as you have to pull the lever to make an impression (punch = soco, in Portuguese). We are trying to get this press back to its glory days and we plan to use it to show people how letterpress printing works, demonstration and such, as it’s very simple to operate (once you have already made all previous adjustments).

Another press we have in the shop is from a Brazilian manufacturer called Catu (meaning ‘Very Good’ in Tupi Guarani – Brazilian indians’ language). I think that “Minerva” – like the Goddess of Wisdom and Arts – is kind of a generic name that all platen presses are called here and on Latin America as well. The company was founded by German immigrants and started producing printing equipment in 1946 – and they still make offset equipment nowadays. It’s very common around here, but despite that, we can’t find much information about it – we don’t know when it was made and we don’t have a manual. It was still working as a printing press when we found it, but people also modify it for die cutting, thus removing all the inking system and all rollers.

This model is often referred to as Minerva Catu 1/4 – as its printing size corresponds for a quarter of a 99×66 cm (Brazilian standard) paper sheet. We heard that its design is based on some German model, but we really don’t know. It’s a hand fed platen press and it has adjustments for rail height and printing pressure. We find interesting the lever for turning the flywheel on – and off, as it also works as a break. It has adjustable speed but we like to run it slowly and appreciate the work as we go!

Marcelo Pinheiro of Carimbo Studio (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.Marcelo Pinheiro of Carimbo Studio (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.

Marcelo Pinheiro of Carimbo Studio (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.

There are lots of these presses here in Brazil, but they ended up mostly used for finishing (die cutting, scoring, numbering). We have seen people painting Catus with all sorts of colors (black, white, red, etc.) but we like ours as it was made and its greenish industrial paint. But we made special leather grippers for the impression handle and the start / stop lever. It gives our press a much cooler look! Coincidentally, we ended up buying it from the same person that we bought our Heidelberg Windmill from, but it was totally random.

Marcelo Pinheiro of Carimbo Studio (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.

It weights over 2500 pounds (1150 Kg) and has a printing area of 13 x 19 inches (335 x 487 mm). On our Catu we have printed album covers for a French / Brazilian Music label and we made posters for Association Typographique Internationale  and for Englewood Letterpress Depot, besides several other projects. It is our press of choice when running larger pieces.

The Catus are always accompanied by two side tables to keep the paper sheets: on one side you leave the blank paper and on the other one you put the sheets that were just printed as you are hand feeding the press.

We find it easy to setup and it has a feature that I haven’t seen on other presses: it is possible to adjust the parallelism of the platen vs. the form. This is sometimes useful when adjusting makeready. The maintenance is somewhat curious, mainly because of spare parts… Even with just one model, not all Catu Minervas have exactly the same design on parts and holes. It is said that if you disassemble 3 Heidelberg Windmills you will be able to reassemble the 3 machines again perfectly. But if you disassemble 3 Catus and mix all parts you won’t get 1 single machine assembled back again!

There are other machines on the Catu family though. It has a younger sister: Catu Mirim (something like Small Catu) – as the name says, the printing size area is smaller. They also used to make cylinder letterpresses as well and that’s something that we are considering adding to our roster, too!

Marcelo Pinheiro of Carimbo Studio (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.

Pamella Farrell – UK – Farrell Press We currently have three beautiful presses in studio, a 15×10 Arab Press c1894, an 8×5 No.1 Cropperette Press c1888 and an 8×5 Adana Press which were all lovingly restored by my husband.

I started out printing on the Adana, I’m mainly self-taught. I was the first letterpress printer in Ireland to reintroduce the craft to brides and grooms, offering letterpress wedding stationery in 2008 and the business has gone from strength to strength. As demand grew I knew I had to invest in a larger press. I searched throughout Ireland to no avail, I found out a lot of presses had been sold for scrap when litho printing became popular!

I then looked at the feasibility of importing a press from the UK or the US. I was lucky to stumble across a sale ad for the Cropperette and the Arab press. They were owned by a photographer in London, UK, who was moving house and found them while emptying his garage. He hadn’t used them in over 20 years. Myself and my husband took the ferry over to the UK and drove to London in a van to collect them.

Pamela Farrell of Farrell & Chase (UK) has a delightful Arab press in her printshop.

The Arab had to be taken apart as it was too heavy for us to lift, lucky they were designed to be “flat packed” and with the manual my husband (who is a construction plant fitter), knew what he was doing. A nerve-wracking journey home and a few days later, the two presses were up and running with thanks to my husband’s skill.

“The Arab is claimed by some to be the finest hand-fed platen in the World. In terms of cost and weight, it out-performs other machines; and the fact it is designed to be dis-assembled and rebuilt makes it easier to trans­port than other, sim­ilar, presses.” (source: http://britishletterpress.co.uk)

The Arab Presses were produced in the North of England and our Arab press is still painted the original blue with red accents and has a spoked flywheel which was later replaced by a solid wheel to reduce accidents.

The Cropperette is a very rare British press built in Nottingham by The Cropper Company, if you have ever heard the term ‘to come a cropper’, a common phrase in Ireland and the UK, it relates to printers catching their hands in the printing press! The Cropperette is the more beautiful press of the two and has been very hard to find information on. It’s painted black with gold accents and a beautiful heart shaped foot peddle. It is lovely and free, very light to use with foot power where as the Arab is a very heavy press and difficult to operate by foot power alone. I have since added a motor to run the Arab press.

Pamela Farrell of Farrell & Chase (UK) has a delightful Cropperette press in her printshop.

The Arab press is the work horse which I use daily, the Cropperette is reserved for smaller jobs like labels and business cards and is used quite rarely and the Adana has become redundant. I have toyed with selling it but just can’t let go of my first letterpress.

Fabiano Santos – Brazil – Pergam Press The press is a Model “Minerva Catu” also known as “Catuzinha” here. I’m not sure what year it was manufactured, but I believe it is around the 1960s. The origin of the Catu press manufacturer company has been through a family coming from Hamburg, Germany, and they began manufacturing the machines here in Brazil around the 1940s.

Fabiano Santos of Pergram Press (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.

Like the Windmill, it has all settings right at your fingertips, and it functions as an extension of our arms. It is very easy to adjust something on the press (according to the job being printed) because she “accepts” any setting. Even wire to hold up a few pieces of barnates tape for roller height adjustment. It is not widely used in Brazil. Some graphic design/print shops rarely use it for die cuts, but I have never seen anyone use it here to print other projects.

Fabiano Santos of Pergram Press (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.

When I started looking for a machine to work with letterpress printing, I visited many old printers wondering where they had left their old equipment, and it was on one of these visits I met an experienced operator/printer who worked during the height of Minerva Catu. He had kept one of them in his garage. Since he had retired and no longer operated the machine, I bought it from him and now she has won a special place at our shop.

Corby – Singapore – Papypress Our press is a Super Ace on the machine with serial number 3361 on it. The labels are all in Japanese, and it’s an 8” x 10” Platen. Is this machine good? Not really, it has quite a few silly features that I haven’t quite figured out yet actually.

Corby of Papypress (Singapore) prints on a Japanese Super Ace press (detail: inkwell).).

This is the ink fountain.The knobs, as you would already know, control the flow of ink. However this is not a cylinder inking plate. It is an ink plate that rotates like an Adana. That means I can’t play with colors like one would do on a Vandercook. So why have knobs? Looks cool though.

Corby of Papypress (Singapore) prints on a Japanese Super Ace press (detail: inkwell).

This flywheel is like the tiniest thing I have ever seen. No bigger than 10” in diameter.

Corby of Papypress (Singapore) prints on a Japanese Super Ace press (detail: flywheel).

Sometimes when I want to print with a heavier depression the platen jams up and I would have to give it a manual push. But once you get the hang of it you’ll know what to do. Nonetheless it’s a nice “semi-automatic” machine to have around and not as bulky as a C&P. We use if for smaller cards that have images really close to the edge. By hand feeding, I can minimize gauge pin space.

Once we were at an old print shop looking for wooden stools to use in the studio (these type of wooden stools are always found in old print shops in Asia). In the corner of the shop I first saw the inking plate in the corner, when I asked if the machine was still around he pulled the cloth off and showed it to me. He said why would I want something like that? Why not buy a digital machine? Best deal I ever made.

Corby of Papypress (Singapore) prints on a Japanese Super Ace press (detail: wooden stool).

Presses like these were common in our region, the more common ones were even more block looking. Space was always an issue in Singapore, and these machines were built with big motors and smaller flywheels. I guess deep impressions only came much later and it would have worked perfectly for “kiss” printing.

If you have a unique printing press you’d like to share & gush about, join in on the conversation and post it in our comments section!

Perfect Aim With The Hunter Press

For those curious enough to venture into the beautiful and gentle rolling hills of the Scottish countryside, a thirty minute serene drive southwest from Edinburgh will find you in the company of friendly smiles, a easy-going pace of lifestyle, and the private farm workshop that is The Hunter Press. Lyndsey Hunter is the energetic entrepreneur manning the presses there and she let us in for a tour of her printing paradise — a true gem found in the heart of Scotland. She sat down with us between ink runs to talk shop, about her passions as a printer, and bringing more letterpress to the Scottish community.

Take a virtual tour of The Hunter Press, a private farm workshop that is home to Scottish printer Lyndsey Hunter.Take a virtual tour of The Hunter Press, a private farm workshop that is home to Scottish printer Lyndsey Hunter.

THE LOCATION The print studio is located on an arable farm just 12 miles outside of Edinburgh. It’s a nice peaceful spot, not too far from the nearest town but quiet enough to feel as though we’re in the countryside. The print space is adjoined to my husband’s blacksmiths workshop so things can get a little noisy at times. We’re currently restoring a 300 year old property further north in Highland Perthshire which we plan to relocate to within the next year. The print studio will then be located in one of the adjoining cottages.

I like to have a central hub which I can access from every point within the studio. Ours is a large prep/finishing table which often doubles as a set up area, computer station and photography surface.

SHOP SIZE 500 square feet.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP It’s quiet on the farm, away from traffic and city hustle and bustle, which really fuels my creativity. Within the studio, my favourite thing would have to be the old type cabinets which are used to hold surplus paper stock and our cutting dies. The drawers have taken a bit of a beating over the years, but add so much warmth to the space.

FLOORING MATERIAL Sturdy painted concrete below the printing presses. We added some comfy hard wearing carpet across the rest of the space. The studio can get really cold so it’s nice to have a little bit of comfort during those cold months.

TYPE OF SHOP Commercial but closed to visitors.

THE PRESSES 3 Heidelberg Windmills 10×15, one of which has been converted for Foil Printing, 1 Harrild and Sons Proofing Press in need of full restoration, and we are hoping to replace one of the Windmills with a Korrex Berlin Proofing Press very soon.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL Not a tool exactly but I definitely couldn’t run things without my wood burner on those chillier days! I’m not too sure how I managed without it at the beginning now.

FAVORITE INK + COLOR Ink of choice would be VanSon Rubber Based Inks. I often use oil based for specials. Current favourite colour to mix would be mint green.

CLEAN-UP ROUTINE Clean up is my least favorite part of the day!  Luckily the Windmills are fairly straightforward to clean.  I use a water-miscible roller and blanket solution with cotton rags and blue roll.

OIL OF CHOICE Castrol Magna 150 Mineral Circulating Oil.

CLEAN UP RAG OF CHOICE Old tshirts and sheets donated from the family.

PIED TYPE A very small amount of odds which we picked up with the presses.

BOXCAR BASE + PLATE SYSTEM I always work with Polymer Plates KF95. I had a couple of aluminum bases made locally when I started printing in 2012, they’re still going strong.

WORKSPACE ORGANIZATION TIPS Keeping things clean, especially the ink station.  I don’t like to leave the studio without carrying out a full ink clean up ready for the next day.  I also like to file and label all polymer plates from past projects.

PRINTING TIPS I’m completely self taught so I feel as though I’ve ticked my way through every mistake in the book and I still feel like I learn something new every day. It’s been said before but ink application was a big lesson! I started out using way too much ink, which in turn led to me wasting a lot and also spending too much time adjusting the roller heights. It’s best to start with a minimal amount of ink and build up to the desired effect. It’s much easier to add to than to run out and have to remix an entire custom colour. And always mix slightly more than needed (custom colour) in case of reprint. Oh, and oil those machines regularly!

Take a virtual tour of The Hunter Press, a private farm workshop that is home to Scottish printer Lyndsey Hunter.

A huge  round of thanks out to Lyndsey for this wonderful look inside The Hunter Press! Check out Lyndsey’s Pinterest page to see more of her work and inspiration!

Letterpress Shop Tips: Shoe Caddy Organizer

We all know what its like to come into the shop looking for a specific tool and just can’t seem to find that one tool we’re looking for. A thrifty, clever, and fun letterpress organization tip on how to keep track of your favorite letterpress printing tools is to use an over-the-door or closet-style caddy with clear pockets. This ingenious way to store your items is quick & easy to set-up, and you can hang it up on a wall or tuck it away discretely wherever you choose. Once you’re done, the only thing you’ll be looking for is more projects to tackle!

Letterpress Organization Tips: Shoe Caddy Organizer

Banshee Press: Best Friends in Letterpress

When best friends Britt Madden and Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press set-up shop in the creative & booming city of Denver, Colorado, they sought to foster the true tradition of letterpress by raising the bar for elegance, quality and beautiful craftsmanship. Fast forward a few years later and the magnificent duo still prints perfection, adds to printing ephemera collection, and heckles one one another in good fun. The brilliantly cheery pair sat down with us to catch us up on the next moves for the shop, properly cut paper (the foundation for success!) and why you shouldn’t print & mix colors alone at night.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in ColoradoBritt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

BUILDING FROM THE GROUND UP We are a duo (Ava & Britt) born and bred in Colorado. We met in high school and have been best friends ever since. After college, many travels and odd jobs we decided to unite our creative talents and work a job we loved and built from the ground up. We both majored in print, and decided letterpress was a perfect channel for our perfectionism and design dreams, so creating Banshee was an obvious move. Out of the studio we take advantage of all the adventure Colorado has to offer and spend our free time outside with our friends and family.

THE FIRST TASTE OF LETTERPRESS Britt didn’t have letterpresses in her school, and once she graduated decided that she needed to learn. She bought a C&P 10×15 New Style on Briar Press and taught herself in her garage. Ava’s school did have letterpresses and she learned to use them while in college. We maintained our practice the best we could until we began Banshee with the purchase of our second press, the Vandercook Uni I.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

CREATIVITY IN THE CENTENNIAL STATE Our shop is located in the RiNo (River North Arts District) of Denver. It’s a concentration of creative businesses, including architects, art galleries, designers, furniture makers, illustrators, wineries, breweries, sculptors, photographers, and an array of studio spaces. The buildings are covered in murals and color and the streets bustle with evening nightlife. Our space is full of natural light, plants, and presses, and we enjoy having people come and go as they walk by. Our favorite thing about it is that we can use the space for all of our creative endeavors, not just letterpress, and encourage our friends to visit us to do so as well.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

MEET THE PRESS FAMILY Our first press was a Chandler and Price 10×15 New Style. We now additionally have a Vandercook Universal I and a Heidelberg Windmill 10×13.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT We are both designers and printers and we print designs provided by our clients as well. We have a quirky aesthetic, and enjoy designs that utilize the unique capabilities that letterpress offers.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

THE CREATIVE FLOW Normally we begin any design job with close conversations with our clients. The more information we can gather, the faster and more efficiently we can design to their needs. It saves us energy and them money. We then move into our brainstorming sketch phase where we put whatever our brains come up with down on paper.

After a “would you want that to be your logo?” elimination, we come back to clients with a variety of ideas that we narrow from there.  Sometimes we know that either Ava or Britt will be more of a fit for a particular job and will work solo in those situations, but never without feedback from the other.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

PART-TIME PARADISE We do not print full time. Britt has two young kiddos that capture much of her attention and Ava owns and runs her own business as well. Printing full time is something we wouldn’t mind, but at this point in our lives is not something we can make the time for.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

PRINTING FEATS Making it onto Boxcar’s blog!  For the past two years we have published an artist series of letterpress editions that we are very proud of and enjoy doing immensely. We recently purchased a Windmill and have taught ourselves how to use it. And finally, we are best friends in business and we still love each other with all our hearts.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar is our patient, kind, and understanding babysitter. We know the rules, and yet, we sometimes break them. They always call us with a smile to remind us of our errors before we make them. They have kept us from adding additional stress to our jobs, and consistently make this huge piece of our process easy. Thank You!

SHOP TIPS Bow down to King Reggie and make him your friend. Properly cut paper is the foundation to success. And don’t mix and print color alone at night.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

WHAT’S NEXT In 2017 we are going to focus more on our own designs and begin creating a line of products all our own. It’s easy to lose yourself in printing other people’s jobs, and we want to keep our aesthetic a priority. It makes everything more fun.

Immensely huge round of thanks out to Britt & Ave of Banshee Press for letting us take a peek at their printing paradise!

Keeping Creative in California with Alissa Bell

Armed with a Chandler & Price 12×18, Alissa Bell flexes her creative muscles by balancing both business sense and creative aspirations. The cheery, go get-em gal has been in love with letterpress since she took her first class at the San Francisco Center for the Book, and has flourished as the Artist in Residence at the Kit and Ace Pasadena store, an iconic staple of creativity in Los Angeles. We caught up with Alissa between ink runs to catch up on her beautiful letterpress greeting card line and how her children are growing up with letterpress all around them.

We caught up with LA-based letterpress printer Alissa Bell of Alissa Bell Press about printing passions, flexing the creative muscles, and enjoying letterpress in sunny California.

CREATING BALANCE WITH LETTERPRESS I run a letterpress and design studio in Los Angeles with two girls, Hanna and Audra, and my dog Henry. Before I got into letterpress, I worked in public accounting for 4 years. I’m naturally a classic, type A person, but also love exercising my creativity. Creating my business gave me a perfect balance of both.

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT I first took a class in San Francisco at The Center for the Book. That’s where I got hooked.

LIVE IN CALIFORNIA Currently we are the Artist in Residence at the Kit and Ace Pasadena store. It’s definitely a unique opportunity to be doing our thing inside the shop while people browse the clothing and wander the neighborhood. My favorite thing about the space is that, compared to any of our previous locations, it’s the shiniest. Also, for this season, we are able to give people access to watch letterpress live, which is rare.

We caught up with LA-based letterpress printer Alissa Bell of Alissa Bell Press about printing passions, flexing the creative muscles, and enjoying letterpress in sunny California.

THE DESIGNER & THE PRINTER We do a little bit of both. I’m lucky to have a nice balance in our work that allows us to both flex our creative muscles, as well as execute another business or designer’s vision. I have been running the business for four years, three of which were full time.

We caught up with LA-based letterpress printer Alissa Bell of Alissa Bell Press about printing passions, flexing the creative muscles, and enjoying letterpress in sunny California.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS Giving my brain clear space to create is most important. So, cleaning my home or studio are musts, and sometimes getting out of my normal environment, either a coffee shop, or lately, RVCC in Downtown LA. The actual inception of an idea comes differently for me each time. Sometimes I have to just put a lot of things down on a page and see what I can pull from. Other times I’ll have a quick flash of an idea, in the shower or wherever, which are the easiest to materialize.

PRINTING FEATS I’m proud of my team. I’m proud that we’re working in Kit and Ace. I’m also excited we have grown, and are able to make creating our own collections of greeting cards a priority.

We caught up with LA-based letterpress printer Alissa Bell of Alissa Bell Press about printing passions, flexing the creative muscles, and enjoying letterpress in sunny California.

PRESS HISTORY A Chandler and Price, 12” x 18” was my first and my last.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar has been an amazing resource since the beginning. Even when I didn’t know what I was doing, Rebecca sat with me on the phone and talked me through what kind of base I would need and what kind of plates to order. Since then, I’ve used them for all of my plates. They always catch my errors, show me grace in the ordering process, and present a great product. I love them.

We caught up with LA-based letterpress printer Alissa Bell of Alissa Bell Press about printing passions, flexing the creative muscles, and enjoying letterpress in sunny California.

SHOP TIPS This may not be new to many people, but this year we got to experiment with ombré ink on a platen press. We were able to tie back the part of the press that rotates the ink disc so the color was applied unevenly, allowing us to create both color ombré and a black and white gradient.

We caught up with LA-based letterpress printer Alissa Bell of Alissa Bell Press about printing passions, flexing the creative muscles, and enjoying letterpress in sunny California.

WHAT’S NEXT For the next year, we’re working on finding a new location after our residency at Kit and Ace, focusing on continuing to teach Hanna how to print, and having a good time. Last year we launched our ready to order stationery collection, and in 2016 we hope to build our collection of ready to order wedding invitations on our site.

A huge appreciative round of applause (and thanks!) out to Alissa for letting us get a glimpse of her wonderful printing world out in sunny California!

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!