Letterpress Blooms at Maude Press in Creative South Pasadena

Dee Cutrona of Maude Press is sustained daily by the artistic flavor of her community and the people she considers mentors. She recently welcomed us in for a peek at her studio and shared how she got her start in letterpress — as well as the path she’s set herself on for the future.

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BY ANY OTHER NAME Well, I suppose the first thing you should know about me is that my birth name is Christen and I can thank my sister for calling me “Christie Dee” the first time that she saw me. This, of course was shortened to Dee and here I am!

NECESSITY DEMANDS ACTION I first got involved in letterpress when I met a gal, Mable, in a design workshop. She was operating a letterpress studio and we thought, hey, let’s start a greeting card line! And so we did, and we called it Dee&Lala. In a funny way, I learned letterpress out of necessity–we were selling cards all across the U.S. and abroad and printing all day to keep up!

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LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION I print in a studio right in my neighborhood of South Pasadena. What’s so great about the space is that I share it with a cake company, so the smell of baking cakes fills the air and it’s a team of girls, so we have this nice camaraderie. My favorite thing about my studio is that it’s nestled among traditional craftsman homes and tree lined streets, so my commute, whether by bike or car, is idyllic.

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WALKABLE AND WONDERFUL SOUTH PASADENA is a hidden gem. It’s like this magical little pocket of Arts and Crafts architecture, cafes, family friendly neighborhoods, lots of art, music, festivals, parrots — yes parrots — and small independent shops…including Annika Buxman’s De Milo Design Studio & Letterpress [check out the profile we did on Annika’s studio a while back]. It’s an 8 minute metro ride away from downtown Los Angeles, so, in my opinion, it’s the best of both worlds. We actually have a small museum up my street — Meridian Iron Works — wouldn’t that be a great place to print!

SAGE ADVICE I considered Mable as my first printing mentor, and since that I’ve learned so much more. I do have a friend in town, who has a beautiful, very traditional, letterpress studio. I assist him with his printing as much as I can and consider him not just a letterpress mentor, but a life mentor. I also had design and style mentors in my Gramie and Grandad. They lived life to the fullest, did it with style and I am influenced by that philosophy daily.

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INSPIRATION + THE CREATIVE FLOW I do not print full time. My days and weeks are equally balanced between designing and printing. I am planning to print more pieces for retail, so I’m anticipating more time at the press. As much as I appreciate the authenticity of working with type, I’m just so wired to be able to tweak and manipulate words and images digitally, so my process is more modern. I’m a digital artwork to photopolymer girl. When I first started Maude Press, I was working with magnesium dies, but I quickly switched back to photopolymer for the consistency and because the process isn’t toxic.

I enjoy working with fun wedding couples like Sheila and Casey. They wanted chic and modern and since they wanted a map, we decided to play with layers, a pattern and die cutting to add dimension. So much opportunity to be creative!

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PRIDE IN THE ROAD I’VE TRAVELED Launching Dee&Lala was a huge accomplishment. I am/was really proud of our brand and the illustration work that I contributed. A lot of that work was very personal to me, so it meant a lot that our line was so well received. I still have a stack of samples. I still truly love them, even after printing them over and over and over…

I am equally, if not more, proud of launching Maude Press. It has been a wonderful experience so far and now that I’m about 4 years in, I’m ready to take it to the next level. I love the custom side of what I do, so it’s truly been a pleasure.

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THE FIRST LADY AND NAMESAKE I wish I could list off a tally of presses, but to date, my only press is Maude, my 10 x 15 New Style Chandler & Price. She’s a work horse, but I can’t say I wouldn’t mind a cylinder from time to time..maybe someday. Maude is named after a movie that is a personal favorite of mine — Harold and Maude.

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MUTUAL RESPECT FOSTERS GOOD RELATIONSHIPS Not only is Boxcar super informative and amazing, you provide my plates and plant trees when I purchase enough! What I like most, though, is your true love for letterpress and the letterpress community.

SHARING FROM EXPERIENCE Acetate is my friend.  Not only is acetate great for packing, I actually tape it down to my platen to register my artwork. I tape the acetate to the platen, ink the form and print on the acetate and then I register the paper to the print on the acetate. It saves so much time and helps with those hairpin registration jobs.

I’m a fan of Van Son Holland Ink (rubber or oil), but if you want a good rich black ink, my friend introduced me to ‘Sable Black SO 1 lb.” from Graphic Supply, Inc. — it is THE best black I’ve printed so far. No need to add a little warm red to this black– it’s gorgeous au naturale.

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LEAPING OFF THE PAGES IN 2015 This is the year that I’m finally ready to produce more products for retail (mainly for my own site and a few local shops). Nothing major, no reps or stationery shows, just exclusive MP products to share with the world. I have pages of ideas that I just have to bring to life–it will feel like old times. Oh! And this year, hopefully, I will finally actually print my own stationery and if I’m really on a roll…holiday cards!!!

Thanks Dee for the glimpse into Maude Press. You are moving ahead full speed and you embody a quote from your favorite movie  “Try something new each day. After all, we’re given life to find it out. It doesn’t last forever.”

LZW Compression File Prep for Letterpress Plates

For Adobe enthusiasts who use Photoshop to create their platemaking files, we’d like to introduce you to Lempel-Ziv-Welch, which is a simple algorithm known as LZW compression. LZW compression makes your file size smaller without losing any image quality. Have a 1200 dpi, 22 megabyte file? No problem with LZW compression. It can compress that file down to mere megabytes and sometimes even kilobytes. Why do you want higher resolution? So you can have text and images that are higher quality and pleasing to the eye when printed.

Here is how you use the gem that is LZW. If you have a Photoshop image or text that you need to bitmap for a platemaking line art file, follow these steps.

1. Open your file in Adobe Photoshop. Convert to grayscale via IMAGE > MODE > GRAYSCALE. Select Yes if a window asks about discarding color.

2. Check your image size via IMAGE > IMAGE SIZE. When this window opens up, make note of the Pixel Dimensions at the top. Look halfway down the page at the Resolution of Pixels/Inch. Is the number 300 or less? We can do better! Increasing your resolution can shave and smooth out the pixelation of your bitmapped image. Change your resolution to between 600 – 1200.

Adobe Photoshop file showing how to check image size resolution.

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Did you see your Pixel Dimension make a big jump up? Don’t worry, LZW will take care of that later. Click OK to save this new setting.

3. Select LAYER > check to see if Flatten Image is showing. If yes, Click on this.

4. Click on IMAGE > MODE > BITMAP. A window will open to complete this step. Your input should match the resolution you just chose a few steps earlier. The Output should be equal to or greater than your Input (up to 1200 Pixels/Inch). Your Method should be 50% Threshold. If you are seeing Diffusion Dither (the default), click on the box to see other Method choices to find 50% Threshold. Choose OK. Your file is now in black and white in Bitmap mode.

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Saving to Bitmap made my file size smaller, you say? Yes, it did, but it is still probably many MB large. Imagine having 4 or 5 of these files and organizing all this artwork into one large document. Your new art board can quickly get unwieldy and oversized.

Time to save your file as a TIFF (.tif file extension) and tap into the power of LZW! TIFF is the format of choice for commercial and professional image standards. TIFF is the most universal and most widely supported format across all platforms, Mac, Windows

5. To finish up, Select FILE > SAVE AS . The pop up window is looking for your file name and a format. Choose TIFF. Another window called TIFF Options will open. At the top (for Image Compression) select LZW and click OK.

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Check your folder where you saved your TIFF The size is now probably under 1 MB. Your TIFF document was able to be compressed with all the quality you desire but now in a nicely managed little file.

Comparison of two files and their data size: one is a Photoshop (PSD) file at 3.6 MB and one is a TIFF file at 160KB because of LZW compression.

Speaking In (Type) Faces with the VABC Kickstarter Project

We’d love to see projects blending metal type and photopolymer plates come out of the newest Virginia Arts of the Book Center Kickstarter project. The project aims to creatively display the largest public collection of moveable type in Virginia. VABC is currently the home for more the 325 cases of moveable type, but printers and artists interested in using the type lack a basic resource to see these printed letter forms at work. VABC’s Kickstarter project will become a unique specimen book, as well as a creative resource for  letterpress printers. So help bring more wonderful letterpress into the world – support the project today!

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Let’s See That Printed: Translating Ink with John Reardon

One of the most enjoyable aspects of working with so many talented printers and designers who make their photopolymer plates with us is coming across some truly inspiring design work. Designs that make you stop and wonder just what color ink they’ll be running or what the print is for. It’s even better when you get a chance to catch up with the printer behind the design. We chatted with the outrageously gifted tattoo artist, John Reardon of Greenpoint Tattoo Co. in Brooklyn, New York, when his plate came through our doors. We’ll let John take it from here.

Photopolymer letterpress printing plate being made at Boxcar Press.

The project came about by running into Dan Morris (of The Arm in Brooklyn) on the streets. This was the second time I printed at The Arm (the first was back in 2010). I also have a tattoo shop down the street from Earl Kallemeyn (Kallemeyn Press). I’ve drawn stuff for him. He comes by the shop to hang out occasionally.

Photopolymer printing plates on a Vandercook.

John Reardon printing on a Vandercook.

Dan told me I needed to make another print and I agreed. I’ve been drawing and tattooing daggers like this for about 7 years now. The first one I drew I tattooed on Othello Garcia when we both worked for Scott Campbell at Saved Tattoo. When I find the time I have four more to finish drawing and print. The difference between my drawing for printing vs tattooing is that I can put in more detail in a print. Also I have to make tones by stippling or cross hatching. It’s fun. I printed with my buddy Jordan Haley and two bottles of red.. Been on a Spanish Rioja kick this winter…(it’s how I survived).

John Reardon printing on a Vandercook and pulling the paper through the press.

Final pulled prints of the ever talented  John Reardon.

Huge round of thanks out to John for letting us take a peek at his cool printing project!

Let’s See That Printed: All A-boot Kamikin

When we received Kamikin’s first order for plates, we had to get the back story – we loved their dynamic artwork and had to learn more. This family owned operation has quickly transformed from a pet project to a full fledged printmaking business. Marvel at their artwork while we tell you the rest of their tale.

Photopolymer letterpress printing plates being made at Boxcar Press in upstate New York.

A quick history: Kamikin is the dream child of three sisters, Karen, Betsy and Susan, of Sedalia, Colorado.  Betsy and her husband acquired a 12×18 1920 C&P platen in 2012 with a goal of entering the fine art market with unique and affordable prints. The business plan revolves around the beautiful pen and ink drawings of both Betsy and Susan, and is driven forward by the go-getter business savvy of their older sister Karen.

Hand-drawing & illustrating designs for letterpress photopolymer plates and letterpress printing with Kamiken.

The artwork came together during the fall of 2014 with a western theme. This particular “Zen Doodle” series is western/folk art with a modern twist. Zen doodling consists of decorative lines that can have beautiful results when printed on a letterpress. Kamikin didn’t hesitate to shoot for a very competitive show for their first foray into selling, the 2015 National Western Stock Show, in their backyard of Denver. Betsy readily admits they were not actually prepared for a 16-day show. “Because of this, when we got accepted, our studio burst into a flurry of activity! We had to finalize our art, order plates for the letterpress, purchase loads of paper and packaging, and build a booth! It was a quick learning curve for all three of us as we cranked up the press for mass production.”

Letterpress printing with photopolymer plates with Kamiken on a C&P press.

“During this whole process, one of the most exciting steps was when our first order of polymer plates from Boxcar arrived,” says Betsy. “At that moment, it seemed that everything we had planned was now possible. With the artwork for this series done, the paper cut, and a printing schedule on the calendar, it was time to buckle down and get our hands dirty. With 8-10 hour printing sessions, we learned so much so fast! Like it’s a good idea to tag team the chase to save on your shoulder muscles.”

Beautiful letterpress printed western - themed cards from Kamiken.

In the 6 week timeline, they fell in love with the process. In one month, they went from having zero inventory to 2,700 packaged pieces of beautiful art to sell.  Over the 16 days at the show, they loved talking with people about letterpress and screen-printing. The prints and stationery were very well received. They even had a little movie playing in the booth to show the customers what a letterpress looks like and how it works. Overall, their debut at the National Western Stock show was a success.

Since January, the trio has put together a website and an Etsy shop. They have enjoyed donating several prints for various auctions to help support their community. And with more plates on the way, the team will be busy building up their inventory for the summer art shows and festivals.

In Type-Top Shape With Archivio Tipografico

Nestled in the northwestern corner of Italy is the vibrant city of Torino — city that boasts beautiful plazas, gorgeous views, and of course the hidden gem that is Archivio Tipografico. Davide Tomatis, a cheerful member of the type-based shop, was able to take a minute between press runs to talk shop, the overflowing array of rare type and the joy of coming home to his letterpress “family” on the weekends.

Emanuele Mensa, Davide Tomatis, Davide Eucalipto, Anna Follo, and Nello Russo - Gabriele Fumero of Archivio Tipografico
(from left to right: Emanuele Mensa (our mentor!), Davide Tomatis, Davide Eucalipto, Anna Follo, Nello Russo, and Gabriele Fumero)

LETTERPRESS ADDICT I am not a conventional printer… I’m primarily a graphic designer addicted to good type, and I’ve always been fascinated by type in all of their shapes and typologies. About three years ago, I found a letterpress workshop online in my hometown. My brain stopped for a second watching the screen, and I remember thinking something along the lines of “what the hell are those wooden letters? Did there really exist a printing technology before the inkjet printer?”

Vibrant green hand-set letterpress poster from Archivio Typographico

Hand-set wooden type at Archivio Typographico.

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT When I entered a printshop for the first time, I was 20 years old and knew nothing about typography, but it was clear to me that I needed to learn everything about that world. Back then, Archivio Tipografico was “just” a huge collection, not a real printshop as it is right now. I started working there in my spare time, cleaning old type and ordering them in their drawers. During the following two years the team got bigger, and now it is comprised of six people (Anna, Davide, Emanuele, Gabriele, Nello, and me).

INKING UP IN ITALY Archivio Tipografico is a really big printshop: housing more than 1,600 type drawers, one flatbed press, five platen-presses and two proof-presses. As I said before, it’s not mine but I’m a part of it. We don’t like to think that there exists an owner of the printshop — we see it as the home of our typographic family. Our shop is located in Torino, Italy, and the “letterpress revival” phenomenon is still in its early days here. There are some old little printshops that still use platen and flatbed presses, but we are the only printshop in our area to integrate graphic design, digital tools and traditional printing techniques.

Speaking of exceptional printers, just out of town there’s Enrico Tallone, a great friend of ours and the last Italian publisher that is still composing and printing his books by hand only using movable type. We often visit each other to see the latest printed matter!

Drawers of metal type and a press close-up at Archivio TypographicoLetterpress printing press at Archivio Typographico.

THE BEAUTIFUL TYPE Our collection comes from the dismissal of other printshops in Piemonte (our region) and Liguria. So most of the specimens and typefaces are obviously from Italian Foundries like “Nebiolo” (that was located in Torino) or “Reggiani” (in Milano). We own specimens of nearly all the typefaces designed by Aldo Novarese, one of the most prolific type designers ever and our national “type hero”.

We generally like to use Italian type to revive that “geolocation” effect that got lost with the possibility of having an endless choice of digital typefaces. I think the rarest typefaces we have are “Inkunabula”, a typeface designed by Raffaello Bertieri in 1921 for “Società Augusta” (the previous name of Nebiolo) and “Fontanesi”, a really elaborate ornate typeface designed by Aldo Novarese in 1954 for the Nebiolo foundry.

Drawers of metal type and a letterpress sample of the Inkunabula typeface at Archivio Typographico.

PRESS HISTORY I first learned to print on an Asbern proof press and later on a platen-press called Hohner Rapid II, with the help of Emanuele, the skilled printer who founded Archivio Tipografico. He is my mentor. He actually knows how to solve any problem about letterpress printing. I’ve never felt like I couldn’t ask him a question as there isn’t one that he can’t answer.

A wide array of printing inks and beautiful printing samples at Archivio Tipografico. On press at Archivio Typographico.

LATE NIGHT PRINTING Printing is primarily a passion. It’s not our first job so we print after our main work and on every Saturday, but we’re trying to fix this situation.

THE CREATIVE FLOW Every one of us was born as a designer and is now learning to print, except for Emanuele, who was mainly a printer. Thanks to our different backgrounds we’re always searching for the perfection in both printing and graphic composition. We don’t have a defined style as we like being inspired from everything that we stumble across — from old books, to modern graphic design, passing through Italian specimen-books designed in the seventies.

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PRINTSHOP FEATS Our main accomplishment is actually moving the whole printshop last year. It took us more than two months and a lot of sweat. The moving of the whole collection was very hard. All the platen and flatbed presses were moved by a professional carrier because it’s really impossible to move tons and tons of cast iron perfectly without knowing what you’re doing.

We also decided to donate to a museum two of the machine we owned: a flatbed press from the late 1800’s called Voirin, and a Linotype, as we weren’t really using them. We rented a big van for two weekends to move everything else (type drawers, cabinets, tools, ink cans, etc…) and that was the first time we counted how many drawers we own: it was a bit of a shock!

In the process of emptying the old space we found many typefaces we forgot about, and we managed not to lose anything! We divided in two teams, one in the old space removing all the drawers from the cabinets, numbering them, loading them on pallets and then loading pallets on the van. The other team was in the new place, unloading the van and reassembling the cabinets. I made a map of the new layout of presses and drawers that was ignored during the moving, but everything magically fit in anyway! Special equipment that was needed: gloves, pallets, transpallet, latino music, elbow grease and patience. It never seemed to end.

SHOP TIPS If you’re printing on a platen press always remove the gauge pins when setting up a new job. Emanuele always told me that in order to correctly learn… one has to make every mistake at least once, but that one is the kind of mistake that I sadly keep making.

Gorgeous Eat Drink Print hand-set letterpress poster from Archivio Tipografico.

WHAT’S NEXT Our main inspiration has always been “Tipografia Marchisio” of Torino. It was a legendary printshop in Torino, the best place to have one’s business cards printed regarding printing quality and elegance of typographic composition. Our aim is to become 50% like them and 50% like an American letterpress & graphic design studio. Our new printshop gave us the possibility to be more productive and organized so we can print more and work on multiple projects at the same time.

Another big plan for 2015 is to sort and catalogue our whole type collection (so to use it more and better) and digitalize the coolest and rarest fonts/type we own.

Extremely huge round of thanks to Davide for letting us getting a peek at the beautiful & amazing Archivio Tipografico! Molto bello!

Design tips for letterpress printing on chipboard

Available in several paper weights, our 100% post-consumer recycled chipboard is a popular paper choice for letterpress printing. Thick and textured, chipboard is kraft brown and completely utilitarian: we’ve printed wedding invitations, business cards, letterpress broadsides, and more on this versatile stock. Today we’re sharing a few tips from designer Angelena Bruesewitz on how to design for chipboard, along with some of our favorite examples of letterpress printing on this popular paper.

Design tips for letterpress printing on chipboard from Boxcar Press

Dark colors + bold lines are a great starting point.

Darker colors tend to be the easiest to work with when it comes to printing on chipboard – you’re sure to have contrast and legibility as long as your line weights are thick enough to be readable.

Kneeling Drunkards letterpress poster | Designed by Jarrod Taylor Design, Letterpress printed by Boxcar Press

Kneeling Drunkards 12″ x 20″ poster, job #25934. Designed by Jarrod Taylor, printed in black ink on 28 pt chipboard on our Cylinder Press

Bold letterpress business cards for UXA Lab - letterpress printed by Boxcar PressBold letterpress business cards for UXA Lab - letterpress printed by Boxcar Press

UXA Lab 3.5” x 2″ business cards, job #26428 for UXA Lab. Printed in Pantone 185U on 60pt chipboard on our Heidelberg Windmill Press

Tips for designing a low contrast piece.

If you’re looking to create a low-contrast piece, make sure your line weights are thick enough to be legible. We recently worked with Angelena to create the identity suite below, which included a double-sided gift card with metallic gold ink on the back. The piece required a second run on press to achieve the desired look, but the end result was a subtle bamboo forest with lots of intricate details.

Letterpress identity suite for The Wellness Tree - printed by Boxcar Press, designed by Angelena BruesewitzLetterpress identity suite for The Wellness Tree - printed by Boxcar Press, designed by Angelena Bruesewitz

Identity suite for The Wellness Tree, jobs #26310 + 24962, designed by Angelena Bruesewitz at the Dandelion Shoppe. 2.5″ x 3.5″ business cards and 5.5″ x 4.25″ note cards, printed in Pantone 1805U on 28pt chipboard. 5″ x 5″ double-sided gift certificates, printed on 60pt chipboard in Pantone 1805U on the front, with a double hit of 874U on the back.

Keep the end use in mind.

When it comes to designing for chipboard and selecting colors and fonts to work with, keep your customer and the end result in mind. If you’re going for something rustic, Angelena recommends tone-on-tone. More fun and playful? Opt for lighter shades with more vibrancy to achieve the look. The earth tones used on the Bedford 234 business cards below matched the restaurant’s rustic, farm to table vibe perfectly.

Letterpress business cards for Bedford 234 | Designed by Sol Shim, printed by Boxcar PressLetterpress business cards for Bedford 234 | Designed by Sol Shim, printed by Boxcar Press

Bedford 234 3.5” x 2″ business cards, job #26802. Designed by Sol Shim, printed in Pantone 161U + 021U on 28 pt chipboard. 

If color accuracy is a priority, consider drawdowns or foil.

Just like printing on any other colored paper, color does shift on chipboard. If color accuracy is of the utmost importance for your clients, foil stamping may be a better choice than letterpress.  Alternatively, we offer a drawdown service for $50 per color if you’d like a test run to see how your color would look on our chipboard.

C_A11A2945Letterpress identity suite for The Wellness Tree - printed by Boxcar Press, designed by Angelena Bruesewitz

Faith Neidig 3.5” x 2″ business cards, job #24666. Designed by Kelly Moses Design, printed in black ink + gold shine foil on 28pt chipboard on our Heidelberg Windmill + Kluge presses. 

Red foil stamped holiday cards - design by Jenny C Design, printing by Boxcar Press

Custom 4.25″  x 5.5″ holiday cards, job #25576. Designed by Jenny C Design, printed in red shine foil on 28pt chipboard on our Kluge.

Go a shade brighter to achieve richer colors.

Because ink colors may appear more dull or muted on chipboard, we recommend going a shade brighter in order to compensate for the difference.

Die-cut product tags - letterpress printed on chipboard by Boxcar Press Die-cut product tags - letterpress printed on chipboard by Boxcar Press Die-cut product tags - letterpress printed on chipboard by Boxcar Press Die-cut product tags - letterpress printed on chipboard by Boxcar Press

Yo Amo 305 1.69″ x 4.25″ product tags, job #25740. Designed by Wynwood Letterpress, printed in Pantone 806U on 28pt chipboard on our Heidelberg Windmill.

Keep size and paper weight in mind.

When it comes to working with chipboard (or any thicker papers), be sure to check your margins when you’re designing – you’ll want to make sure your cards fit in your envelopes! Additionally, postage weights may increase when it comes to heavier paper stocks, so make sure your client is comfortable with any added costs. Lastly, when it comes to sizes and shapes: we’ve found that 60pt chipboard is too thick for die cutting (though we have had success with 40pt chipboard). If creating a unique shape is important, consider straight cuts – the save the date pictured below was trimmed on a regular cutter, but has the look of a die-cut shape.

Letterpress + die-cut save the date tag with gold grommets - designed by Kristin at Reverie Made, printed by Boxcar Press Letterpress + die-cut save the date tag with gold grommets - designed by Kristin at Reverie Made, printed by Boxcar Press Letterpress + die-cut save the date tag with gold grommets - designed by Kristin at Reverie Made, printed by Boxcar Press

Custom save the dates 3.25″ x 5.5″ luggage tag style, job #241166. Designed by Kristin at Reverie Made, printed in black ink on 28pt chipboard. 


Our final piece of advice? Don’t be afraid! Experiment and have fun.

The Creative Buzz of Wasp Print

Through nearly a decade of printing adventures (from printing with Hello!Lucky to opening up shop in his current printing abode in the creative neighborhood hub of East Williamsburg, Brooklyn), Nicholas Hurd of Wasp Print continues to deliver whether it’s serving up a fresh batch of letterpress printed goodies or being inspired by the non-stop creative forces that swirl in New York City. We were able to catch Nicholas for a hot minute to talk shop, where to get the best delivery for those late night print runs, and of course… the mesmerizing awe of watching a Heidelberg Windmill & his beloved Vandercook in action.

Nicholas Hurd of Wasp Print shop in Brooklyn

CREATIVE MAVEN  I am a printer, artist, tattoo collector, maple syrup snob, whiskey drinker, paper fanatic, amateur gardener, drummer, and lover of ink. I live in Brooklyn with my wife Erin, who is an excellent printer on the Vandercook and a poet & writer. We have a 9 lb chihuahua named Reno, who is an extremely accomplished and obsessive fetcher.

Nicholas Hurd of Wasp Print shop in Brooklyn

LETTERPRESS OBSESSED I was first introduced to letterpress while studying printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute. After spending three years learning etching and lithography I was excited to print something where the machine was doing most of the work and large editions were made with ease. After school I worked for 4 years mostly printing greeting cards for Hello!Lucky. They were a wonderful company to work for and it gave me a lot of experience in production printing. The deeper I waded into letterpress printing the more obsessed I became. It’s pretty much the only thing in the world that makes any sense to me.

Letterpress samples from Wasp Print shop in Brooklyn

EAST WILLIAMSBURG WONDER I share the space with another awesome designer/printer, Dan from Sheffield Product. We both love collecting old equipment but operate in a tiny space. Together we have a 10×15 Windmill, 219 Old style Vandercook, 305MC Challenge Paper Cutter, a ton of type and other little bits of equipment. We’re located in a big warehouse building in East Williamsburg in Brooklyn. I print a lot of business cards and some personal stationery as well. I love the hustle and bustle of the city and feature quick turnaround times for those New Yorkers who are moving at lightning speed. We also love collaborations with artists and making political posters with hand set type.

Nicholas Hurd of Wasp Print shop in Brooklyn

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I’m both a designer and a printer. I enjoy designing but really love collaborating with other artists and printers. It is fun to work with people who don’t understand the process because they always bring something new & challenging to the table.

CREATIVE INFLUENCES I really enjoy looking for old printed design elements. I love bright colors and patterns. New York City has a wealth of inspiration for me. Hand painted signs, architecture, and mosaics all influence my design work. A meandering walk through the city always leads to exciting inspiration. I once made a design based on chewing gum on subway platform. I was designing something that looked spacey and noticed that the gum on the platform looked like planets in a solar system.

Letterpress samples from Wasp Print shop in Brooklyn

Behind the scenes at Wasp Print shop in Brooklyn

FULL TIME FUN Yes, this is a full time operation. After working for other printers and stationers for 10 years I finally set up my own shop a year ago. I work some seriously long hours. Fortunately there are tons of awesome food delivery places nearby and Fleetwood Mac albums to keep me sustained. I see a lot of old printers going out of business who are not keeping up with the design aesthetic and print needs of people in this city. It’s sad to see them go but they are operating on an outdated model of what printing is presently used for. I have found that there is actually a huge market for printing and letterpress. There’s a real longing in this digital age for a well made and tangible object.

PRINTING FEATS I love making wood type posters and every time I make one I am proud of it whether it’s a political poster that I can distribute at a demonstration or a poster for a local whiskey distiller.

Letterpress Posters by Wasp Print

BOXCAR’S ROLE The Boxcar Base and plate system has been great to letterpress printers everywhere. Plate switchover on a Boxcar Base is the easiest and fastest system.

PRESS HISTORY I learned how to print on Vandercooks but the first real press I ever bought was a Windmill. It really is the most beautiful machine. Once you start using one of these it’s hard to go back to any other machine. The feeding, registration, inking and impression are all top notch with this press. It looks like a perfectly choreographed ballet every time I turn it on.

Heidelberg Windmill at Wasp Print in Brooklyn, NY

SHOP TIPS I keep my best tricks a secret, but the best advice I can give anyone who is interested in letterpress is to have patience and enjoy the problem solving aspects of the work. We do this not because it is easy but because the finished product looks great. Expect every job to be a struggle – you might have to fight the paper, ink, press or design- but hopefully not all four.

Letterpress samples from Wasp Print in Brooklyn

WHAT’S NEXT I plan to keep on printing, expanding our equipment and making more posters with members of NYC’s passionate and amazing activist community. I would like to get into making ‘zines and books too!

Huge round of thanks out to Nicholas Hurd of Wasp Print for letting us take a peek into his inspiring world of letterpress!

Printing Traditions at The Tympanum Press

When you step over the threshold of the warm & cheery Goshen, Indiana apartment that houses The Tympanum Press, you find yourself surrounded by the delicate smell of ink, the intoxicating jingling laughter of Amy & Richard Worsham’s daughters, and a Kelsey set-up lovingly in the living room (next to the accoutrements of a shop that’s steeped deep in family printing traditions). We sat down with the husband-and-wife duo to talk shop, printing at home, and the joys of leaving the house with relatively clean fingernails.

Amy Worsham of The Tympanum  Press

HOME-STYLE PRINTING I’m Amy Worsham from the The Tympanum Press. My background is in graphic design, with experience in bookbinding and paper making. I homeschool our two youngest girls and operate our press out of our home in downtown Goshen, Indiana.

THE INK RUNS DEEP My husband has printing ink in his blood. His great-grandfather took to printing early in life and as a boy earned enough to pay for his small press and buy a bicycle before leaving school. He went to work for Joseph Bryan, a prominent Virginia newspaperman, who shortly after acquired the Richmond Times. He was sent to New York by Bryan to learn the operation of the linotype machine and met its inventor, Ottmar Merganthaler, in Baltimore on his return trip. In 1892 he set up the first linotype machine in Virginia, and eventually went on to found the Richmond Press, which he ran into the 1940’s. We still use the Kelsey Excelsior that he bought for his son, Richard’s grandfather, who in turn ran it as a job press for many years. In 1998, Richard trained under Walter Clements at the Rugby Print Works and had been running the press since then on small jobs for friends and family.

We started working together shortly after we were married to bring in a little extra money while we were still in college. We didn’t advertise and considered ourselves mostly a hobby press, but were amazed at the interest in our work. Graduate school drew us to South Bend, Indiana in 2009 where we decided to open as a job press. Since then, we have gradually expanded our portfolio from business cards and invitations to everything from broadsides to even small books.

Letterpress printing from The Tympanum Press

CLOSE TO HOME Our print shop has always been run out of our apartment. We have our old reliable Kelsey 5×8, so we’ve always managed to set aside a corner of our living space dedicated to our press. Recently the area needed for our press space has increased as we’ve expanded our line by taking in more jobs from online sales sources like Square Marketplace and Etsy.

Our current workspace is what some might call a living room. The press, tables, shelving, and equipment take up most of the space, but since both Richard and I are self-employed, we don’t have much time for lounging around anyway. It is truly amazing how much can be accomplished with the right attitude and well-made equipment, no matter what size.

Amy Worsham + letterpress printing from The Tympanum Press

DESIGNED TO PRINT My background is in graphic design. Richard takes the side of the cranky printer, and enjoys setting in cold type with a light impression, while I have brought the adaptability of digital design and graphic arts training to our letterpress process. Our goal is to pair the tradition of printing with modern techniques and create things that remind us of the power of the printed word.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS Depending on the project I’ll either grab a pencil and start sketching or go straight to the computer. For many of our cards and graphics I use Adobe Illustrator, but I also do a good number of linoleum block cuts on or off the press. For custom projects, I like to start with a number of precedents, honing it in with a pencil and paper, and finally moving to the computer for a final pre-proof design.

FULL TIME FUN Since starting the Tympanum Press, we have transitioned from small jobs, mostly for fun, to part-time job printing, to regular work, but in the last year it has become a full-time operation for me. As orders continue to come in, we are looking for a larger press and additional equipment, as well as space outside our home. It is amazing how far we have come operating the press just like those old advertisements promised in the 20’s.

Letterpress printing at The Tympanum Press

PRINTING FEATS Gosh, this question is tough. Sometimes in our hectic schedules mixing the perfect color is an accomplishment… Sometimes leaving the house with relatively clean fingernails is an accomplishment!

PRESS HISTORY We’re still printing on our very first press, the reliable 5×8 Kelsey Excelsior. Richard was trained on a Pearl and we are definitely looking for a larger floor press. We never had the space since we’ve always printed out of our home, but since we’ve gone full time I am very excited at the hugely expanded potential of a larger press.

The Tympanum Press prints with a 5x8 Kelsey Excelsior

BOXCAR’S ROLE Photopolymer plates, especially with the Boxcar Base, have allowed me to tailor our printing to our community and combine my love for design with the versatility of letterpress. Boxcar has allowed me to create a cohesive line of products within my budget.

SHOP TIPS Never rush a print job. Take your time. When nothing is working, clean it all up and start again.

Letterpress printing from The Tympanum Press

WHAT’S NEXT 2015 is going to be a great year for us. We’re not only investing in a larger press and plenty more lead type, but we also have big plans for much more platemaking through Boxcar as way to get many of our customers the types of stationery styles they are looking for.

Huge heaps of thanks out to Amy and Richard for letting us take a sneak peak into the wonderful world of The Tympanum Press!

(photography courtesy of Grant Beachy)

2015 Valentine’s Day Letterpress Gift Guide

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, why not indulge your letterpress lovin’ sweetie with one of our hand-picked gifts sure to inspire l’amour this cozy Valentine’s Day weekend! Let us know what you’re getting your sweetheart this year in the comments below!

2015 Valentine's Day gift guide from Boxcar Press

1. Handbound Leather Journal from That Grace Restored | 2. Paper Swatch Sample Kit by Twinrocker  (to introduce your printer to fab handmade paper options) | 3. For the Love of Letterpress book by Cathie Saunders | 4. C.S. Lewis Letterpress Print by 9th Letter Press| 5. Printing Press Letterpress Coasters by Boxcar Press | 6. Famous Person Printers Blocks from Damosels Printers Blocks (a great gift to inspire your favorite printer)  | 7. And Furthermore Valentine’s Day Letterpress Card by Paprika Letterpress

2015 Valentine's Day gift guide from Boxcar Press

8. Swing Away Lay Gauge by Boxcar Press | 9. Lettepress type throw pillow by Marieken | 10. Letterpress Type Shower Curtain by Headcase Press | 11. Letterpress Postage Stamps by alicing | 12.MoMA Cubes Perpetual Calendar in CMYK from the MoMA store | 13. Chocolate Type by Typolade | 14. Pantone Storage Container from Pantone