The Call of the Press at Creative Beasties Workshop

Most letterpress printers find a sense of home in the happy clinking & whirling of the press. Danny Rhoades of Creative Beasties Workshop is no exception. The IT-by-day and printer-by-night found the letterpress bug bit hard after planning his own wedding. Turning part of his garage into his printing mecca, Danny finds inspiration in exploring creative options with his clients, his supportive family, and letting the press provide valuable teaching moments. Since our last visit with Danny, he caught us up on new printing tricks, the feeling when registration is spot on, and the wonderful rhythms printing has played in his life.

PRINTING JAM SESSIONS + FAMILY LIFE I’m a 37 year old married father of 2 adorable twin girls (age 2). It’s mostly me by myself printing since my wife is usually dealing with the kids. I sometimes have creative friends come over for printing sessions but other than that it’s just me.

BLOSSOMING PRINTING LOVE When my wife and I were planning our own wedding we both got super interested in the invitation options out there and came across letterpress. I instantly fell in love and that eventually blossomed into Creative Beasties Workshop.

PRINTSHOP EFFICIENCY Our workshop is in the tandem portion of our garage. It’s only about 288 sq ft so it’s very limited. My favorite thing about it is the Heidelberg Windmill 10×15 press that brings it all together.

AT HOME PRINTING  We’re in a pretty new constructed suburban neighborhood. The most interesting thing about our home is that it backs up to a 20 ft. sound wall for Highway 65.

PRINTING MENTORS One of the first people to teach me about letterpress was a gentleman I met on the Briarpress.org forums who goes by the handle, Inky. He taught both my wife and I the basics and helped us really understand the foundations of the process. I owe him a lot.

PART TIME PRINTING, FULL TIME FUN I wish I could print full time, but with a mortgage and budding family, I can’t afford to do that just yet. I work in IT and my day job pretty much supplements our workshop quite a bit.

DESIGN BROUGHT TO LIFE I don’t design as much as I’d like mostly due to time constraints, but when I do it’s usually after a lengthy conversation/meeting with the client to fully understand their motivation and inspiration so I can bring it to life and elevate it the best I can. One of my weaknesses is not knowing when to stop. This is something I am working on, and think I’m getting better … but I know it’s a flaw of mine.

PRINTING FEATS One of my proudest moments occurred when I was able to produce a 3 color work, shortly after having trained only for three days on the press. The registration was perfect and the colors were spot on.

PRESS HISTORY I learned on a C&P old style, but when I bought my own I went straight for the kill and got a Heidelberg Windmill 10×15. I didn’t even know how to use it! I was super scared at first and had to take a three day training to understand how to work it.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Anytime I need any advice … or help with a job I can always count on Boxcar to be there to walk me through it.

PRINTING TIPS For just starting out, don’t blame yourself too much. I blamed my inexperience a lot before I realized there was an actual problem with the press that needed to be fixed. The same thing happened with rollers. Once I changed to a different supplier things worked out much better. Sometimes, it is actually the equipment.

WHAT’S NEXT I hope to continue printing and eventually build a client base that can support me printing full time.

A big, huge Windmill-size round of thanks out to Danny of Creative Beasties Press! We look forward to seeing what cool, new projects come his way.

The Inquisitive Printer: Extra Things That Caught Our Eye

From cool printing events happening in central New York and across the border into Canada (as well as a nifty pitstop for an unusual store in Alabama), we focus in on amazing things happening that captured our attention this week. We hope you enjoy this latest edition of things that caught our eye (and maybe jump-start some new project or travel destination plans!)

Madeline Bartley: Outside of working in the Boxcar printshop, I play with other forms of printmaking. Such as carving a woodblock. Like a really big 4 foot by 4 foot block. I really enjoy working with large scale imagery. The making of this woodblock is leading up to an outdoor event called the Big Ol’ Steamrollin’ Print Invitational.

Instead of a large printing press, you rent a steamroller to apply the pressure to transfer ink onto fabric. This will be my third year participating in the Big Ol’ Steamrollin’ Print Invitational and overall my sixth time I have been involved with steamrolled prints.

The Big Ol’ Steamrollin’ Print Invitational will be taking place on Friday, June 29th during the 2018 MWPAI Arts Fest. It is free and open to the public.

PrattMWP Gallery is located in the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Museum of Art
at 310 Genesee Street, Utica, New York.

Cathy Smith: I have been emailing with a gentleman from Canada who bought a press last year – a Heidelberg Wiindmill 10×15 – and he says it’s part of his retirement program!  He also enjoys a little public speaking and wood engraving. Why buy the press?  He started a Butterfly Conservatory in Cambridge, Ontario 18 years ago and it’s time to embrace a new challenge.  Check out the Butterfly Conservatory as it is beyond impressive in terms of programs, exhibits, and gardens.  I love when customers share cool things with me!

Rebecca Miller:  For your next trip to the library or bookstore, we heartily recommend checking out “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” by Mason Currey. A delightful book that logs the daily routines and anecdotes of famous creatives from Charles Dickens to Benjamin Franklin (a fellow printer, we might add). This delightful book is a page-turner for the trivia-enthusiast as well as the creative artist or printer seeking inspiration for organizing their day-to-day workflow.

Ever wonder where some of unclaimed luggage goes to? Although we can’t say whether the Unclaimed Baggage Store in Scottsboro, Alabama has a container of pied type or a case of vintage lead type, we love the notion that there is a “catch all” brick-and-mortar store for those bags that are never claimed.

Never fear, the items & luggage that are in this store go through a rigorous 3-month tracing period by the airlines. Once the all-clear is given, the Unclaimed Baggage Store buys the items before putting anything on the shelves for sale. If something cannot be sold but is still in good condition, the store then donates them to those in need.

Do you have a cool thing you’d like to share with us, an awesome printing event coming up that you’d like to give a shout-out to, or see something cool that catches your eye? Email us at info@boxcarpress.com as we’d love to hear from you! We’re always on the look-out for wonderful + fun things!

The Nature of Creative Beasties Workshop

West of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range and northeast of Sacramento is the beautiful city of Lincoln, California.  It’s home to the Creative Beasties Workshop and printing abode of Danny Rhoades.  The garage-turned-printing haven features the thrum of a Heidelberg Windmill on which Danny creates his latest colorful creations.  Danny throws open the doors to give us a tour of his studio.

EVERCHANGING WORKSPACE The workshop is in the tandem portion of our garage. I had a bunch of fluorescent tube lights installed to give better lighting. Other than that it’s pretty sparse. We tried to finish it with some texture and paint but we didn’t know what we were doing and made a mess. Then we decided just to leave it half done because we ran out of time and had to stop for equipment delivery.

THE HEART OF THE SHOP My favorite thing in the shop is my Heidelberg Windmill. It’s the heart of our workshop and is what makes all of our letterpress projects happen.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP It’s right around 288 square feet. 14’8″ x 19’8″

CALIFORNIA NEIGHBORHOOD Our house backs up to a highway, so our backyard view is a 20 foot sound wall. We’re in a recently developed suburban family neighborhood.

TYPE OF SHOP I’d actually really like to open my shop up to community printers and let them use my equipment to allow budding printers get started. However, I don’t know how to make that happen yet since I’m worried about the legality of it and if it creates any liabilities or risk which I’m sure it does.

THE PRESSES We rely on our Heidelberg Windmill 10×15 press from the late 70s to print all out letterpress projects. We also have some digital printers, a hobby laser cutter, vinyl cutter, and a heat press.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL There’s so many things I rely on heavily, but if I had to pick one, I’d go with my oil can. It really makes maintenance a breeze.

FAVORITE INK Van Son Rubber base inks are what we use. Current favorite ink color is probably Orange. I used it in a split fountain test run along with Purple and it really took me by surprise how nice of a color it is.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE We took Boxcar’s advice and use California wash. It seems to do the best job overall. We’ve also use odorless mineral spirits from time to time along with a roller wash we got from a local distributor, but usually come back to California wash again due to its reliability.

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE We use a Boxcar Base system, of course, along with KF95 and KF152 plates depending on the job. We’ve been using this system since inception in 2014.

OIL OF CHOICE We use Mobile DTE Oil Heavy.

WHAT TYPE OF RAG DO YOU CLEAN UP WITH We use Scott shop towels and white cotton rags that we cut from t-shirts.

PIED TYPE No type, we do everything on photopolymer.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE I keep all my packing materials in a drawer pre-sorted by weight for easy setup. I do the same with pretty much all my materials, but that’s the best example.

PRINTING ADVICE Spend the time to line up your plates on the Base. If you’re careful, you can save a ton of time on press.

Top 20 of ’18 Mother’s Day Letterpress Gift Guide

From being your Queen Bee to the one who knows whether you like the crust cut off your sandwiches (or not!), we rally up the 20 of ’18 of the most beautiful, humorous, and heartfelt Mother’s Day letterpress gifts to show Mom who’s tops. See a gorgeous must-have that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

mothers-day-letterpress-gift-guide-1

1. Therapist-Approved Mother’s Day card by Shed Letterpress  | 2. Wine Bottle Tags for Mom by Chez Gagne |  3. What I Learned From My Mother Broadside by Campbell Raw Press  | 4. Mom Yelling – I Love You card by Ladyfingers Letterpress  | 5. Super Mom card by Hello Lucky

mothers-day-letterpress-gift-guide-1

6. Mom’s Recipe card by Blackbird Letterpress  | 7. Super Mom card by The Fingersmith Press  | 8. Mother-Daughter Timeline letterpress card  from Chez Gagne |  9. Orange Bouquet card by Sesame Letterpress  | 10. Needlepoint Mother’s Day card by Greenwich Letterpress

11. Buy Mom a yearly membership in Ladies of Letterpress  | 12.  Happy Mother’s Day Tulips by deeandlala |  13. Mom Heart by Karolin Schnoor from Bison Bookbinding & Letterpress

mothers-day-letterpress-gift-guide-1

14. Tip-top Mother’s Day card by Anemone Letterpress  | 15. Mothers day specialty letterbox from sky of blue cards  |  16. Gal Who Fixes Everything card by Igloo Letterpress  | 17. Beautiful Letterpress Coasters by Haute Papier (pick a fun one for mom!) |  18.  Fun and colorful letterpress notebooks from Hammerpress  |  19. Letterpress Flower coasters by Ruby Press  | 20. Boxcar Baby T-shirts from Boxcar Press (for moms-to-be)

How to Shorten Crop Marks In Adobe Illustrator

When you are creating crop marks in Adobe Illustrator using the Effect>Crop Marks feature, the next natural question is: “How can I shorten them to save on custom-made platemaking costs and paper?”

We’ve put together a helpful quick tutorial of steps to demystify this task.

Making Crop Marks Editable So You Can Shorten Them

First, Open your file in Adobe Illustrator that contains crop marks (ones that were created using the Effect > Crop Mark feature. If you need a refresher on how to do this, our wonderful tutorial is here!).

Select everything on your artboard. You can do this by manually selecting everything with your black arrow (default tool) or via Object > Select All. You’ll notice that the crop marks themselves are not selected. This is normal and fine.

Next, click Object > Expand Appearances (or Object > Expand). This will now make the crop marks editable.

Then, use the black arrow (default tool) to shorten your crop marks down from the default of 0.5″ to 0.25”. You can also thicken up your crop marks with extra strokes to bring them up to your plate type’s minimum line thickness minimum at this point, too.

Feel free to contact our prepress team if you have any questions as we’d be happy to help out. Stay tuned for more wonderful file prep tips and tutorials!

The Inquisitive Printer: More Things That Caught Our Eye

Our focus lately has gone from New York to New Mexico and over the water.  We hope you enjoy what has captured our attention this week.

From Carrie: A windmill printer at Boxcar Press.
On the Letterpress Digest podcast: As a giant letterpress and book nerd, I was so thrilled to hear about a new product devoted to my beloved particular form of the Black Arts. The host, Jordan, interviews printers, suppliers, and others active in the field.  It has been a treat to hear my letterpress heroes talk about their adventures and get to know others I may have missed out on otherwise.  The interviews have been engaging and educational and had me laughing at things only other print nerds would find funny.  Even though only a dozen episodes have aired, I can’t wait to hear who will be next.  This is exactly what my printer’s heart was longing for – hearing letterpress things while making letterpress things.

From Cathy: On Facebook, there is a great resource of printing brains and experience over at The Heidelberg Letterpress Page so I have been encouraging all to join this group.

Next, I am a big fan of knowing how things are made, so this story in the New York Times combines some pretty nifty photography with a good story on one of America’s last pencil factories.  It raises my respect for this basic tool.

tom leech(photography courtesy of savingplaces.org)

So excited to see an article about the Print Shop and Bindery at New Mexico’s Palace of the Governors, with an interview with printer, Tom Leech.  Tom and I have corresponded over the years so am loving this peek into the working shop / museum.

From Rebecca:  Coming in May 2018, the inspiring folks over at the Corning Museum of Glass (just a day-trip drive from our location here in Syracuse) will be launching the GlassBarge ship.

barge(photography courtesy of Corning Museum of Glass)

This barge ship will sail through the New York Waterways (visiting & stopping from ports in Brooklyn to Buffalo) this spring while giving free glassblowing demonstrations to the public in each port city on its itinerary. A rare and wonderful event that we’ll be checking out when it comes to town!

We hope you explore some of our links and perhaps learn a little bit more about the things that caught our eye here at Boxcar Press.  Email us at info@boxcarpress.com the things that delight you also!

Inquisitive Printers Want to Know – Things that Caught Our Eye

Those of us here at Boxcar Press are a searching, probing, questioning bunch of folks.  We are drawn to many things creative, fascinating and colorful.  Letterpress definitely fits those criteria, so we have to believe all of you out there are like-minded as us.  It should be no surprise we discover through reading and listening and yes, emails from you, a goodly number of interesting stories that are parts imaginative, informative, and just plain neat.  We are sharing folks too.  Every other week, we endeavor to pass on to you a few bits of knowledge that have caught our eye and think you might ooh and ahh over as well.  So, here goes…

From Cathy:  A video on a German papermaker that is hypnotic and soothing as you watch him at his craft.  

From Norway, the Future Library – An incredible story of a forest that was planted in 2014 and in one hundred years will be harvested to make paper to print 100 books written in that time period. The part I particularly like is that they are also preserving a printing press and instructions to operate it, in the event that books may not even be printed on paper in 100 years.  I think a letterpress machine is perfect for this and have pondered which press might be fitting. The whole undertaking of the Future Library fascinates on many levels.

haunted press in Toronto, Canada
(photo courtesy of www.printcan.com)

And for fun, an amusing story about an alleged haunted Washington Model printing press in Toronto Canada. in the home of a newspaper editor.  Perhaps he has a deadline to meet.

From Rebecca:  Graphene is a technological marvel to watch out for as it is on the fast-track to revolutionize the medical, construction & safety, and art realms. This material has been documented as being 200 times stronger than steel, yet lighter than paper. Here’s a fascinating “how it’s made” video to pique the mind and jump-start new ways of utilizing this material. Maybe one day the mighty graphene will affect the way printers of all disciplines use their machines in new creative ways?

Next, we’ve been following letterpress printer Tristan Rodman for quite a while on his experiments with letterpress printing and creating playable paper records. Tristan has been keeping a log of his experiments and perhaps with a few more tweaks, letterpress can pave a way for a new way of sharing and collecting musical masterpieces.

Bonus: Although a few years old, listening to the first 3-d printed record album still gives us goosebumps as the needle hits the plastic. We find it a fine choice to honor Nirvana with this intriguing new way to braid new 3-d printing technologies with old school craftsmanship.

We hope you explore some of our links and perhaps learn a little bit more about what interests us here at Boxcar Press.  Email us at info@boxcarpress.com the things that delight you also!

Top 14 Valentine’s Day Letterpress Gift Guide-2018

Specially chosen with care, we tally up 14 beautiful, heartfelt, and humorous 2018 Valentine’s Day letterpress gifts, including cards, prints, and letterpress classes (date night, anyone?).  Let us know what you are getting your printing paramour this year in the comments below!

Valentine's Day Gift Guide 2018 - featuring classes, cards, and beautiful letterpress prints.

1. Tinder Love card by Steel Petal Press  |  2. Trap Valentines card by Bench Pressed |  3. Letterpress Valentine’s Day Card Making workshop (February 13th, 2018 – Pittsford, NY)  |  4. Personalized letterpress notecards by Inclosed Letterpress Co.  | 5. You & Me Letterpress Love Greeting Card by Paisley Dog Press

Valentine's Day Gift Guide 2018 - featuring classes, cards, and beautiful letterpress prints.

6. Personalized large primary notepads by Haute Papier   |  7. Main Squeeze letterpress card by Inclosed Letterpress Co. | 8. James Joyce Letterpress Quotation Valentine Card by LarryOrlandoDesign  |  9.  Tear & Share letterpress valentines perforated cards by Igloo Letterpress |  10.  Introduction to Letterpress class by Igloo Letterpress (date night anyone?)

Valentine's Day Gift Guide 2018 - featuring classes, cards, and beautiful letterpress prints.

11. e.e. cummings lettterpress print by Thimblepress  |  12. Cheers to Us – Valentine Love Lobsters letterpress card by darlinpress  | 13. Letterpress Valentines Cards class (February 11th, 2018 – Fort Lauderdale, FL)  |  14. Anywhere With You letterpress card by Permanent Collection

Taking Flight With Mejiro Graphics

Harumi Kobayashi of Mejiro Graphics is a letterpress printer whose pan-Pacific Ocean life travels have brought her zen on press, a wealth of creativity, and a patient approach to challenges on her beloved Chandler & Price. Her eye-catching, beautifully crafted letterpress work features whimsical Japanese-style artwork with bold, striking colors. Harumi fills us in on the trek so far and what lies ahead on her printing & creative horizons.

Harumi Kobayashi enjoys a cup of tea after printing on her C&P at Meijiro Graphics.
Eye popping color of whimsical and beautiful Japanese cats in kimonos grace Harumi Kobayashi's expertly printed letterpress cards.

THE PRINTING ADVENTURES SO FAR I am originally from Japan and I’ve been interested in lettering and calligraphy since I was a child. I was able to use my calligraphy experience and take a position as an assistant to a freelance book cover designer in Tokyo. After this I worked for a printing company in their graphic design department. In 2003 my husband and I moved to the US. We lived in Kauai, Hawaii and Port Ludlow, WA.

When we lived in Port Ludlow, we found a two-week-old kitten in the forest and we bottle-fed and raised him. Since then Olele is a member of our family and the inspiration for my letterpress card designs.

Harumi Kobayashi says hello with her cat; gives a tour to her printing press shop.

In 2016, we moved to Sherman, TX, where I work at a small commercial printing shop.

FINDING CREATIVITY When we moved to the States, I established Mejiro Graphics** and I’ve been enjoying working as a graphic designer. Later I taught myself web design to broaden my services.

Creating the websites was interesting, but I felt I was always trying to keep up with current trends and technologies. It was about then that my sister told me about letterpress printing. I googled letterpress and learned about people who still put value in setting lead type and printing on fine paper [and] on old printing presses. I felt I had found something that I had been looking for and was hidden inside me for a very long time. I told my husband I wanted to buy an antique printing press. He enthusiastically supported me and helped me find a press and he built me a printing shop.

**A Mejiro [may-gee-row], or Japanese White-eye, is a small olive-green songbird with a conspicuous white eye-ring.

A cozy and neatly set-up letterpress print shop is home to Harumi Kobayashi and Meijiro Graphics.

SEASIDE ENDEAVORS We moved to Port Ludlow, WA so my husband could attend a wooden-boat-building school, and we were very lucky to rent a house on Puget Sound. So my husband built his shop and my printing shop in the 2-car garage, and we each had an ocean view. It was very quiet and peaceful. We heated our shops with wood we harvested from the forest and felt quite self-sufficient.

PRINTING MENTORS I was delighted to get to know Ellie Mathews and Carl Youngmann at the North Press in Port Townsend, WA. Ellie taught me how to set type and Carl always gave us good advice and solutions when we had problems about printing. Through them we met many local letterpress printers and bookbinders.

Their work and their enthusiasm for printing inspired me a lot.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I’m a designer and a printer. I enjoy exploring and sketching the ideas for our greeting cards. My husband and I evaluate the designs and re-sketch many times. When we’re satisfied with the design, I scan the sketch, create a digital file in Adobe Illustrator, and fine-tune the design.

Sketches for upcoming letterpress printed cards feature Japanese cats in elegant kimonos. Artwork by Harumi Kobayashi.

I order the polymer plates at the Boxcar Press. When I receive the plates, I mount it on a Base, hand-mix the ink and print it. As all you know, the press doesn’t work the same way every time and we are sometimes frustrated. But usually one of us has patience and comes up with an idea to fix the problem.

We put our hearts into the process and we’re always happy and content when we see the finished card. It’s delightful to see the colors come alive when printing on fine paper and for the image to take on the depth that letterpress printing gives.

PRINTING FEATS I’m proud that my husband restored our press completely. In addition, when we realized how important it was for the rails to be flat and of even height after a lot of trial and error printing, he began to think of ways to build up the rails. He wasn’t satisfied with the multiple layers of tape to make up for the heavily worn uneven rails so he disassembled the press again and using a metal and epoxy mixture, renewed the rails to almost new condition. Then we moved on to inking and other challenging printing issues. I’m happy that we worked together and continued to enjoy the challenge of printing our original greeting cards.

Meijiro Graphic is home to gorgeous letterpress printing and a beautiful Chandler & Price printing press. Harumi Kobayashi helms the vintage metal beauty.

PRESS HISTORY We found our first press in Portland, OR. We brought it home covered in tarps in a rainstorm, of course. It is an old-style 1890, 8×12 Chandler & Price. It is our first and only press for now. We think it is beautiful.

BOXCAR’S ROLE When we bought our press, we didn’t know anything about printing and polymer plates, and we didn’t know anybody to ask. When we called Boxcar Press, they were always happy to help us and gave us information and suggestions.

SHOP TIPS I have two Boxcar Bases of the same size. For two-color printing, I put each plate on a Base and test print without inking to adjust registration and packing. This way I can see where to add packing easily and it helps avoid the ink drying out on the plates because we use and prefer oil based ink.

Clean, beautiful Japanese-styled letterpress prints are favorites of Harumi Kobayashi's work. Fun & bright colored halloween letterpress printed card from Harumi Kobayashi features japanese-influenced cats.

WHAT’S NEXT When we moved to Texas, unfortunately we needed to put our press in storage. We don’t have a lot of extra money at the moment so we’re looking for a free or low-cost place to set up our shop. I have several new card designs and hope we’ll be able to print them in early 2018.

A huge round of thanks out to Harumi Kobayashi of Mejiro Graphics (Etsy store) as we’re eager to see what she comes up in the not-too-distant future. 

Real and Beautiful: South Carolina’s R&B Printery

R&B Printery is a letterpress haven to husband-and-wife team Robin & Brannon Carter. From down-south roots, clean printed impressions, pops of punchy color, and a whole lot of letterpress love, the South Carolina duo’s work continues to inspire. We catch up with the creative couple to talk shop, honoring their printing mentors, and the allure of pulling open vintage drawers of metal type for the first time.

FROM REFRIGERATION INSPIRATION BOARD TO TAKING THE PLUNGE My wife Robin and I were already on a journey to discover a creative outlet that we could adventure into together when we happened to open an issue of Southern Living Magazine and read an article featuring 9thletterpress out of Florida. The old vintage press, stacks of clean paper, and colorful inks intrigued us.  At the time, I really had no idea what letterpress printing even was!  We tore out the article and hung it on our refrigerator for inspiration.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

A few months went by as we continued searching and talking about what would inspire us.  One day standing in front of the refrigerator, I looked at that photo and said, “I wonder if there is anyone around us doing letterpress?  Someone we could take a class from. See what letterpress is all about”. After some internet searching and a few phone calls to local artists, we discovered that there was this old guy in Spartanburg, South Carolina (at the time we were living in the next county over) teaching the art of letterpress.  We looked him up and signed up for his introductory to letterpress class.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

We took the Intro class.  Then signed up to take his Letterpress 2 class. Meanwhile, we discovered that the printing studio where he worked was part of an artists’ cooperative.  The printing studio was amazing!  Drawers full of old vintage metal and wood type, century old printing presses, and everything you’d need to have fun printing, all ready to go!

So, having no real background in art, other than childhood art classes for both of us in high school, we took the leap, signed up to be members of the West Main Artists’ Cooperative and set out to become real letterpress artisans!  Oh, and that old guy became our mentor and cherished friend.

We ended up moving just to be near the presses when we officially launched R&B Printery!

PRINTING IN THE PALMETTO STATE Our printing studio is in the basement of the West Main Artists Co-op in Spartanburg, SC.  The Artists Co-op hosts creative spaces for 50+ local artists in an old renovated Baptist church building turned gallery and studio space just two minutes from the heart of downtown Spartanburg.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods. Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

As member artists of the co-op, we get to mingle and share creative space and ideas with some amazing artists.  From other printmakers, to fine jewelry, ceramics, glass works, fiber arts, painting and water colors, to music, photography, and videography, the co-op is home to a breadth of creative talent.

The city of Spartanburg, the only city in the United States with this unique name, has a vibrant art community centered around a Downtown Cultural District, featuring an array of outdoor art, including a new Lighten Up Spartanburg walking light bulb outdoor exhibition featuring 28 light bulb sculptures.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

We work out of the co-op for print production and our home studio (which is just a mile away – bought for that very location!) for design, inventory, and shipping.

PRINTING MENTORS The late Mr. William “Bill” Wheatley (that old guy we mentioned earlier), was our mentor for several years and helped us through the beginning stages of learning the technical aspects of printing with vintage presses and equipment.  Sadly, he died in 2015 but his legacy lives on as we try to continue what he started.  Wheatley worked tirelessly to build a printing space that could move beyond simply housing old stuff to be admired, to creating a living, breathing print studio that could run as a fully-functioning print shop.  We still miss him.

We love Instagram for its ability to find and follow amazing letterpress artists. InkMeetsPaper, Waltzletterpress, Sunnymullarkeystudio and PhilipHunterBell are just some of the amazing artists that we follow and are inspired by.

DESIGNER + PRINTING TEAM We are a husband and wife team living, working, and creating in the Upstate of South Carolina.  We both grew up as creatives.  Robin, in a house surrounded by a family and a lifestyle that nurtured the creative spark.  I grew up from an early age drawing with a pencil through my early high school years, even taking AP Art.  Our natural giftedness for art was set aside for both of us as we became involved in other school-related activities.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

But, the small flicker of that creative spark is what brought us to letterpress printing.  I love getting my hands dirty with activities such as positioning type in visually appealing arrangements.  I also handled the digital design elements for our custom clients.  Robin has always been drawn to hand lettering.  In college, she was the unofficial banner maker for her sorority, hand painting most of their event banners.  Hand lettering our line of letterpress greeting cards is now a major design focus for Robin. You can watch a short video of us working in our studio.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

We both hold Masters degrees in biology and have worked as professional teachers.  Robin also has an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science. So, we both bring this need to protect the environment into our printing.  We consider ourselves first, an eco-friendly letterpress printing studio.  Our line of greeting cards uses a 100% post-consumer waste (PCW) recycled, 110# card stock manufactured in Germany and sourced locally here in the United States. Our in-house envelopes are also 100% PCW recycled and our clear card sleeves are made of a corn-based bio-plastic that is compostable and 100% biodegradable.  We recycle papers and makeready materials through our production and packaging process, reusing and reclaiming scraps for other purposes.  We also use soy-based inks, and collect discarded and reclaimed inks to keep them out of the landfill.

FULL TIME FUN WITH A DASH OF PART-TIME PLAY Brannon has just recently, about 6 months ago, been able to devote all of his official “work” time to R&B Printery.  Robin still teaches online high school, but devotes her time away from the classroom to designs, local artist markets, and social media. Maybe one day, we’ll both be free to pursue our creative side together full-time!

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

PRINTING FEATS I think one of the biggest points of excitement for us is to look back at some of our very first designs and prints.  Cards we thought were amazing and that people would just love to purchase and put in the mail.  To look back now, four years later and wonder “what were we thinking!”.  Some of our early prints were terrible!  But looking at where we are now, that we’ve been able to persevere the highs and lows of starting and running your own small business, and to see that we can now truly print some wonderful letterpress pieces that our clients love, this just makes us ecstatic!  We hope 4 years from now we will still look back and think the same thing about what we are producing today as evidence of continued improvement and ongoing growth!

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

Another accomplishment we are proud of is that we’ve designed and built custom displays for participating in handmade markets and pop up shops.  Our newest display is only a few months old but we debuted it at the prestigious Indie Craft Parade in September.  It was a feat of engineering to build something modular so it would fit into our car while still being eye catching to draw in shoppers.  We are super proud of the way we built in the ability to run a video of our process on loop with our iPad Pro as a part of the display.  It’s proven to be a wonderful way to introduce new clients to our process and discuss ways we can print something custom just for them.

MEET THE PRESS FAMILY As I stated earlier, we were lucky in finding the West Main Artists Co-op and being able to benefit from all of the hard work of those who built the printing studio from scratch.

Our main workhorse press, that we started on and still use today, is a vintage 1906, 8×12 Chandler & Price old style.  We are lucky to also have access to a manual Vandercook proof press that we use for some custom projects.  We also have a newer 10×15 Chandler & Price Craftsman style that we’re in the final stages of getting operational.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar Press is our go-to provider for everything photopolymer.  We use the Boxcar base + photopolymer plate system and have found the team in platemaking to be extremely knowledgeable when questions arise.  It feels like we have a team of people working for us when we send off designs to have made into plates.  Every once in a while, I’ll get a call from platemaking to check on a rendering aspect of our design which we greatly appreciate.

The Boxcar videos on setting the roller height of our presses using a roller gauge were extremely helpful early on.  The blog and articles at Boxcar and the discussions posted on Letterpress Commons have been invaluable during the learning process.

SHOP TIPS I write and mark all over my boxcar base during makeready and setup.  Periodically, I need to clean up my base and start with a clean slate.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

I’ve found that Mr. Clean Magic Erasers do an AMAZING job of bringing my Boxcar base back to life.  Two minutes and a Magic Eraser and it looks like I’ve bought a new base!

WHAT’S NEXT Our biggest goal for 2018 is to expand our name recognition in our community, the Upstate of South Carolina, and across the State.  We are printing projects for clients all across the U.S. but we want to let people in our own state know that they don’t have to go far away to fill their letterpress needs.  We’re right here, close to home.

Immensely huge round of thanks out to Brannon & Robin of R&B Printery for giving us a look into their lovely printing world!