Amy Rau, of Green Girl Press, has a candid smile and jingle of a laughter that steps in time with the rhythmic clicking of her presses and fantastically-detailed letterpress designs. She’s one of those printers that can be spreading ink on the rollers while gushing about her last memorable jaunt to the most recent Ladies of Letterpress Conference down in North Carolina (and, oh the stories she tells!). For Amy, printing weaves together a love of detail, history, and passion. This fellow Central New Yorker printing powerhouse talked with us about how she plays with her designs just as much as she does with her printing resume – read on for the full story.
WOMAN ON A MISSION I’m super detailed. I ascribe to the “more is more” philosophy, even though I admire clean minimal design. I have 2 dogs & 2 cats. Vacuuming is my favorite “chore” (I can’t resist the lines it makes on the floor!). Last year I endeavored on a quest to find the perfect vegetarian marshmallow recipe (haven’t found it yet).
LETTERPRESS LOVIN’ Totally by accident. I thought I wanted to take up calligraphy. By a stroke of luck, the calligraphy class I wanted to take at the GCAE wasn’t being offered for the next session so I signed up for “Type 1” now, “Lovin’ Letterpress 1” instead. I had no idea what Type 1 even was. But, within 5 minutes of my first class, I had fallen head over heels. By the second class, I knew that I was going to quit my day job and start my own press. I later took that calligraphy class and it turns out I don’t have even half the patience required to work with nibs anyway.
EXCELLENCE IN THE EMPIRE STATE I have 2 table top presses that reside in my garage and I also rent space from a community print shop in Rochester, New York. There is always something new coming into the community space.
A LETTERPRESS FAIRY GODMOTHER After listening to her keynote speech at the 2011 Ladies of Letterpress Conference, Judith Berliner of Full Circle Press became my unofficial “Letterpress Fairy Godmother”. Whenever I come across a sticky situation in the print shop, I conjure up a vision of her waving a magic wand and erasing my problems. It’s not really very helpful for problem solving but it does make me smile.
THE PROCESS The majority of my design process occurs in my head. I use sketchbooks to make endless lists. And I spend a lot of time procrastinating. That’s probably the biggest portion of my design process. Days and days of thinking. After that, I work in Illustrator playing with different typefaces and layouts. My designs usually come together pretty quickly once I move onto the computer. I’ll play around with 3 or 4 versions of the same project and those usually evolve into a dozen or so more complex but similar designs, one of which I find successful enough to print.
FULL TIME FUN I am both a designer and a printer, but I love to print other people’s designs as well. It allows me focus on printing everything perfectly without the distraction of wishing I could modify the design. I do, I do, I do print full time! I’ve been printing full time for the past year and a half, and loving every minute of it!
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT The story behind my first press is relatively unremarkable. The story behind my second press, a 3×5 craftsman, goes like this: A lovely woman by the name of Shirley began emailing me telling me that her husband, Milton, had seen a newspaper article about me and wanted to sell me his guillotine paper cutter. We exchanged a few emails and then, after a brief telephone conversation, they invited me to their home. Milton had set up a personalized garage sale in his basement for me! Everything I mentioned liking was displayed on folding tables. I didn’t end up buying the cutter (that day) but I did go home with some beautiful Cheltenham wood type and my little Craftsman. It was hard not to buy up everything!
PRINTING FEATS I’m pretty sure I died from excitement the first time I saw my work on Pinterest.
BOXCAR’S ROLE Without Boxcar, I wouldn’t exist! As much as I love typesetting, my real passion is in printing designs that I have created digitally. Boxcar’s platemaking is top-notch.
Cathy, Rebecca and Anthony in plate making have all been SUPER wonderful whenever I have dared to spread my design wings and not known how to manipulate the files in order to print well. I also find the video tutorials really helpful.
SHOP TIPS Raise your prices.
Big round of thanks out to Amy for letting us get a glimpse into the wonderful world of Green Girl Press!