2019 Holiday Gift Guide

Need holiday gift ideas for the letterpress lover in your life? We’ve put together a list of our top 19 holiday gift ideas for the 2019 season — we found some handy supplies, books, and printing swag that any printer would love to receive. Let us know what’s on your wishlist in the comments section below!

1.  It’s a Vandercook Thing mug by Standard Mugs  | 2. Letterpress Type zippered pouch by Rachel Mullins  | 3. Flurry Paper in 3 colors, 100% cotton from Boxcar Press   | 4. Composing stick enamel pin from Paper Carnival  | 5. Vandercook Presses: Maintenance, History and Resources, 3rd Edition by Paul Moxon

6. Amalgamated Printers’ Association tote bag from APA  | 7. Letterpress Type spiral notebook by Madelei  | 8. Magic Ink Knife from Boxcar Press that easily opens 2.2 lb ink cans  | 9. Vandercook enamel pin from the Paper Carnival |  10. Star Collection from Virgin Wood Type

11. Heidelberg Windmill Letterpress enamel pin by MCPressure  | 12. PANTONE tea cup by PANTONE   | 13. Ladies of Letterpress: A Gallery of Prints With 86 Removable Posters book  | 14. New Heidelberg Windmill Press t-shirt in white on black soft cotton by Boxcar Press  | 15. The Bezier Method Zine (a brand new book for lettering enthusiasts)  16. Japanese Wood block printmaking kit  from McClain’s for those who want to learn a new art.

17. Type Gauge Multi Tool from P22 Type Foundry |   18. Personalized sign in wood or aluminum  print and book shop by TheLiztonSignShop |  19. Studio on Fire Calendar

Inquisitive Printers – More Curious Items To Intrigue

Like most letterpress-loving people, we are drawn to the fascinating and the intriguing. This newest installment of the Inquisitive Printers focuses our attentions on cool history of playing cards (and Nintendo!) plus a portable printing museum, a Miami-based high school teacher and printer, and much more. Enjoy!

From Jake:  

Nintendo’s release of the latest Pokemon video game is not where I thought I’d find my printerly inquisition focused this month, admittedly; bear with me and I’ll lay out why it’s tickling my fancy so.

Pokemon began as a GameBoy title, but at the turn of the millennium it reached an outstanding level of cultural clout in its incarnation as a strategy and trading card game. Many of my generation heeded that none-too-subtle imperative “gotta catch ‘em all” filled school recesses and study hall periods with sharp-eyed trades and tournament play.

While it was never quite my scene, I did admire the quality finishing that went into the cards, with the full-color printing and foil embellishment on the various rare specimens. A much greater fascination to me is the fact that the entire Nintendo games empire had its beginning as a manufacturer of playing cards all the way back to 1889!

nintendo_logo_ace-spades_-art

(Photography courtesy of blog.beforemario.com)

This culture-defining behemoth of our video game era plugs directly backward into the larger and wilder story of playing cards, which themselves are deliciously wrapped up in the origins of the printing arts themselves.

Squint at them and you can see how dice, dominoes, and chess games are the simpler, sturdier parents of playing cards. For there to be cards, there has to be paper and printing, and so, of course, the first playing cards emerge in China. Unfortunately, since paper is so fragile and cards are objects much-handled, the earliest examples don’t survive into history. An early reference to their existence comes in 1294 A.D., documenting the arrest of two gamblers and the confiscation of both their game cards and the woodblocks that printed them. These cards weren’t merely for making wagers with, but themselves actually served as tokens exchangeable for money or drinks at the tavern: valuable collectible items, indeed!

Papermaking, printing, and playing cards traveled as a pack from China to Samarkand (Uzbekistan), then on to Baghdad to spread across the Mediterranean through the Muslim caliphates and the remnants of the Byzantine empire. Taking shape in Egypt and exported quickly across trade routes into Moorish Spain, the Arabic “mamluk” card game had already assumed a form familiar to the modern playing deck: 52 cards, arranged in four suits, ordered by ranks culminating in royal court figures. “Mamluk” means “property”, referring to a class of enslaved mercenary soldiers within the prevailing caste system. Puts one in mind of the more disturbing aspects of the Pokemon life cycle, with trainers “catching ‘em all” then making them fight each other for the trainers’ glory. (Just sayin’.)

mamluk-2-playing cards

(Photography courtesy of wopc.co.uk)

By the 14th century, these playing cards were spread across Europe and quickly became nativized. Mamluks easily translated into the aristocratic ranks of Europe’s feudal system, and those original four suits — polo sticks, swords, cups, and coins — mutated based on local culture. Spanish, German, Swiss, and Italian styled suits survive into the 20th century right alongside the French style we in the Anglo-American world are most familiar with: clubs, spades, hearts, and diamonds. (Tarot enthusiasts will note that those original mamluk suits are exactly those that became our beloved and much-mystified oracle deck, but that also-very-printerly story needs another time for telling.)

Salzburg_pattern- playing Cards

(Photography courtesy of wikipedia.org )

As the printers of Marseilles, Nürnburg, and Venice stamped out the cards in varying grades of quality, so too did the traders vend these printed goods to the world. Portuguese traders arrived in Japan in 1543, carrying Iberian playing cards in their holds.  The Portuguese word “carta” became the Japanese “karuta”, and caught on well among the wealthy samurai. The isolationist Tokugawa shogunate soon banned them as a foreign influence, however, and so playing cards in Japan took on their own particular evolution, as printers and gamers worked around the restrictions. 

Variant decks multiplied, fusing older indigenous Japanese gaming traditions and innovating new ones. Some of those older traditions involved matching paintings on shells, or poems on squares of wood, and translated easily to paper cards. These poetry cards and other literary variants became popular educational tools for children.

Nintendo_1889-prefecture-store

The card ban wasn’t formally lifted until late in the Meiji period, when Japan was “westernizing”. Clandestine cardplayer Fusajiro Yamauchi founded Nintendo in 1889 and began manufacturing the popular Hanafuda (“Flower Game”) deck, which has 12 suits of 4 cards each.

FLower-GameCards

(Photography courtesy of user digitalhypnosisi (via imgur.com)

I imagine that Nintendo, innovative from the start, was among those early 20th century card manufacturers to produce “obake karuta”, card decks depicting mythological monsters (“obake”) and their names and attributes.  Sound familiar?

obake karuta

(Photography courtesy of horrorjapan.tumbler.com)

After the Second World War, Nintendo also began making western-style playing cards and began to branch out into toys and other goods. The first mega-hit toy product was, uncannily enough, an extending arm based on the pantograph — another printing-related hit in the story. From there, toy-making brought the company into electronics in the early 1970s, and from there, card pips turn to pixels and then once again we come to Pokemon.

So from East, to West, to East again, and then to global cultural dominance, the humble playing card moves, shakes, and shapes the world. Are we ultimately so sure it’s us playing them, I wonder, or is our game perhaps also playing us?

From Rebecca:   

Based in Miami, Florida, printer/teacher Tom Virgin of Extra Virgin Press appears on the Art & Company podcast. He talks about introducing the tangible craft of printing to students in the classroom  and about the future of printing at large. Come take a listen! 

Inquistive-Printers-Tom-Virgin-Art-Company-podcast
(Photo courtesy and credit: Art & Company Podcast / Alette Simmons-Jimenez )

Next up is the Tiny Type Museum & Time Capsule project. This nifty concept is a printing (and history) lover’s dream. It is a small, portable collection that celebrates type & printing.

Tiny Type Museum - Glenn Fleishman - img1
(Photo credit: Glenn Fleishman / Tinytypemuseum.com)

The Museum contains unique printing artifacts & resources spanning decades. The fit-on-your-bookshelf Museum features cast pieces of hot-metal, wood, and metal foundry type, scale-model replica of a California Job case and many more items to discover. 

Tiny Type Museum - Glenn Fleishman - img1
(Photo credit: Glenn Fleishman / Tinytypemuseum.com)

The project is helmed by Seattle, Washington-based Glenn Fleishman and in collaboration with many artists, printers, museums, and foundries.

We hope you explore some of our links and perhaps share in our enjoyment about what intrigues us here at Boxcar Press.  Email us at info@boxcarpress.com with the things that inspire you as well!

International Printing Museum

Mark Barbour of the International Printing Museum highlights unique printing presses, fun printing trivia, and fantastic finds in the Carson, California museum. Come take a look!

The International Printing Museum in Carson, California, just south of downtown Los Angeles, is home to one of the largest collections of working antique printing presses in the part of this world that enjoys a type height of .918! Besides an extensive collection of metal and wood type, somewhere around 5,000 fonts, the Printing Museum is also home to some very unusual and rare printing presses. 

Of particular interest, while we focus this week on letterpress and type high, are the platen presses in the museum’s collections, presses that became the workhorse and the staple of every printing shop in America during the 19th and 20th centuries. Today’s book artists and letterpress enthusiasts are well familiar with the C & P Press, well described as the Ford 150 of printing presses. But have you heard of Gordon and his dream with Ben Franklin that birthed the modern platen press? Have your fingers ever been close to Gordon’s early press known as an Alligator (for good reason!)? What about Ruggles and his Jobber that made it to the California goldfields, and has a story to tell about Alcatraz and the Civil War? Or maybe the press that took you to the stars in 1875, known as the Asteroid?

In celebration of Type High Day and letterpress everywhere, this is an invitation to explore the stories of these very unique and rare platen presses of the 19th century with Curator Mark Barbour of the International Printing Museum… just click on the link to his video blog (his apologies for the quality and the sound…not enough makeready on the morning of .918!)

Printing Heritage at Hamilton Wood Type & Museum

(All photos courtesy of Knorth Studios)

Jim Moran of Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum recounts a day in his life at this stunning printing museum. Housing aisles upon aisles of history, craftsmanship, and deep printing roots, the Museum is a testament to the old (and new) ways printing remains such a treasured part of our culture.

I always get to the museum first thing in the morning. Maybe I need to slowly gather my thoughts but there’s something else. 

Turning on the lights, I take a long walk in this place. I’m trying to see everything and what needs to be done. The sander for half-rounds has a coil of wires that I’ve never liked and ought to be cut off. There is a display of patterns that seem to have been cut a hundred years ago and they seem more like sketches in wood. The pencil marks are precise as an architect’s. And why cedar? What an awful wood to cut cross-grain. Who did them? Could it have been a William Page employee that Hamilton brought here?

Among the type displays, I pause in front of Arabesque. The smoky strokes seem sixty-ish and I think of Janis Joplin posters. The row of platen presses are out of order. They should be chronological. Some need rollers, the treadle on the Challenge should be reconnected, there’s no tympan paper on a few and what could I lock up in their chases to explain the process better. 

In the “Central Room”, I dislike the name itself for being non-descript. I want to cover the walls behind the linotypes with newspaper pages from back in the day. Nearby, a Miehle is too gummed up with ink and grease and a Heidelberg serves mostly as a source to rob parts from. When will I get the ruling machine running again? 

Now in the staff pressroom, I’m tempted to put on an apron and run posters of horse races all day long. Maybe all week. The blocks are frozen in action of galloping hooves that will only come to life in printing. They may not have seen ink since the 50s. I wonder about registering their colors and the thrill of the first print that’s never left me since age 10 when I first set and printed my own name. Magic! Random type cases lean in small spaces, hoping to be filled again with Caslon or Engraver’s Text. I think there’s a cabinet in the back they’ll fit into but I resist the urge to check. 

The classroom lights snap on and I read each switches name; House left, House center, House right. The names mean nothing until Wayzgoose, which reminds me I need to create a backdrop for the presenter’s stand. Before I can do that there are boxes of blocks, mostly musician based, that have to be archived but not today. Better to prep for a workshop this weekend and replace those lights in the corner of the room.

Finally, in the gallery, everything is lit and I look over the exhibit again. It’s a good show that I’m lucky to consider for many days. I should look at new emails. Staff will arrive soon and there’s bound to be something I ought to be doing. Maybe printing horses.

For more information and fun about the wonderful Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum please visit their Facebook and Instagram pages!


Spot the Differences: Printing Press Edition

Get out your loupes and magnifying glasses for our cool printing press edition of Spot the Differences! There are 20 differences in all. Can you spot them?

And don’t forget, we’re keeping the fun going all week long for Letterpress Appreciation Week.

Spot-the-difference-Control-Group
Spot-the-difference-Variable-Group

Answers and results will be revealed on Friday, September 20th, 2019 so stay tuned!

The Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum – Our Journey So Far

Louise Rowe of the Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum in Queenston, Canada, shares how the Museum stands as a pillar of the printing community. Benefiting from a printing revival in the area, the Museum blends modern techniques with letterpress’ rich history.

I found letterpress in a very roundabout way. I have a vague fine art background; this precedes my twelve-year career in customer service and events. So the only printing I ever did focused on traditional etching techniques. When I was gifted a proofing press by my boyfriend, I quite literally had no clue what it was, let alone how to set it up and use it. However, it was, and is to this day, the best gift I have ever received.

The Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Musuem img1

For starters, nobody has ever given me anything that romantic. Secondly, it was the motivation I needed to start my own business – Out of Sorts Studio. Finally, my Potter Proof Press is how we ended up becoming members of the Mackenzie Printery. I reached out to them in the hopes that they might be able to shed some light on the one-tonne-beast, which suddenly occupied a space in our basement.

The Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum is a charity founded in 1993 and to this day is run completely by volunteers. They own a vast collection of printing equipment spanning 500 years of history. The collection is housed in the restored home of William Lyon Mackenzie, which is owned by the Niagara Parks Commission and during the summer they open the heritage site to the public as a working museum.

Whilst continuing to maintain a very impressive collection of printing equipment, the charity is now moving forward in efforts to preserve more than the just the physical pieces.

For the most part our members are older and have struggled with finding people in younger generations who are remotely interested in hearing about their experiences, let alone finding ones who actually wish to learn any of the processes. That’s not to say these people don’t exist, just that they are hard to find in our neck of the woods.

The Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Musuem img1

In recent years, under the Chairmanship of Ron Schroder, the group has been focused on the organization of the entire collection; ensuring it is managed and preserved to the highest museum standards. With such a large collection, that includes a vast selection of type, it has been a long process. With this now well under way the group can turn some of its attention to the presses themselves. It isn’t just about keeping them all shiny and dust-free, we want to make sure that we always have someone who knows how to operate them.

Vice Chairman, Art Ellis, along with our Collections Executive, John Hunt, have been in charge of all things related to the restoration and working order of our printing presses for the majority of the last three decades. As new members, we found it a heartbreaking prospect that their knowledge could just be lost should they no longer be able to participate.

The Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Musuem img1

Obviously the charity gaining me as a member is great because I’m awesome. However, in reality, Carl (my boyfriend) has proven to be a far more useful asset. He is a mechanic by trade, with a deep appreciation for antiques and a desire to know how things work. His passion for cars is deeply rooted in hot rods and this love took us to the Syracuse Nationals in July, which also provided us with the perfect opportunity to take a tour around Boxcar Press: a place dreams are made of!

Honestly, I don’t think we could have a better first candidate for learning how to set up, maintain and repair the printing presses.

The Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Musuem img1

He started small, bringing home a rather rusty slug cutter, a mini paper cutter that didn’t cut and a brayer with broken handles. After some research, he took apart each item, carefully cleaned every piece, repaired what he could and fashioned new parts where necessary. Parts were then painted and reassembled, leaving us with three pieces that could either be added into the museum’s collection or sold.

The next logical step was for him to start learning the basics of some of the larger pieces of equipment. John began by showing him how to run our Heidelberg Windmill and has since moved on to showing Carl what he has to do to keep this press in good working order.

The Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Musuem img1

The printery also has in its collection an 1894 Whitlock press. This press, weighing in around eight tonnes, is too large for Mackenzie House and is instead a permanent feature at the Marshville Heritage site in Wainfleet, Ontario. Every year, this press is used at The Marshville Heritage Festival to print a festival calendar and until this year, Art has been searching for someone to teach how to run it. Buoyed by Carl’s natural aptitude, Art taught Carl everything he needed to know about running and maintaining the Whitlock; she’s got a few quirks, which is understandable given she’s 125 years old.

The Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Musuem img1

At the same event, after it stopped delivering us our slugs, Carl received a crash course from John on the insides of a Ludlow Type Caster and together they formulated a plan to repair it, which Carl then executed.

While the experts tinker with the big stuff, it falls on the rest of our core work group to continue with sorting through the storage bunker and the many, many, many cabinets of type. Members Marvyn, Dennis, Francis and Tim have the most patience I have ever seen and make type sorting look easy.

With letterpress now considered more of an art or craft, rather than a pillar of society, it is fascinating to see all the modern-day interpretations of an industrial process so rooted in history. As Executive Secretary for the group, I am now looking to the future and how we can continue to sustain our organisation. With much of our surplus stock now sold, it is time to get creative and I couldn’t be more excited to see what we can collectively do.

If you would like more information on the museum, any of the aforementioned members, and how to join or support The Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum, please take a look at our website: https://mackenzieprintery.org/

Or follow our antics on Instagram: @themackenzieprintgroup

Paul Moxon: Why I Love Letterpress

Paul Moxon shares with us why he loves letterpress from all aspects as a printer: the fascination, the community spirit & camaraderie, and the beauty that letterpress brings into his life.

Letterpress printing specifically, and the book arts in general, are the nexus of my interest in language, literature, biography, history, and mechanics. After thirty years in graphic arts, my enthusiasm for letterpress remains. As a designer, the physical labor of printing can clarify the message, inform my digital work, and lift my spirits. As a publisher, controlling the means of production is a point of pride.

I am fascinated by the vintage equipment, tools, and accouterments made with precision and inherent beauty. And it thrills me whenever I can purchase materials made today with the same diligent care. Eventually, I became an instructor and mechanic to help sustain this vibrant community paying it forward for all those who helped me along the way.

paul moxon vandercook

Most people know that Paul also developed and continues to moderate the Vandercook Press web page. It’s the first place to visit for significant info, photos and answers to questions on Vandercook presses and similar brands of flatbed cylinder proof presses. He has added greatly to our appreciation and preservation of these presses.

Printing Power! Crossword Puzzle

 

Time to roll up those sleeves and dust off those printing terminology books! We’ve got a wonderful printing-themed crossword puzzle for all you ink-in-the-blood aficionados!

Our online crossword puzzle can be found here. Come show us what you’ve got!

Answers and results will be revealed on Friday, September 20th, 2019 so stay tuned.

A paper-and-pen lover? Download it here: Printing-Power-crossword-puzzle-Boxcar-Press

Museum of Printing – Boston

Welcome to Part 1 in a series of blogs that celebrate the Print Museum. We are happy to introduce you to places that preserve, collect and offer hands-on opportunities to learn about printing in a way that enjoyably informs and educates. Read on for a quick “visit” to these places that hold our collective printing heritage.

The Museum of Printing is just north of Boston in the old mill city of Haverhill, on the Merrimack River. There are three Vandercooks, two show card presses, a Kelsey table-top, and a large-format Gordon. There are working machines, including Linotype, Ludlow, and Heidelberg Windmill. There is even a Keurig coffee maker and the fridge is always stocked with libations.

The cabinets are filled with paper. The type cabinets hold metal and wood fonts and the 40-drawer cut cabinet has almost one thousand wood and metal engravings The drawings for every font done by Linotype are here.

Craig Busteed is one of the many volunteers at the 41-year old Museum of Printing in Haverhill, Mass. He finds the Museum’s studio a mecca for himself and other members. 

He produced the poster for the Museum’s annual Printing Arts Fair with wood and metal type. Craig also assists at workshops that teach letterpress to novices, young and old. One workshop taught by veteran Ted Leigh covers printing with the hand press using the Museum’s 1888 Acorn press.

The Museum hosts school groups from all over New England. In most cases, the kids set their names and print them. One of them is now in their twenties and shared with us that they still have that print.

Craig also comes in on Wednesdays and helps his team restore vintage Kelseys and C & P’s, many of which are sold at two annual letterpress sales. The Museum Gift Shop sells type and other letterpress items. There are also two annual books sales that offer redundant books on graphic arts.

The Museum of Printing preserves the rich history and working tools of the graphic arts. It archives the largest collection of typographic art and ephemera in the world.

Letterpress City Tour: Charleston

On the next leg of our letterpress city tour series, Jamie and Allison Nadeau of Ink Meets Paper gives us a relaxing tour of their beloved Charleston, South Carolina community. From the colorful Rainbow Row Georgian houses to the great treats & eats, the historic city is a mecca for printers and artists alike. Jamie and Allison share with us their must-sees, gallery gems, and beyond.

ATLANTIC COAST COMFORT We moved to Charleston, South Carolina in 2006 after Jamie graduated from SCAD for a job opportunity (unrelated to letterpress). We fell in love with the low-country and southeastern coast during our time in Savannah that we couldn’t resist an opportunity to put down deeper roots in Charleston. We love it here.

(photography credit: amarisphoto.com)

FRESH AIR + INK Our studio is located in the Park Circle neighborhood of North Charleston, and we live less than two miles away. We’re lucky to be able to commute by bike and enjoy the fresh air and charm of our neighborhood during the ride in.

During a typical week, we’ll grab an iced latte and pastry at Orange Spot Coffeehouse in the morning (or when those afternoon blahs creep in). 

We’re all pretty heads down and focused during the day, so it’s always a treat to meet friends for happy hour at our neighborhood fave: Stems & Skins.

Lately, they’ve been hosting a burger pop-up with Pub Fare food truck on Mondays, so happy hour usually turns into dinner with friends. On Thursdays, we stop by the neighborhood farmer’s market for veggies and produce (and most recently duck eggs!). We’ve also really gotten into cycling, so we usually work in a longer ride on the weekends— we especially love heading out to Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms.

VIBRANT NEIGHBORHOOD Park Circle (and, really, the Charleston community as a whole) is especially wonderful about supporting local businesses, and we love sharing the letterpress process with them.

When we decided to move our letterpress studio out of our house in 2015, we knew we wanted to stay in Park Circle. We love the charm and quirk of the neighborhood— it’s not filled with big-box stores, and it’s community minded.

The studio is located off the main retail and dining area of Park Circle on a busier street that was pretty much surrounded by empty buildings (including a dilapidated auto repair shop that was later demolished). We were one of the first businesses along our stretch of the street, and we like to think it encouraged other vibrant and creative businesses to this area.

Our studio itself was a former convenience store and has big front windows for lots of natural light. The press room is behind a wall of windows, so customers are able to see the presses in action when they pop in for a greeting card. I think there’s really something wonderful about knowing the people and process behind the product (and people are naturally curious about these big old machines).

LOCAL PRINTING EVENTS We hosted Chris Fritton of the Itinerant Printer this past spring during his book tour. He filled our studio with prints from the road, and it was a blast to hear his stories. We also held a “For the Love of Print” event where we invited the public into the studio to learn more about letterpress printing (and to pull their own print, a “Greetings from Park Circle” postcard).

LETTERPRESS COMMUNITY ACTION Last fall, we designed and printed two limited-edition greeting cards to support the Women’s and Gender Studies program at the College of Charleston. Their “Yes! I’m a Feminist” party is a fundraiser for the WGS program and supports student/faculty activism and research, allowing them to work on issues like mothers of the Flint water crisis, women in politics, campus sexual assault, and municipal responses to the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. 

ONLY IN CHARLESTON Our “Greetings from Charleston” postcard is definitely a celebration of our city, and highlights perhaps one of the most iconic (and photographed) areas of Charleston: Rainbow Row. A series of thirteen Georgian row houses along East Bay Street, Rainbow Row gets its name from the houses’ bright and cheerful colors. We used the split fountain technique to create our Rainbow Row postcard version.

LOCAL SUPPORT  Since our primary focus is wholesale, we’re so thankful for the local shops in Charleston who stock our cards . It’s such a treat to connect with them in person and to see and support their shops as well.

ENJOYING THE NEIGHBORHOOD Of course, we’re partial to Park Circle because we live and work here; however, we love heading into downtown Charleston to meander through the cobblestone streets of the historic neighborhoods like South of Broad and the French Quarter.

Downtown can feel overwhelmingly touristy at times; however, there are plenty of streets to meander where you’re not always surrounded by so many people (and then you’ll just see the occasional local who’s out for a walk or enjoying tea on their porch). It’s in these quiet streets that Charleston really charms.

EATS + TREATS Charleston is known for its culinary scene, so it’s really hard to pick just one favorite restaurant. In Park Circle, we’re partial to EVO Pizza’s wood-fired pizzas and enormous salads, all featuring produce and meats from local farms.

(photography credit: evopizza.com)

As we mentioned previously, Stems & Skins is our go-to for happy hour. They have an incredible wine list and cocktail menu and also offer a selection of tinned seafood and other bites.

Brunch is a Charleston way of life, and our faves include High Thyme (Sullivan’s Island), Millers All Day (downtown Charleston; Jamie’s in the photo enjoying one of their amazing bloody marys), and Daps Breakfast and Imbibe (upper Charleston peninsula).

And, of course, part of the draw to living on the coast is the fresh seafood! Bowens Island has fresh off-the-dock seafood with some of the best marsh views in Charleston (and you’re definitely in luck if it’s oyster season!).

We also love The Darling Oyster Bar in downtown Charleston.

SHOP TILL YOU DROP When we moved to Park Circle in 2007, there were so many empty storefronts and buildings along the main business district; however, years later the neighborhood has really expanded in terms of independent retail shops, and we couldn’t be happier to have more local businesses to support.

Itinerant Literate is another women-owned independent business. It’s a bookstore that got its start by doing pop-up shops around town in an Airstream-like trailer. We’re friends with the owners, and their trailer used to have a regular spot in the INK MEETS PAPER parking lot before they opened their brick-and-mortar location.

Another good friend opened Iola Modern, a modern home goods and furniture store.

Just down the street from our studio is The Station, which features over 30 vendors and local artists. It’s a great shopping destination with everything from mid-century modern furniture and handmade candles to plants and original artwork, so it’s a great place to find a gift for someone (or yourself )

FESTIVAL FUN Each year in May, the City of North Charleston puts on its annual Arts Festival with exhibitions, workshops, and art installations all throughout the city (and they really work to make art accessible to everyone). I love seeing the large-scale outdoor sculptures that are installed throughout the neighborhood (one year, an artist did an installation in a neighborhood park of giant gummy bears— definitely fun and memorable). We also always head to the block party, where the city closes cars off the main street in Park Circle and fills it with vendors and performers. It’s a fun celebration of art.

(photo credit: North Charleston Arts Festival )

St. Patrick’s Day is another huge neighborhood celebration. The city closes down the streets for a parade and all sorts of merrymaking in the streets (and lots of Guinness drinking!).

(photo credit: North Charleston FB )

A GROWING CITY Charleston and its surrounding communities have seen lots of growth over the years (it’s hard to believe we’ve been here for 13 years now!). Since Charleston is a peninsula, it can only expand so much. We’ve seen big changes to the skyline. In addition, the ever-increasing commercial rental prices have pushed a lot of independent shops out of downtown. King Street used to be filled with independent shops and boutiques, and now national retailers are pretty much the only ones who can afford the rent. Service workers also feel the pain from this growth, as it’s expensive to work downtown (those parking meters and garages add up quickly). More people also mean more cars on the road, and, as a historic city, Charleston roadways aren’t necessarily made for all of the big modern cars (cobblestone was for horse and buggies!), and it can be dangerous to bike around the city as well.

In terms of the growth our neighborhood (Park Circle) has seen, I think it’s been primarily positive. The neighborhood is a bit of a “hidden gem,” and there aren’t a lot of big streets and thoroughfares to bring extra traffic. If anything, it’s been really wonderful to see so many independent businesses open up in the neighborhood. There’s also a recent movement called Park Circle Unchained, and their mission is to prevent chain retailers from taking over the character of the neighborhood.

NOT TO BE MISSED Cypress Gardens – Swamp boat rides, walking trails, native plants— Cypress Gardens is worth the drive to experience the beauty of the lowcountry (and you might recognize the scenery from movies like The Notebook and The Patriot).

Casual Crabbing with Tia – Experience the beauty of the lowcountry with Charleston native Tia Clark, whose family has been crabbing and casting for fun and food for generations.

(photo credit The Casual Crabber)

REDUX Studios – Contemporary art gallery and studio space on upper King Street.

Robert Lange Gallery – One of our favorite art galleries in Charleston. Lots of amazing local artists, and the entire gallery space is really inspiring and engaging.

Gibbes Museum of Art – Beautiful and well curated art gallery on Meeting Street with an emphasis on American art that incorporates the story of Charleston.

Candlefish – Located on King Street, this charming candle shop is filled with all sorts of beautifully fragranced candles (and their exclusive candle library guarantees you’ll find the perfect scent). Not to mention, they also host candle making classes.

J. Stark – High-quality bags, backpacks, and totes crafted by hand right in their Coming Street shop. (We carry one of their backpacks every day!)

Abide A While Garden Center – Our favorite destination for all things plants! This family-owned shop is truly a botanical experience, and their knowledgeable employees can help you pick the perfect plant.

Magnolia Plantation – It’s a little drive away from downtown, but they have amazing gardens and grounds (filled with all sorts of SC native plants). The train tour is a nice way to see everything.

Middleton Place Plantation – Along the same road as Magnolia Plantation, Middleton Place has an entirely different feel— their gardens are much more planned/structured.

Sullivan’s Island – Our favorite pick for a beach because it’s usually pretty chill (and there’s a lighthouse!). There are great food options out here as well if you decide to make a day of it (Poe’s Tavern, High Thyme, The Obstinate Daughter)

Meandering anywhere south of Broad Street will be lovely. There are all sorts of beautiful houses, and eventually you’ll get to the Battery at the tip of the peninsula surrounded by water.

Cooper River Bridge and Mount Pleasant Waterfront Park – The suspension bridge that connects Mount Pleasant to downtown Charleston is an awesome way to get a bit of exercise (walk/bike) along with an amazing view of the harbor and city.

LAST THOUGHTS Southern Charm (the reality tv show) is not us. lol. We are a ‘unique’ southern city that is culturally aware of its past, and actively working to build a better future.

We hope you enjoyed our featured installment of the letterpress city series guide! Interested in shining a spotlight on your hometown? Contact us today!