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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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/
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 MISSEDCypress 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.
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!
Boxcar Press is proud to display the talent and creativity of our team members via our annual mini On My Own Time exhibit. This is our ninth year participating in this wonderful opportunity. The show is in partnership with CNY Arts’ On My Own Time larger exhibit at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, New York. We hope you enjoy!
* This mark denotes an artist that was selected to have one of their pieces in the upcoming 46th annual On My Own Time exhibit at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York. The group exhibit celebrates Central New York businesses and their creative team members. The show runs from October 12 – November 17th, 2019.
This photography work is definitely not my usual repertoire. It’s quick & immediate gratification to take a picture instead of all the process & detailed drawn-out steps that goes into printmaking or bookbinding that I’m normally used to.
I’m drawn to weird things: lots of textures, patterns, mechanical things, antiques, fossils, decay, etc. For the photos at this year’s On My Own Time show, the subject focus was obsolete machinery. The Press Lounge (our storage area here at Boxcar Press) was getting tidied up and I always love to see the old forgotten things in there. I like the shapes & the look… like 1980’s machinery with big knobs you turn with your whole hand or curvy cast iron parts with raised lettering that takes forever to fade away. These photos were like documenting fossils – blocky, colorful; the guts of the old machinery. Bins of old wires and piles of old telephones were such a contrast to modern, sleek, white plastic minimalism. I took pictures to remember how things used to look.
It’s so interesting to see what artwork everyone is doing. Everybody is busy working but there’s so many interesting people & their stories here. We have people who make incredible embroidered boxes, creepy figurines, intricate multimedia drawings, delicious macaroons, etc. Seeing what my co-workers & friends make is so fun! I love learning about their techniques, what interests others & knowing that we all want to put our hands & hearts to making something.
Much of my work combines studies and exercises done in various institutions and studios. The piece exhibited in On My Own Time showcases a collage of materials from when I screen-printed at The Ink Shop in Ithaca and from the tail-end of a master’s program in SUNY New Paltz for printmaking.
In researching On My Own Time from past years, I believe it does a great job in constructing a forum for those who wish to pursue a creative means and expand upon the skills they’ve already attained. I would say to tune yourself into the methodology of others and remain curious as to how one can manipulate the materials we often take for granted. It’s all quite limited and special to behold.
Jen De Roberts
This body of work is comprised of acrylic pour paintings.
This piece originally started as a large experiment. I wanted to learn how to best draw on tar paper in regards to painting, printing or drawing. This material was a curbside find back in 2014. I have been slowly learning what works and what doesn’t work on this roofing paper. In my artistic practice, I am fond of watercolor and inks. However, this paper is designed to be waterproof and I was forced to try out dry mediums.
In March this year, I was gifted a set of pastel pencils and a new drawing supply shifted my progress on this project. The vibrant colors and lines are all brought out by the pastel pencils and truly brought this work into completion. The vibrance from the vegetation stands out from the black background. It was also very interesting to bring out a subtle middle layer and stark whites from the black paper.
The inspiration behind the imagery is from a recent trip to Joshua Tree, CA. I really enjoy illustrating imaginary landscapes, yet I include memories of places that I travel. The high desert received a great amount of rain this year, resulting in striking spring flora in a place I understood to be dry and rather desolate.
On My Own Time is an opportunity for me to showcase my larger works. Because this is a local show in town, I do not have to be concerned with shipping and handling. Removing that hassle, I can confidently select bigger drawings and prints.
Additionally, I really enjoy the moment before the jurors select works for the OMOT exhibit when everyone at Boxcar shows their work in a mini-exhibition. Seeing other artwork and discussing artistic practices with coworkers is energizing as an artist.
Portrait (far lefthand side of the photo) came from an idea while I was mending and doing seamstress work. All the extra thread tails heaped up on a pile looked like a mess of hair. The concept evolved from there. The piece is influenced by both contemporary textile artists working in embroidery and artists who break the fourth wall in some unusual or clever manner.
The other two pieces were part of a larger illustration series called “The Body Oddity“. The illustration series focuses on bone “oddities” — be it normal genetics or human-made alterations. The two pieces in this mini-show are “Sixth Finger (Polydactyl)” and “Elongated Skulls (Lipombo)“. Resources for the hand-drawn illustrations included x-rays of the bone conditions and photography from the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, Pennslyvania. Osteology has fascinated me for quite some time.
On My Own Time is a great avenue for artists from all media to get a chance to share what drives them creatively. From Boxcar co-workers to team members in different business sectors across our area, this show gives local central New York artists a great opportunity to display their work.
Our focus has been drawn lately to a Goudy typeface, re-invigorating studio visits, and being up-close with dinosaurs. We hope you delight in what has captured our attention in this installment of the Inquisitive Printers!
Recently I was running amok on a good search about typefaces. Naturally, Frederic Goudy had his share of references to explore. One, in particular, caught my eye because it was a video that was linking our Syracuse University here with Goudy. As Syracuse based printers, we have some hometown pride and to have a tie-in to this very prolific font designer was a neat surprise. Enjoy this video called Goudy & Syracuse: The Tale of A Typeface found.
Hello Print Friends! I would like to share with ya’ll my favorite aspect to my artistic practice. Do you have find yourself in your workspace not knowing what to do with your projects? You do? Okay. Great! I suggest you have a studio visit.
This has been extremely valuable to growing as an artist and developing my work since leaving my fine art studies back in 2016. Similarly, I like to receive feedback and miss having a community to work within now that I am done with school.
Have a friend stop by your space. Show them what you are currently working on. Share your artistic process with them. Invite them over while you are working on a print run—more hands make less work. Let your visitor ask questions and get to know what you do as a maker.
Don’t forget the SNACKS! I have some things to eat or drink and enjoy simply hanging out. For instance, I like to invite people over during lunchtime for a 45-minute visit and I also encourage my guest to hang out & draw with me. Sketching and sharing ideas is great!
Think about what you want to get out of a studio visit. Or alternatively, this doesn’t need to have an objective. See where the conversation leads. Discuss everything and nothing. This dialogue may influence your work in return.
Afterward, reflect on what was talked about. do you see your work with a new perspective? I typically feel energized after a studio visit. The feedback allows me to return to working on my projects with fresh ideas. I am delighted that I get to share what I love to do and really appreciate how receptive my visitors are to my work and creative space. I see this as vital to my artistic practice and will continue doing this. FOREVER. Hope you give it a whirl.
My dear friends, Shelby and Brian are looking through a box of my small drawings (July 2018).
Here is a great link that offers very honest and helpful suggestions about studio visits and making the most out of them!
Want to get up-close to dinosaur bones without leaving your computer chair? Photographer Christian Voigt does just that as he captured the delicate beauty of the London Natural History Museum’s dinosaur skeleton collection. Come take a look!
(photography credit: Christian Voigt and WIRED.com)
We hope you explore some of our links and perhaps learn a little bit more about what intrigues us here at Boxcar Press. Email us at email@example.com the things that delight you also!
Witty, intelligent, and always having our back, mothers all over the world inspire us to do our best. We count down the top 15 of 2019 of the most gorgeous, sweet, and cool Mother’s Day letterpress gifts to show Mom (and Grandma!) who’s the best around. See a lovely must-have that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
We’re smitten with printin’ and know that you (and that special someone) are too! Peruse our list of the top 14 favorite gifts for this upcoming Valentine’s Day 2019—from heartwarming (and hilarious!) cards to letterpress goodies that are sure to bring a smile from ear-to-ear for that certain someone.
Let us know what you are getting your printing paramour this year in the comments below!
11. Bigger is better and especially in Valentine’s cards (from Benchpressed). | 12. Treat your printer to a 10x or 15x Loupe (from Badger Graphics) for their shop, you can never have too many. Or google “vintage loupe” to score one with personality and history. | 13. One Fine Specimen card from Type High Letterpress. | 14. A Catch All Tray from The Art of Manliness: A tray for printers with the philosophy many try and do to aspire to in their print shops.