Inquisitive Printers Want to Know: Extra Things That Caught Our Eye

This month’s installment of the Inquisitive Printers Want to Know showcases an enjoyable animated video short “Typesetter Blues” and today’s Mars-bound InSight probe. Read on to learn more!

From Cathy: How can you not love a title like Typesetter Blues?  Enjoy this short animated video about the fickleness of love in a print shop (Fun Fact: the printer in the video is named “Harold”).

Typesetter-blues-letterpress-printing - inquisitive(photography courtesy of TOGETHER/Pahzit Cahlon)

From Rebecca:  Seven months ago, NASA sent up the Mars-bound InSight probe. Today, the probe is schedule to land on the surface of Mars. The cool little probe has the job of collecting data of Mars’ surface and drilling a hole 5 meters (16.4 feet) down.

Mars_insight_probe-NASA(photography credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The data will be able to help scientists understand the creation of Mars and its geological landscape evolution.

Let’s See That Printed: Isle of Dogs by AJ Masthay

As soon as AJ Masthay’s “Isle of Dogs” print passed through our platemaking department, we had to know more. Discover as we catch up with AJ of Masthay Studio, and this sneak peek. Find out what is the inspiration for this ultra-detailed piece? Who … and where can you enjoy this piece?

The piece was created for an upcoming Isle of Dogs group exhibition hosted by SpokeArt NYC at the Parasol Project, 213 Bowery, NYC. From their Facebook event page:

“Spoke Art is pleased to present the Isle of Dogs Art Show. This is an officially licensed art exhibition tribute to Wes Anderson’s most recent film. The dynamic group show features over one hundred artists, painters, sculptors and print makers, debuting one weekend only in New York City’s Lower East Side.

Isle of Dogs Wes Anderson AJ Masthay letterpress print

Isle of Dogs

Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson’s most recent project, is a stop-motion animated film set in a Japanese dystopian future. The story follows a boy’s journey to find his dog after the species is banished to an island following the outbreak of canine flu. Inspired by the adventurous tale that Anderson brought forth, a select group of artists have created character portraits and highly detailed environments and scenes inspired by Isle of Dogs. Featuring a diverse array of painting, sculpture and limited edition prints, each artist offers their own unique perspective and interpretation of the Wes Anderson film. This whimsical and canine filled pop-up exhibition is an absolute must see.

About the Piece

I personally love the quirky works of Wes Anderson and am a huge dog lover. I have two very spoiled Labrador Retrievers Dexter & Halley. When asked to participate in this exhibition I immediately said YES!

My piece features the main characters from the film, both human and canine. As well as, the scene in which they debate whether to attack. Spoiler alert – they realize he has come searching for his own dog “Spots” and decide to help him in his quest. 

Isle of Dogs Wes Anderson AJ Masthay letterpress print

The print is a reproduction of a detailed graphite drawing utilizing a Boxcar Press’ photopolymer plate with a 133 LPI halftone screen applied. We’ve found that once dialed in on our Vandercook Universal III, these halftone plates reproduce tonal drawings beautifully. They come very close to the detail typically found in lithographs.

To mimic the graphite work we do the following steps. First, we mix a fairly stiff, dark gray ink with a touch of brown to warm it up a bit. Next, we use a paper that is soft and supple, such as Arches 88. Finally, we finish the piece with a hint of hand-applied color in the pilot’s eyes. As a result, this slight variation adds a personal touch of individuality. The hand coloring piece complements the printing perfectly.

Isle of Dogs Wes Anderson AJ Masthay letterpress print

The Final Edition size is 100 signed, numbered and titled, 15”x20” on Arches 88. Prints are available to purchase at the event. Remaining prints will be made available online following the event, through SpokeArt.

The Isle of Dogs Art Show group art exhibit is running from November 9th, 2018 – November 11th, 2018. For more details, check out their Facebook page here.

File Prep Tip: Pricing Previews for TIF files

Today’s tip is for designers and printers who set up and create their files in Photoshop for platemaking orders.

Our online ordering system can calculate your square inches and pricing for files that are .pdf, .ai, and .eps.  This is so helpful for seeing your costs while creating your ticket.  However, the online system doesn’t do that for .tif files.

We love .tif files from Photoshop, but saving to a PDF in Photoshop can change your black and white file to a rasterized RGB (oh, the horror!).   With the .tif, you see a big fat $0 for cost and that can make some nervous.

Here is a quick suggestion to handle that situation.  Save your .tif with one of the below methods with the words – for pricing only – in the file name and upload it to your job ticket with your tif.  We’ll get a working tif file and you’ll get your price.

Pricing TIFF file letterpress plates for Boxcar Press.

Best ways to do this:

From Photoshop:

Select FILE > SAVE AS > PHOTOSHOP EPS (under Format drop down).

Using Adobe Acrobat Pro:

Select FILE > OPEN. When the window opens, at the bottom the default is Show > Adobe PDF Files. Change to All Files to find your tif.  Choose Open.  Now select FILE > SAVE AS > the Save as PDF window will open > save with pricing only file name.

If you have other programs for saving as a PDF that you’d like to use, contact us and we can help you, if needed.

Boxcar Press Open Studio 2018

If the action and rhythmic noise of heavy metal does it for you, the Boxcar Press Open Studio is a great place to be.  Cast iron letterpress machines that thump, clang and ker-chunk will be on display for free tours on Saturday, November 10th from 10 AM – 4 PM.  This family-friendly event has printing demonstrations, crafts, a giveaway, workshop, and paper sales of Smock Paper products.

Boxcar Press celebrates their 20th anniversary this year and welcomes all to step up close to view our presses that weigh over 2,000 plus pounds.  We print on all cotton paper to make beautiful invitations.  Print shop tours on this day will let you see this in action.

In honor of Veterans day, we will be offering free thank you cards to send to veterans.  For Veterans attending, they will receive a complimentary coaster.  If you are shopping our Smock paper products sale of beautiful boxes, wrapping paper and notebooks, bring a re-usable shopping bag to receive 10% off.

Letterpress is alive and well and happens daily at Boxcar Press, with big spinning wheels and rotating windmill arms.  Visit to enjoy the sights and sounds of our print shop.

Open Studio Boxcar Press 2018 - IMG1

Open Studio Boxcar Press 2018 - IMG2

Let’s See That Printed: Mindy Belloff of Intima Press’s ‘Minotaur’

We keep tabs on the many wonderful and intriguing designs that come through doors here for our custom-made photopolymer platemaking services. One that we’ve been following for quite some time is Mindy Belloff (of Intima Press)’s highly detailed illustration and creative typesetting designs in her latest fine edition book project.

As a book artist, letterpress printer, and educator, I have been a loyal fan of Boxcar Press, having ordered plates since the beginning of Harold’s enterprises. The staff have always been helpful, especially when polymer platemaking and digital spec instructions were still in their infancy.

During this time, I have sent to Boxcar a wide variety of digital designs of artwork, student work, and job work. A few years ago, as a new livre d’artiste was in the works, they took notice of the beginning of the work. As I firmed up designs and sent a flurry of large plate orders, I was asked about the scope of this project as it had piqued their interest. I was happy to share the text, but could not stop production and take time to send images of the various pages, as I was working so intensely, designing by night and printing all day. I had close to 2,000 sheets in my studio in various stages of printing for over a year and a half.

Recently, I was asked by Boxcar to reveal more about the fine edition book I have just released, after two intense years of work, which follows.

The book is titled, “A Golden Thread.” It is 92-pages, in a format of folios, featuring the text of “The Minotaur,” a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1853). It is composed of 100 original drawings, some with hand painting, and 200 press runs, in an edition of 40, printed on cotton rag papers with a sheet size of approximately 15 x 21 inches. It is a contemporary twist on the medieval illumination, letterpress printed on a Vandercook Uni III automatic press.

The story begins in blue and gold ink, with our hero Theseus, as a young boy. As the story unfolds, Theseus grows to be a young man and journeys to Athens to find his father, King Aegus.

Theseus has an unpleasant encounter with the wicked Medea before he finds and is embraced by his father. He soon learns of the fate of seven young men and seven maidens, to be chosen as a sacrifice to the Minotaur, a beast housed in the labyrinth of Crete.  Theseus volunteers to sail to Crete with the youths. (By now, you may recall the details of this tragic myth.)

When the ship arrives in Crete, the evil King Minos throws them in the dungeon, to await their fate. Enter the heroine, Ariadne, who secretly releases Theseus and leads him to the entrance of a maze.

The middle section of the book, as Theseus makes his way through the labyrinth to find the Minotaur, is designed with typography that blankets the page. The plates for this section were, of course, quite large, and many pages were printed on one side of the sheet, and then turned (plates and paper), to accommodate the sheet size. Most pages have 5 to 6 press runs each.

In the third and final section of the book, Theseus emerges victorious, having slain the bull-headed Minotaur monster. Our heroine awaits, still holding the golden thread at the entrance to the maze. Theseus and the other 13 youths sail back to Athens, where they encounter more obstacles and tragedy, as expected in a classic Greek myth.

On the final page of the story, our hero becomes King. Below is an image of the page showing two of the four-color press runs, which includes ornamented initials, and border drawings.

The book is hand sewn and beautifully bound with a blue leather spine and gold gilding.

Mindy received a fine press book discount for her entire project for the plates Boxcar Press created.  We appreciate her giving us a sense of her book “A Golden Thread” with words and photos.  Mindy Belloff produces fine letterpress printed book and broadside editions at her Union Square studio under the imprint Intima Press. Her artist’s books have been included in many publications and she received an award for Excellence in Book Design.

You can visit Mindy’s website for more on the Minotaur edition at Intimapress.com.

Inquisitive Printers Want to Know: More Extra Things That Caught Our Eye

Keeping our eagle eyes on the look-out for intriguing and cool things, this month’s installment of the Inquisitive Printers Want to Know highlights Lori Schneider (a woman with Multiple Sclerosis who has scaled  the “Seven Summits”), the wealth of information at letterpresscommons.com,  as well as a very beautiful look at global weather patterns. Read on to learn more!

From Cathy: Recently, I was fortunate enough to hear a talk by Lori Schneider, the first woman with Multiple Sclerosis to climb the “Seven Summits” of the world.  Here she is in a Ted Talk at TedXGrandRapids.

The Seven Summits are the highest peaks of the seven continents.

Listening to her describe her Mount Everest climb sparked a strong curiosity about this particular mountain and sent me searching for all sorts of information.  What I learned was equal parts awe-inspiring, eye-opening and a little beyond belief.  You can Google and find hundreds of articles but this How Stuff Works article is a good introduction to how daunting it is.

Next, I paid a recent visit to Letterpress Commons, specifically to view any of the new videos added since my last look (and to view some of the others again).  There is a wealth of info shared by others on “The Commons”, so it’s highly recommended that folks putter around at the site every few months to see what treasures have been added.  And if you have a tidbit or more to share, check out how to be a contributor.

From Rebecca Taking global weather pattern views to a whole new level is the Earth.Nullschool.net website. This handy website displays in real time the current wind, temperature, and CO2 levels. You can zoom in and twirl the globe to different locations worldwide to see how different weather patterns are moving.

It’s very fascinating (and beautiful!) to see how the Earth’s oceans and landforms effect one another.

Have something nifty or cool that you’d like to share with us? Let us know what it is in the comments below!

CBAA: Broadening Book Arts Opportunities

Boxcar Press is a proud supporter of letterpress printed short-run books.  We offer a 10% discount for fine press work and encourage all printers to explore projects like this.   Many printers are first introduced to book printing through their academic experience at college.  It is very likely their instructors were members of the College Book Art Association (CBAA).  Bridget Elmer, President of the CBAA,  provides an overview of this organization and the numerous options to members and those interested in the printed fine press book.     

A relatively new art form, artists’ books constantly defy a clearcut definition, as do their makers. While some books incorporate letterpress printing for text and image, others might incorporate screen printing, hand lettering, digital printing, or no printing at all. Similarly, their bindings may be in a traditional codex format, a series of broadsides, or a one-of-a-kind altered book. Teaching students both the history and methods of making artists’ books is a unique and evolving challenge.

The College Book Art Association (CBAA) is a non-profit organization committed to the teaching of book art. The association strives to support education about book art, including both the practice and analysis of the medium. It welcomes as members everyone involved in teaching and all others who have similar goals and interests. In addition to the educational community of teachers and students, CBAA’s over 400 members include academic librarians, curators, independent scholars, museum professionals, international private collectors, and practicing artists.

CBAA membership has many benefits, including project assistance and travel grants that are awarded to artists, teachers, and scholars, as well as scholarships for students and recent alumni that are co-sponsored by a growing list of partners including Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Mills College, the Morgan Conservatory, Wells College, and Women’s Studio Workshop. CBAA fosters book art visibility and community engagement by organizing member exhibitions and regional events. CBAA also cultivates the expansion of book art criticism by publishing the scholarly journal, Openings: Studies in Book Art, and facilitates dialogue on the Book Art Theory blog. Finally, members have the chance to convene in person every year by attending CBAA’s annual meetings and conferences.

In 2019, CBAA will hold their biennial meeting in Tucson, Arizona from January 4–5 at the University of Arizona. Themed The Photographic Artist’s Book, this meeting is an interdisciplinary landmark for CBAA—keynote speaker Christina de Middel will discuss the ways her work blends documentary and conceptual photographic practices, and discussion sessions will explore topics including Printing Photographic Images Using Letterpress. Participants will tour the UA Book Art and Letterpress Lab and a multi-venue exhibition of photo-based artists’ books will be on display at the Joseph Gross Gallery in the UA School of Art and at the internationally known University of Arizona Poetry Center. Registration opens soon for this exciting opportunity to learn more about CBAA and the history and contemporary practice of photo-based artists’ books.

CBAA’s 2020 biennial conference will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana from January 2–5 and hosted by a dynamic collaborative of academic institutions and community-based organizations, including Tulane University, Loyola University, Baskerville, and Paper Machine, among others. With a theme of Intersections, the conference program will aim to expand the discussion of book arts and foster an inclusive field that embraces both academic and independent educational programs, welcoming ideas that come from all races, classes, genders, and levels of education.

Sharing Letterpress In Pennsylvania: The .918 Club

Keeping letterpress alive in practice and demonstration is at the heart of The .918 Club. We shop talked with Ken Kulakowsky on how The Club got its start, and the sharing of the tradition of letterpress by providing hands-on learning experiences, educating the public through their museum efforts, and the cool happenings at their recent September Printer’s Fair. Come check out a nifty “walk-through” video of the Fair on their Instagram account!

The .918 Club in Lancaster, Pennsylvania was founded to preserve and teach the art of letterpress printing. The Club is an all-volunteer 501(c)3 non-profit group of educators, printers, and the general public which has as its goal keeping the craft of letterpress printing alive. The .918 Club is named after the standardized height of printing type in the United States. Letterpress was the predominant method of printing until the 1950s but it still has widespread applications and avid followers today.  Printers today produce posters and short-run books, and all kinds of personal printing. The .918 Club’s goals are to educate about the history and process of letterpress printing and to provide opportunities for letterpress printing by students and the general public.

People can enjoy hands on experiences with presses that the .918 Club/Heritage Press Museum has collected and stored since it’s beginning.  There are plans for future expansion of its programs through the Heritage Press Education Center so finding and preserving the tools of the trade are a focus.

The .918 Club began with a partnership in 2004 with the Lancaster Heritage Museum, establishing a working print shop at 5 W. King Street to help meet their first goal of education. After the Heritage Museum closed in 2009, The .918 Club found a new home at the warehouse marketplace known as Building Character on North Queen Street in Lancaster. The museum program was restored, but there is no space for classes and hands-on printing.

In 2014 the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology offered space for presses and classes. Because this successful program has already outgrown the available space, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology offered The .918 Club the unused Naval Reserve Training Center building at its nearby Branch campus. This 3000 square foot building is directly across the street from the current facilities. It would greatly expand the educational and work space available while the museum will continue to operate at the North Queen Street location.

The .918 Club has offered workshops and programs attractive to a wide range of ages and interests. Some visitors have the museum as their destination while others encounter the displays while shopping inside Building Character.

The largest group making scheduled visits to the museum are public school students from elementary through high school, homeschool students, and attendees of summer activities such as the YWCA Empowerment program. Visitors to the museum get the opportunity to hear a presentation, see a variety of printing presses, and have the chance to print a keepsake.

At the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology site, all graphic arts students from neighboring Millersville University, The Pennsylvania College of Art and Design and Thaddeus Stephens College of Technology take a class taught by The .918 Club to learn the history and contributions of their future profession.  They greatly enjoy setting type and printing on antique iron hand presses. 

Lancaster County Boy Scouts can attend a workshop to earn their Graphic Arts Merit Badge and they are joined by Scouts from as far away as New York, Virginia and Texas. Most of the time there is a waiting list for this popular workshop. Limited workshops are also held for the general public. The .918 Club provides speakers for programs at libraries and for various groups, such as schools, clubs, and retirement homes. There is usually an opportunity for participants in these programs to letterpress print a bookmark or other ephemera.

For the past 5 years, The .918 Club has held an annual Printer’s Fair in downtown Lancaster to demonstrate letterpress printing and acquaint the greater community at large with The .918 Club/Heritage Press Museum and its activities.

Allison Chapman and Why She Loves Letterpress – Printing Passed On

Letterpress leaves a lasting impression on a young printer who now loves to kindle this spark in others. Allison Chapman, of Ohio-based Igloo Letterpress, shares with us how a family tradition lives on in her press shop and how she came to love letterpress.

I was lucky enough to learn about letterpress printing from my grandad, Mark Gibson.  He became a hobby printer in the 1960s after finding a Johnson Peerless platen press in a neighbor’s barn.  He restored the press, joined the Amalgamated Printer’s Association and was hooked.  As his “assistant” growing up, I loved to help with whatever projects he was working on.  I soon had a small toy press that I could use while he was printing.  As a kid, I loved letterpress because of the sound of the press running, the smell of ink and paper and the pleasure of repetitive tasks.

As soon as I got to college I realized how special the time in his print shop had been.  I took every printmaking class and started making up independent projects so that would allow me continued access to the print studio.  I successfully schemed and created a study away experience that focused on letterpress history.  I began an internship under Elizabeth Harris and Stan Nelson at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.  At the time there was an amazing demonstration area in the museum where I learned how to knock up ink balls, change the frisket on the common press and fold newspaper hats.

That internship cemented my love of letterpress and of making.  I wanted to read and write about the history of printing, but I also wanted to increase my skills.  I began working at Minnesota Center for Book Arts and learned how contemporary artists were using letterpress and bookbinding.  The 11 years I spent working at MCBA heightened my appreciation for the finer points of the craft.  I became a better printer and bookbinder through the instruction I received and the projects I completed in my home printshop.

A surprise move from Minnesota to Ohio forced me to move the presses out of the house and into a storefront.  This became an accidentally wonderful way to build a community for myself in my new town.  I quickly found an active design community that welcomed Igloo as a print resource.  To build the business I ramped up custom work for local customers and launched a wholesale line at the National Stationery Show.  As production increased I brought in extra hands through talented interns and contractors.  Eventually, I gathered a talented crew of artists and makers to join Igloo’s staff.  Through our work as letterpress printers and bookbinders, we encourage a love of making and an appreciation for fine craft.  Visitors are welcomed to see the presses in action as they shop in our store and are encouraged to stop & make a journal at our book bar or sign up for a class to create their own project.

After 22 years of collecting and teaching, I still love letterpress and find joy in making something new every day.

Smitten for letterpress? We’d love to hear from you! Share your story in the comments below!

Rob LoMascolo: The Call of Letterpress

We enjoy hearing from wonderful members of the letterpress community on how the printing tradition has inspired them to their true calling. Aurora, NY-based Rob LoMascolo of The Press of Rob LoMascolo shares with us on why he is smitten with the printing tradition.

Why do I love letterpress? Letterpress appeals to me on many levels, but I think it is the tactility of it that appeals foremost to many of us. You can feel and see the difference. When looking at crisply printed type with just a slight bite into the paper one gets the sense that each and every letter is a physical thing, not a digital recreation of a thing, but every letter is a real actual thing that is very much part of that printed sheet.

My mom likes to tell people that in first grade we kiddos were all asked what we wanted to do when we grew up. Most of my classmates wanted to be athletes, firefighters or follow in their parent’s footsteps, but I wanted to own my own museum!

Yup, visitors always say my shop is like a working museum. Letterpress combines my loves of history, art, design, books, old machines, and above all, it has a realness about it that is lacking from so much of our digital world.

As much as I love letterpress for all those reasons, the reason I do it is simply because I have not found any better way.