Taking Flight With Wolf & Wren

Combine best friends, nerdy artsy passion, part-time printing & designing, and cheery, brilliant letterpress cards and you have the formula for the winning dynamic behind Wolf & Wren. Colorado-based Lauren Stapleton and Chicago-based Liz Wolf have harnessed their love for letterpress, passion for printing, and “go get’em” attitudes to flourish from a small ten card line to a 78-card line sold all over the country. Both sat down with us to discuss how they’ve been able to manage working across the country, the loving support of friends & family, and the happy, coffee-soaked moments when they get a chance to meet up throughout the year.

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country.

THE CREATIVE DUO Wolf & Wren Press is best friend duo, Liz Wolf and Lauren Stapleton.  We collaborate to produce special letterpress printed cards and other paper goods.

We met in childhood as budding artists. As adults, our background in the arts ranges from printmaking and paper-making to painting and bookbinding. Our sustaining mantra is combining good ideas with diligent planning, elbow grease, patience, and a little fun. We started Wolf & Wren Press to create unique and heartening products. All cards are illustrated, printed and packaged by us!

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country (with the help of a canine friend too!)

LS:  I live in a beautiful old town neighborhood of Longmont, Colorado with my husband, Matt, 1-year-old son, Micah, and our Newfoundland, Beatrice. In my spare time I try to fly fish, print for pleasure, eat s’mores by a campfire, cook, and drink beer. But spare time doesn’t really enter my lingo very often as my husband can attest to.

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country.

LW: I live in Chicago, IL in the Andersonville neighborhood on the north side. My husband Will and I are expecting our first baby in 6 weeks. I love to draw, hunt for vintage treasures, go out for walks and brunch, drink coffee or red wine, and laugh with friends. Currently, I love to binge Netflix, go for short walks, and prep our apartment (whoa- nesting is real!).

Our workload with Wolf & Wren has increased a ton in the last year, but Lauren and I are able to keep our lives in balance. I attribute this success to running a business with your best friend. It is so satisfying to accomplish our goals together.

LETTERPRESS LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT LS:  In college at Colorado State, I was a printmaking major, and simultaneously worked in the preservation lab of the university library fixing books. After college, I moved to San Francisco and became a bookbinder at Taurus Bookbindery, and took some classes at SF Center for the Book on letterpress printing. I realized that letterpress was the commonality between books and printing and fell in love. I immediately found a job as a letterpress printer to learn the trade further.

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country.

LW. My last semester of college at University of Illinois, I took a book arts class. My professor Bea Nettles introduced me to the Columbia College Chicago Book and Paper program. Soon after I started the MFA program and delved into the world of papermaking, letterpress, and bookmaking. I still concentrated on drawing which was/is my main interest. I was able to produce all of my drawings into printed matter, which was awesome. I love letterpress.

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country.

PRESS HISTORY LS: I bought a Vandercook SP15 in 2008.  I actually ran the business hand-feeding every piece till 2015! Now that I have a Heidelberg Windmill 10×15, that seems unimaginable. I do all my scoring on a Golding Pearl No. 3.

The wonderful print space of Wolf & Wren (Colorado).

PRINTING HAVEN LS:  I have a shop at my home. It’s actually a shop and not a garage, with no heat in the winter which gets pretty interesting. It holds all our stock of cards, the Pearl and the Vandercook. I had to get a different shop when I bought the Windmill. It’s just a couple blocks from my house, and holds the Windmill and the guillotine.

DESIGNER + PRINTER LS: Printing is my wheelhouse, though I can dabble in design work.  This work suits my skills to a “T”.

LW: I do the drawing and designing of our plates for printing. My knowledge of letterpress printing helps immensely when designing plates (hey- no full page color washes).

Brilliant and festive letterpress printed cards from Wolf & Wren.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS LW: When designing our cards, we start with a big brainstorm session that usually concentrates on a series of cards we are working on. Sometimes we start with the text, other times it is the imagery. For example, our most recent series is based on natural wonders. We knew we wanted the text to have sentiments like “You are amazing”, so we thought of all of the natural wonders imagery that would fit. We decided on a double rainbow, a geyser, an erupting volcano erupting, and a comet. After I’ve completed an initial sketch, I will send them to Lauren; we will discuss changes, color options, and layout adjustments. I will then create the final drawing, scan it, and work in Illustrator to create the final design. Lauren and I will look at the final file (are the crop marks correct?), and then upload onto the Boxcar’s website (which is so easy)!

FULL TIME FUN LS: Liz and I have been working towards the goal of running the business full time for years and we are closer than ever. We both go to work at our respective day jobs, and run this business at night, on the weekends, and pretty much every spare moment. Luckily, we have had a lot of fun getting to where we are now and I wouldn’t change any of it. We are so thankful for our supportive husbands and families for helping us along the way.

PRINTING FEATS LS: I am so proud of us for starting this business. We have been best friends since we met in 8th grade and we often talk about if we could have shown our past nerdy artsy high school selves what we would be doing as adults, I would have been so happy! Why did I worry about what I was going to do when I grew up?!

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country.

There have been a million accomplishments along the way too. Every single time I have moved and taken presses with me has been a minor miracle.

LW: Ditto! I am so happy that we started our business and have sustained our vision. After reading “In the Company of Women” I was struck by the similarities of the successful entrepreneurs interviewed. It is not an easy or straightforward path. You need support from family and friends, a lot of grit, and to continually cultivate your creativity. We started our line with a suite of ten cards that we sold at fairs and on Etsy. Now we have 78 in the line and sell upwards of 4,000 cards per month.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar plates have been the base for all our cards.  They are always friendly and happy to help if needed. Uploading files with the automatic color separation is amazing. Registration is a breeze with the plates and the Boxcar Base.

National Park-themed funny letterpress birthday card from Wolf & Wren.

SHOP TIPS LS: Static Guard Spray! Life saver. When I first started printing on my windmill it was last winter. I was having the strangest registration issues. I suspected it could be static.  This spray changed everything. Hours and hours of frustration solved. It’s so dry here in Colorado that static is a major issue for me. I was getting shocked every time I touched the press.

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country.

WHAT’S NEXT We are always working on new cards, and this year we will expand our line with new products. We don’t want to give away too much, but we will be working on prints amongst other things. Our winter 2017 catalog will be coming out in the next few weeks.

The creative part of our business has always been the easiest part, because there is never a lack of ideas! We have a production plan for our coming projects and will start checking off the list. 2017 will be an exciting year for W&W!

Huge round of thanks out to Lauren and Liz of Wolf & Wren! Keep the amazing work going!

Benjamin Eakin: New Beginnings with Quite Simply Cards

Letterpress finds us all and captivates us in one way or another. Benjamin Eakin of E. W. Card Crafts is no exception. From a rich printing history with his father in the newspaper business in Quanah, Texas, to navigating the transition from the old-school style of hands-on typesetting to the digital and modern age of letterpress printing, Benjamin has taken up the gauntlet of the challenges of starting a new part-time letterpress business. Armed with a small but mighty Craftsman Superior (that rode shotgun in his car on the return journey home after acquiring it), he is testing out the waters and is finding himself discovering new projects, a new greeting card line and championing the zealous ambition all letterpress printers share: the dream of getting back on press for just a little bit longer.

Benjamin Eakin of E.W. Card Crafts (Texas, USA), letterpress prints hand-made text-focus cards with brilliance and panache.

A RETURN TO LETTERPRESS To my utter dismay, I find I will soon turn 64. No idea at all how that happened but, well, here I am. I’ve worked at many things over the years, including a 16-year stint with my father and our book publishing company, software support for a book publishing software company, some time with a CPA, and my current position is the cash office of an international kidney dialysis company, among other things. Eakin Press originally published mainly Texas history and began as an extension of Nortex Press which had been printing county histories for a number of years. In turn, Nortex Press started as an extension of the Quanah Tribune Chief newspaper for the express purpose of printing county histories.

PRINTING TRADITIONS I grew up in the newspaper business in the 50s and 60s in north Texas. My father was the editor of the Quanah Tribune Chief in Quanah, Texas. At the time, the population was about 5,000. When we moved there when I was five, the newspaper had letterpress presses only. Even after a new building was built, the presses were moved the block down the town square to start a new life there.

Quanah Tribune (Texas, USA) early printing days in the 1950s-1960s.

Our pressmen and Linotype operators were all a little rough around the edges but that only served to make them more interesting. I worked at the newspaper collating papers and doing cleanup for many years. Not everyone in town knew my name but most everyone knew me as “Little Ed” – that editor’s kid. That made it rather difficult to get away with much. Eventually, the newspaper switched to offset presses but kept the Linotype and one or two of the letterpresses for job work. I used to deliver funeral notices to the stores on the square since this was a weekly paper and Wednesday might be too late to get the word out about a recent death in town.

Benjamin Eakin of E.W. Card Crafts (Texas, USA) posing for photos for the Quanah Tribune newspaper.

My brother, sister, and I did a lot of posing for photos to accompany news stories – for instance, posing in a wheat field for a story about that year’s crop. My father’s gone now and I’m afraid I don’t remember all the presses that were originally in the shop. There are some great memories, though, about the noise and smell of the press room.

Benjamin Eakin of E.W. Card Crafts (Texas, USA) as a book production manager before starting on his journey into letterpress printing.

I used to do the design and book layout for the book publishing company after years as the production manager. I was the one to first bring in a PC to test out typesetting on a personal computer instead of our dedicated Penta typesetting system. We gradually transitioned to PCs only. The designing I do now for the greeting card line, in addition to writing the text, has mostly to do with choosing a typeface for each card. My intent with the cards is to focus solely on the words to paint a visual picture for the recipient. We are so bombarded with images today that I cherish the chance to use my imagination to come up with its own visual. I’d like to think there’s a niche audience for the words I write and the look and feel of handcrafted cards.

PRINTING IN THE LONE STAR STATE My current shop is a small bedroom at home that operates as my home office and now home to my Craftsmen Superior press. I purchased the press last year from a couple who’d purchased it a couple of years earlier in New York. They ended up moving to Houston, Texas and life apparently got in the way – babies and such. I found it on Briar Press  and met the sellers just north of Houston to pick it up. The press rode in the passenger seat of my car for the trip back to Richardson – a part of the Dallas metroplex.

Benjamin Eakin of E.W. Card Crafts (Texas, USA) and his Craftsmen Superior tabletop letterpress on the ride home.

PART TIME PRINTER, FULL TIME FUN Sadly, I don’t print full time. In fact, the new online store was pushed back several months after I agreed to be a cousin’s executor. Sooner than expected, she died in late March of pancreatic cancer and several things were placed on hold as I tried to figure out how to handle that new job. My goal with the new online store, Quite Simply Cards, is to try to put myself in a position to give up my “day job” and concentrate on printing my greeting cards. I’m hopeful I can transition to printing full-time sometime in 2017. E.W. Card Crafts is named after my partner Tom Hayes and I. Edward is my middle name, William is Tom’s. Hence, E.W. – or Edward-William. We both worked for Eakin Press for many years in the past.The 1980s photo supplied of the two of us shows me on the left and Tom on the right. We’re a tad older now.

PRINTING FEATS I tend not to see my own accomplishments and rely on other people to point out that I’ve done something worthwhile. Yeah, I’m working on that rather poor self-image thing. Recently, however, I printed Shakespeare’s Sonnet 154 for the Oxford Bodleian Library’s call for entries to print all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his death. While I pushed it to almost the deadline, I managed to get my entry there on time. I printed the sonnet under my private press name Little Boy Blue Press. I was a fun challenge taken on for the pure enjoyment of it.

Benjamin Eakin of E.W. Card Crafts (Texas, USA) and his Craftsmen Superior tabletop letterpress press.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar Press has been there from the beginning with help in determining how I was going to set up my press. That included walking me through why I really needed to work with InDesign to produce print-ready images for ordering the polymer plates. I also now have two of Boxcar’s Deep Relief bases to help in a faster setup and press change for printing. Answers to questions have always been readily available from Boxcar.

PRINTING TIPS Neat tricks? Well, I’m a little too new to have much in the way of tricks except for one thing. Since my greeting cards all have the same basic layout, I’ve set up Excel files with a representation of the grid on my Boxcar base. I export the type for a card to a PNG file with transparency. Once I position the polymer plate exactly where I need it, I place the type transparency in the Excel file for that card. Now I know exactly how to position the plate for subsequent runs of that card.

Benjamin Eakin of E.W. Card Crafts (Texas, USA) simple but efficient production and design set-up headquarters.

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Also, setting up one card aids in quickly positioning a new card since I can position based on the previous card – if the saying is wider than the previous card, I can center the type for the new card over the previous and so on. I save a file for each greeting card for quick reference.

WHAT’S NEXT Plans for 2017? Hopefully, I’ll be able to print full-time. No plans right now to expand beyond the greeting card line but would like to think we’ll be successful enough to perhaps purchase something like a C&P 10×15. That would be too large for my home shop, so would mean finding a small commercial office. That’s the goal in the long term. I don’t see myself officially retiring. I have no reason to believe I’d be happy without some new project in my life. And it seems I never tire of finding new projects.

We’re cheering on Benjamin as he starts his new greeting card line and a huge round of thanks to him for letting us get the scoop on his wonderful printing heritage. Catch him here on Facebook!

Mirka Hokkanen: Linocuts and Letterpress

As a full-time mom and part-time printer, naturalist Mirka Hokkanen exemplifies the can-do printing spirit. The fine arts printer has enjoyed the challenges and joys that also come with relocation as her wonderful husband is active in the Army. The results are astounding and show the love she has for the printing tradition as seen in her beautifully detailed nature-themed linocuts and letterpress print work. We sat down with Mirka to talk shop, what it’s like to catch up with letterpress after all these years, and of course her upcoming wood engraving teaching position in Finland next summer.

 Mirka Hokkanen of Texas prints beautiful letterpress and linocut fine art prints.

THE TRAVELED PRINTER I’m a printmaker, mom, army wife, Finn, and an animal and nature lover. I was born and raised in Finland and came to the US after high school to go to college as an international student. I took a printmaking class my first semester and have been printing ever since. After my MFA, I got married to an Army guy, and we have been traveling the US (and Europe) since. Our family now consists of my husband and I, two kids, a doggie and fish.

The kids are finally old enough to be at a part time day care, and I am starting to work in the studio more efficiently. I feel like there is so much work to catch up with after being a full(er) time mom for several years. We love spending time outside (as much as the Texas heat will let us). The kids are just as interested in exploring nature as I am.   

Mirka Hokkanen of Texas prints beautiful letterpress and linocut fine art prints.

FOR THE LOVE OF LETTERPRESS There were some awesome letterpresses at the University of Dallas, where I got my MFA from. No one knew how to use them, so for my graduate work, I set some type on my own, and did embossing for a book project I had. The experiment was fun, and as a printmaker, I love all presses, no matter how they print. The seeds of letterpress were sown and I went on my way with etchings. Fast forward about six years, and several state-to-state moves. I was trying to look for a medium that was easier to move than etching equipment, but something I could get high detail in. I exposed polymer plates at home for intaglio, and was getting into color reduction linocuts. Letterpress drew me in, because of the ease of registering multiple plates. I proceeded to drive an hour and a half to take letterpress classes at SVC in Seattle and met Carl Montford who then taught and got me involved with wood engraving.   

Mirka Hokkanen prints beautifully detailed linocut prints.

PRESS HISTORY My very first press was a blue Dick Blick etching press. I used it quite a lot, but when I started getting into letterpress, I first got a tiny Sigwalt from eBay for almost nothing (because it was in horrible shape). Obviously that did not take me too far after fixing it up (I don’t think I ever printed anything with it) and within a couple years, my studio had an assortment of about 5 letterpresses in all shapes and sizes. 

Mirka Hokkanen prints on a Vandercook beautiful nature-themed linocut prints.

PRINTER ON THE MOVE Wherever we move, we do our best to get a house with enough room to have a studio in it. That way I can be at home and pop to work in the studio as much as possible. Compared to most other printers, my shop needs to pick up and move every three years, which limits the amount of things I can accumulate. I barely have any type for that reason or huge presses, and use polymer plates or carve linoleum if I need text in my work. My current studio is tiny, I can’t teach classes in it, but the best part about it is that it is right here, and I can go in there whenever I have a spare moment.

If I had to pick one thing to save in case of a fire, I’d grab my Morgan Lin-o-scribe press. I think everything else I could bare to part with or could replace. It’s like a loyal old dog: he follows me around everywhere we move, is a little shaggy and rough around the edges, waits for me patiently when I can’t get to printing for months, and makes a great impression whenever I need to get work done quickly.      

Mirka Hokkanen prints on a Vandercook beautiful nature-themed linocut prints.

THE PRINTER AND DESIGNER I’ve always considered myself a printmaker, but recently I’ve been becoming more of a proper business owner too. I come from a fine art background, so I’ve always done everything from designing the images, and carving the plates, to hands-on printing and then photographing and marketing to sell the finished product and sending them off to their new homes. 

THE CREATIVE PROCESS I usually have a mix of ideas in my head for new prints. I think it kind of looks like alphabet soup in there. Over time, I might sketch things on paper and let them marinate some more. Sometimes things will mull for over a year before the time is right to start working on them. When I finally have the finished idea of what I want to do, the execution goes pretty fast.

I often don’t sketch things too much. Many times it’s just one drawing that I might work over and over, which gets transferred onto a block and then carved. It’s fairly mechanical after the idea is complete. For multiple plate blocks, with several colors, I might do thumbnail sketches with watercolors, or scan my drawing and play with color options in Photoshop.

Cutting and printing with linocuts by fine arts printmaker Mirka Hokkannen.


PART TIME PRINTING, FULLTIME FUN
I’d say I work as an art business as close to full time as I get from the kids. I’ve done my fair share of odd jobs over the years, from adjunct teaching, to volunteering and then staying at home with kids. With the moving, my studio is the only thing that travels with me and that I can work on consistently. My dream one day is to make prints full time and have an assistant who would do some of the business end of things. It won’t be until after we settle down one day, though. It’s fun to dream in the meantime, though.

Mirka Hokkanen prints beautifully detailed linocut prints. "Mr. Carpey".

PRINTING FEATS I’m proud that I’m still printing with passion after all these years. I have more confidence than ever in my work, and have figured out how to challenge myself and grow without the consistent support of a local artist/printer/gallery community that many others have. My friends live far and wide, and the peer community who I rely on offers support through emails, phone calls, and social media groups.

On the flip-side; picking up every three years, has forced me (a sworn introvert) to become super fast at networking every time we land in a new town.  

BOXCAR’S ROLE I’ve been ordering unexposed plates from Boxcar for about 5 years now, and the service has always been flawless. I’ve even ordered a couple ready made plates, when I wanted something to turn out perfect or needed lots of detail that I didn’t want to risk exposing myself. I have some ideas for prints with larger plates, that I care not to carve as engravings, and Boxcar will be my go-to plate source at that point.

PRINTING TIPS I usually print linocuts and engravings, which in some ways is different than type. I’ve got a lot of tricks up my sleeve to get things to print right. First, I almost always prefer to ink by hand, which gives me more leverage on ink coverage, and how the paper lays on the plate while printing.

In this video, you can see I use pieces of foam on big prints to keep paper off the plate until the press rolls over it. It keeps the ink from making stretch marks in solid areas. If you use a different system, like a Vandercook or an iron hand press where the paper meets the plate differently, this wouldn’t make a difference.

Really, the biggest advice I can share is: have lots of patience and have a group of people who you can call on for advice. The best way to learn is just to do lots of it. You will have a different problem with each edition to solve, so you become really smart by the time you’re a seasoned printer. LOL! I try to keep up with a blog of tips and tricks. It’s a record for myself to remember the things I’ve done with editions and hope it’s something for students to reference also. You can find it here!

  Mirka Hokkanen prints on a Vandercook beautiful nature-themed linocut prints.

WHAT’S NEXT At this point it looks like we will be moving overseas in the middle of 2017. Packing and unpacking will take up most of the year, so I am working really hard to build up a mailing list now, and release a collection of prints in March-April before we pack up. Join the mailing list here!

Secondly, I am also really excited to be teaching a wood engraving beginners class in Finland next summer. The technique is all but died out there, so I hope to invigorate and inject some enthusiasm about engraving into graphic artists there.  

A big round of thanks out to Mirka for letting us get a sneak peak at her beautiful printing world!

Melissa Livingston: Falling For Letterpress

Melissa Livingston of Livingston Press is located in the sunny city of Oakton, Virginia. On this warm fall day, she shared with us a small peek at her printing world and the wonderful printing community that inspires her daily—from running letterpress workshops, printing mentors (and family), and the itch to get back on press.

Melissa Livingston cheerily prints on a Chandler & Price Oldstyle in her letterpress shop in Oakton, Virginia.

INSPIRED BEGINNINGS As a small child I fell in love with letters while watching them dance across the big screen the first time I saw the movie 101 Dalmatians. The opening credits were revolutionary at the time. The spots on the dogs morphed into words; it was art to me. Because of my love of letter forms, color and paper, I studied commercial art in college and then worked as a book and calendar designer.

Melissa Livingston's gorgeous letterpress business cards for Livingston Letterpress

A RETURN TO THE PRINTING ARTS After taking a long sabbatical to raise my 5 wonderful children, I decided I wanted to get back into design. By that time everything in the design world had changed from waxed columns of type placed by hand on the art board to being completed on a computer screen. I missed the hands-on experience, so one day on a bit of a whim I decided to buy a 6×10 Kelsey Excelsior Victor tabletop press that came with a Boxcar Base, despite not actually knowing anything about how to print.

Melissa Livingston prints on a Chandler & Price Oldstyle in Virginia.

PRINTING MENTORS After an on-line search I discovered Alan Runsfeldt at Excelsior Press Museum Print Shop in Frenchtown, New Jersey and took the little press to him to learn how it worked. Alan became a mentor and a friend. I purchased my first drawer of type from a basement in Bethesda, Maryland and with the patient guidance of Rebecca at Boxcar Press, learned how to submit a file to create a polymer plate. I was printing! I printed my niece’s wedding invitations, Christmas cards and lots of other projects. I set up a little designated printing space in my basement and loved creating on that little press.

melissa-livingston-letterpress-invitation-suites

One day the little press broke and seeing my disappointment, my husband searched on eBay for a press. He came across a 10×15 Chandler & Price Oldstyle not far from our home. A dear friend helped us move the press into our garage and through YouTube videos and the kindness of other artists in the field (including Alan who taught me how to properly oil my machine), I continued to learn the craft of letterpress printing.

Melissa Livingston prints gorgeous letterpress pieces in Virginia, USA.

THE CREATIVE FLOW My passion is really the hands on aspect of the craft. I prefer a machine powered by foot treadle. I have also collected quite an array of wooden and lead type and I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of setting type. I stock only primary colors of ink and mix all my colors by hand. I have also added a Potter Press for poster making, which does not have an inking mechanism, so all inking is done with a brayer.

Hand-set type locked-up in a chase by Melissa Livingston.

I do some design work with Illustrator, but prefer to leave the computer-related tasks to others. I work with a wonderful designer, Holly Osborn, whose work you can find on my website. It has also been a joy to collaborate with my daughter Megan as she has designed a few wedding suites.

Melissa Livingston prints gorgeous letterpress pieces in Virginia, USA.

VERY VIVACIOUS IN VIRGINIA Livingston Letterpress began with the Chandler & Price in a corner of our garage. In the cold winter I would use a space heater and a candle under the ink disk to keep it warm enough to move the ink. In September of 2014 I moved into a real studio we added onto our home. The studio is a sacred, beautiful space to me; a physical reminder that dreams really do come true! I have a stunning composing table that found its way to me through the kindness of a jewelry artist who had inherited it from a printer friend. I have cases of type that sat for decades in basements and now have new life as letters are inked and pressed to the paper to print once again. I am connected to my tools as I have cleaned and scrubbed and made them functional again. It is an amazing feeling to look around the room and be surrounded by love; love for the craft, love for the kindness of others who have taught me or passed along tips or equipment, and the love of a family that supports this passion of mine.

PRESS HISTORY 6×10 Kelsey Excelsior Victor tabletop press, 10×15 Chandler & Price Oldstyle

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar Press has been a wonderful resource to me. I use a 5×7 Base, a 9×12 Base and also very small bases that allow me to mix polymer plates with handset type. I love the flexibility that platemaking allows a letterpress printer. I recently ordered plates in Korean, Arabic and Russian!

I think the thing that impresses me most about Boxcar is the kindness of the staff, especially their patience as they have walked me through how to confirm my artwork is 100% black.

Melissa Livingston prints gorgeous letterpress pieces in Virginia, USA.

PRINTING FEATS I am so grateful for the opportunities that have come my way through letterpress printing. I treasure the connections I have made with people who have come to print and I love seeing their reaction as they create a treasure. I am inspired by the words people choose to turn into art. I was thrilled to get to print the menus and booklet covers and hand-stitch the bindings of the booklets for the 2015 Kinfolk Dinner in Washington, DC, but my favorite projects have been to print wedding suites for my oldest son and daughter.

Big round of thanks out to Melissa for the fun happenings at Livingston Press. Keep up the amazing work!

The Handsome Prints of Dapper Ink

In the beautiful rolling landscape of Greenville, South Carolina you’ll find the versatile Dapper Ink letterpress and silkscreen print shop. The down-south shop boasts expertly printed pieces, a great design staff, and a penchant for perfecting the right amount of ink (whether it’s on a tee shirt or cotton rag paper stock). The bright & light-hearted Virginia gave us a tour of her studio to talk shop, expanding to a new location, where to grab a great bite to eat, and of course… letterpress.

Dapper Ink printshop holds letterpress printing press treasures, silkscreen prints, and hand-crafted style.

PRINTING BEGINNINGS We are a custom print and design shop, primarily focused on screen printed apparel. Matt Moreau and his wife Jen started screen printing t-shirts out of their house in 2007, and now employ a full team of printers and designers. Our first letterpress machine, a Chandler and Price, came from a local printshop that had closed its doors. Matt started building a letterpress client base, and would print whenever he had some time to spare. I started learning on the C&P when I interned for Dapper during college. They brought me on as the full time letterpress printer about a year and a half ago.

TYPE OF SHOP We are a full service print and design shop. We have two automatic screen presses, three manual screen presses, a wide format printer for fine art prints, a Chandler & Price, 2 table top clamshell letterpresses, and a hot foil machine. We also facilitate digital, offset, and anything else our customers can think up.

NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN THE SPACE We currently have two full time designers and two design interns, and Matt, the owner, now focuses on designing for our sister company The Landmark Project. We have between 15-20 full time and part time employees between the two companies.  The designers here do everything from helping people refine their t-shirt or business card designs to full branding for new companies as well as creating designs for our own Dapper Ink retail line.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP Our main shop is about 1500 square feet. We also have a secondary space that is about 6000 square feet and we originally planned to move the business there, but it filled up too quickly so now we have both spaces. The large space is in a new development called Hampton Station. It’s a warehouse facility that is being converted into shops and green space. There is currently a crossfit gym, a paddle board company, and a brewery operating in the other spaces.

THE LOCATION We are in the Stone’s Point shopping center that includes a dry cleaner, custom denim shop called Billiam, a home goods/gift shop called Urban Digs, and a craft beer and wine bar Community Tap. We have a rotation of five or six food trucks that setup for lunch and dinner outside of Community Tap.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL We went through a mile of double sided tape in the span of about a year. I use it for press setup, and we seem always need it for something.

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE We have a standard 6×9 Boxcar Base that we’ve used from the beginning, but I’m thinking it’s time to upgrade to the 9×12.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE I just started using Easy Street for cleanup this year, and it’s a real game changer.

ORGANIZATION TIPS I wish we had some organization secrets [laughs].

PRINTING ADVICE Mixing reflex blue into black gives much better coverage than straight black ink.

COMING SOON In 2017 we will be focusing on our new retail/wholesale line.  We are currently in 8 shops around the country, and hope to expand. I am also excited to be training Alexander, one of our screen printers, on the C&P. We are hoping to add another press, and develop our poster printing capabilities.

Dapper Ink letterpress business card that beautifully uses wood grain pattern effectively and brilliantly.
Dapper Ink printshop holds letterpress printing press treasures, silkscreen prints, and hand-crafted style.

Sweet Prints at Typebee

Typebee studio’s very own Breanna White’s extraordinary printing journey started with a curious stumble over a classified for a letterpress internship. After the pull of the trip, the instantaneous (and quite insatiable) hook set in. Fast forward a few years later and Breanna is bridging the gap between old generation printing and new printing techniques at her cozy shop. With a small pile of chocolate at the ready (as she’s unabashedly a chocoholic), she sat down with us between ink runs to talk about her escapades for printing with DOMA coffee, the joy of working with her hands, and her inspirational (and aspiring printer) daughter, Jaedah.

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

CREATIVE CHOCOHOLIC PRINTER In a nutshell, I’m a biodynamic gardener, book nerd who loves chocolate, not coffee… I know, designer’s sin, guess that’s why I’m a printmaker for a coffee company? Wait, how’d that happen?

LUCKY WITH LETTERPRESS It all began as a child, being handed the assembly-required gifts at holidays. I was attracted to the process of building. Starting with a myriad of unfamiliar objects, working through the technical illustrations labyrinth to arrive at a complete, usable item. One could imagine clicking a mouse eight hours a day wasn’t exactly filling my cup. So when I was tasked to find an internship, I began researching the tail end of design. Printing. I stumbled across a listing for a letterpress intern at Steel Petal Press reading ‘hand skills required’. That’s me!! Embarrassed to admit, I didn’t even know what letterpress printing was at the time, but I remember the very moment when I pulled the trip, making my first impression. I was hooked. Not just the impression, the whole of the process. There is something magical about process, the unfolding of a project over time. Since we are by design process-oriented beings, process-oriented tasks help us connect at a deeper level.

Letterpress work samples from Breanna White of Typebee studios.
Letterpress work samples from Breanna White of Typebee studios.

With that, I found myself traveling to Webster, NY to purchase my first letterpress. A C&P Pilot from Ray Czapkowski at Dock 2 Letterpress. After meeting Ray, I realized his generation of printers understood the process from a practical and mechanical point of view. Which is necessary in the modern, because who are you going to call when the drive wheel from the 1924 New Style C&P decides to fly off at random, rolling towards your boss innocently sitting in the corner? Or when the original wood spool cracks during a lecture to NIC Students causing the belt to slip? It’s helpful to understand how the equipment functions so you can identify and fix malfunctions. The drive wheel was stripped, so I tapped new holes. The spool no longer had an evenly arched surface causing the belt to ride the higher route jamming it against the motor, so I evened it out with duct tape for the sake of continuing the lecture until it could be repaired. These are lessons learned from people like Ray and Ed Regan who taught me the historical and technical aspects of letterpress. There’s a lost generation of printing knowledge, it’s important to bridge that gap, and ask questions because knowing the limitations of the output gives way for good input. Start with output and work backwards.

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

COZY PRINT SHOP It’s 400 square feet of pure bliss. If there were a shower, I’d highly consider moving in.

DESIGNED TO PRINT My initial training is in Visual Communications with a BFA from the Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago along with typographic studies from HGK in Basel, Switzerland. So I wear both hats but I enjoy printing most. And the fact that I get to wear an apron to work is pretty appealing. I’ve been fortunate to work with a diverse group of clients and designers and enjoy the collective efforts. Having had prior experience with the design process does give the ability to communicate effectively with clients and designers alike.

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS Research. Research. Research. Then long walks to visualize the final idea and from there work backwards taking into consideration the output of the design before creating a roadmap, also known as the lost art of sketching. Coupled with many chocolate intermissions. If I find myself spinning the wheel, I take another walk to get the creative juices flowing. Once I have a tight comp, I’ll bring it in digitally. My least favorite part of the process…

FULL TIME PRINTER I letterpress full time in parts for the last two years and have been printing for five. I own my business, Typebee Letterpress Printshop and also subcontract for companies like DOMA Coffee Roasting Co.

COFFEE TIME Finest coffee you’ll ever taste. It’s of an unfortunate irony that I cannot drink it. Here’s the story:

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

As a recent arrival from Chicago, I soon understood searching for studio space in Spokane, WA would become a Quest of Epic Proportions. And as the universe would have it, a trail of crumbs led me to the front door of DOMA Coffee Roasting Co. in Post Falls, ID. I have had the fortune to work unique jobs in my lifetime, cleaning a coal mine for one but in no way did I know solicitation for letterpress restoration would be one of ’em.

Following my 30-second elevator pitch to Mindy, Jack-of-all-DOMA, I awkwardly lingered in the front entrance. I’d like to believe before words were ever exchanged between Rebecca, owner of DOMA, and I that we knew something magical was already in the making. After The Wonderful World of DOMA tour, we came upon our last stop, The Press. If you have ever felt motionless in a point of time whilst all else carries on around you… The Press was that point. And some employees would admit, a hindrance between point A and point B.

If you can imagine a 5’3” lady weighing approximately 120 lbs. soaking wet wearing denim coveralls too many sizes too big, with nitrile gloves and a half face ventilator mask… well, there I was with wire brush and mineral spirits hand scrubbing a 2,500lb. cast iron beast of a lady clad with God only knows what. I think too often we perceive the old as something to avoid or something to replace. Letterpress printing is more than ink on gorgeous paper; the process represents a historical pivot, one of equal corporative between craftsman and machine.

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios. A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

After the letterpress was restored, well someone needed to operate it. For a time I flew back and forth between Chicago and Idaho to fulfill orders. It was in November of 2014, DOMA was having an open house for the Winter Wonderland coffee bags and Lee from Letterpress USA stopped by asking a lot of questions. At first I thought she was interested in the process but later realized I was being tested on my expertise. Less than ten minutes of her departure I received a phone call asking if I’d like to work for Letterpress USA. I said yes without thinking, hung up the phone and realized that I lived in Chicago!! Ha. So naturally I went home and packed the car and then headed west. I currently work part-time for Letterpress USA as a journey(wo)man learning Die Cutting, Perforating, Scoring and Foil Stamping.

On the side, I offer private lessons and lecture about the history of letterpress & the process of printing. Also just began a joint Greeting Cards venture: CardCo Lab is a collaborative letterpress project managed by myself, printmaker Bee, and creative writer Michal Bennett. Our purpose is to craft exquisite and one-of-a-kind letterpress greeting cards that connect brilliant artists, creative minds, and judicious consumers. Each card that we create is printed as a limited edition run and is only available until sold out. Then it’s on to the next beloved project.

PRINTING FEATS The first one that comes to mind, is restoring DOMA’s New Style C&P. It had sat for 30+ years and needed some TLC. When we fired Er’ up for the first time, Rebecca, owner of DOMA, and I just looked at each other in a state of ‘is this really happening?!’. Another was when I finally mastered printing on bag gussets without a break in the ink. The Addy Award was a proud moment too.

PRESS HISTORY My first letterpress was a C&P Pilot from Webster, NY. In a few weeks Bootup (boo-dup), will be having a new home in San Jose, California. Er’ is a well-traveled press: New York to Chicago to Post Falls to San Jose. Tear tear, Er’ will be missed. Other presses in the shop: Pulowech (pul-lah-wetch) a New Style 12 x 18 C&P, Nukumi (noo-goomee) an Old Style 10 x 15 C&P and hopefully coming soon Nakuset (nah-goo-set) a Heidi 10 x 15 Windmill from Seattle. Much needed for my poor back.

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Letterpress in the modern would not exist at its current capacity without Boxcar Press. This is where technology and old world methods meet. As I’ve said before, letterpress is a process in a non-process oriented world. People want to push buttons and enjoy instantaneous gratification. If it weren’t for platemaking services like Boxcar, I’m not sure how practical letterpress would be from a turn-around standpoint. Personally, Boxcar has helped me from the very beginning from understanding what base/plates to use, troubleshooting and same-day turn around when you’ve overlooked placing the headline in your artwork. Oops. As Michael at Letterpress USA says, “Print Happens.” Thank you Cathy, Rebecca and the Boxcar team for all you do!! And I have to say, I think it’s important to create and foster relationships within the printing community. It’s exciting to see people joining the craft, which keeps us moving forward. Boxcar has always been that pillar in the letterpress community.

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

SHOP TIPS Never count anyone out, by that I mean we all have something to teach and something to learn. Ed is a great example. He was considered a mere mover of presses. After striking up a conversation he became one of my greatest mentors. And has a treasure box of information and history one couldn’t believe. One of my favorite stories of his is about simultaneously running three Heidi Windmills as a youth. I remember being in awe, now I can do the same. Picture your vision, and enjoy the process of getting there.

WHAT’S NEXT I’m working towards offering everything under one roof; design, letterpress, packaging and finishing. I’ve spent the last seven years learning each part of the process in depth and would like 2017 to become a year of transition from being a solo printer to having multiple people of their respective fields working together with Typebee. Press on.

LAST THOUGHTS The most important piece to all of this, are my daughter Jaedah and her sidekick MoMo, a rainbow stuffed sock monkey. They’ve always been at my side and eager to spin every flywheel we come across. She’s my little inspiration and aspiring printer.

Immensely huge round of thanks out to Breanna of Typebee for the unique glimpse into her exceptionally awesome printing realm!

The Printing Realm of Genghis Kern

A decade has passed and the creative gleam in Jason Wedekind’s eye still outshines even the brightest of metallic ink accent in his impressive printing portfolio. The Colorado-based printing realm of Genghis Kern has grown from two dozen cases of lead type & a single press to setting-up camp (and shop) in his dream workspace (not to mention acquiring a drool-worthy collection of hand-set and metal type). With one foot rooted in both the design & job world, Jason and his exceptionally gifted team have repeatedly pushed letterpress printing boundaries and amped up the creative oomph to their printed work. We stopped in to chat with Jason about the joys of printing, working with his mentor Tom Parsons, balancing life with two wonderful kids, and keeping up with the flow of community workshops.

Jason Wedekind (left) of Genghis Kern in his Colorado-based letterpress printshop.
(from left to right: Jason Wedekind and Jeff Shepherd of Genghis Kern)

DECADE OF PRINTING INGENUITY I founded Genghis Kern 10 years ago this May when I started printing for friends while working as an art director for a small design firm in Denver. I still remember the day when I bought my first press, leaving with 24 cases of lead type banging around in the back of my SUV and saying “what the hell did I just do? I don’t even know if I like this?!?!” I had been introduced into this wonderful world by Tom Parson, Denver’s poet/printer grandfather of letterpress, and founder of the Englewood Depot Letterpress Museum. The letterpress bug bit hard and hasn’t stopped biting yet. I spent many a night printing all sorts of fun stuff while learning the trade.

Silver metallic letterpress printed invitation piece amps up the wow-factor at Genghis Kern.

The firm I worked for got hit hard during 2009 and I was thrust into the world of self employment. With an 18month old daughter, it was stressful, but the payoff was rewarding. From day one it’s been a nice mix of design work and job work, with the goal being producing tactile work that makes both us and our clients proud. “One foot rooted in each world” is how a recent shop visitor described what we’ve built.

CREATIVE IN COLORADO Our current shop is my dream space. I drove by it in 1999 and said “That’d be a cool place to work” and now we do. It was a Hispanic Furniture and Record shop 2 blocks from my house. We have 2,000 square feet up front which we turned into a co-working space for creative types, and our 1,000 square foot print shop is in the back.

Pressman and presses alike convene beautifully at the commercial letterpress printshop that is Genghis Kern.

When I brought my current pressman/designer Jeff Shepherd on over a year ago, he mentioned he had a windmill in his folks’ garage. My garage shop was full to the gills at that time, but I knew growth was in our future. You see, I had moved my design arm of Genghis Kern out of my bedroom 2 years prior into a shared work space with 4 other creative firms. When I brought a pressman on, they worked in my garage and I ran back and forth the 5 blocks from the new “office” to the print shop. It worked, but grew tiresome. Let alone having to keep my house clean in case they needed to pee. I started looking for a new space that would allow us to combine a print shop and office space, and reached out to the owner of the furniture store blocks from my house. It had been vacant since 2005.

He agreed to my crazy plan and we broke ground in January of 2015, gutting the space and crossing our fingers that our floorplan for the pressroom would work out. Then the dominoes began to fall. We started with my original 10×15 C&P, an Asbern ADR-1 (German SP-15 Clone), a 10×15 Windmill, and a 30″ Challenge cutter. While doing the buildout Jeff saw a Heidlberg KSBA at auction that had inkers on it. My “dream” press. So we added that to the mix, quickly shuffling our floor plan to be to make room. Then one of the printers from our bimonthly printer’s lunch in Denver walked into our garage and said “Did you guys see that Vandercook for sale on the western slope?” Jeff ran inside and put an offer down on it. HIS dream press, a Vandercook 4.

Pressman and presses alike convene beautifully at the commercial letterpress printshop that is Genghis Kern.

We figured we’d deal with the floorplan when we had a floor to plan. SOON. So that became our current shop. We set the two proof presses up in our “type alley” where we host an occasional workshop. It’s fun having different presses to turn to when something goes south.

TL;DR: Our shop started out in my garage 10 years ago. 1 C&P and a cutter. I then moved 3 blocks and built my second “garage” shop, large enough to fit a C&P, Proof press (not yet owned), and a windmill (not yet owned), a stone and a cutter. What I neglected to tell my wife when we were designing the floor plan, was that if the presses were to move out one day, my dad’s vintage BMW motorcycle collection could slide right in where the presses once stood.

Colorado-based Jason Wedekind of Genghis Kern prints letterpress with creativity and panache.

INTRIGUED BY LETTERPRESS While working as an art director back in 2003, someone brought in a beautiful custom duplexed letterpress/foil stamped card and said they wanted to add 3 initials to their name in 6pt. I looked at my print broker and asked “How the hell are we going to do that?” She told me letterpress. Hand-fed letterpress. I was intrigued. I knew of letterpress from the design annuals but had never been up close. That was about to change in a big way. I walked into the printshop of Tom Parson, our local “godfather” of letterpress and was transported to a different time. Tom printed that job and I said “I want a press (like every designer in the mid 2000s)” and he put me on the list. I asked him to teach me the process and he showed me how to do everything from hand washing plates to treadling. When it came time to print, he started kicking and I asked if I could try. He let me. The rest is history. I ended up kicking 600 cards in 40 minutes to which Tom asked “where did you learn how to do that?”. I told him my childhood was spent working in a decorating tool factory in Chicago, our family business which was started in 1908. Slave labor at its finest. But that slave labor instilled some hand eye coordination that I surely don’t complain about now.

The beautiful printing presses gleam in the sunshine of Genghis Kern (Colorado).

FIRST PRESS 1922 10×15 C&P

PRINTING MENTORS Tom Parson will always be my first mentor, but my inspirations are the people out there pushing the boundaries and keeping the art of letterpress alive like Jen Farrell of Starshaped Press in Chicago. A day rarely goes by when I’m not wiping drool of my phone thanks to her instagram feed.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I’m a designer and a printer. I’ve been hiring designers and printers. And we’re on a quest to turn some designers into printers. Feet in both worlds.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS My design process has been greatly influenced by the door that letterpress opened to the typographic world. Being faced with a design challenge and combining passions when applicable is the best feeling. Whether it be typographically or texturally, or both.

Jaw-dropping tight registration and beautiful letterpress printing are regulars at Genghis Kern (Colorado).

FULL TIME FUN, ALL YEAR ROUND Lately I’ve been printing a little more, but as the workload grows, I find myself printing less and less but enjoying the time in front of the presses even more. I’m also a member of the Amalgamated Printers Association, which is an incredible group of 150 printers from around the world who print 4x or more times a year. Each member gets a monthly envelope with everyone’s work in it. So creating for that keeps me on my toes and up to my elbows in type.

PRINTING FEATS I’m proud that I’ve been able to grow a business from a passion, and employ people with similar passions. I’m also proud to keep these ancient machines and type from the scrap heap. Those two kids I’m trying to instill a work ethic in before it’s too late? They make me proud on a daily basis. I think I complained more about “helping Dad” when I was their age. Eva and Jasper? Thanks for putting up with me!

BOXCAR’S ROLE The quality of Boxcar plates are unparalleled in my opinion. We have local photopolymer plate makers but letterpress isn’t their main focus. I know that if I get my artwork in on time, I’m going to get plates back quickly. And when there’s an issue with my plates, the help that the staff provides is top notch.

Eye-popping color and beautiful blind deboss letterpress pieces are hand-crafted with care at Genghis Kern (Colorado).

SHOP TIPS Embrace your local community. The amount of knowledge gained by the “olds” out there who aren’t getting younger, by the way, is invaluable. And most of them love sharing. If there’s no active community that you know of, start one by inviting over some old printers for coffee and donuts.

WHAT’S NEXT Just keep on organizing our new space. Offer a few more workshops. Streamline work flow. And continue to produce work we’re all proud of.

A huge round of applause (and thanks!) out to Jason of Genghis Kern for letting us get a sneak peek at his wonderfully creative printing world.

Unique International Printing Presses

Across the globe, letterpress printing has captured the heart of many a printer, be they from Italy, Brazil, the U.K. and beyond. Each country has dipped its own pen and added to our collective letterpress history through the beautiful creation of presses and the ingenious pressman at the helm of these metal beauties. We reached out to some our printing colleagues to check out what unique international printing presses are founded in their country or rare presses they have had the honor to ink up. Some are of their own countries’ origin in production and some are foreign-born masterpieces. Either way, the global letterpress community grows stronger as more of these special presses are inked up and shared with others.

Davide Tomatis – Italy – Archivio Tipografico  our latest press is a Schelter&Giesecke – Phoenix IV. This press is a sliding platen press, designed and produced in Leipzig at the beginning of last century (around 1905). The maximum printable format is 40 x 66 cm and its weight reaches 1600 Kg. It has 4 inking rollers that work in couples: one couple inks the form on its way down and the other couple on its way up. It’s a very sophisticated inking system that we’ve only ever seen on this kind of press. It ensures a perfect inking of the form, as the active inking rollers are always evenly inked and don’t carry back on the form the sign of the type they just inked.

Davide Tomatis of Archivio Tipografico (Italy) prints on a Phoenix IV (German press) | Unique International Printing Presses feature

We acquired it in January 2015; our friend Luca of Anonima Impressori told us about a place near Bologna with an incredible collection of platen and piano-cylinder presses. We weren’t in need of any new press but – as you can imagine –  we couldn’t help ourselves. We immediately went there and what we found was a very big, dark, cold and humid warehouse with presses everywhere. We never saw such a large place before.

Most of the machines were quite conventional: Saroglia, Heidelberg, Nebiolo… but just around a corner, hidden by a Nebiolo Urania 70×100, Emanuele couldn’t believe his expert eyes when he recognized his dream press: the Phoenix!

Davide Tomatis of Archivio Tipografico (Italy) prints on a Phoenix IV (German press)

The Phoenix press series, produced by Schelter & Giesecke, are a particularly big and sturdy model of presses and one of the biggest ever built in the history of printing. As far as we knew the only working Phoenix in Italy was in Enrico Tallone’s printshop; what’s more, the model in the warehouse, was the biggest one of the series. No need to specify that seconds after the discovery a decision was taken: we had to make place for her in our printshop. We had a lot of work to do on her: she had no inking rollers, no engine, no cleaning system and she was covered in years and years of dust and dried ink.

Davide Tomatis of Archivio Tipografico (Italy) prints on a Phoenix IV (German press)

The restoration was quite a long and difficult process; as we didn’t have any manual or technical info we pretty much had to guess everything, from the size of the rollers to the right kind of engine. After a few tries we found the right size of the rollers and we were very lucky with the discovery of a super engine by our trusted and experienced electrician (a beautiful original AEG model). After that we engineered a cleaning system for maximum practicality of use.

Davide Tomatis of Archivio Tipografico (Italy) prints on a Phoenix IV (German press) | Unique International Printing Presses feature

We had to come up with an original solution as the machine wasn’t originally equipped with any cleaning system: the printer had to dismantle the rollers after each use and clean them manually. Lastly, to look as beautiful and as majestic as she deserves, we restored the amazing details embossed in cast-iron on the body of the machine, as Schelter & Giesecke mark on the side of the press and the name of the model on the front and we brought them back to their original golden color.

Davide Tomatis of Archivio Tipografico (Italy) prints on a Phoenix IV (German press)

Now the Phoenix press holds pride of place in our space: it’s the most elegant, powerful and historically relevant press we’ve ever owned, and we’re very proud for having brought her back into printing shape!

Marcelo Pinheiro – Brazil – Carimbo Studio The first press we had was a small tabletop one. We found it with a guy who buys and sells graphic equipment here in Brazil. He also had some metal type with it (in fact he was going to sell it to the junkyard and have all the type melt). Its original colour was black, but they had it painted with this green hammered textured paint, that helps disguise imperfections, but on the other hand is good for cleaning with solvents.

It is a Japanese press, manufactured by Osaka Printing Ink company (serial number L603) but we don’t know much more about it.

Osaka Printing Ink Company press | Unique International Printing Presses

Here in Brazil this kind of press is called ‘socadeira’ or ‘prelo de soco’ as you have to pull the lever to make an impression (punch = soco, in Portuguese). We are trying to get this press back to its glory days and we plan to use it to show people how letterpress printing works, demonstration and such, as it’s very simple to operate (once you have already made all previous adjustments).

Another press we have in the shop is from a Brazilian manufacturer called Catu (meaning ‘Very Good’ in Tupi Guarani – Brazilian indians’ language). I think that “Minerva” – like the Goddess of Wisdom and Arts – is kind of a generic name that all platen presses are called here and on Latin America as well. The company was founded by German immigrants and started producing printing equipment in 1946 – and they still make offset equipment nowadays. It’s very common around here, but despite that, we can’t find much information about it – we don’t know when it was made and we don’t have a manual. It was still working as a printing press when we found it, but people also modify it for die cutting, thus removing all the inking system and all rollers.

This model is often referred to as Minerva Catu 1/4 – as its printing size corresponds for a quarter of a 99×66 cm (Brazilian standard) paper sheet. We heard that its design is based on some German model, but we really don’t know. It’s a hand fed platen press and it has adjustments for rail height and printing pressure. We find interesting the lever for turning the flywheel on – and off, as it also works as a break. It has adjustable speed but we like to run it slowly and appreciate the work as we go!

Marcelo Pinheiro of Carimbo Studio (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.Marcelo Pinheiro of Carimbo Studio (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.

Marcelo Pinheiro of Carimbo Studio (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.

There are lots of these presses here in Brazil, but they ended up mostly used for finishing (die cutting, scoring, numbering). We have seen people painting Catus with all sorts of colors (black, white, red, etc.) but we like ours as it was made and its greenish industrial paint. But we made special leather grippers for the impression handle and the start / stop lever. It gives our press a much cooler look! Coincidentally, we ended up buying it from the same person that we bought our Heidelberg Windmill from, but it was totally random.

Marcelo Pinheiro of Carimbo Studio (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.

It weights over 2500 pounds (1150 Kg) and has a printing area of 13 x 19 inches (335 x 487 mm). On our Catu we have printed album covers for a French / Brazilian Music label and we made posters for Association Typographique Internationale  and for Englewood Letterpress Depot, besides several other projects. It is our press of choice when running larger pieces.

The Catus are always accompanied by two side tables to keep the paper sheets: on one side you leave the blank paper and on the other one you put the sheets that were just printed as you are hand feeding the press.

We find it easy to setup and it has a feature that I haven’t seen on other presses: it is possible to adjust the parallelism of the platen vs. the form. This is sometimes useful when adjusting makeready. The maintenance is somewhat curious, mainly because of spare parts… Even with just one model, not all Catu Minervas have exactly the same design on parts and holes. It is said that if you disassemble 3 Heidelberg Windmills you will be able to reassemble the 3 machines again perfectly. But if you disassemble 3 Catus and mix all parts you won’t get 1 single machine assembled back again!

There are other machines on the Catu family though. It has a younger sister: Catu Mirim (something like Small Catu) – as the name says, the printing size area is smaller. They also used to make cylinder letterpresses as well and that’s something that we are considering adding to our roster, too!

Marcelo Pinheiro of Carimbo Studio (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.

Pamella Farrell – UK – Farrell Press We currently have three beautiful presses in studio, a 15×10 Arab Press c1894, an 8×5 No.1 Cropperette Press c1888 and an 8×5 Adana Press which were all lovingly restored by my husband.

I started out printing on the Adana, I’m mainly self-taught. I was the first letterpress printer in Ireland to reintroduce the craft to brides and grooms, offering letterpress wedding stationery in 2008 and the business has gone from strength to strength. As demand grew I knew I had to invest in a larger press. I searched throughout Ireland to no avail, I found out a lot of presses had been sold for scrap when litho printing became popular!

I then looked at the feasibility of importing a press from the UK or the US. I was lucky to stumble across a sale ad for the Cropperette and the Arab press. They were owned by a photographer in London, UK, who was moving house and found them while emptying his garage. He hadn’t used them in over 20 years. Myself and my husband took the ferry over to the UK and drove to London in a van to collect them.

Pamela Farrell of Farrell & Chase (UK) has a delightful Arab press in her printshop.

The Arab had to be taken apart as it was too heavy for us to lift, lucky they were designed to be “flat packed” and with the manual my husband (who is a construction plant fitter), knew what he was doing. A nerve-wracking journey home and a few days later, the two presses were up and running with thanks to my husband’s skill.

“The Arab is claimed by some to be the finest hand-fed platen in the World. In terms of cost and weight, it out-performs other machines; and the fact it is designed to be dis-assembled and rebuilt makes it easier to trans­port than other, sim­ilar, presses.” (source: http://britishletterpress.co.uk)

The Arab Presses were produced in the North of England and our Arab press is still painted the original blue with red accents and has a spoked flywheel which was later replaced by a solid wheel to reduce accidents.

The Cropperette is a very rare British press built in Nottingham by The Cropper Company, if you have ever heard the term ‘to come a cropper’, a common phrase in Ireland and the UK, it relates to printers catching their hands in the printing press! The Cropperette is the more beautiful press of the two and has been very hard to find information on. It’s painted black with gold accents and a beautiful heart shaped foot peddle. It is lovely and free, very light to use with foot power where as the Arab is a very heavy press and difficult to operate by foot power alone. I have since added a motor to run the Arab press.

Pamela Farrell of Farrell & Chase (UK) has a delightful Cropperette press in her printshop.

The Arab press is the work horse which I use daily, the Cropperette is reserved for smaller jobs like labels and business cards and is used quite rarely and the Adana has become redundant. I have toyed with selling it but just can’t let go of my first letterpress.

Fabiano Santos – Brazil – Pergam Press The press is a Model “Minerva Catu” also known as “Catuzinha” here. I’m not sure what year it was manufactured, but I believe it is around the 1960s. The origin of the Catu press manufacturer company has been through a family coming from Hamburg, Germany, and they began manufacturing the machines here in Brazil around the 1940s.

Fabiano Santos of Pergram Press (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.

Like the Windmill, it has all settings right at your fingertips, and it functions as an extension of our arms. It is very easy to adjust something on the press (according to the job being printed) because she “accepts” any setting. Even wire to hold up a few pieces of barnates tape for roller height adjustment. It is not widely used in Brazil. Some graphic design/print shops rarely use it for die cuts, but I have never seen anyone use it here to print other projects.

Fabiano Santos of Pergram Press (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.

When I started looking for a machine to work with letterpress printing, I visited many old printers wondering where they had left their old equipment, and it was on one of these visits I met an experienced operator/printer who worked during the height of Minerva Catu. He had kept one of them in his garage. Since he had retired and no longer operated the machine, I bought it from him and now she has won a special place at our shop.

Corby – Singapore – Papypress Our press is a Super Ace on the machine with serial number 3361 on it. The labels are all in Japanese, and it’s an 8” x 10” Platen. Is this machine good? Not really, it has quite a few silly features that I haven’t quite figured out yet actually.

Corby of Papypress (Singapore) prints on a Japanese Super Ace press (detail: inkwell).).

This is the ink fountain.The knobs, as you would already know, control the flow of ink. However this is not a cylinder inking plate. It is an ink plate that rotates like an Adana. That means I can’t play with colors like one would do on a Vandercook. So why have knobs? Looks cool though.

Corby of Papypress (Singapore) prints on a Japanese Super Ace press (detail: inkwell).

This flywheel is like the tiniest thing I have ever seen. No bigger than 10” in diameter.

Corby of Papypress (Singapore) prints on a Japanese Super Ace press (detail: flywheel).

Sometimes when I want to print with a heavier depression the platen jams up and I would have to give it a manual push. But once you get the hang of it you’ll know what to do. Nonetheless it’s a nice “semi-automatic” machine to have around and not as bulky as a C&P. We use if for smaller cards that have images really close to the edge. By hand feeding, I can minimize gauge pin space.

Once we were at an old print shop looking for wooden stools to use in the studio (these type of wooden stools are always found in old print shops in Asia). In the corner of the shop I first saw the inking plate in the corner, when I asked if the machine was still around he pulled the cloth off and showed it to me. He said why would I want something like that? Why not buy a digital machine? Best deal I ever made.

Corby of Papypress (Singapore) prints on a Japanese Super Ace press (detail: wooden stool).

Presses like these were common in our region, the more common ones were even more block looking. Space was always an issue in Singapore, and these machines were built with big motors and smaller flywheels. I guess deep impressions only came much later and it would have worked perfectly for “kiss” printing.

If you have a unique printing press you’d like to share & gush about, join in on the conversation and post it in our comments section!

Perfect Aim With The Hunter Press

For those curious enough to venture into the beautiful and gentle rolling hills of the Scottish countryside, a thirty minute serene drive southwest from Edinburgh will find you in the company of friendly smiles, a easy-going pace of lifestyle, and the private farm workshop that is The Hunter Press. Lyndsey Hunter is the energetic entrepreneur manning the presses there and she let us in for a tour of her printing paradise — a true gem found in the heart of Scotland. She sat down with us between ink runs to talk shop, about her passions as a printer, and bringing more letterpress to the Scottish community.

Take a virtual tour of The Hunter Press, a private farm workshop that is home to Scottish printer Lyndsey Hunter.Take a virtual tour of The Hunter Press, a private farm workshop that is home to Scottish printer Lyndsey Hunter.

THE LOCATION The print studio is located on an arable farm just 12 miles outside of Edinburgh. It’s a nice peaceful spot, not too far from the nearest town but quiet enough to feel as though we’re in the countryside. The print space is adjoined to my husband’s blacksmiths workshop so things can get a little noisy at times. We’re currently restoring a 300 year old property further north in Highland Perthshire which we plan to relocate to within the next year. The print studio will then be located in one of the adjoining cottages.

I like to have a central hub which I can access from every point within the studio. Ours is a large prep/finishing table which often doubles as a set up area, computer station and photography surface.

SHOP SIZE 500 square feet.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP It’s quiet on the farm, away from traffic and city hustle and bustle, which really fuels my creativity. Within the studio, my favourite thing would have to be the old type cabinets which are used to hold surplus paper stock and our cutting dies. The drawers have taken a bit of a beating over the years, but add so much warmth to the space.

FLOORING MATERIAL Sturdy painted concrete below the printing presses. We added some comfy hard wearing carpet across the rest of the space. The studio can get really cold so it’s nice to have a little bit of comfort during those cold months.

TYPE OF SHOP Commercial but closed to visitors.

THE PRESSES 3 Heidelberg Windmills 10×15, one of which has been converted for Foil Printing, 1 Harrild and Sons Proofing Press in need of full restoration, and we are hoping to replace one of the Windmills with a Korrex Berlin Proofing Press very soon.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL Not a tool exactly but I definitely couldn’t run things without my wood burner on those chillier days! I’m not too sure how I managed without it at the beginning now.

FAVORITE INK + COLOR Ink of choice would be VanSon Rubber Based Inks. I often use oil based for specials. Current favourite colour to mix would be mint green.

CLEAN-UP ROUTINE Clean up is my least favorite part of the day!  Luckily the Windmills are fairly straightforward to clean.  I use a water-miscible roller and blanket solution with cotton rags and blue roll.

OIL OF CHOICE Castrol Magna 150 Mineral Circulating Oil.

CLEAN UP RAG OF CHOICE Old tshirts and sheets donated from the family.

PIED TYPE A very small amount of odds which we picked up with the presses.

BOXCAR BASE + PLATE SYSTEM I always work with Polymer Plates KF95. I had a couple of aluminum bases made locally when I started printing in 2012, they’re still going strong.

WORKSPACE ORGANIZATION TIPS Keeping things clean, especially the ink station.  I don’t like to leave the studio without carrying out a full ink clean up ready for the next day.  I also like to file and label all polymer plates from past projects.

PRINTING TIPS I’m completely self taught so I feel as though I’ve ticked my way through every mistake in the book and I still feel like I learn something new every day. It’s been said before but ink application was a big lesson! I started out using way too much ink, which in turn led to me wasting a lot and also spending too much time adjusting the roller heights. It’s best to start with a minimal amount of ink and build up to the desired effect. It’s much easier to add to than to run out and have to remix an entire custom colour. And always mix slightly more than needed (custom colour) in case of reprint. Oh, and oil those machines regularly!

Take a virtual tour of The Hunter Press, a private farm workshop that is home to Scottish printer Lyndsey Hunter.

A huge  round of thanks out to Lyndsey for this wonderful look inside The Hunter Press! Check out Lyndsey’s Pinterest page to see more of her work and inspiration!

Banshee Press: Best Friends in Letterpress

When best friends Britt Madden and Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press set-up shop in the creative & booming city of Denver, Colorado, they sought to foster the true tradition of letterpress by raising the bar for elegance, quality and beautiful craftsmanship. Fast forward a few years later and the magnificent duo still prints perfection, adds to printing ephemera collection, and heckles one one another in good fun. The brilliantly cheery pair sat down with us to catch us up on the next moves for the shop, properly cut paper (the foundation for success!) and why you shouldn’t print & mix colors alone at night.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in ColoradoBritt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

BUILDING FROM THE GROUND UP We are a duo (Ava & Britt) born and bred in Colorado. We met in high school and have been best friends ever since. After college, many travels and odd jobs we decided to unite our creative talents and work a job we loved and built from the ground up. We both majored in print, and decided letterpress was a perfect channel for our perfectionism and design dreams, so creating Banshee was an obvious move. Out of the studio we take advantage of all the adventure Colorado has to offer and spend our free time outside with our friends and family.

THE FIRST TASTE OF LETTERPRESS Britt didn’t have letterpresses in her school, and once she graduated decided that she needed to learn. She bought a C&P 10×15 New Style on Briar Press and taught herself in her garage. Ava’s school did have letterpresses and she learned to use them while in college. We maintained our practice the best we could until we began Banshee with the purchase of our second press, the Vandercook Uni I.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

CREATIVITY IN THE CENTENNIAL STATE Our shop is located in the RiNo (River North Arts District) of Denver. It’s a concentration of creative businesses, including architects, art galleries, designers, furniture makers, illustrators, wineries, breweries, sculptors, photographers, and an array of studio spaces. The buildings are covered in murals and color and the streets bustle with evening nightlife. Our space is full of natural light, plants, and presses, and we enjoy having people come and go as they walk by. Our favorite thing about it is that we can use the space for all of our creative endeavors, not just letterpress, and encourage our friends to visit us to do so as well.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

MEET THE PRESS FAMILY Our first press was a Chandler and Price 10×15 New Style. We now additionally have a Vandercook Universal I and a Heidelberg Windmill 10×13.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT We are both designers and printers and we print designs provided by our clients as well. We have a quirky aesthetic, and enjoy designs that utilize the unique capabilities that letterpress offers.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

THE CREATIVE FLOW Normally we begin any design job with close conversations with our clients. The more information we can gather, the faster and more efficiently we can design to their needs. It saves us energy and them money. We then move into our brainstorming sketch phase where we put whatever our brains come up with down on paper.

After a “would you want that to be your logo?” elimination, we come back to clients with a variety of ideas that we narrow from there.  Sometimes we know that either Ava or Britt will be more of a fit for a particular job and will work solo in those situations, but never without feedback from the other.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

PART-TIME PARADISE We do not print full time. Britt has two young kiddos that capture much of her attention and Ava owns and runs her own business as well. Printing full time is something we wouldn’t mind, but at this point in our lives is not something we can make the time for.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

PRINTING FEATS Making it onto Boxcar’s blog!  For the past two years we have published an artist series of letterpress editions that we are very proud of and enjoy doing immensely. We recently purchased a Windmill and have taught ourselves how to use it. And finally, we are best friends in business and we still love each other with all our hearts.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar is our patient, kind, and understanding babysitter. We know the rules, and yet, we sometimes break them. They always call us with a smile to remind us of our errors before we make them. They have kept us from adding additional stress to our jobs, and consistently make this huge piece of our process easy. Thank You!

SHOP TIPS Bow down to King Reggie and make him your friend. Properly cut paper is the foundation to success. And don’t mix and print color alone at night.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

WHAT’S NEXT In 2017 we are going to focus more on our own designs and begin creating a line of products all our own. It’s easy to lose yourself in printing other people’s jobs, and we want to keep our aesthetic a priority. It makes everything more fun.

Immensely huge round of thanks out to Britt & Ave of Banshee Press for letting us take a peek at their printing paradise!