Casting Off With Debra Barclay of Ancora Press

Debra Barclay of Ancora Press is a well-travelled printer who was inspired by the work of William Blake. She creates in her garage-turned-printshop and shares with us her lifelong printing mentors / friends she’s made along her print journey (as well as a favorite printing moment involving a Girl Scout Troop and a Vandercook).

Debra Barclay of Ancora Press (Washington state, USA) prints beautifully on a Heidelberg Windmill.

WASHINGTON STATE PRINTER

My name is Debra Barclay, and I am a letterpress printer in Woodinville, WA. I live in Woodinville with my husband, 7-year-old daughter, 6-year-old son, 6-month-old Labradoodle, and two pretty lucky black cats, Uno and Tres. I’m a New Jersey transplant by way of Brooklyn, Virginia, Rhode Island, and Oregon. My favorite color at the moment is PMS 310 (light teal).

THE LURE OF LETTERPRESS

For my undergraduate degree, I attended Providence College in Rhode Island. My degree is in English Lit/Creative Writing and Printmaking. My senior year, I took a course on Romantic Literature and fell deeply in love with William Blake’s work. William Blake was a poet and printmaker who developed techniques to bring his poetry into a more visual realm. He combined text and image in a way that I had never seen up to that point. His poetry became visual as much as text-based, and he made it so the poem’s meaning was directly enhanced by the calligraphic lettering, colors he chose, and the overall design. In this way, he elevated the printing of information into a visual experience rather than just a transfer of data. At that point, I knew that I had to integrate my two passions: creative writing and printmaking.

Debra Barclay of Ancora Press (Washington state, USA) prints beautifully on a Heidelberg Windmill.

After I graduated, I started looking into bookmaking classes. I found a school that had a very small but well equipped Book Arts Program. This was when I found the Oregon College of Art and Craft. I immediately enrolled in a few classes, packed my bags, and moved to Portland.

I really didn’t know what I was getting into, as far as letterpress printing goes.  But there I was, learning to handset type and run a Vandercook under the tutelage of two women. Kathy Kuehn is a master printer at Pace Editions in NYC and Caryl Herfort,  a letterpress printer from Texas who was there as the Artist in Residence. Many may know of Caryl from Roto Press (Rest in Peace, Caryl). Both of these women inspired me to experiment and play with the medium.

A CREATIVE ADVENTURE

As I continued to set the type for a short story I had written, my mind exploded. It was so crazy to be able to touch thoughts and ideas – letterforms as material objects with a history and life of their own just struck me on a very philosophical level. I then locked up my form in the school’s Vandercook Universal, and ended up a bit deflated. This was off course from my Blake path, as Blake didn’t use handset type in his work, possibly for this reason. Yes, typesetting is intimate, but once it gets on press and you print it with great craftsmanship, it does not show any of the depth or meaning that it had taken on when I handled it.

It was much more sterile and generic than I had envisioned my piece to be, given how emotionally and physically closer I had become to the words. This created some friction between me, the machine, and process. I moved my printing over to a hand rolled proof press, where I was determined to get the “hand of the maker” involved. Then, I hand-inked each pull, and ran the pages through one by one, skewing the registration so they would all be unique.

Debra Barclay of Ancora Press (Washington state, USA) prints beautifully on a Heidelberg Windmill.

I actually still have a scar from this very first print run I did, as my thumb got caught in the cogs of the press as I was enthusiastically running pages through. The end result was a very artistic interpretation of letterpress! I created an art installation with the small edition of books I made with this experiment. I filled three walls of a gallery with the pages, and set up three of the spiral bound books on pedestals where viewers could flip-through the pages. The only requirement was that they wear white gloves, as is common practice when looking through fine press books.

However, the white gloves I provided were covered in black printers’ ink. So, the viewer/reader added and changed the book as they engaged with it – a visual representation of how we all change and alter language as we use it. It becomes a relationship where both parties – the ideas/text/ poetry and the reader/viewer – are changed through the interaction. We are all changed in sometimes undetectable ways by every interaction we have.

I then began to approach letterpress a bit differently, and started to think more about how words are laid out on the page, how the colors might interact with one another either through size, proximity, or overprint. I also started to notice the beautiful impression that letterpress machinery gives to the paper, making the text both a visual AND tactile experience for the viewer/reader.

Debra Barclay of Ancora Press (Washington state, USA) prints beautifully on a Heidelberg Windmill.

A LETTERPRESS CONNECTION

Through this experience, I reconciled and truly fell in love with the exacting nature of letterpress machinery. It was through these experiments that I concluded that when I create, I am collaborating WITH the machine. With this finely engineered letterpress machinery, the ability to disseminate information in a way that allows for the content to be given the entire spotlight would now be possible. We are true partners. With that, my deep connection with letterpress continued to grow and develop into where it is today. I utilize the impeccable precision of the machinery to allow me to elevate letterforms, words, ideas, and everyday life moments into experiences with tactile beauty and time-tested craftsmanship.

Debra Barclay of Ancora Press (Washington state, USA) prints beautifully on a Heidelberg Windmill.

HOME GROWN PRINTING

Ancora Letterpress is a custom letterpress print shop located about fifteen miles Northeast of downtown Seattle. We do custom designs working directly with clients as well as printing for graphic designers and other print shops who come to us with a pre-existing design of their own.

Debra Barclay of Ancora Press (Washington state, USA) prints beautifully on a Heidelberg Windmill.

My shop feels like home. Mostly because it’s attached to it – in my garage! I have two 10×15 Heidelberg Windmills and an 8×12 Chandler and Price. I also have a photopolymer platemaker and a small guillotine paper cutter. My favorite thing about my shop is that I get to create there! Truly, it’s a dream come true. I also really like the commute.

Debra Barclay of Ancora Press (Washington state, USA) prints beautifully on a Heidelberg Windmill.

WOODINVILLE WONDERS

Woodinville is a tourist destination, as we have over 100 tasting rooms, wineries, distilleries, and breweries within a stone’s throw from my shop. This can be dangerous, but it’s really quite convenient mostly. Chateau St Michelle is probably the largest winery in the area. They have concerts on the lawn in the summers and beautiful grounds to walk around and picnic on. In the summer, we can hear the music from our backyard, which is usually a good thing. We also have a really cool theatre production company in town called Teatro Zinzanni, which recently moved to Woodinville from Lower Queen Anne in Seattle. From their website: “Teatro ZinZanni…is a three-hour whirlwind of international cirque, comedy, and cabaret artists…”

Debra Barclay of Ancora Press (Washington state, USA) prints beautifully on a Heidelberg Windmill.

I really love living here because it’s quiet and we have lots of space. Our house is nestled into trees at the end of a cul-de-sac, yet we are incredibly close to the city. Woodinville is described as “subrural” as it is somewhere between suburban and farmland. One of our neighbors has a horse grazing in her front lawn pretty regularly, and the one across from her has over a dozen chickens on his property. We have a growing Arts community thanks to the Woodinville Arts Alliance in town.

PRINTING MENTORS

Oh gosh! This is a hard question! So many people have helped me get to where I am today. Esther Smith and Dikko Faust of Purgatory Pie Press were my first inspirations, as they were my first apprenticeship out of school. Dikko’s skills as a printer always inspire me, and Esther’s vision and ability to draw inspiration in the everyday is joyous.

My former boss Scott Hill of Workhorse Press is a great mentor as I continue to build my business. He’s readily available to help me with any questions I have about presses, printing, or the business side of things. I’ll be forever grateful to him for taking me on as an employee and teaching me so much about the production side of letterpress. Scott is a printer by trade, with a very keen eye for how to bring a design to life on paper.

Jami Heinricher of Sherwood Press is my most recent mentor and inspiration. She taught me how to run a Heidelberg platen, and for that I am forever grateful. She helped me troubleshoot one of my presses’ weird quirky problems, and even helped me back out my stuck Windmill, after my press pulled 6 sheets of 236# Flurry Cotton paper! I admire her business model, and her tips and tricks have saved me hours of time. My friend George Feakes of Impressive Inkreations has been an incredible mentor, giving me both sage printing and business advice, insights on efficiency, and an amazing amount of support.

Debra Barclay of Ancora Press (Washington state, USA) prints beautifully on a Heidelberg Windmill.

All of my local letterpress trade guys are all absolutely my savior. After running letterpress for 40 years a piece, they collectively know everything, and there’s nothing they can’t make run correctly with just a little bit of tape and 18 point card stock. They’re also really down to earth and easy to talk to, and I love hanging out with them.

My husband, while not a printer, has been an amazing source of inspiration and strength. He single handedly moved my C&P and first Windmill up from Portland and got them situated on the garage floor. He also gave up a large portion of his workspace to allow me to have my studio. We are now looking into building him a lovely shed in the backyard for his woodworking tools for when I get a few more pieces of equipment this coming year.

Debra Barclay of Ancora Press (Washington state, USA) prints beautifully on a Heidelberg Windmill.

GROWING THE DREAM

My business works out to be part time at the moment. I bought some equipment in early 2018, and spent about 6 months getting myself up to speed on the equipment and its particular quirks and what-have-you. Technically I’ve only been available to the public for about 7 months. I do plan to continue to solicit work and build relationships with designers, as well as develop a personal line of designs that I can offer to clients. Full time is my goal. I want to generate enough consistent job and print work so that I can take on an employee. There’s only one thing better than being a letterpress printer, and that’s sharing the workload!

THE CREATIVE FLOW

My process always begins by sitting down with the client and getting to know them a bit. I love getting to talk to people about their vision and translating that into a printed piece. I spend a fair amount of time gathering as much information as possible from the client. If it’s a wedding invitation, for example, I ask the bride to describe the ceremony and the type of event they’re going for. Is it modern, traditional, minimal, outdoor, etc? This narrows things down a bit. I get their wedding colors and match them to a PMS color that we all agree on pretty early on. I show them samples of my previous design work and see if anything stands out to them, either by way of technique (blind emboss, overprinting, etc) or if the tone of anything resonates with them.

At that point, I will begin a preliminary design. I find that this is really when the fun begins. It’s important to have a jumping off point, even if the design itself isn’t the final vision. It’s much easier for people to point out what they don’t like and for me to come up with alternatives to that, rather than envisioning something out of thin air. This has really worked well for me so far. I really enjoy the collaborative process during this stage of design.

PRINTING FEATS

I was the Arts Director of the Virginia Center for the Book from 2001-2003. While I was there, I helped run workshops and host events that built community involvement in the letterpress shop. I also created panel talks and art installations for Charlottesville’s annual Festival of the Book, which is a week-long event covering all aspects of books, from publishing, illustrating, designing, and reading. I also taught a class in the Art Department at the University of Virginia.

Debra Barclay of Ancora Press (Washington state, USA) prints beautifully on a Heidelberg Windmill.

What I loved most about my time there was introducing the history and craft of letterpress to so many people in a variety of settings. One of my favorite moments was teaching an outreach program for a local Girl Scouts troop. I had the girls (who were all about 7 years old) run a pass through the Vandercook Universal. While I was in another room showing a group how to fold and slit the paper into a book, a girl came running out of the print shop in tears. Her mom asked her what was wrong, and she said through her sobs, “My print is over-inked!”

Debra Barclay of Ancora Press (Washington state, USA) prints beautifully on a Heidelberg Windmill.

PRESS FAMILY

The very first presses I owned are my current ones – a 10×15 Heidelberg Windmill and an 8×12 Chandler and Price treadle that’s been converted with a motor. It’s funny that my first presses are both platens, since I learned to print on Cylinders. By the time I was ready to buy and had the space to have presses, Vandercooks were way out of my price range. Before this, I had always managed to access community print shops or presses belonging to friends.

BOXCAR’S ROLE

Boxcar has helped me in so many ways! Mainly, making resources readily available has been key. It’s a one-stop-shopping kind of place. They have given me the luxury of going slowly in building up my knowledge by offering a place to get it all done, and with such ease! The Boxcar Base has made life so much easier.

Before the Base, I was using magnesium plates.  I found them to be much softer and more unpredictable, requiring more make ready due to being mounted to wood (not consistently flat on the bottom, and easily prone to warping). Being able to have predictable quality in my tools has allowed me to focus on perfecting my skills as a craftsman. The ability to buy paper, envelopes, order plates, and pick up a random thing I might need here or there (can of ink, roller gauge) has been fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about the Boxcar Press website flow. It is extremely user friendly, is quick and easy to navigate, and borders on foolproof!

Debra Barclay of Ancora Press (Washington state, USA) prints beautifully on a Heidelberg Windmill.

I also love the How-To tutorials, which have increased my knowledge of my presses. Also, I cannot say enough great things about the staff. I have had random moments of panic where I’d forgotten to upload a small file for platemaking, only to call out an S.O.S. to Rebecca Miller, who swiftly and promptly put out the fire and saved the day! Working with Boxcar Press is like having a staff of knowledgeable and kind pre-press geniuses just an email away!

SHOP TIPS

Get the crop marks! This is something I don’t always do myself, and pretty much every time a two or three color cropless job goes to press, I spend twice as much time trying to get position. Even with one color jobs, I like crop marks once it gets to bindery. They seem like a luxury, but really they save you a bunch of time. And time is money, as well as a whole lotta frustration!

Spend the money! I’ve been there…I have tried to get away with a short cut, or making do without a particular tool or gadget (the Swing Away Lay Gauge comes to mind here). In the end, I end up spending way too much time having to figure out a “cheap” way to do something. Again, I’ve spent money, and potentially compromise the quality of the end result of the printed piece.

Debra Barclay of Ancora Press (Washington state, USA) prints beautifully on a Heidelberg Windmill.

If you’re running a blind deboss on a stock that isn’t 100% cotton, or super plush, you can achieve a similar effect by adding a small amount of color that matches the paper stock with a ton of transparent white. Or, if you’re running a bright white sheet, opaque white right out of the can will do the trick.

I’ve also added a touch of yellow to gold ink in order to give it the punch it needs to stand out on an absorbent stock.

PRINTING ADVICE

Letterpress is a lot of troubleshooting and problem-solving. Isolate problems, ask for help from fellow printers that you know, or reach out online. One of the things I love about letterpress is how knowledgeable and helpful the community of printers is.
Also, a motto I like – Stay modest, do good work, enjoy life outside the shop.

WHAT’S COMING NEXT

For the upcoming year, I will continue to grow my clientele. I also plan to add equipment so that I can add foil and emboss to my skill set. Currently, I am creating a design line, more of my own greeting cards, and some stock offerings that can be semi customized, like monogrammed note card sets and Holiday cards. I also hope to learn to paddle board!

Printing Heritage at Old North State Press

Chris Paul, of North Carolina-based Old North State Press, shares with us how an evening introductory printing class flourished into a love for printing machines and letterpress. From there, with the help of numerous, generous mentors and his wife/partner, Danielle, he has immersed himself happily in the craft. Read on to discover how Chris passes on the knowledge he’s learned with the letterpress community.

Chris Paul of Old North State Press adjusts his printing press.

CRAFT AND TRADITION

At Old North State Press, we are dedicated to preserving the tradition and craft of fine letterpress printing. We started our journey with the acquisition of a simple cylinder press in 1998. The studio now boasts an impressive array of heavy, outdated machines and equally obsolete related equipment, all meticulously maintained and loved.

In addition to supporting custom client work where the unique characteristics of letterpress printing is desired, the press produces original designs for stationery, note cards, wedding invitations, birth announcements, broadsides, and other printed matter.

I am a classically-trained designer and typographer and completed my MFA in Design at Yale School of Art in 1995 where I was first introduced to traditional printing methods. I enjoy fretting over the details and coaxing beauty from these iron beasts. My wife and partner, Danielle, is a fearless editor and etiquette expert. She has a Masters in Communication. This background comes in quite handy with our clients and the work they bring us. Danielle has a keen eye for fine presswork and ensures every piece we produce measures up to our exacting standards.

Old North State Press foil and letterpress printing wedding invitations.

GETTING THE PRINTING BUG

Back in the early 90s, while in grad school, a few of us signed up for introductory printing classes, taught once a week on Thursday evenings, at the university printing facilities. The start of the digital era in design was in high gear and while many of us had been working in print for some time, our understanding of the tradition and craft of printing was limited. I had only seen pictures of metal type in books. Greer Allen, the former University Printer at Yale and one of the instructors, would regularly shake his head at how little we knew! He was, however, a truly patient and enthusiastic teacher.

In the class, Greer and a local book designer, Howard Gralla, taught us how to set type by hand and print our simple creations on a Vandercook proof press. I was hooked immediately. The exquisite mechanics. The rich history. The endless possibilities. I vowed then and there I would learn as much as I could about letterpress and, one day, find a press of my own.

I got a job doing design at IBM in 1995. In 1998, Danielle and I moved into our first house. It had a garage and thus, room for a press. We acquired our first press, a Vandercook No. 3, soon after moving in.

A beautiful Heidelberg Windmill stands ready for action at Old North State Press.

THE SHOP: A CREATIVE HAVEN

Because I work in software design, I tend to think of everything as versions. We’re currently on version 3.0 of our shop which we built in 2014 after moving to the Charlotte, NC area. Our shop is about 400 sq ft and houses all of our equipment. We still have the original Vandercook No. 3 but have since added two late model 10×15 Heidelbergs. The first Heidelberg was re-built from the ground up by Graeme Smith while he was with Whittenburg in TN. It is a beauty and our most prized piece of equipment. The second Heidelberg was acquired this past summer and is in need of a good cleaning and some serious TLC. Our intent is to dedicate this second machine to foil and die-cutting.

Old North State Press foil and letterpress printing.

Because of my desire to learn everything I could about traditional letterpress, I also got into hot metal typecasting in the early 2000s. With the help of some amazing mentors, I was able to acquire an English and American Thompson Sorts Casters and a small library of matrices. I first learned to cast type under the thoughtful tutelage of Pat Taylor, former proprietor of Out of Sorts Type Foundry, and Rick Newell formerly of Heritage Printers in Charlotte. We also have many cases of metal and wood type, an antique John Jacques & Son paper cutter,and all the various accoutrements you’d expect in a working shop.

What we love most about our shop is having a dedicated, climate controlled space to design, make and learn. Letterpress has a deep heritage, and these machines teach us something new every time we use them.

NORTH CAROLINA COOL

Our shop is located on our property in an older, heavily wooded and secluded neighborhood south of Charlotte, NC surrounded by horse farms. We are 10 minutes from historic downtown Waxhaw and 30 minutes from Uptown Charlotte.

PRINTING MENTORS

I am deeply indebted to many for the generosity of their time, patience and wisdom. I first learned to print from Howard Gralla and Greer Allen while a grad student at the Yale School of Art. Rick Newell helped me acquire my first press and type, and he taught me what it means to run a shop. Pat Taylor, Rich Hopkins, Mike Anderson, and Jim Walczak inspired me to give typecasting a go and encouraged me to keep at it.

Fritz Klinke of NA Graphics took me under his wing early on and instilled within me a love of the process, hot metal type, and the journey of “figuring it out.” Elias Roustom of EM Letterpress taught me more than a few tricks of the trade along the way and his work continues to inspire me. Further, where would any modern day letterpress printer be with a reliable rigger? Pete McFee has moved every press I’ve ever owned and introduced me to electricians and repair techs who know and appreciate these old machines. Priceless!

Old North State Press foil and letterpress printing.

I’m also indebted to and inspired by the many designers, printers, and clients I’ve met along the way who have shared hints, tips and techniques and pushed me to learn and make.

Last but not least, sincere thanks to my partner, Danielle, who has taken this journey with me, providing support and encouragement at every step.

PART TIME PRINTER, FULL TIME FUN

I am not yet a full-time printer, however, I spend as much time as I can in the shop and am fortunate to have clients who keep coming back and pushing me to learn new things. I suspect one day I’ll be doing more printing than not, but we’re still a few years off from that goal.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS

By day, I work in technology, designing digital experiences and products. Thus, my design process for letterpress can seem to be a bit fragmented. Sometimes, an idea occurs to me and I have to get it out as quickly as possible. Other times, a fragment of an idea may sit in my head, stewing, for a few weeks/months before I act on it. Occasionally, I will start with a technique I want to learn…like die-cutting or foil stamping and create from there.

Old North State Press foil and letterpress printing.

While I end up sketching quite a bit in the late process, my early iterations are almost always via writing. My sketchbooks have more words than drawings. I have an old t-shirt from Emigre with the slogan “Design Is A Good Idea” and this embodies how I approach what I do. Once I think I have something, I’ll sketch around the idea and poke at it multiple times before attempting to start something digitally.

There is so much great work out there, you never have to go too far for inspiration…old and new.

PRINTING FEATS

I’ve been a member of the American Typecasting Fellowship for over 15 years and am a graduate of Monotype University, both run by the amazing Rich Hopkins. Our shop was one of 15 that Rich choose to feature in the book, The Private Typecasters, hand-printed and bound by Henry Morris at Bird & Bull Press. We’re also featured in the book, Vandercook 100.

Most of all, we are proud of our ability to continue to learn, make beautiful things and share what we know with others.

PRESS HISTORY

Our first press was Vandercook No. 3 Proof Press, acquired from the Charlotte Composition Company with help from friend and mentor, Rick Newell. I won’t tell you how little I paid for it, but I will say they almost paid me to haul it away. I love that press because it is so simple.

One of our first real print jobs on the Vandy was the birth announcement for our son, Aidan. We did the same when Erin came along in 2003. In 2017, we printed Aidan’s high school graduation announcement on our Heidelberg.

Old North State Press foil and letterpress printing.

BOXCAR’S ROLE

Boxcar has been an inspiration from the beginning: I distinctly remember my first encounter with Boxcar and how elated I felt that someone was actually running a successful business doing letterpress! I then invested in the Boxcar Base and haven’t looked back. I use Boxcar Bases on each press I own and Boxcar processes all my photopolymer plates.

What I love most about Boxcar are two things: One, Harold Kyle and the team have continued to innovate from the very beginning…helping to modernize letterpress and make it relevant for today. The Boxcar Base and Swing-Away Lay Gauge are two prime examples. Second, the team at Boxcar shares everything they know and have helped me be a better printer. I’ve not found anyone more dedicated to the current community of designers and printers.

SHOP TIPS

Perhaps a useful letterpress printing technique? If you’re just starting out with a press like a Heidelberg, focus first on mastering the paper feed. There are so many nuances to feeding and once you master it, your life with be less frustrating and your printing faster and more satisfying.

An old technique I found out about recently, the Flying Dutchman, can help you get tighter registration on a Heidelberg by taming paper bounce:

Read everything you can get your hands on about technique and setup and don’t be afraid to fail. Successfully printing on these old machines can be challenging. The most important piece is to keep at it. It takes time and experience to encounter the various challenges that will present themselves. When they do, step back and think. Frustration, failure and disappointment are how we learn.

I founded the Facebook Letterpress Group in 2007, and we are currently 4500+ members strong. Included in the group are both active and many retired printers with great experience and know-how. I turn to the group regularly when I encounter something I haven’t yet figured out. The team at Boxcar, the Letterpress Commons, and Briar Press sites are also a tremendous resource. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and keep asking until you understand.

Old North State Press foil and letterpress printing.

WHAT’S COMING NEXT

This might actually be the year we get more of our custom stationery line up and running. This is a goal we’ve had for some time…but…life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans! Now that our children are older, we have more time to dedicate to our various printing projects.

We also held our first letterpress workshop recently, partnering with the Charlotte Chapter of AIGA. It was a big success so we expect to do more of the same and help spread the love for letterpress and type in the Charlotte region.

Letterpress On The Move: Chris Fritton of the Itinerant Printer

Always on the move, letterpress printer Chris Fritton just might be coming to a town near you. Chris has visited over 160 letterpress print shops in North America, where he is known as “The Itinerant Printer.” As a guest printer, he enjoys making one of a kind prints, cards and posters with his hosts, with the added bonus of the letterpress camaraderie. The Buffalo, NY, native shares with us his creative origins and printing on the go.

Chris Fritton is a Buffalo, NY native and letterpress printer.

A PRINTER’S JOURNEY

I’m the former Studio Director of the Western New York Book Arts Center in Buffalo, NY, and for the past four years I’ve been doing The Itinerant Printer project. I travel around the US & Canada visiting different letterpress shops, and the only thing that I bring with me on the road is paper & ink. I use what those shops have in their collections (wood type, metal type, border, ornament, photopolymer plates, etc.) to create unique prints.

Chris Fritton of the Itinerant Printer project visits a vast array of letterpress print shops across the US and Canada.

COMPELLING LETTERPRESS

I got into letterpress printing as a writer and a book artist. I started out by making my own cut & paste zines during my teens, and then poetry chapbooks. I learned how to screen print early on, but that never really felt like the perfect medium for me.

Chris Fritton of the Itinerant Printer project visits a vast array of letterpress print shops across the US and Canada.

When I found letterpress, everything clicked.  There was something so compelling about actually building the language — setting every letter in every word and stanza by hand. It was so visceral and fundamental. I was lucky enough to print at a place in Buffalo run by one of my mentors, Hal Leader: Paradise Press. It was a tiny space right in the middle of a modern print shop, and it held all of his type and presses, as well of those of his mentor, a Roycroft master printer named Emil Sahlin. I worked at Paradise Press until Richard Kegler had the idea to start the Western New York Book Arts Center. Then I got in on the ground floor of that project.

Chris Fritton, Itinerant Printer is a letterpress printer.

PRINTING IN NEW YORK & ON THE ROAD

WNYBAC was my baby, and that’s where I printed for six years. We had an incredible collection that we used to create gig posters, event posters, broadsides, cards, etc. I knew where every single thing was in that shop, from the tiniest ornaments to the missing sorts that were in standing formes.

My favorite thing about it was the energy. We were always experimenting, always trying something new, always using alternative materials and processes. It was an incubator, really, and a springboard for what I would do in the future.

Chris Fritton of the Itinerant Printer project visits a vast array of letterpress print shops across the US and Canada.

Now, everyone’s shop is my shop, at least for a day. With The Itinerant Printer project, I’m often only in a location for 24-48 hours. I have to familiarize myself with the shop, its contents, and try to create something interesting. Often, I have no idea what I’ll find; I don’t even know what kind of presses they’ll have. It’s a never-ending challenge, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

BEAUTIFUL BUFFALO, NEW YORK

All of Buffalo is a cool landmark. It’s a city rife with amazing architecture, copious greenspace, and a revitalized waterfront. The city is steeped in history, and its blue-collar legacy is evident everywhere you turn.

Chris Fritton, The Itinerant Printer, is a letterpress printer whose travels include 60+ letterpress print shop visits.

I miss it when I’m away, but so many of the shops that I visit have fantastic surroundings as well, from Menagerie Press in Terlingua, TX, among the Chisos Mountains to the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, WA, with a view of the Space Needle. It’s impossible to choose a favorite.

PRINTING MENTORS

Although I look to the past for ideas sometimes, I tend to appreciate the work of my contemporaries just as much, if not more. I really like the work of modern letterpress printers who are combining analog & digital technologies to get intriguing results. Right now, off the top of my head, James Tucker of the Aesthetic Union, Brad Vetter, Dafi Kühne, Kathryn Hunter of Blackbird Letterpress, Lindsay Schmittle of Gingerly Press, and The Print Project in the UK are churning out astonishing work that looks like nothing else. It’s their openness — their willingness to embrace something that may or may not work, as well as their desire to make something that doesn’t look like traditional letterpress that makes their work so arresting.

Chris Fritton, Itinerant Printer is a letterpress printer.

FULL TIME FUN

The Itinerant Printer project is a full-time job for me, much like a traveling band. I often take a break during the summer, however, and when I’m home in Buffalo, I run commercial vessels on Lake Erie as a “day job.” It’s a nice break from printing and traveling, and often I find that I feel recharged when I return to letterpress.

THE CREATIVE FLOW

When I’m on the road, because I’m going in blind, I have to design on the fly. Because I’m normally using movable type, I design primarily on the press bed (if it’s a proofing press), and have to make decisions about color & form very quickly. The experience has made me very decisive, but also accepting of failure, because when you’re working that fast, it doesn’t always work out the way you thought it would.

Chris Fritton of the Itinerant Printer project visits a vast array of letterpress print shops across the US and Canada.

PRINTING FEATS

To date, I’ve visited over 160 letterpress print shops in 45 states and 4 provinces. I’ve covered over 60,000 miles and made close to 25,000 prints on the road. That feels pretty noteworthy to me. To culminate the whole adventure, I recently finished a 320-page coffee table book comprising 1,500 photos and 130,000 words that tells the story of all the people, places, and prints along the way. The book is a monster and it had to match the scale of the project.

Chris Fritton, Itinerant Printer is a letterpress printer.

PRINTING TIDBIT

Here’s a fun fact: I’ve never owned a press. I have a great collection of wood type and sundries, but no presses. At this point, it wouldn’t make sense to get one either, as long as I’m on the road.

BOXCAR’S ROLE

Boxcar was elemental when we were doing jobbing or custom work at the Western New York Book Arts Center. It was the fastest, easiest, most reliable way to get the results we needed. When I’m on the road, Boxcar is the first name that comes up in every shop for photopolymer platemaking. It’s amazing to see how far its influence stretches, to every corner of the US & Canada.

Ombre roll or rainbow roll on a Vandercook.

PRINTING TIPS

Perhaps a useful letterpress printing technique? Baby wipes with a little bit of baby oil for cleaning your hands. It acts as a solvent for most inks and keeps you from running to the bathroom every thirty seconds to wash up. Other than that, employ as many techniques as you can to get the results you want: pressure printing, laser cutting, 3D printing, woodcut, linocut, photopolymer — don’t restrict yourself.

Ampersands, letterpress printing, wood carvings.

WHAT’S COMING NEXT

In 2019, I’ll round out The Itinerant Printer book tour. After that, I’m considering taking the project global in 2020 — The Itinerant Printer, around the world. I can’t wait to see what printers in other countries are doing, as well as spend time learning about them, about their presses, about their cultures. Logistically, it will be a lot different than the North American tour, but I know it’s possible, so keep your eyes peeled for a launch date!

Ali Norman: All In The Details

Crafted with care, hypnotically delicate, and dizzyingly detailed are what instantly come to mind when viewing Ali Norman’s body of printed work. A traditional printmaker by nature, Ali enjoys expressing her vivid concepts through silkscreen, etchings, and now letterpress. The Florida-based printer shares with us the joys of learning new techniques, infusing nature motifs into her work, and pushing the limits of her art.

ALL AROUND LOVE FOR PRINTING

I’m a printmaker with a huge passion for etching, but I also love to dabble in other processes (such as letterpress!). I first learned about it from the amazing Eileen Wallace during my MFA. She helped spark my interest and encouraged me to push the limits of my polymer ideas. Learning from her was an incredible privilege!

HOME IS WHERE THE PRESS IS

Currently, I have access to etching presses at home and at work (the University of Tampa), but no real letterpress access. I’ve been lucky enough to make friends with Sarah and Phil Holt, who have the cutest little letterpress shop at home!

They were very kind to let me use their beautiful orange Vandercook to print my most recent polymer creation. I’m hoping to work with them more in the new year! You can check out Sarah’s letterpress work on instagram at @monpetitpaperco.

PRINTING MENTORS

I am really inspired by and thankful for the amazing printmaking community that has popped up on Instagram. I have “met” so many amazing artists and learned some cool techniques just from the internet. On a more personal note, I pay close attention to my dreams and am strongly attracted to old engravings, magical texts, and tattoo linework.

PART TIME PRINTER, FULL TIME FUN

I am not currently printing full time. Having just finished my MFA in the spring of 2018, I’ve been teaching part time at the University of Tampa. This gives me a good amount of free time to work on making and selling art on the side! So far I am finding it to be a really healthy and rewarding balance. Although I grew up here [in Florida], I haven’t been back for quite a while! I’m still currently exploring the area.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS

I absolutely LOVE designing for photopolymer!! I’ve found that drawing the key layer first on tracing paper allows me to then flip-flop my ideas, scan them, and easily draw color layers. I’ve tried working more digitally, but always go back to the tracing paper!


ALL IN THE DETAILS

Works take me anywhere from a week to two months to complete before printing, but I’m always working on a few things at once. I try to keep it slow and steady, drawing at least a little every day until I am satisfied. I also often work back in to images, so that can end up dragging things out… as goes printmaking!

FAVORITE PRINTING TECHNIQUE

Intaglio will always be my go-to process, but it’s not always very practical! I like to change things up, especially with quicker processes like letterpress or lithography. It is so satisfying to see a trapped layer lock perfectly in to place each time, and to feel like one with a machine. I also really enjoy how the design process for each technique is so different – it keeps me on my toes!

PRINTING FEATS

At this point in my career, I am just very proud and grateful to have made it this far! I’ve been working hard to make my passions a reality and am really seeing that come back to me lately.

PRESS HISTORY

I currently have a little tabletop Conrad E12 etching press that was found by a friend of mine at a thrift store! After some heavy cleaning, I now use it almost constantly. I’m hoping to also have a letterpress to call my own some day. Floridian printers – hook me up please!

BOXCAR PRESS’ ROLE

I had my polymer plates for my most recent print made by Boxcar Press! I was a little nervous about someone else making my matrices, and they turned out perfectly. I’m really grateful for this service.

PRINTING TIPS

I’m still quite the beginner at letterpress, but I manage to learn something new every time I print. I even managed to smash my fingers in the Vandercook once (oops!).

WHAT’S COMING NEXT

Lots more printing!!

Printing Reality with Lauren Emeritz of Abstract Orange

Graphic designer & printer Lauren Emeritz creates brilliantly colored fine artists books & punchy prints. Lauren talks about teaching printing at an area Community Art Center, creating artists books, and introducing many to letterpress at events in the Capitol area.

FOR THE LOVE OF LETTERPRESS  

I am a graphic designer, letterpress printer, and book artist in Washington, DC and have always loved type and printing. While attending the University of Delaware, they were beginning to set up a print shop. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to print. Now Pyramid Atlantic Art Center is my go-to print place.

Emeritz Lauren ( Washington, D.C. ) letterpress prints beautiful hand-crafted fine editions artists books.

(Letterpress Demo at the Smithsonian Solstice Saturday Event)

PRINT FOR THE COMMUNITY

I print at the amazing community art center – Pyramid Atlantic Art Center (PAAC). Unique to the DC-area, PAAC offers workshops on how to learn to print, and the rental of presses to print on your own. I discovered PAAC at their Biennial Book Arts Fair. This fair is home to beautiful art made by hand. But ultimately, this created a spark in me to reconnect with making art by hand. 

Emeritz Lauren ( Washington, D.C. ) letterpress prints beautiful hand-crafted fine editions artists books.

ART ON THE HILL

I live in DC, so there is lots of cool artsy stuff. I love the Smithsonian Art Museums, the National Gallery of Art, the Library of Congress — they have so much amazing art and printed pieces! The Library of Congress was on my bucket list for a number of years. I finally made it there for an American Printing History Association (APHA) event. It was awesome and now I try to go back every couple of months. 

PRINTING MENTORS

Ray and Jill at Lead Graffiti do cool work and love to share their knowledge. Vince Frost is a graphic designer who used a lot of wood type in his designs. When I teach at Pyramid I get inspired by the people in class. I get to share my passion for letterpress: type, ink, paper, and printing with people who may love it too or may not have done it before. It is always fun to see new ideas and the directions people explore.

I did an internship at Hatch Show Print in December 2017 and it was wonderful to have access to so much wood type — one of the first things that I loved about letterpress. The people were so creative and friendly and the shop was AMAZING – I highly recommend a journey there! I would love to go back for an artist residency sometime. 

Emeritz Lauren ( Washington, D.C. ) letterpress prints beautiful hand-crafted fine editions artists books.
Emeritz Lauren ( Washington, D.C. ) letterpress prints beautiful hand-crafted fine editions artists books.

PART TIME PRINTER, FULL TIME FUN

My primary job is as a graphic designer for my company Abstract Orange. I enjoy printing and I do it mostly for fun. While I would love to do it full-time, I am concerned that if I printed commercially it might lose the satisfaction. Teaching at Pyramid keeps me fresh and experimenting. When I letterpress now, I use a combination of techniques. For small text and logos I usually use polymer. For hand-drawn type I usually carve linoleum or wood blocks. Each process has it advantages and I try to be intentional in my process, using the one that will best suit my goals for the project.

PRINTING FEATS

I made a Hand-Carved Alphabet book that I sold to the Library of Congress. At one of the APHA events, I sold my book to their special collections. It was one of the most exciting and validating events in my life. I started the project several years earlier without any particular goals or directions. Through a series of events, the book ended up in a show on a table next to works by Edward Gorey and Frederic Goudy! As a type nerd, Goudy has a special place in my heart!

I picked-up my bookmaking skills from a number of places along the way.  I started with different portfolio books at University of Delaware; workshops at Hamilton Wayzgoose; Ladies of Letterpress conferences, New York Center for the Book, GW Corcoran, and AIGA DC. The bookbinding associates at PAAC are always amazing and helpful.

Emeritz Lauren ( Washington, D.C. ) letterpress prints beautiful hand-crafted fine editions artists books.

(This is the artist book I carved, printed, bound and sold to the Library of Congress. (uses polymer for the colophon page)

PRESS HISTORY

My first press was probably my hands. I loved making rubbings. I own a Vandercook 99 (that is one without an inking system). My Vandercook 99 lives in my basement. I print on it sometimes, usually small runs or irregular things you couldn’t print on a larger Vandercook, such as round coasters. I have also used it for printing demos/workshops at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery, and Shop Made in DC. Because it is smaller and only 110 lbs, it is fairly portable for demos.

Emeritz Lauren ( Washington, D.C. ) letterpress prints beautiful hand-crafted fine editions artists books.

BOXCAR PRESS’ ROLE

Boxcar Press really revolutionized letterpress printing. I realized at some point that things were being letterpress printed using fonts that were more modern than lead type. Next, I figured there had to be a way to print modern computer designs on the letterpress — and I found Boxcar Press! I love the merging of old and new technology and combining my computer design skills with hands-on printing techniques. I tell my students who are interested in polymer to check out Boxcar Press because they “invented the system” we use to print polymer.

FAVORITE INK COLOR

At the moment, I have been printing some neon orange lately. It is lots of fun!

Emeritz Lauren ( Washington, D.C. ) letterpress prints beautiful hand-crafted fine editions artists books.

WHAT’S NEXT

Very recently, I did a letterpress printing demo with the Smithsonian American Art Museum to celebrate the Solstice. I’ve also taught a Hand-Carved Type Workshop at the Ladies of Letterpress Conference in October 2018.

I am not sure where 2019 will take me, but I am excited about the possibilities! 

Making the Leap Into Letterpress: Lauren Rolph

 

Newly fledged full-time architect-turned printer, Lauren Ralph of Helen Edna letterpress shares with us her printing journey so far. From being inspired by the vivid color palettes of Van Gogh and Kandinsky to taking up printing lessons at the International Printing Museum in Carson, CA, Lauren’s bright and clean designs reflect her dedication to the printing tradition.

TACTILE ARTIST

I began my career as an architect. Shortly thereafter, I came to the realization I missed working with my hands. The summer of 2018, I embarked on a new journey and opened my letterpress stationery studio, Helen Edna.

Lauren Rolph letterpress

I took printing lessons at the International Printing Museum in Carson. My favorite part was learning the printing process and being able to print my hand-drawn designs and turning them into cards. As a result of the printing lessons, I bought a Golding Pearl. Next, I made the leap to start Helen Edna!

LOVE AT FIRST PRINT

Letterpress cards in boutiques are something that I have admired. Being able to design and print my own cards for people to enjoy is something that brings me great joy. 

Lauren Rolph letterpress

CALIFORNIA COOL

I live a really neat area in California that is close to just about everything. My house is near the Headlands Conservation Area, Dana Point Harbor … and next to Strands Beach in Dana Point.

All the design work and order fulfillment takes place at my home in Dana Point. While all the printing happens at my husband’s grandmother’s home (which is nearby).

PRINTING MENTORS

One of my printing mentors would be Mark Barbor, the International Printing Museum Director. Not only did he give my husband and I a printing lesson at the museum. Even more, he has been helpful in getting me started. In addition to Mark as a printing mentor, artists such as Van Gogh and Kandinsky are inspirational.

Lauren Rolph letterpress

FULL TIME FUN

Over the last several months, I have been printing full-time. It is a true pleasure in seeing my designs come to life!

CREATIVE PROCESS

How does the creative process begin? First, I begin drawing thumbnail sketches in pen and ink. Next, I take a photo of the design is uploaded in Adobe Draw. From here, I use the Apple Pencil to create the illustration. After this, I export the drawing into Adobe Illustrator and adjust the Pantone colors. Finally, I prepare the design file to send to Boxcar Press. The design file includes adding registration for the designs that are full-bleed.

Lauren Rolph letterpress

PRINTING FEATS

One of my biggest printing feats is opening Helen Edna. Opening this store is something I have dreamed about for years. 

FIRST PRESS

A Golding Improved Pearl No. 11, which I bought from the International Printing Museum in Carson, CA.

BOXCAR PRESS’ ROLE

Boxcar Press’ customer service is impressive. They have a really fast turnaround, are always very polite, and willing to help with any questions you may have.

Lauren Rolph letterpress

PRINTING TIPS

I have three pieces of printing tips. My first, If you are looking to save time … for card designs that are not a full bleed (and have a good margin around the design) I order precut and folded A2 Crane Lettra, from Astro.

My second tip, to achieve the perfect registration try overlaying your design with the printed design on vellum.

The final printing tip, if you are looking for Pantone ink colors to be spot on, and able to apply directly from the tube onto the disk, check out Southern Ink.

WHAT’S NEXT

I’m hoping to exhibit at the National Stationery Show for the first time! I also plan on doing more craft fairs and continue to play with designs for my line.

Immensely large round of thanks + appreciation out to Lauren of Helen Edna!

Graham Judd: A New Zealand Printing Gem

Cozied in the north shore of New Zealand is Birkenhead – a suburb of Auckland that offers gorgeous beaches, picturesque vistas, and the hidden gem that is GTO Printers.  Graham Judd was able to take a minute to talk shop with us about his trip to the Ladies of Letterpress last year, falling for printing on day one, his cozy (but efficient!) garage-turned-shop, and gearing up to create more workshops to spread the love of letterpress in New Zealand.

FAMILY AND PRINTING LIFE I grew up in a small country town in New Zealand, had a happy family life, the middle child of five. My dad was the local radio station manager and mum sang a lot in local operatic shows, so we were brought up with music and social activities in our home. We were sent to the local Baptist church and there I made a decision to follow Christ at age 17. This has influenced my journey in life ever since. I moved to Auckland with my wife in 1975, and we are still here. We now have three adult children. They all love what I do, but all have their own careers outside of printing.

FALLING FOR LETTERPRESS I left school with few qualifications and no idea of a career, but a friend who was a compositor in a local printing company suggested I look at an apprenticeship in the printing trade, which I did. And I loved printing from day one. My apprenticeship was as a letterpress machinist, training on Heidelbergs mainly, platens and cylinders. I later retrained on offset as letterpress was phased out.

NEW ZEALAND WONDERS Up until January 2018 I have been leasing a small building in the local area where we live, and I think my ‘apprentice’ Christina kept our local coffee shop in business with her mocha purchases. The situation changed and it was the time to move the business home. So now I have a small (one car garage size) area that houses most of my equipment. I’m allowed a bit of extra space in the real garage for paper stock, and I have my old Albion press at the local library. My print shop is typical, with the Heidelberg 10×15 platen and Polar guillotine taking most space, then a small stone, galley rack, ink stand, work bench, a type cabinet with my wood type, and that leaves enough room to take one step to get to anything! It works well, I can’t buy any more stuff, which is probably good!

MENTORS + INSPIRATION My basic training was done a long time ago, I’m now at the stage of life where I’m passing on my bad habits to others. But people who come to mind that impress me with their work are Jenn at Starshaped Press, the lettering of Jessica Hische, and the work of local printer Tara McLeod who would be New Zealand’s most experimental letterpress printer. In my trips to USA the things that really stand out have been visits to Hamilton Wood Museum, the International Printing Museum in Carson, Edes and Gill Printing Office in Boston, the Crane Printing Plant, and of course our visit to John at Letterpress Things in Chicopee.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I am really a printer only, very dependent on artwork being supplied by clients. This possibly means I miss out on some jobs that won’t get past the designer/printer shops, but it does mean the job is ready to print when it gets to me, so the decisions that can make a job hard work are all done. It does mean that designers that have pushed the limits of what letterpress can do in their design, give me challenges on the press.

FULL TIME FUN I have run my business full time for nearly 35 years, that included offset and later digital machines. I was fortunate to go through the period between letterpress and digital, when offset ruled, and there was a lot work for a small commercial printer. Now that I am nearing the end of my professional career, I am ok that work is slowing a little, but I still love inking up the press whenever I can.

PRINTING FEATS In 2014 I printed a set of art prints for a client, which won me the supreme award in the Pride in Print Awards in New Zealand, the best of the best printing for that year, beating all the big offset and digital boys in the country. I thought it should get some recognition when I entered it, but was delighted and amazed that the judges put it at the top. That was pretty cool. I have trained up two ladies who have both set up successful letterpress businesses in New Zealand. I am very proud of both of them, and proud to think I had a small hand in their success. I feel the printing trade has been good to me, and am happy to give back as I can.

PRESS HISTORY The first press I purchased was an AM Multi 1250, a small offset press, back in about 1982. By 1987 I had replaced it with other offset presses, and got me a brand new Heidelberg TOK that year. My first letterpress machine was an Adana 8×5, purchased in about 1995 I think. That was about when I got a desire to dabble in letterpress after a 20 year break. I purchased my Heidelberg Platen in 2008, and that’s when I got serious about commercial letterpress again.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Living in New Zealand means I have had little to do with Boxcar Press, only seeing the name pop up regularly on google searches for letterpress stuff. Meeting the boss and Maddie and others at the Ladies of Letterpress convention in 2017 was great. I was most impressed that Maddie was willing to dive into the press to pull out all the rubbish deep inside! Getting the ink into your blood is a prerequisite of a dedicated letterpress printer!

SHOP TIPS My experience is mostly with Heidelbergs, so one thing I reinforce is, for new operators, set up and get the feeder running consistently before inking up the press. If it’s not feeding well it’s just adding to the battle of getting a good job done.

WHAT’S NEXT There are opportunities to run more workshops, both beginner letterpress and Heidelberg platen workshops. I have a plan to set up a mobile printshop, visiting schools, libraries, and events where I can share the letterpress experience. I’m on the lookout for an ex-ambulance or similar. And for a while yet continue to run my little print shop as a profitable and happy place!

A world of thanks to Graham of GTO Printers for letting us take a sneak peek into his New Zealand printing world!

Flourishing Creativity with PRESSDD

Braiding her cross-disciplines of graphic design, web programming, psychology and a love for minimalistic & organic design, Giorgia Katerina of PRESSDD creates beautiful letterpress pieces with panache. Having come by letterpress from a curiosity to know more about the printing tradition, Giorgia has woven into her bespoke creations a love of floral motifs, her great eye for detail, and welcoming warmth. We talk shop on her next adventures into a custom line, the joys of finding zen in her press room, and the exciting feeling of accomplishment when an ink run lines up just perfectly on the press.

RENAISSANCE WOMAN Obtaining a degree in psychology, I originally envisioned pursuing something in this field. Shortly thereafter, I came to the realization my love for design was stronger than that of psychology. As a result, four years ago I started out as a freelance graphic designer and web programmer. Now, I specialize in bespoke wedding stationery. 

GETTING HOOKED ON LETTERPRESS  My journey into letterpress was very unconventional. With a background in graphic design, letterpress was the last thing on my mind. Always looking for design inspiration, I started noticing beautifully printed pieces. Curious by nature, I became eager to learn how to make stationery pieces. As a result, I became hooked on letterpress!

PEACEFUL PRINTSHOP My press room is my personal oasis, complete with no distractions … just me and my press. First and foremost, the accessibility of my press room is second to none. Connected to my home studio, this gives me the flexibility to print at any given time. In this room, you will find a Chandler and Price 12×18 press. In addition, I have a Kensol 27T (which is not part of my studio). Complete with no distractions, just me and my press!

BEAUTY IN THE BUCKEYE STATE I’m based in Rocky River, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. A picturesque little town where coffee shops and restaurants are all within walking distance.

FINDING THE CREATIVE VEIN As a self-taught printer, with no true print mentor I find my design inspiration comes from minimalism and organic elements. With a passion for exploring various textural elements, I love how letterpress can create a beautiful, deep blind impression.

PART TIME PRINTING, FULL-TIME FUN As a stationery designer, and a part-time printer I always look forward to press days … as it gets me up and moving, and away from the computer! 

EFFECTIVE AND FLORAL INFUSED DESIGN  As a designer, I like to keep things simple and modern with a touch of organic elements. I love working with florals. Whether it is scanning them to use as background images or sketching them for the press. Similarly, I like to incorporate elements of old-school romance in my work. My favorite period is the French Renaissance!  

PRINTING FEATS My clients are second to none, and I absolutely love working with them and helping bring their vision to life. Simply put, there is no better feeling than being able to give my clients a bespoke letterpress wedding suite designed and pressed specifically for them.

PRESS HISTORY As a perfectionist, and having spent countless hours on any given project, my first print job was such a rush! I had just started as a full-time freelancer … and my first assignment was a wedding suite.

BOXCAR’S ROLE First and foremost, I want to give a shoutout to my girl Rebecca, who was a dream to work with! She and Boxcar Press have saved me quite a few times during the plate making stages. From helping me stock my studio with all the essentials (like everything in my shop … and outside of my C&P and type) to being an excellent printing resource in my times of need. Needless to say, I was lost without the help of Boxcar Press!

PRINTING TIPS My biggest frustrations is setting up a registration for a run. I have spent countless hours measuring, and remeasuring just to ensure the plate is in a perfect position. My advice, print a digital copy of the plate design using the same size sheet of paper you’ll press. Next, tape the plate over the print and transfer it to the base. This will help you save time, and will minimize the number of hours spent measuring (or remeasuring).

WHAT’S NEXT There are a couple big plans on the horizon for PRESSDD. Most recently, I’ve reintroduced greeting cards into my printing repertoire. In addition, I will also be looking to expand my wedding stationery and will be releasing a semi-custom collection.

We here at Boxcar Press would like to give a huge round of applause and thanks to Giorgia Katerina of PRESSDD! We’ll keep our eyes peeled for what she cooks up next in the print shop.

If you would like to be one of Boxcar Press’ featured printers, please complete the Printers Profile questionnaire.

Tight Registration with Slackline Press

Connecticut-based Lourdes Irizarry of Slackline Press balances printing life with outdoor adventures in her garage-turned-printing haven. With her Golding Jobber press (which she rescued from dust-covered days), Lourdes enjoys creating punchy, colorful designs and incorporating her love of travel into her work.   In our chat with Lourdes, topics flow from selecting the perfect paper for large solid jobs, to the allure of letterpress and sketching out her future line of wedding invitations.

PRINTING PASSION  My name is Lourdes. I’m a digital art director by day and run Slackline Press as a passion project for now. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, lived in Orlando, Florida and now reside in Connecticut with my boyfriend and two dogs.

LOVE AT FIRST IMPRESSION I started my letterpress journey in 2013 as a creative outlet from my day job. As a designer, I had always been interested in letterpress but had never looked into what it would take to get set up. After researching different types of presses, I decided a Golding Jobber or Pearl would be the right size for my studio and the type of work I wanted to create. I started poking around online and found a Golding expert in my area that did workshops. It was love at first sight and I immediately became obsessed with building a letterpress studio.

CREATING IN CONNECTICUT My shop is in half of a detached garage behind our tiny cape on the CT shoreline. The detached garage was a selling point when we bought the house but it was in pretty rough shape. We hired a contractor who worked with my crazy vision of building a tiny loft in the crawlspace. It’s definitely my favorite thing about the space. It turned out way nicer than I ever would have imagined.

SURROUNDED BY ADVENTURE I love that I can bike to the beach in our town. There are also a number of outdoor adventure opportunities in the area. Rivers for water sports, plenty of forested trails for hiking and letting the dogs run around as well as a number of quaint town greens with farmers markets, shops and restaurants.

My favorite landmark is the shoreline trolley museum which renovates and runs old trolleys from East Haven to Branford. We’re also 1.5 hour train ride from New York City.

PRINTING MENTORS Yes! John Falstrom of Perennial Designs connected us with our first press and offered an incredible amount of knowledge on the best way to move and renovate our Jobber. Also John Barrett of Letterpress Things whom I acquired my other 2 presses from. His warehouse is packed with supplies and letterpress ephemera. They are both a huge wealth of knowledge and are just wonderful people to know.

Inspiration is everywhere in our surroundings but I’m particularly inspired by travel and culture. I am currently infatuated with Mediterranean patterns.

PART TIME PRINTING, FULL TIME FUN I have a day job so I work my printmaking schedule around that. I’m still working out my long term goals for my letterpress business and figuring out the balance between custom work and my own stationery line. But I would love to build relationships with other crafters and artisans who need branded stationery or packaging.

THE CREATIVE FLOW I always start with really rough thumbnail sketches on paper, on my iPad or just write down ideas. I then try to choose a few that I keep coming back to, develop the sketches a little further and then illustrate them in Adobe Illustrator. Lately I’ve been designing vector art on my iPad Pro to save time going from sketch to digital. I then send my designs to Boxcar Press to get plates made and then print in my studio. I love to photograph my travels and surroundings and often times I use that as inspiration or reference vs having to go online and look for visuals.

PRINTING FEATS I’d say my biggest accomplishment so far is just getting a dedicated space built to house my presses and that I can work in through the seasons. Having it separate from the house but still easily accessible is really convenient.

PRESS HISTORY A Golding Jobber 8×12 platen press that was cooped up in a tiny stone cottage in the mountains of Vermont and unused for 7 years.

BOXCAR’S ROLE First and foremost, Boxcar customer service is the best! They helped guide me when I got started, and are very quick to get on the phone when there’s something wrong with my order or if I have questions. A moment that stands out to me when Boxcar went above and beyond happened when I was having an inking problem. They worked with me for hours (some of which were after business hours) to help me solve my issue. Boxcar has a quick turnaround, convenient real-time uploading and proofing, and fast shipping. Overall, it’s been an affordable way for a small press like me to get started.

PRINTING TIPS The more I print, the more I realize how inking varies depending on the paper I use. If I design something with larger areas of solid color or want smoother inking, I try to print on smoother paper and tend to over-ink. If I have a design that has more fine lines or has a grungier style to it, I try to print on a more textured paper with less ink to add to the grunginess of the design. Also, the brighter white paper is less forgiving in terms of showing imperfections.

WHAT’S NEXT I’m growing my stationery line of greeting cards as well as adding more personalized options like wedding invitations. I would love to attend the National Stationery Show for the first time next year and am learning as much as I can in order to get me there.

Letterpress Passions with Puro Papel

Join Boxcar Press on this “adventure of a lifetime,” as we get a first-hand look at Miami based printer, Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel and find out how she brings the heat when it comes to passionate letterpress printing. Best known for her vibrantly colored projects (both printing and non-printing) discover how Catalina’s worldly travels inspire her work, creativity and how she shares this printing tradition with her local community.

Catalina Rojas sets up her Pilot Press for a new letterpress print project.

LIFE’S ADVENTURES & LETTERPRESS  We all have a starting point, an origin. In many cases, they shape and determine the type of person you become. I was born in an area that was rooted in the Catholic faith and traditions. While this was my origin, the dialogue I have with myself, I believe I don’t come from a place … more so, I come from a way of life that was instilled by my parents.

My parents were travelers and never ceased to seek the zest for adventure. With two kids on the hip and a Great Dane, they were never deterred by what others might think and managed to stay true to their “hippie-chic” ways. At one point, my aunt and her boyfriend joined our entourage and many people would confuse our family for a circus troupe.

Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel prints on her Pilot Press.

Book arts and fine press printing by letterpress printer, Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel.

During my first five years, we traveled through South America. Quite literally, through the roads less traveled by. Zigzagging through cities, towns, forests, plains, deserts, and jungles. However, there was one significant life trip that would determine how I would experience life, my sense of self and ultimately my creative process.

All the details and memories of this trip come rushing back … like having bananas for breakfast, or crossing rivers in long wooden canoes and sleeping in hammocks. I remember feeling the heat from the bonfire and seeing the ashes flying and floating like dragonflies. I remember hearing the speaking drums and the chanting.

All of these things on the trip seemed to me like a lifetime and an irrevocable art of me … despite the fact that neither my parents seem to remember it in full detail (and color) as I. They would even go as far as saying that trip was rather uneventful. This trip shaped how I look at life – I live in adventure and in meaningfulness.

My work is an inextricable part of my life. I take every assignment as an adventure, in which I try to discover essence, textures, tones, colors and other delicacies. To later bring together these elements and materialize them in a simple design, or concept.

Book arts and fine press printing by letterpress printer, Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel.
(Project Notes: Norton Box- Vineyard in Mendoza. I did a limited edition of 30 boxes to send to  30 journalists  with a bottle of wine, some postcards of the winery (belly band is letterpress), a wooden note from the president of the company (letterpress), a leather notebook, and the press kit).)

Every project, I take the challenge of telling a story by communicating its purpose through design and artisanal ways of printing. I believe life is an experience made of a small act, where the beauty of small details grounds us and turns each moment in a unique ritual.

THE PRINTING BUG  I took a class in Parsons, and my teacher was a typography designer and a letterpress printer. After several trips to his studio I was bit by the letterpress printing bug. I fell in love with the technique of letterpress printing and how this could take printing to a higher level.

Book arts and fine press printing by letterpress printer, Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel.
(Project Notes: Leather Book (covers are letterpressed), Accordion book – A family gift for a Portuguese grandmother! )

MIAMI MARVELS  I have a tiny studio, with more windows than walls, located on a sunny corner of Miami Ironside in a bucolic garden. When I first saw this space, I knew it was “the one,” due to all the natural light coming in during the afternoon, I felt this space was going to illuminate me. WIth the natural light and the abundance of windows … I feel like the garden is part of my studio. Behind the studio are train tracks, and several times a day, I can hear the train pass through. Next to the studio, is MiMo (AKA: Miami Modern) a neighborhood that is bringing to life the Art Deco hotels and restaurants of the great era of the Magic City!

Catalina Rojas sets up her Pilot Press for a new letterpress print project.

PRINTING INSPIRATION Although he probably doesn’t know this … my first inspiration was Peter Kruty, my professor at Parsons because he taught me how to respect typography.

Book arts and fine press printing by letterpress printer, Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel.

FULL TIME PRINTER I became a full-time printer in 2004 after I bought my first letterpress.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS  My creative process starts with a conversation with my clients, so I can understand the essence of the message. With each project, I design every aspect and incorporate elements and details of the message into their piece. I like to think of what will surprise me … because it will most likely surprise my audience, and will help keep it innovative and fun!

Book arts and fine press printing by letterpress printer, Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel.
Project Note: Don Perignon Party invitation- all digital and lots of assembly! This gentleman was turning 80 and celebrating in style  with family and friends in his hacienda in Argentina. The cork top part opens to reveal a message)

PRINTING FEATS When a project evokes magic, emotions and becomes a conversation piece, I feel accomplished. When I’m at a moment that it feels close to my soul, that is when I know I’ve achieved “good-design.”

A beloved Pilot Press awaits for the next printing adventure in the Puro Papel studio.

PRESS HISTORY  I still have my first press(!) which is a C&P Pilot press.

BOXCAR’S ROLE  When I find a good vendor, I stick to it! Throughout my years of printing, Boxcar Press has come to my rescue. Whenever I have a rush job, they are always availble to help and save me. There is a sense of loyalty to one another, and I feel they are a part of my team. 

PRINTING TIP  When you don’t know something, ask your colleagues! And if they are not around, don’t be shy to experiment!

SHOP TIP Mmm, I don’t have any particular one, I just know that when it gets very frustrating and it doesn’t work out, I let it rest and start again a few hours later.

WHAT’S NEXT  I want to focus more on doing limited editions and special packaging.

I also love to give back by sharing my passion and expertise with paper. This year I’m involved with missionaries in the desert of Peru who train people in disadvantaged communities on how to make handmade cotton paper. This wonderful community and its artisanal workshop, Papelera Don Bosco, has a letterpress machine, so I will be teaching them all I know about letterpress and box-making so they can fly high!

An immense round of appreciative applause out to Catalina for letting us get a sneak peek at the magic behind Puro Papel!