Gracie Fenech of Freshly Squeezed opened the door to her Grand Rapids, Michigan-based letterpress haven and toured us through her cozy shop, which overflows with laughter, the clacking of her beloved C&P, and of course, fond memories of ink meeting paper.
THE PRESSES Currently, my only press is a century old Chandler and Price 10×15 new style platen press.
SIZE OF PRINT SHOP My section of the shop is about a tenth of the total work space with about 250 square feet.
TYPE OF SHOP I share a work space with a screen printer, which has been a great relationship.
THE LOCATION My shop is located in an old factory building that has been repurposed and now holds a variety of different businesses, both large and small. There are several antique stores just around the corner which I love to visit before I go to work.
FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP One of my favorite things about the shop is my old wooden work bench. It was given to me by a friend’s father who got it from his father. It had been in his woodworking shop for ages and is covered with years of paint, scratches and spills. There is a metal plaque on the side that says “The United States of America Flying Boat Division”. I can only imagine what sort of history is there!
NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN SPACE I share work space with a screenprinting shop (Hillhouse Screenprinters) which has been a really great relationship so far. Screenprinting and letterpress printing have a lot in common so we are able to learn from each other.
MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL My most valuable tool in my print shop is oddly enough my little rubber thimble. I use it all the time for various tasks and it keeps my finger clean from ink which saves me a lot of time washing my hands!
INK OF CHOICE I generally use VanSon’s rubber based ink, but for specialty ink colors (metallic and fluorescent) I use Ink in Tubes oil based ink. Both are great, but they have their differences. My current favorite color of choice is a soft mint like Pantone 621. I think this color looks great on the Crane Lettra in Pearl. It creates a beautiful vintage feeling.
SOLVENT OF CHOICE My method for cleaning has been to keep the rollers on the press and use a shop rag dipped in California Wash. I just roll the press slowly back and forth until the rollers are clean. Then I clean the ink plate and go over everything once more with a clean rag.
PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE I have been using a 9×12″ Boxcar Deep Relief base since last year.
OIL OF CHOICE I use a white motor oil for my press and it works like a charm!
WHAT TYPE OF RAGS DO YOU CLEAN UP YOUR PRESSES WITH I use blue shop towels for clean up. I like them because they are durable enough to use multiple times.
FLOORING MATERIAL I don’t even know what our floor is made out of to be honest! I’m sure it’s some sort of industrial linoleum.
FLOOR PLAN TIPS The best floor plan is one that creates a work triangle. I have my paper cutter, work bench and press all within reach of each other. This way, I’m not wasting as much time running across the room.
PIED TYPE Honestly, I don’t recognize this term. I feel like I still have a lot of letterpress lingo to learn. I have a large type cabinet with various fonts…century gothic is my favorite.
ORGANIZATION ADVICE I don’t think this would be considered a secret, but I have found that keeping a clean shop is by far the biggest way I boost my productivity. I’m distracted by too much unnecessary clutter.
PRINTING ADVICE When I first started printing, I couldn’t figure out why my printing wasn’t crisp. Everything seemed to have a blur around the edges and bleed into the paper. After countless hours of trial and error, I realized that I was using way too much ink. I backed way off and my next print was nearly perfect. What a relief! I realized that learning to listen to your press to find the right tuning is such a huge part of what makes a great printer.