Next up in our Letterpress Friend chat series is AJ Masthay. We are bowled over by the mesmerizing details in his concert poster series and his bright + bold color combinations. AJ is a Connecticut-based printer who always makes us wonder “What is he up to this time?!” We sat down for a quick minute to see what’s on his Vandercook (and beyond!) via Masthay Studios.
Boxcar Press: So good to catch up with you! We’ve all got the printing bug and we’re just curious about when you got “bitten”!
AJ: That happened back in my sophomore year of art school when I was first introduced to old-school stone lithography. Literally drawing on pieces of limestone, using leather rollers and gum arabic to reproduce beautiful full tonal drawings. It felt like the world of magic and alchemy to me, I was hooked.
Boxcar Press: Tell us about a press you remember fondly (or not so fondly) or one you have now that you prefer to use.
AJ: That’s my first Vandercook Universal I for sure. I found it through the help of one of my college professors, Jim Lee, a few years after I graduated. I was hoping to get an etching press as I figured that was the most versatile. Jim mentioned he knew of a Vandercook in a guy’s garage he was looking to sell. The only problem was it was completely disassembled and in pieces.
$500 later…. it was mine and I spent the next couple of months studying the presses at my former art school to figure out how to reassemble the Uni I in my basement. That’s the press that started my entire art career but I wound up trading it for my current “go to” press which is a Universal III. The hand cranking on thousands of print passes became a bit much. The larger format and motorized aspect of the Uni III just made it way more realistic for my shop. I’m also in the process of possibly adding a large Vandercook 32-28 to my shop which is very, very exciting.
Boxcar Press: What is something people might not know about you?
AJ: People that follow me might know this already but I have a deep fascination with bones and osteology and have been collecting skulls since I was a little kid. I now have a pretty extensive collection at the studio with well over 200 skulls of various species.
Boxcar Press: What is your printing superpower? Every printer has one….
AJ: This one is easy, my printing superpower is my coworker Kait Lennon (@longlegslennon on IG) who handles almost all of the printing in my shop these days. There is no way I could crank out the amount of work I do for clients without having someone else working the press and there’s no one I trust more with my work than Kait.
Boxcar Press: Anything you want to give us a sneak peak about or a current project you have in the works? Maybe one project that you are always going to get to but it just never seems to get done? (We all have one!)
AJ: I’m currently working on a series of new art prints that I’m calling my “Pet Projects” that I plan on releasing at my November 12th open studio event. Summers tend to be very very busy for us with client work (summer tours, festivals, etc.) Once we got through all that this year I thought it would be nice to take some time to work on a few pieces that I’ve been meaning to do but always seem to get pushed off.
LOL […] I have many many projects that seem to just never get done. Hopefully, I can check a few off with this upcoming show though.
Boxcar Press: Last quick question & just for fun(!) – Do you like to listen to podcasts or music in your shop while you create?
AJ: Both really, depends on my mood and what’s going on that day. I find music, usually very loud music, helps me get in the creative zone when coming up with overall concepts or working out compositions/layout. Podcasts seem better when I’m diving into detail work and fleshing out/completing drawings. Neither is written in stone though.
That was a delightful time, AJ. We’re grateful for the friendly chat! Visit his website link to delve more into the hue-filled world of masthaystudios.com.