Printing Details At Clove St. Press

One of the first few things you notice when you step inside Clove St. Press is the gentle whirring of the Heidelberg Windmill and the trio of smiles beaming from Daniel Heffernan’s family. This letterpress mecca is a culmination of Daniel’s passion for detail, the love of a good pulled print, and the joy of bringing more letterpress into the world. We caught Daniel between ink runs to catch up on how he maintains perfect registration between life and love.

Daniel Heffernan of Clove St. Press adjusts his Heidelberg Windmill.
Letterpress printed playing cards printed exquisitiely via Clove St. Press and Daniel Heffernan.(Top Notch box designed by Ben Johnston and printed by Clove St. Press)

BRAIDING THE PAST WITH THE PRESENT I’m Daniel Heffernan, a husband, dad, and owner/printer of Clove St. Press in San Diego, California. To me, letterpress printing isn’t a romantic or vintage way to make antique looking prints. It’s a completely viable process for printing contemporary work that has a physical significance today.

A young "printer-in-training" watches Daniel Heffernan print at Clove St. Press.

PRINTING MENTORS Bill Kelly, founder of Brighton Press, was the one who first introduced me to printmaking and steered me towards letterpress. The conceptual environment of that printmaking class was much different than the production one I’m in now, but it was a very important time for me to learn the rituals of printmaking and get some ink in my blood.

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT Bill, upon observing my art and design work, saw how I was combining typography into my drypoint etchings and wood cuts and suggested that I check out letterpress printing. I’d never even heard of it, but with his recommendation and my limited amount of research I was convinced I would love letterpress.

Beautifully printed details of business cards by Daniel Heffernan of Clove St. Press.

PRESS HISTORY I’m aware that not many people get to say this, but the very first press I ever touched was the press I bought. I knew I wanted a proof press and after about 9 months scouring Briar Press classifieds, craigslist, and ebay, I finally came across this press and pulled the trigger immediately. It was a 1954 Challenge 15MP (Vandercook SP-15 ripoff) that I had shipped to San Diego from Oklahoma City. Now that it’s been cleaned up and is in San Diego, it’s probably worth 2-3x what I paid for it, but I don’t think I could ever sell it.

CALIFORNIA COOL If the shop were a typeface, it might be Akzidenz-Grotesk. Built from tradition, but with all the fluff stripped away. We’re going for more like an operating room and less like a rustic barn. We’re located in the Linda Vista area of San Diego, just below the University of San Diego & the San Diego Mission. We are surrounded by other businesses who are doing rad things, so anytime one of us finishes a client meeting we’re likely to walk them over to our neighbors to check out their hardwood slabs or custom wood eyewear.

Family letterpress love runs abound at Clove St. Press!Critical printing pressroom tools such as quins, roller setting guages, brayers and ink knifes are all apart of a letterpress print shop.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I am a designer who’s currently a printer. I studied graphic design at PLNU and worked as a designer for the year following my graduation while printing nights and weekends. This design background is extremely valuable in communicating with designers and knowing exactly how to print a job based on their expectations.

FULL TIME FUN Yes indeed, running Clove St has been my full time gig for 3 years now.

PRINTING FEATS Awesome projects have snowballed for me lately – it seems like every time we do a rad print, someone sees it and has a better, bigger project to share with us. A recent project that comes to mind is boxes for playing cards for Dan & Dave Buck. Maintaining perfect register between offset, letterpress, foil, embossing, and die cutting is always a nice challenge!

Finely printed metallic gold ink business cards from Daniel Heffernan of Clove St. Press.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar was, and still is, one of the few resources available online where you can not only buy supplies, but learn some of the basic functions of letterpress equipment. And they make that gridded piece of aluminum that we all need. We have one for each press.

Immpecable detail and craftsmanship of printed letterpress navy and white packaging via Clove St. Press.(Aristocrat box designed by Dan & Dave Buck and printed by Clove St. Press).

SHOP TIPS Nail the registration. Nail the color. Slice your crop marks in half. Do the simple things really well.

WHAT’S NEXT Take less rush orders!

Huge round of applause out to Daniel of Clove St. Press for letting us take a sneak peak around his wonderful printing world!

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