Let’s See That Printed: Dana Kadison’s Exotic Flamingo Letterpress Prints

When the intricately-detailed illustrated flamingo graphic passed through our platemaking service, we were eager to learn more about what was to become of this plate and the resulting final pulled print. The printer behind the design, Dana Kadison, let us in on how the illustration project came to be and how she turned a long-mused-over concept into reality.

An illustration by Dana Kadison being made into a letterpress plate by Boxcar Press
An illustration by Dana Kadison being made into a letterpress plate by Boxcar Press

Dana filled us in on beautiful (and long-term) project details: “As a photographer and collector, I have built a library of images and ephemera that is the foundation for an ongoing series based on the Mexican bingo game Loteria. Currently there are eight Loteria images. Each one exists in more than one “state”: my CMYK proofs, which will eventually have reverses and be printed as cards in a boxed set; monoprints, which I produce whenever I want to work out an idea or a reverse (like the Yeats Mariachis); soon, the editioned prints which include letterpress layers; and finally, Ofrendas, of which the Flamingo is the first. The Ofrendas, or offerings, are simpler statements of the ideas in the Loteria card series.”

Dana Kadison on press with a Vandercook printing press.

“The Flamingo Ofrenda is casual and references Jose Guadalupe Posada’s work. About two years ago, inspired by a set of Players cigarette cards, I was thinking about, and scratching, all kinds of birds, particularly finches, but also hornbills, crossbeaks, frogmouths, macaws, etc., and finally settled on a flamingo for card #2. The flamingo, for Americans at least, is undeniably iconic and the males and females look alike.”

“Now there is a suite of 8 images ready for editioning on 18×24 sheets of paper. Each one synthesized from a myriad of “stuff”: you know, the words, texts, images, objects, conversations that make up a life. And the first thing I wanted to add to each image is the text that will be on the reverse each of card when they become actual cards. For the viewer the text would be a clue to what I was thinking. Of course I wanted it in my own handwriting. And this is where letterpress comes into play. It all started with the idea of plates of text in my own handwriting.”

“So I took a class at Robert Blackburn on a Vandy 4. The flamingo, my first plate from Boxcar, was for that class. Using that Vandercook 4, I printed the flamingo two ways, straight and then over monotypes. All the prints have the same degree of impression. I like the straight prints, but am still deciding about paper. The monotype backgrounds please me the most, perhaps because I did not try to register them with the plate. Knowing that, once set, the Vandy would take care of itself, part of this exercise was to let go of the urge to register. While all of this is happening, I did press my first image with Pilar Nadal at Pickwick Independent Press in Portland ME.”

Dana Kaddison prints beautiful letterpress flamingo monoprints with Pilar Nadil.

“Letterpress is an aesthetically and physically freeing experience. We all know that paper is not really 2D, that it has depth. Letterpress layers add visible texture that can be seen with or without ink. And a letterpress registers. It is a little unsettling to use a press, completely unlike pulling the screens myself. Atmospheric conditions in the NYC studio are so variable and water-based inks misbehave in such interesting and frustrating ways that achieving consistency in CMYK prints takes great physical and mental stamina.

With letterpress I can imagine more and physically achieve more. For the editions of the first 8 images, I chose to set the 6.5×10.25 card faces on 18×24 sheets of paper and handwrite the text from each reverse below the screenprint of its card face. The handwritten texts are becoming letterpress plates. And there was more beautiful white space available. So parts of the reverse images are now finding their places as letterpress in that white space. For example, #2 will be embedded in the enlarged body of my scratchwork flamingo.”

A large heaping round of thanks out to Dana for letting us get a sneak peek at the brilliant flamingo designs!

Let’s See That Printed: Primer Scares Up Fun

As soon as we found out the electric and spooky illustration designs of Primer were passing through our platemaking service department, we had to learn more about eye-catching letterpress poster designs. The printer behind Primer, Brian Isserman, and his wonderful wife gave us a sneak peek at the chilling yet beautiful tale behind these letterpress pieces.

Brian Isserman's halloween and spooky illustratrations going through the letterpress plateaking process from film to plate.

Brian helped fill in the blanks on how such captivating project came to be:

“Primer is a brand development agency located just north of Philadelphia in the historic town of Hatboro, Pennsylvania. We specialize in brand strategy development, graphic design, web development and video production, but what we really love, is print.”

Our "Let's See That Printed" article features the spooky letterpress posters by Brian Isserman (and wife) of Primer.

“Several years ago we purchased and restored a GEO. P. GORDON platen press circa late 1870’s. It was a 6 month labor of love to get it back up and printing (and see here for the journey!). Especially considering we knew nothing about letterpress printing when we started. Now we use it every few months for personal projects and small promotional runs for our clients.”

A beautiful Chandler & Price letterpress press stands ready for printing fun at Primer.

“Every year we put together a Halloween promotion as a thank you to our clients, friends and family for their continued support. It allows us to step away from coding and web development so we can get back to our roots, ink and paper. We usually create a short run limited edition series of prints. Two years ago the theme was Day of the Dead, last year it was the Universal Studio Monsters, this year we decided to go with vintage Halloween.”


“Once we had the concept in place, we collaborated with the super talented Michele Melcher to illustrate a series of three iconic Halloween images. The flat graphic, off-registration look of those vintage Halloween decorations gave us a safe zone margin of error that helped us tremendously. This was our first multi-color print run and we wanted to create a design that was forgiving. It really worked out well. The prints that were in perfect registration looked awesome, the ones that were really off looked even better.

The print run itself ran over 15 hours and for the most part went pretty smooth. We learned a lot from the experience and I am totally looking forward to tackling another multi-color job. Everyone really loved the prints. We received numerous calls and emails and got lots of social media love.

PRO TIP – Our press is old. I mean really old – and although it still prints amazingly well, we knew it would be extremely difficult to keep the plates and prints registered. We do not have a paper cutter so we opted to not include crop marks of any kind on our plates and ordered pre-cut paper instead.”

Brian Isserman of Primer sets up manual color registration mock ups for his letterpress broadside poster.

“So, how do you keep everything in register without crop marks? Boxcar sent us a large press proof. We cut out the individual images and spray mounted those proofs onto our paper. We placed a small piece of tape on the front of the plate and aligned it face down onto the paper. Once in position we removed the sticky back of the plate and ran it through the press. The plate would then attach itself to our base. We then carefully peeled off the paper and tape, and we repeated the process with each of the 3 plates per illustration. Using the master proof helped keep all of the plates aligned.

I think one of the most interesting parts of printing is figuring out the little tricks and treats to make your vision come to life. We could not have done it without the guidance, plates and custom ink colors from Boxcar Press. Thanks Boxcar!”

Huge round of thanks out to Brian and his lovely wife at Primer for letting us get a closer look at these brilliantly colored poster designs!

2015 Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadsides

Boxcar Press has a heart for projects that combine letterpress printing with children, and none is more dear to us than the Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project. This collaboration with 22 artists and pediatric patients always yields beautiful art and prose. The children’s ages range from 5 to 20, and through the Writers in the Schools program (WITS – a poetry program spearheaded by Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplick) the children create amazing imagery with words. The printers at the School of Visual Concepts then give their interpretation of the words. Each year we support this project by donating photopolymer plates for the limited run of 106 broadsides. We reached out to some of the printers involved this year to hear more about their experiences and how they created artwork to showcase each poem – take a look.

Seattle Children's Hospital letterpress broadsidesSeattle Children's Hospital letterpress broadsidesSeattle Children's Hospital letterpress broadsides

Ana Sofia Mariz I was fortunate to find a perfect fit in terms of the poem. My little poet was five and I also have a son of the same age. So I immediately felt engaged and connected as I felt I could hear the boy’s voice in my head. I decided to involve my own son in the project. I told him about this boy who was sick and had written this poem and that we’ll make him a beautiful “drawing” so he’ll be happy and recover faster. My poet wrote about Spiderman, so I brought that idea into the layout within a kid’s visual repertory:  drawing, coloring, and crayons.


As the boy would be the Spiderman, I decided to trace my son’s hands and color them as within a Spiderman suit. They are climbing the text wall and the title would be hand drawn like a web between the hands. All the elements would reflect the imperfections of a hand drawing.

I never got to meet the boy. I guess I didn’t realize that was possible at that time, but I wish to meet him and his family some day. I can easily say that this was one of the top five most enjoyable projects I’ve ever done.


Sarah Kulfan This year was my third participating on the Seattle Children’s broadside project. I chose to print my poem using Boxcar plates because of a tight schedule and I have produced great prints with Boxcar plates previously. The poem I printed is called ‘May I’ and was written by eleven year old Kira Hoffman. I was very excited to work on this poem because the first stanza immediately made me think of my brother’s dog Roofus, who passed away this year.

Sarah Kulfan's dog Rufus was the inspiration for her Seattle Hospital Children's Broadsides project print.Sarah Kulfan's dog Rufus was the inspiration for her Seattle Hospital Children's Broadsides project print.

Initially, I was planning on asking Kira about her dog but I realized my interpretation of Kira’s poetry was part of the collaborative process that makes this project so rich. I helped raise Roofus as a pup and over the years, have created various Roofus inspired drawings and artwork. I dug up some old photos of Roofus and developed a sketch. Through Kira’s words, this would be an opportunity to commemorate the pup that I helped raise.

Sarah Kulfan's dog Rufus was the inspiration for her Seattle Hospital Children's Broadsides project print.

Jenny Wilkson who heads up the SVC letterpress shop and leads the Seattle Children’s broadside project once said that this project is one of the most sustainable efforts she’s experienced.  It’s easy to see this as many of the same printers return to donate their time and energy each year, which is one reason why I love this project. I am so honored to have printed Kira’s poem and create a keepsake for her and her family to share; and my brother got a nice birthday present this year, a last memento of his best pal, the yellow dog, Roofus.

Heidi Hespelt This was my second year participating in the Childrens’ Hospital Broadside project.  It is such a joy to be part of it. My poet is a 16 year old girl who, I hear, is now doing well and living in Portland. Her poem was strong and happy, so I chose bright colors and the Gerbera daisy image to illustrate that. I used polymer plates for the text and did a lino block reduction for the flowers.

Heidi-Hespelt-IMG6Heidi Hespelt carves out a lineoleum block for the first ink pass for her contribution to the 2015 Seattle Hospital Childrens Broadsides Project.Beautiful reduction cuts for Heidi Hespelt for the Seattle Hospital Childrens Broadsides project.

I am a bit smitten with the reduction process (to me it can be a brain twister!) where the block is carved between each pass and the parts that are carved away stay the color you just printed. Sound easy? Yep! Easy to get confused! It was a very satisfying project for me this year to master this. ​

Beautiful second color run on the Vandercook for Heidi Hespelt for the Seattle Hospital Childrens Broadsides project.Heidi-Hespelt-IMG5

Darcie Kantor Printed in black and what she calls “Darcie Yellow” because her 15 year old poet specifically titled her poem “Black and Yellow”.

Boxcar letterpress plates in action for Darcie Kantor's Seattle Hospital Children's Broadsides project print.

Many thanks to all of the printers who donated their time and efforts to this amazing project!

2014 Seattle Children’s Hospital Letterpress Broadsides

For the past few years, we’ve collaborated with the Writers in the Schools program (WITS) and the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, Washington, to create an inspiring collection of letterpress broadsides. Poets Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplick from the WITS program worked with long term pediatric patients at the Seattle Children’s Hospital to write poetry, and the artists use the poetry to create beautiful letterpress broadsides. This year, 20 artists worked on the project to create 20 prints for the Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadsides project. We supported the project by donating photopolymer plates to help offset the product costs involved with creating this limited run (only 110 were created!) of broadsides. Here are a few photos from this year’s beautiful collaboration – as well as photos of the artists who letterpress printed the broadsides!

2014 Seattle Children's Hospital Broadsides project2014 Seattle Children's Hospital Letterpress Broadsides

2014 Seattle Children's Hospital Broadsides - letterpress artists 2014 Seattle Children's Hospital Broadsides - letterpress artists 2014 Seattle Children's Hospital Broadsides - letterpress artists

2014 Children's Hospital Letterpress Broadsides

2014 Children's Hospital Letterpress Broadsides2014 Children's Hospital Letterpress Broadsides

Artist photos courtesy of the School of Visual Concepts 

Up close with a Finger print shop 11-14

This is part of a glue machine called a finger since it picks the glued piece away from the rollers. After a good while of the finger being used as many sheets are duplexed one after the other, droplets of paste tend to form and create a gnarly look.

Letterpress printing in action

Discovering Pergam Press

We followed Fabiano Santos of Pergam Press into his inking abode settled in the breathtaking city of Carapicuiba, Brazil. Opening the doors to his shop for us, Fabiano let us tour his cozy shop as well as exemplifying the care and technique one acquires when a Heidelberg is present.

Fabiano Santos of Pergam Press highlights the important things: Family and Heidelberg presses.

THE PRESSES We have two presses, a Heidelberg Windmill and a Minerva Catu, which is completely manufactured in Brazil. Our first acquisition was Catu, here in Brazil it is called Catuzinha. It belonged to a printer man for many years and when he was retired he kept it in his garage. He was very careful man and the press was kept in a very good way. One day, my wife Cris saw an internet ad about the Heidelberg. It was at a company and was used just to put numbers, even so it had a beautiful story because the press belonged to the owner of the company who left it to his son.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP Our workplace size is 30 square meters. It is my parents garage and the place was a wallpaper warehouse. We made a big effort to take away all those wallpapers and nowadays we use some to cover the presses or as a carpet.

TYPE OF SHOP Commercial.

LOCATION We are at grande SP outskirts, a city called Carapicuiba, where I have always lived with my parents. It is an ordinary neighborhood, with nice people, good neighbors, like country-side where everybody knows each other. People who live here always ask me about what my business is and they get amazed at how the presses work. Around us there are not so many skyscrapers or many cars. It is a very calm way of life. There is no traffic, just small industries and we can feel the fresh air which is something rare in a big city like SP. Further, we want to contribute to help people who live here, it is a special place to us.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP I like to arrive early in the morning, open the doors and feel the typical Pergam Press smell. It is a mix of paper and ink that makes the place unique and allows me to say “Wow! I’m at Pergam Press”. We have a bookshelf full of books and antique toys and also many vinyl Long Plays. But our favorite thing is the antique clichés from the 70’s and 80’s that we found out in the garbage of an old company and today they are here at Pergam Press and we love them!

NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN SPACE We have two printers.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL I believe the most valuable tool is the Boxcar Base. It is really important to us because it improved the quality of our prints.

INK OF CHOICE We use ink from an antique factory called Tradição Bremensis made in Brazil. Nowadays, we are in love with yellow.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE The clean-up used to be the slow step of the process since we are very careful about the presses. Usually we use Kerosene but we are searching for eco-friendly products to do the clean up.

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE We always use the Boxcar Base and Photopolymer KF95 plates.

OIL OF CHOICE We use Petrobras motor oil.

WHAT TYPE OF RAGS DO YOU CLEAN UP YOUR PRESSES WITH The good and old cotton shirt is irreplaceable. Some friends always donate to us.

FLOORING MATERIAL Our floor is made of concrete covered with ceramic.

FLOOR PLAN TIPS We appreciate the natural way of concrete.


ORGANIZATION ADVICE Always keep the inks very well identified & we also make more than we need in case of reprints.

PRINTING ADVICE It took a long time to find out how important it is to have the correct height of the rollers and the ink volume. At the beginning, we put a huge amount of ink and today we deal it as a chef deals with the ingredients to prepare a dish: with just the right amount.

We are young and have so much to learn about letterpress but everyday is a new experience, a new discovery.

Fine invitations, heritage printing presses,and lucky charms: Courtesy of Pergam Press.

Many thanks to Fabiano for giving us a tour inside of Pergam Press!

17 must-see lettepress videos

There are few things more fascinating than watching letterpress printing in person, but videos can be a close second. We picked out some of our favorite letterpress printing videos, so feast your eyes on the presses, the ink, the paper and the people. There are stories to be heard and techniques to be learned. We bet you’ll be itching to get to your own press to make a little letterpress magic after watching just a few of these! Tell us which ones you liked best in the comments below, and by all means, share some of the jewels you’ve discovered.

Boxcar Institute Training Series (BITS)

We admit, we think these instructional letterpress videos on makeready, mixing ink, and locking up your base are packed with good information for all types of printers. Harold and the Boxcar Presses can help improve your printing, so be sure to check out the rest of our training videos.  Here are some unique tips for the Heidelberg Windmill.

Boxcar Press – A day in the Life

Can’t make it to Syracuse for a tour? This video will give you a little taste of Boxcar Press.

Linotype, The Film

This is a great film that pays homage to a machine that transformed printing. It’s a wonderful blend of new and old footage, and the stories are fascinating. Here’s an introduction.

Letterpress Coasters printed at Repeat Press

In this fun video, Mike Dacey of Repeat Press creates coasters from beginning to end. He combines polymer plates (on a Boxcar Base) with a little metal type and throws in corner rounding, cutting, packaging, and even tests the coasters out.

Letterpress Printing Vocational Film from 1947

This black and white video is fun to watch and makes you feel nostalgic about the glory days of letterpress printing — there’s great footage of pressman, hand typesetting, linotypes and more.

Letterpress video at Studio on fire

A video about Studio on Fire that also includes information on designing for letterpress and a simplified version of the polymer platemaking process. Highlights include the printing (and reading) of Studio on Fire’s “Pressman’s Creed”.

American Letterpress – The art of Hatch show

A look into the workings of Hatch Show Print Shop. The visuals of all the posters, the people working, and their long history blends into a nice video experience.

Upside Down, Left to Right: A Letterpress Film

A short film about letterpress and one of the few remaining, movable-type printing workshops in the United Kingdom, which is situated at Plymouth University. The credits are a fun surprise, too.

Letterpress documentary at Firefly Press

This video eloquently explains the craftsmanship involved with the hands-on process of letterpress, including creating and using metal type.

Brian Donaghey on Letterpress Printing

This is a short film on UK printer Brian Donaghey. It covers his background and it’s like a spending a pleasant afternoon with a master. Brian pulls prints on a Hopkinson, Finsbury & Cope Iron handpress.

Chase Lock Tutorial from Tim Butler 

Good information and a demonstration on locking up type from Tim Butler at Quality Letterpress.

Steel Petal Press video on letterpress

Shayna Norwood from Steel Petal Press does a masterful job explaining letterpress for a new customer. You can watch each part of her studio process, from inking all the way through to cleanup.

Heidelberg windmill video from Invitations by Ajalon

A very good explanation and demonstration of the Heidelberg Windmill from Invitations by Ajalon. A great example of German engineering and yes, that is a Boxcar Base (it’s one of the original bases with the older design).

Short & Sweet letterpress video by Naomie Ross

A brief but well done video of printing with wood type. There are no words, but the videographer added some great descriptions and artsy touches.

Steamroller Printing with the University of Montana Printmaking Division

Many have tried this supersized printing method. This video combines a fun, musical look at the artistic efforts of the University of Montana students in their annual event. All of the artwork had a “Day of the Dead” theme, so it’s very bold, and at the end of the day they held a parade to show off the art. Check out the sketching, carving, inking and yes, the unveiling.

Jack Daniels does Letterpress – with Yee-Haw Industries

From the toe-tapping banjo music to the long shots of the Yee-Haw studio, this video is very appealing on so many levels. Yee-Haw worked on 10 letterpress posters for Jack Daniels, and this video shows the creation of just one of them (and it’s a beauty). It’s also nice to see because Yee-Haw closed their doors in April 2012 and they did masterful work.

Typeface Movie trailer

This trailer gives a peek at Typeface, an hour long immersion into the history of the Hamilton Type factory (now known as the Hamilton Wood Type Museum). The film has inspired many visits to Two Rivers Wisconsin for the real thing, but is also available for purchase on DVD.

Boxcar Talk With Annika Buxman

There’s a vibrancy when Annika Buxman of De Milo Design Studio & Letterpress speaks about braiding her foci of letterpress,  responsible printing, faraway homelands, and her support of Fair Trade paper. Deftly she passes from one story to another, entrancing us, while her C&P mirrors her movements. Paper to ink. Printed piece to hand. Annika paused the press so we could ease in a few curious questions into the extraordinary printing tapestry around us.

THE CREATIVE CASE OF ANNIKA BUXMAN Machinery is in my blood. I mostly grew up in Bakersfield, California in the 1970’s. At that time the landscape, even in town, was covered with functioning oil wells. The “head” on a long “neck” was constantly moving up and down like a gargantuan horse leaning down to drink. I named dozens of them and felt a special kinship with these “creatures”. The oil wells combined with the farm equipment in my grandparents’ barn made me feel at home with wrought iron and rust. I didn’t learn how to use a computer until college in 1988, so mechanical rather than digital functionality is imprinted in my brain.  A completely different childhood experience from Bakersfield was being born in Africa (Kinchasa, Zaire) and having those images and stories around the house. My family also lived in Manila, The Philippines, right after the revolution in 1987 and traveled around that part of the world for a year. Those experiences gave me a strong sense of poverty in developing countries. But it seemed like too big of a problem to solve. When I learned about how small businesses can make a difference through the practice of fair trade it was the perfect fit for De Milo Design.

Locally, I enjoy teaching the art of letterpress to people in my studio and working on custom invitations, business cards and personal stationery. Globally, I’m committed to promoting cross cultural business relationships with women in developing countries through the development and sale of their handmade paper via my fair trade and eco paper line “Sustain & Heal.”

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT I first saw letterpress printing in the gallery at Art Center College of Design where I was a student in 1993 and was fascinated. I took their Archetype Press class. I thought it was just a fun elective. I never thought I would do it for a living so I didn’t pay very close attention. When I started up my shop I had to go back and take the class again.

STAYING COOL IN CALIFORNIA South Pasadena, California is a small town about 10 miles northeast of downtown LA. The entertainment industry does a lot of filming here when they need the “quaint-cute-midwestern-small-town” look. The front of my street level studio has huge windows that look out onto the main boutique shopping and gallery section of town. The Goldline light rail station and weekly farmers market is just down the street and the chamber of commerce organizes art walks 4 times a year so there’s a lot of foot traffic. I treadle my C&P in front of the windows every chance I get. Working the press with the backdrop of lovely marbled fair trade papers always attracts attention.

PRINTING MENTORS My first printing mentor was Regis Graden. I met him just in time because he died a few years later. But in those few years my skills improved by leaps and bounds largely due to his input. When I called him with a question often he would say “I could tell you but it would be easier to show you. I’ll be there in 20 minutes.” Here is a bit more about him on my blog. Today my mentors are other printers like me who are each doing their own thing with letterpress. Close to my studio there are at least a dozen printers — Maude Press, Lala Press, Anenome Press, Fugu Fugu Press, and Papermum Press, just to name a few. And we all rely on local printing legend Gerald Lange. The International Printing Museum puts on an annual printers fair and it’s fun getting together with other local printers to talk shop and exchange advice. The Ladies of Letterpress conference this past August provided me with a host of contacts and I love their discussion board.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS The unexpected juxtaposition of materials is the most fun way for me to design. At Art Center I learned the basics of a good layout (first, second, third read, and dynamic “white” space) and picked up an appreciation for meticulous typography. Applying those skills to combining different materials is my favorite way to design. Most of my work ends up being a collage of some sort. I could get a PhD in adhesives!

FULL TIME FUN I am both a designer and printer, and I’ve been printing full time since 1998.

PRESS HISTORY I bought a 8×12 C&P Old Style Treadle Press from the International Printing Museum in Carson and drove it to Pasadena on Los Angeles freeways on a little trailer that was only rated to carry 500 pounds. Dumb.

PRINTING FEATS In 2007 I designed and launched a line of fair trade and eco friendly papers called “Sustain & Heal.” It primarily features handmade & handmarbled papers and a specially made for letterpress Jute sheet. Later I traveled to Bangladesh to meet with many of the artisans who make the paper and see what a huge difference it makes in people’s lives when we buy fair trade. Taking “Sustain & Heal” to the National Stationery Show and bringing the message of fair trade to people there for the last six years has been a huge undertaking. I’m terrible at marketing and showing my work. I dread public speaking and talking to strangers, especially when they stare at me blankly after my passionate little speech about fair trade. Doing this show has been an area of personal growth and I’m proud that I rise to the challenge year after year.

BOXCAR’S ROLE When I first launched my website in 1999 there were not many other letterpress websites out there. Boxcar made me feel like I wasn’t alone, or crazy, to be doing what I was doing. They also gave me a laugh with the “What is Harold wearing” section. They continue to be ahead of the curve and leaders in this industry. Their habit of eco-friendly practices inspire me to do the same.

PRINTING ADVICE Regis [Graden], my first letterpress mentor, used to say “You know the only sure way to not make a mistake? Don’t ever do anything!” He also once consoled me when I called him with my latest printing woe, “You made a mistake? I can’t believe it. The last time I made a mistake was…let me think…ten o’clock this morning.”

WHAT’S NEXT So many “high on talent, low on bank account” folks walk into my studio each week with their wonderful designs that they want printed. Often they leave disappointed because they had no idea letterpress requires so much effort and is on the higher end of the price scale. So I’ve set up a “letterpress lab” program for people to come into the studio and print their own designs for a small equipment rental fee. So far it’s worked well with the few people who have tried it. I’m looking forward to expanding this program next year.

Again, a big round of thanks out to Annika for letting us catch a glimpse of the spectacular work of De Milo Design Studio & Letterpress!

Workspace Spotlight: Alissa Bell

In the sunny spacious hills of California, Alissa Bell can be found enjoying her new printing space. She let us take a well-timed tour of the new digs, and offered up some great advice, heaps of laughter and curious answers as we meandered around her brightly lit space.

THE PRESSES I have a Chandler & Price 12×18 press from 1919.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP 500 sq. ft.

THE LOCATION My workspace, located in the hills just outside of Salinas, California, is in a “casita” with views of old oak trees and Steinbeck country.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP I moved into this new space just 2 weeks ago and already I am feeling more inspired and refreshed.  I love the high ceilings and big windows…they bring in lots of natural light.  My dogs keep me company while I am printing. Barley likes relaxing by my feet, but Blue is scared of the press while its running so he sits outside. I also have a cow-skin rug… just in case I forget that I’m in the countryside.

NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN SPACE This is a one girl commercial print shop!

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL My iPod. I nerd out to Ira Glass and other podcasts while printing. I love learning and printing at the same time.

FAVORITE INK Van Son rubber based inks. However, I’ve been playing around with the Van Son oil based metallics. I am enjoying gold 871… I printed 2013 calendars in gold on black paper stock. It looks and feels so glamorous.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE I use California Wash. Fellow printer, Robert from The Paper Crane in Half Moon Bay, recently shared a tip that has shaved a few minutes off my cleaning process. He suggested after the initial cleaning of the ink disk, reapply cal wash to the disk. Run the press and allow the rollers to run over the cal wash… removing extra ink and also breaking up the ink on the rollers further before taking a rag to them. I find this little tip very helpful!

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE I have a Boxcar deep relief base and use Boxcar KF152 plates.  My studio has only been in business for 1 year and I’ve been using this system since day one.

OIL OF CHOICE Motor Oil from the hardware store

WHAT TYPE OF RAG DO YOU CLEAN UP YOUR PRESSES WITH I am often making trips to ACE hardware to purchase this handy square box of old t-shirts.  They are perfect for clean-up.

FLOORING MATERIAL Stained concrete

FLOOR PLAN TIPS Since this space is 2 weeks new, I am still working out the equipment arrangement.  One new item being added to the floor plan is a platform/stool.  For this move, we (and by we I mean strong men and a forklift) got the press on a pallet and I think I will keep the press on it permanently just in case of a future move.  I’m going to build a platform for me to stand on so I am at a safe height to work.

PIED TYPE First born. Type A. I love to clean… I can’t help it!

ORGANIZATION ADVICE I have a filing system for my clients’ polymer plates.  I use the plastic sleeve from Boxcar to help separate different projects and clients so I don’t loose my marbles (or the plates) during a reorder.

PRINTING ADVICE The word “no”… I am so excited about what I do and want to share with each person who shows interest. Sometimes, though, being able to say “no” due to time constraints, comfort level, or the intangible bad feeling about a project would save me a few headaches.