Boxcar Talk With Johnny Brewton

From mind-boggling multiple color runs to must-have limited editions, from vinyl to Hunter S. Thompson, the elusive (and quite captivating) Johnny Brewton of X-Ray Book and Novelty Co. has a great story — read on to find out how he got started in letterpress printing and where his business is heading.

Johnny Brewton of X-Ray Book and Novelty Co. wows with letterpress magic.

LETTERPRESSED FOR DETAILS I’m a letterpress printer, graphic designer & small press publisher with a focus on limited edition projects. I publish the assemblage magazines X-Ray & Bagazine plus assorted chapbooks, broadsides, artist books and miscellaneous odd print projects.

PRINTING AS A NECESSITY I was living in the San Francisco Mission district in early 1993 and began work on the first issue of X-Ray. It was to be a limited edition assemblage journal of sorts, non-disposable with original art and hand printing similar to a copy of Wallace Berman’s Semina.

Letterpress was the perfect tactile medium. So I began designing the inserts for letterpress, and paid printers like Artnoose and The Toxic Coyote to run them for me. Eventually – and out of necessity – I acquired my own press and began doing the printing myself.

WEST COAST WONDERS We go back and forth between our house in Grass Valley California and our apartment in San Francisco (lower Haight). My studio is located in the basement of the house my Dad built (in Grass Valley). We’re on 5 acres surrounded by Cedar, Black Oak and Sugar Pine trees. It’s a nice place to work & call home.

PRINTING MENTORS Jon and Louise Webb who published Outsider (Loujon Press), Wallace Berman (Semina), Graham Mackintosh (White Rabbit Press) and of course H.N. Werkman.

THE DAILY GRIND Step 1. Wrap my head around the obvious big idea and make a rough first draft – just to get it out of the way and grasp the concept.

Step 2. Take an abstract sideways approach, which is usually too wacky and avant-garde for a client. It’s always good to try something that’s the opposite of whatever seems obvious.
Step 3. I combine steps 1 and 2 and make a mutant third version. That process can change depending on who I’m working with. I’ll usually go with the one that’s the most appropriate for the integrity of the project.

DESIGNS THAT STAY TRUE TO THE CRAFT Sometimes I’m asked to design to look like letterpress when the piece is to be mass produced and offset printed. I avoid the exaggerated and over distressed look. It’s become overused and cheapens the craft. Once you see this used in a T.G.I. Friday’s commercial the jig is up!

FULL TIME FUN Not running the press full time yet but I print as much as possible and hope to be running it full time by the end of the year. Working out some details, website and getting ready to launch X-Ray Letterpress Service.

PRESS HISTORY Around 1994 while visiting my Dad I came a cross a little Kelsey 5 x 8 at a junk shop. I didn’t buy it but I told my Dad about it. He went down, purchased it and gave it to me for my birthday. I still have it.

Press List: Vandercook Universal No.1, Poco Proof Press, C&P 8×10, Kelsey 5×8.

Seeds on Hard Ground – Tom Waits
The Sudden Fart of Billy Childish – Billy Childish
Mistah Leary, He Dead by Hunter S. Thompson
Hunter S. Thompson – X-mas in Woody Creek
Richard Brautigan chapbook: Desire in a Bowl of Potatoes
POOP! – Charles Bukowski/Michael Montfort Box of Photos & Broadside
Bern Porter FOUNDS 1- 9
True Confessions – Tom Waits
The assemblage magazines X-Ray and Bagazine
Broadside of the Month Club. B.O.T.M.C.
Tom Waits Orphans LP and CD set
Neil Hamburger Heckle Cards 1 & 3
Neil Hamburger & Pleaseeasaur Souvenir Record
Instructions for Redemption – Mark Faigenbaum
Tanka-Toys – August Kleinzahler
The American Scene – F.N. Wright
Outrun the Blast – John Brewton Sr.
City Lights Bookstore 1969 – Michael Horowitz
In Search of Yage A William S. Burroughs Pictorial
13 Jazz Poems – A.D. Winans
The Ferlinghetti Arcane – Jack Hirschman
(to name a few)

BOXCAR’S ROLE I still use wood and lead type, but the Boxcar base and polymer plates have expanded the possibilities. It allows me to liberate the type and experiment in ways that I thought weren’t possible with multi color projects.

SHOP TIPS I’m probably not the best guy to be giving anyone business advice so here goes nothing: Don’t print anything you don’t want to look at for more than 15 impressions. Always be sure the project (at least) pays for itself.

If you’re not getting the desired result (no matter what you try and everything seems to be correct), clean off the ink, redo the tympan (packing) and start over. Always keep a keep roller gauge handy. Share your knowledge. Make the world a more interesting place with what you produce. Take your time. Have fun!

WHAT’S NEXT In addition to X-Ray Letterpress Service, we also have a few interesting projects in the works: Bagazine 5 which includes work by Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo, Richard Hell, Tom Waits and more. We have a few chapbooks and artists books lined up and are discussing additional projects with Richard Hell, Dan Melchior, Billy Childish, and maybe even a booklet + vinyl record of the Tim Leary, John Lennon, Yoko Ono conversation from the 1969 Bed-In. We’ll see…

Big round of thanks to Johnny for letting us get a sneak peek on X-Ray Book & Novelty Co.!

Boxcar Talk With Katie Daniels of Concrete Lace

Armed with sharpies, inks, and a dazzling inspiration, Katie Daniels of Concrete Lace is a phenomenal front to shaping the way letterpress has been deftly handling those warm wishes and special greetings to friend and family alike, be it a an eye-popping invitation or a special run edition card. A Georgia native, Katie’s been imbibing the wonderfully sweet fruits of the creative process.

If you’re in the Asheville, North Carolina area between August 2nd-5th, you should pop in to the Ladies of Letterpress Conference and say a big hello to Katie, as she’ll be rousing up some fun at the printer’s fair!

IT’S ALL IN THE CARDS I am originally from Foley, Alabama, on the Gulf Coast of Alabama (a sleepy town that didn’t know what to do with a rebellious punk vegan in the early 90’s). My mother is very creative, always had art supplies around and is no doubt the reason why I am an artist today. As a four-year-old, she encouraged me to start selling my handmade cards annually at the Foley “Art In The Park”event. 30 years later, after moving to Atlanta, the card making tradition continues under the name my awesome sister, Carla Kaiser, came up with: Concrete Lace. I also love history, collecting, cooking, exploring, gardening, animals and being a nerd.

LETTERPRESS FOR LIFE I had dabbled in printmaking in the past, but when I got engaged in 2008, I really wanted to print my own invitations. A friend of mine told me about a local company, Praxium Press, who let you rent their press. The owner, Berwyn, was an awesome guy who introduced me to the Vandercook world. I loved it and immediately started designing & printing letterpress greeting cards and Atlanta neighborhood postcards, and was printing there so often that he convinced me it was time to get my own press. My awesome husband, Paul, then decided to set me up with a Vandercook studio in our home where Concrete Lace is thriving today.

GIFTED IN GEORGIA My studio is in my home, with the Vandercook & Kelsey upstairs in the small 7×10″ studio, and the Kluge, C&P and large format Challenge cutter down in the one-car garage. My upstairs studio is an inspirational eclectic mess, and the garage is more industrial feeling. I love to crank up local tunes super loud when I am printing, and I like to let the music set the tone for my productivity.

LIFE LESSONS + PRINTING MENTORS I had a fortunate job at one of the best health food stores, Brighter Day in Savannah, Georgia, while in college. I worked there for many years, and befriended a dear woman who also worked there, the late Joan Cobitz. Joan was among the first female MFA printmaking graduates of her time. She served as a major inspiration to me, as we traded house cleaning expeditions for printmaking classes in her home studio (printmaking was not offered at SCAD at the time). She was a great story teller and mentor for me and I think of her daily, not only in the press room, but also when I use her culinary advice or her prized Sabatier kitchen knife.

After graduating, I moved to Atlanta, and was fortunate enough to buy a house next door to a fourth generation letterpress printer, David Brough. He was a kind and generous man who loved his presses and loved to share information. Through David’s passing, I met another printer, Kevin O’Neil, who serves as my primary letterpress mentor today. Kevin very generously donated a beautiful C&P and Kluge to my pressroom, along with his invaluable information, which I will cherish forever.

DAILY GRIND For illustrations and hand lettering, I start out either with sharpies or pen and ink, then scan them in and convert them to vector graphics in Illustrator. Some illustrations are done directly on the computer in Illustrator (sometimes Photoshop then Illustrator), but I do all of my layouts, typesetting and separations in InDesign. My designing system is different for each line of cards as I like to switch things up so that I am always exploring new things. For example, I did a great deal of research on tapestries, pottery, wall paintings and other historic references when coming up with designs for my Greek and Hebrew lines, but did more hand lettering and illustration for my pet sitter cards, and illustration & typesetting for my French and German series.

THE DESIGNER IN THE PRINTER I am a professionally trained graphic designer, as well as a printer.

FULL TIME FUN I am a full time designer and a “part time” printer (but more like a 2nd full time job). I will never stop designing, so it is not my goal to give that up. I love it too much!

A LUCKY FIND I looked a year for a Vandercook SP15 or #4 (the only two sizes that would fit in my tiny upstairs studio), but no luck until I got Steve Robinson involved. He found me a #4 from an ink testing studio, and the press was in beautiful condition, with minimal miles logged and only one owner!

A VARIETY OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS I have won the Redbull Flugtag competition twice, thousands of dollars in numerous halloween costume contests, fostered and placed over 30 dogs, donated eggs twice, taught myself how to proficiently speak German in three years, forgot how to speak German in three months, taught myself how to play the accordion, started piano lessons at age 23, started tap lessons at age 31, won several design awards for work done for Emmy awards packaging and work created for television networks TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies, and most importantly, started Concrete Lace.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar sold me my base for my Vandercook and my Kelsey press, and I have been ordering my plates from Boxcar ever since. I really do find value in the relationships I have established with Boxcar, and feel that they have set a high industry standard, and high expectations, for customer service and plate making. They are fast and their site is user-friendly — key reasons for why I use them.

SHOP TIPS Don’t be discouraged. 1) This industry is all about exploring and learning, so I feel like even the biggest mistakes are the best teachers. 2) These machines were around WAY before any of us, and WAY before computers. We sometimes need to back off and not put pressure on ourselves to meet today’s standards of timing. These machines are much more powerful than we are, so it’s so important to think clearly and work at a pace that is comfortable for each of us individually.

WHAT’S NEXT I am working on an Italian line, and have two more lines in the works that will have to be a surprise… They probably won’t be ready until 2013, at this rate!

Big round of thanks out to Katie for letting us take a peek around the shop at Concrete Lace! Don’t forget to say “Hi!” to her at the Ladies of Letterpress Conference on August 2nd-5th, 2012!

Workspace Spotlight: Headcase Press

Letterpress printer Nicole Monforti of Headcase Press has a dual career.  When she isn’t finessing ink through her presses, she makes jewelry from recycled lead type in her New Bedford, Massachusetts studio.  This printer and designer is all for following wherever her art and presses take her.  Recently, she completed a custom order for cufflinks for some of the cast of the Disney Broadway musical “Newsies,” and she can often be found at local artfests in the eastern Massachusetts area. Nicole is a proud member of Ladies of Letterpress and will be displaying her stationery and jewelry for the second year at the 2012 conference in Asheville, North Carolina in August. Walk through the door of her workspace and take a look around.

THE PRESSES: I have four – A 10 x 15 Heidelberg Windmill, a 8 x 12 New Style C&P, a Vandercook 14 proof press and a 3 x 5 Kelsey that I use for demos at shows.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP: About 800 sq. ft in a shared space of 2,000 sq. ft.

TYPE OF SHOP: Commercial.

THE LOCATION: The space itself is great – it’s an old mill building so it has lots of old industrial elements and high ceilings.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP: I love the paint job in the shop, especially the red stripe (which was not easy to get straight!), and the history of the building itself. I love thinking about all of the things that have been made here over the past 100 years.

NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN SPACE:  The space is shared with a classical figure sculptor and one printing intern (Will is the red haired guy). He’s a recent Montserrat College of Art (my alma mater) graduate and he works for me as a part time pressman.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL: Probably my slug cutter, making the jewelry without one would be nearly impossible. After that, it’s a three way tie between tweezers, a pica ruler & locking quad guides.

FAVORITE INK: Holyoke Fine Papers (a local company) makes rubber & soy based inks that I really like. I’m partial to their “moss”.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE: Colorlok Glaze Off works miracles!

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE: I use the deep relief Boxcar base for the C&P and the standard for the Heidelberg. I’ve used them for the past year or so.

OIL OF CHOICE:  Mobil DTE oil extra heavy for the Heidelberg. WD40 for squeaky parts on the C & P.

WHAT TYPE OF RAG DO YOU CLEAN UP YOUR PRESSES WITH:  Old T-shirts. I think the jersey material works best.

FLOORING MATERIAL: Gorgeous wood floors!

FLOOR PLAN TIPS:  Keep your paper cutting/folding station far from the presses, because you just never know….

PIED TYPE: 300 lbs currently, waiting to be cut and turned into jewelry. (Hell box donations are always welcome!)

ORGANIZATION ADVICE: Post-it notes, I have them on everything.

PRINTING ADVICE: Make sure you have room to move around. I crammed things in at the beginning and I’ve since re-arranged about 4 times to make it more user friendly.

Boxcar Talk With Chris Torres

In a delightful conversation with Boxcar Press, Chris Torres of Farmwood Press saunters us through the moment of letterpress love (it involved four letterpress beauties), reveals the new plans for his family’s twin passion of photography & printing, and explains why getting dirty while printing is still oh-so-satisfying.

UP CLOSE WITH CHRIS TORRES We are a husband and wife photography team in the Atlanta area. We wanted to diversify our services, our craft, and have always loved letterpress. We thought this would be the perfect way to explore a new medium while meeting the needs of our clients.

INSPIRED BY FRIENDS  Some of our close friends were letterpress printers and we adored the craft. We would go to their studio to see the process. They decided to sell their company for personal reasons and we decided to buy it from them. They taught us how to print using the machines they sold us. However, the process was perfected through help from veterans in the letterpress industry. It also helps that I come from a large-scale commercial printing background. So much of the logical aspects to printing and managing client expectations came natural to me. I have loved having a medium where I can “get dirty” again.

PRINTING IN THE PEACH STATE Our studio is currently in our garage that is a simple, small two-car garage. We have used every inch of available space to safely print. Of course, it will soon be in our new home and have a space of it’s own. We now have a New Style Chandler & Price (Omer), Vandercook Universal III (Norma), two Heidelberg Windmills (Helga and one unnamed) and a Champion 305 cutter. We love to incorporate vintage furniture from factories that is functional yet beautiful.

We have old sewing tables from a zipper factory in Pennsylvania and two old heart of pine tables that we use. We cannot wait to settle into our new space and truly make it an experience to print in. We will update you all once we are settled in!

PRINTING MENTORS Greg Carpenter, a letterpress printer in Chickmauga, Georgia who has seen it all! He has grown from a letterpress apprentice when he was a teenager and has been printing ever since. Whenever I travel up to see him for a day, I leave with so many questions answered and yet feel like a new world has been opened up before me. Also, Bob Schmidt, a local Atlanta printing repair man that has seen about everything from within the presses and the people who work them.

DAILY GRIND When we design, we do so with the clients in mind. Our desire is the create a piece that they will carry with them for a lifetime telling their future generations through these pieces. Our joy is that this may be part of their legacy. We don’t print full time, yet. We’d love to very soon, but right now, our work load is more part time. So far it’s been the perfect balance for us with our photography company that requires travel.

FOCUSED ON PRINTING We personally do some basic designing, but mostly we are just printers. We do have one designer on staff that does wonderful custom work and represents Farmwood Press when we design in-house.

BOXCAR’S ROLE We started out using exclusively copper plates. We love their history and crisp feel to the printing. However, it was cost prohibitive and we could not keep using them as it left our profit margins razor thin. We turned to Boxcar Press for their photopolymer plates and were extremely impressed. Their quality and crispness met the standards we had with copper plates. Also to add that the durability has been a surprise as well. Their turn around time and customer services has been crucial to some tight turn times we’ve had with our jobs. They have aided in ensuring that we prepare the perfect files for plating so that we can take care of foreseeable problems. We have loved working with them!

PRESS HISTORY Well, we happened on our first presses as a collection from our friends that were selling due to family changes in their life. We acquired two Chandler and Prices, one New Style one Old Style, affectionately named Omer and Maude. Also a Heidelberg Windmill, Helga and a Poco Proof Press who now lives creating pieces at an Australian print school. We have since sold Maude, our Old Style and our Poco and last year adopted a Vandercook Universal III which we named Norma, which means “pattern” or “rule”. She was cared for by another letterpress shop who loved every turn of her cylinder. Our presses are more than just tools for us to use but rather our family members.

SHOP TIPS Build your reputation organically. We thrive on personal relationships with our clients to find out their needs and working with them to provide that. Whether they are a business, designer, or a bride we take steps to meet them on a personal level. We do not do advertising but rather network with those that can bring us the work. Once they experience our quality craftsmanship and connection with Farmwood Press, we find that they come back for the experience.

WHAT’S NEXT We are especially excited about 2012! We are building a new home that will be finished in a few months. We will have a finished basement that will house both of our companies. We are extremely excited about this. We need space for our employees as we kept bumping into each other! This new space will allow us a few extra hundred square feet from the garage we were printing in, and we’ll have two dedicated areas each. It will be nice to have the additional elbow room. Commercial space has not been the wisest option for us as we work from home and have a family. This is a great way for us to keep the businesses separate yet still being at home.

A huge round of thanks to Chris for letting us get the full scoop on Farmwood Press!

Boxcar Talk With Elizabeth Munger

The way Iowa native Elizabeth Munger of The Paper Nest speaks of letterpress, you find her exhilarated, curious, and earnest. Her voice on the relationship of paper choice and printing is crisp, bright, and even. And for good reason—after exploring the University of Iowa Center for the Book program, serendipity chanced upon her when a good friend teamed up with her to form The Paper Nest (a shop that shows lots of love to quality paper and printing). Elizabeth sat down with us to discuss the new future of letterpress, shop tips, and the heaping mounds of press fun that go with it.

UP CLOSE WITH ELIZABETH MUNGER I am an Iowa native who’s been making art as long as I can remember. It started with my obsession for drawing horses. I am a maker by nature and my hands are usually busy with some form of crafting.I have been printing for about 14 years and running the Paper Nest for three. Printing is definitely one of the things I enjoy most. I am process- oriented and love problem solving on the press.

When I’m not on the press, I’m usually sewing, drawing, and doing collage/ assemblage work. If I have access, I love to make paper. When I’m not engaged in some form of art, my favorite thing to do is pal around with my dog, Mr. Pants.

INK IN THE BLOOD My first love was Intaglio. Then, a few years later, I was introduced to letterpress while enrolled in the University of Iowa’s Center for the Book. During my time there, I discovered paper and relief printing which had never made much of an impression on me before. Learning to use a Vandercook was a revelation in printing for me.  I went from hand wiping plates to using a self- inking machine. It totally changed the way I thought about printmaking and I felt like I could literally print a million!

My main focus was making artist books. I spent a lot of time thinking about images & materials and how they worked together. Since I was set on editioning, I was constantly ordering paper online. I had a friend who was doing the same thing, and one day, she and I were talking about how convenient & great it would be to buy paper locally.  The idea eventually worked its way into the Paper Nest and because paper & printing go so well together, it seemed only natural to make it a paper and letterpress shop.

INKING UP IN IOWA The Paper Nest is a combination letterpress and paper store. I sell printing and bookbinding papers and tools and custom letterpress printing. I ran it out of my home the first year. The Vandercook was in my home studio and my paper inventory was on a second floor studio that I rented. My first inventory order was 450 lb. and I pretty much knew then and there that I needed to find a location that was ground level. I sort of lucked out a year later when I ran into a friend of mine, who runs a bead store, Beadology, here in Iowa City. She had a space in the back that she was interested in renting to another small business. This became the home of the Paper Nest.

Now I have a downtown location that has an alley entrance and is big enough to house me, my dog, Mr. Pants, a C&P craftsman, a huge guillotine, paper cutter and all my paper.  We have been here going on 2 years now, and I am constantly humbled with how lucky I’ve been to be surrounded by such a great printing, bookbinding, & crafty community.

PRINTING LEGACIES Virginia Myers was my first printmaking instructor at the University of Iowa, and was a huge influence on my intaglio and foil printing. She is an amazing person, & without her I would have never discovered printmaking.

My other mentors would probably be the ladies I took my first letterpress class with. I had never been part of a group that was constantly doing such great work. This really encouraged me to push myself & make the best work I could.

THE DAILY GRIND As much as possible, I like to collaborate with whomever I’m working with/ for. I try to start by getting as much of an idea of what they want. Sometimes this means we work backwards from what they don’t like to get to what they really like.  For example, we might start with something as vague as colors or tone to more concrete ideas such as image.

I really enjoy researching to play on historically correct images, font, and materials.  I tend to draw everything by hand and then combine it with text.  I try to use the computer as a tool, not as my main substrate.

PRINTER’S PARADISE I am both [a printer and designer], although I feel like I relate more into an artist/ printer category then designer. My goal is to definitely have one job: printing and talking about paper.

PRINTING FEATS Opening up this business is probably one of my biggest accomplishments. I have to learn all sorts of things that I never thought I would. My latest accomplishment, which I am very excited about, is that I was accepted into the MFA program at the University of Iowa Center for the Book and will be starting this fall.

BOXCAR’S ROLE  Boxcar has been awesome! It is nice not worrying about making plates. It’s so convenient to be able to send out a digital file and get plates back that are so clean. If it weren’t for Boxcar, I would have more steps and be spending more time making them myself.

It’s such an advantage to be able to call Boxcar and get advice on how to make a file better for plates. I also think their printing videos are great. I feel like they really walked me through a number of printing issues.

PRESS HISTORY Well, I was getting ready to graduate from the University of Iowa’s Center for the Book and was starting to feel anxious about not having access to a press.  I started looking around and put the word out. An instructor at the Center mentioned that she had a Vandercook Universal I and I was welcome to come by and give it a look. So I went and checked it out, and that was pretty much it. I had to do some work on it before I moved it (lots of sanding rust, new rollers, etc.)

This was pretty great because it allowed me to really get to know the press and it made it seem more like mine. The other interesting thing is that she bought the press, along with the rest of a print shop, from someone who had been storing it for years, in a garage in Sioux City, Iowa.  Coincidentally, I grew up in this city, so we were in the same place at the same time but never met. It took us both moving to Iowa City to meet!

SHOP TIPS My best piece of business advice is to take advantage of your local resources. If you don’t know how to do something there is usually some one in your community who is happy to help and vice a versa.  This also helps to build a community.  I also think being open to new possibilities and taking action is what ends up making me feel the most successful.

WHAT’S NEXT Well I’m lucky enough to have my sister, Katie Munger, back in Iowa. She has similar interests and recently decided to come back here and help me with the Paper Nest. I’m also really looking forward to getting a better handle on the business end of things and expanding. I’m hoping to offer more preprinted products as well as custom work and binding workshops. Eventually, I’d like to be able to offer equipment rental and printing workshops.

Big round of thanks to Elizabeth for letting us get the full scoop on The Paper Nest!

Workspace Spotlight: Slow Print

Nestled next to the hearty Mississippi River, Iowa’s own Slow Print hangs back in the thriving old Warehouse District in Dubuque and houses extraordinary letterpress work, a neatly arranged showcase of letterpresses spanning from a 1900s Chandler & Price to a 1960s 10×15 Heidelberg Windmill, and as many letterpress stories as there are ink cans. Peter Fraterdeus of Slow Print let’s us take a look at what’s inside.

Workspace Spotlight at the Slow Print letterpress shop in Dubuque

THE PRESSES: 1960s Original Heidelberg “Windmill” 10×15 – Red Ball, main workhorse production press; 1950s Original Heidelberg “Windmill” 10×15 – Black Ball, mostly die-cutting and fail-over; 1940s Vandercook 219 Proofer 19×26; 1930sMiehle Vertical V36 Cylinder 13×19.5, and a 1900s Chandler & Price Gordon Old-Style 10×15.

THE LOCATION: My shop is in Dubuque’s Historic Millwork district, a few blocks from the Mississippi River, and in fact, I’ve been one of the “flagship” tenants. In the past two years, a public-private partnership has upgraded the District, including all the streets & sidewalks and a full-block quadrangle building to the tune of well over $20 million. I just hope I don’t get gentrified out – but the arts are a primary core function of the newly active district.

I’m a block from the Voices Warehouse Gallery and a block from the new Dubuque Community Food Co-op, so it’s an exciting time to be in the area. The building is an early 20th century brick warehouse. The space I’m in was converted to offices many years ago, but it’s surrounded on the 1st floor by raw warehouse, currently inhabited by an ‘architectural salvage’ and antiques dealer.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP: My large blue oriental rug in the coffee/lounge area (about 100 years old, it’s nearly worn out) with the futon couch and 1960s LaPavoni espresso maker.

NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN THE SPACE: One, just me and my new apprentice for the summer, Rachel.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL: Other than the Heidelberg Red Ball, and my MacBook Pro (without which there would be no business!), the most valuable tool is my loupe.

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE: I use KF95 on a locally machined aluminum base. I bought a 24×48 slab of .875 aluminum and had it machined down and cut into numerous smaller sections from 18″x24″ (used on the Vandercook) down to 2″x3″. It’s been in use since about 2007.

FAVORITE INK:  Oil-based – either VanSon or others as needed.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE: WM Wash from LithCo. I use Putz Pomade on the rollers after wash-up, which keeps any remaining medium from drying into the surface. The slightly pumice gritty stuff also helps keep the rollers from glazing. I’ve been using rollers from Advance in Los Angeles with very, very good results.

OIL OF CHOICE: 30W non-detergent

FLOORING MATERIAL: Hardwood floors.

PIED TYPE: Plenty. Much of it is wood type, as I purchased a barrel full on ebay some years ago. Couldn’t stand to see it auctioned off a handful at a time. I have one galley full of 24 point Legend, the beautiful Ernst Schneidler calligraphic type, purchased from an eminent printer who was closing up his shop a few years ago.

He shipped the type in the cases, with nothing but a sheet of single-corrugated cardboard on top. When the shipment arrived, the UPS driver set it on its side (although it was marked “keep flat”) and all the type was pied in a mound under the wrapping. I was not at all happy. Took hours just to get it into the galley, and I still haven’t figured out how to read Legend backwards. Major headache.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE: High tables and work surfaces with plenty of storage underneath.

PRINTING ADVICE: These are hardly secrets, but for the auto-didacts who haven’t yet figured it out, these will help a lot.

  • Don’t add white to color. Add color to white.
  • There’s nothing worse than slimy long ink for sharp printing. But don’t add too much mag, or the ink won’t want to come off the roller!
  • There’s no point to adjusting the rollers if there’s too much ink on them.
  • How much is “Too Much” ink or “Too Long” ink is entirely dependent on the form being printed.

Deep impression only makes sense with deep paper, otherwise it’s just gauche. (Note to clients: you can’t have deep impression on both sides of the same sheet – unless there’s no overlap from back to front)

Slow Print Workspace spotlight

Boxcar Talk With Laura Bentley

After dipping her toes into the world of letterpress at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, all it took was a few choice experiences to get Laura Bentley of Pinwheel Press hooked on printing—a Vandercook here, a jaunt with typesetting there, plus one unforgettable brush with Gordon Franklin press that made her passion a full-frontal phenomenon. But as Boxcar Press sat down to discover, Laura is more than the sum of her letterpress loving parts.

UP CLOSE WITH LAURA BENTLEY When I was young I enjoyed doing artsy things, but in college I went a different direction and got a Computer Science and Accounting degree.  By day I’m a computer consultant mostly for a dance studio that teaches social dance—ballroom, salsa, and swing.  I run their website, set up their sales system, and do their bookkeeping. So, I’m a hobby letterpress printer, and try to squeeze in time to print when I can.  I also volunteer as a teaching assistant for the letterpress classes at SVC (School of Visual Concepts) in Seattle.

INK IN THE BLOOD I first took a class at SVC in Seattle.  I was hooked right away.  Exploring the school shop felt like a treasure hunt.  With my first printing projects I tried to include as wide a variety of type and ornaments as possible, and enjoyed the challenge of typesetting them in crazy but-still-safe-to-print ways. I love typesetting and using the vintage equipment.  I was thrilled to find an art form where I could use my attention to detail and logistics to produce results.

EXCEPTIONAL IN THE EVERGREEN STATE My print shop is in the basement of my house.  The walls are unfinished, but colorful with printed work.  I have an 1863 Gordon platen press, a tabletop No. 0 Vandercook proofing press, and a very cute sign press that I use for proofing type.  I have two cabinets of type, and I’m always trying to be creative with how to fit in more.  I also have a 16” Challenge paper cutter that I fixed up real pretty.  My favorite thing about it is the old vintage equipment— I like to think about all the work they printed over their lifetimes.

PRINTING LEGACIES I feel blessed to be part of a printing community that is filled with talented printers who are very generous with their knowledge and time.  Two of my favorite mentors are Jenny Wilkson and David Black.  Jenny is the manager of the SVC shop and has a talent for developing students to do their best work no matter what style of printing—dainty and detailed invitations to raw and chunky posters with wood type.  She always has suggestions for projects that take them to the next level.

David Black is a fellow teaching assistant and a print artist.  I personally consider him a mechanical genius as he can fix almost anything, and has a real gift for explaining how things work.  But what inspires me most is that he makes time to print most every day.  He once printed a little card that had a tiny ornament of a car and the text said “Tiny car”; only black ink on white paper.  It was a great reminder to me that you don’t always have to be printing big extravagant projects, but can print quick fun things, and you’ll learn something with each new thing you print.

PRINTER’S PARADISE I design what I print. But that’s probably expected for a hobby printer; I don’t do job work.

PRINTING FEATS Our printing community just finished up a project where we partnered with a non-profit group of writers that works with patients in Children’s Hospital to help them write poetry.  Sixteen printers each printed a broadside of a poem, to create an edition of poems that are bound in a portfolio.

It’s always a challenge to design something to catch the spirit of someone else’s words and imagery. Also the edition size was 100, which with five print passes was a huge printing project for me.  I had never printed an edition of that size before.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar Press has helped me with the above broadside project, and others, by producing quality photopolymer plates.  I love handset type for hobby work, but for more flexibility and efficiency, it’s hard to beat photopolymer.

PRESS HISTORY A gentleman named Carl Montford, the self-nicknamed “press matchmaker,” matched me up with an 1863 Gordon Franklin press.  It was in the basement of a local artist that wasn’t using it anymore.  It’s a great match for me, because it’s a smaller platen press (chase about 7 x 11) and we needed to get it down into my basement.  The press would be a little wonky for production work, but it suits a hobby printer like me just fine.

SHOP TIPS Listen to your press.  Listen to it when it’s printing well—learn the pattern of sounds it makes.  Then someday when it makes a noise that’s new and unfamiliar you’ll notice it and be able to tend to it before things go awry.

WHAT’S NEXT Need to fix some inking issues with my platen press, and print more!

Big thanks out to Laura for letting us take a look at the wonderful whirl at Pinwheel Press!

Workspace Spotlight: The Arm

As studios go, The Arm in New York might be one of the best hidden secrets.  If you go before it opens, you might wander up and down this Brooklyn street wondering if you are in the correct location.  There is no sign, just some apartments, empty-looking warehouses with metal rolling doors, and a small corner store. The street number is right but still nothing to say “here it is”.  But minutes before the 11 am hour, a couple of people wander up.  They carry paper and what could be a plastic printing plate.

This looks promising. And on the hour, a skateboarder arrives, unlocks the door, rolls up the metal rolling cover to show a big picture window and its welcome to The Arm.  Here there are the presses, the notices on the window. The activity begins as many more printers arrive in succession.

Daniel Morris of The Arm describes what’s inside.

THE PRESSES: I am a bit of a freak for late model Vandercooks. I have two SP-15s, two Universal Is and two Universal IIIs. For smaller work there are a couple of C&P Pilots and a Kwikprint 86 foil stamping press. Because I also recondition presses there are often one or two others in some state of restoration at any given time. The equipment has been chosen very carefully to be safe and suitable for a shared work environment.

SIZE OF PRINTSHOP: 1500 square feet

THE LOCATION:  The Arm is on the ground floor of a renovated nineteenth century stables building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The studio takes up the bulk of the ground floor. I built the glass shopfront so that it opens 8 feet wide — getting equipment in and out is a breeze.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP: The way I have laid out the space, the press room is visible from the street, but the type room is tucked away. This was to make sure that passers-by could see what was going on from the street, but also to make sure that people weren’t too distracted when composing type forms.

TYPE OF SHOP: Community + educational. I set it up specifically to be able to share it, my presses and my knowledge of printing. I teach classes from the space almost every week and make the presses available for people to use for their own projects. We’ve got quite a community of printers here in NYC. It is far more fun in the space when there are a few people in working.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL: The trusty .918 roller setting gauge.

FAVORITE INK: We use the Van Son Rubber Base Plus system and maintain an inventory of all the base colors for the Pantone mixing system. With these inks, a Pantone book and a scale you can’t go wrong.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE: I use Gamsol for washup. It is an artist’s grade mineral spirits. We keep it in Justrite plunger cans and make sure all waste rags end up in our sealed Justrite waste cans. I’m a bit militant about shop safety protocol, MSDS sheets, etc.

PLATES AND BASE OF CHOICE: I am very fond of the standard base and the KF95 plates. I don’t like the deep relief plates, but do have a couple of small deep relief bases for people that bring them in. There must be nearly a dozen Boxcar bases here at The Arm.

FLOOR PLAN TIPS: Make sure your press is situated where you feel comfortable and have good light. Get yourself a good anti-fatigue mat (I love the 2×6 Uline Cadillac mats for Vandercooks) and your feet, legs and back will thank you.

PIED TYPE:  I am proud to say my shop has no pied type. As one of the owners of The Dale Guild Type Foundry, I love to work with metal type, but my policy is to sort the good stuff and melt the bad. May as well turn it back into something useful- we can smelt old foundry type to make new type and Linotype metal, Monotype, etc. we give to our machinist to melt down to make fishing sinkers. You’ve got to keep your machinist happy.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE: Down time is critical. Sometimes you just need to take everything apart, clean like crazy, and put it all back together.

PRINTING ADVICE: Coffee and good records are key [to making the space feel creative and comfortable]. But it is important that the music isn’t too loud that you can’t hear when the press is trying to tell you something.

Big round of thanks to Dan Morris for letting us get the grand tour of The Arm!

Letterpress Art Sales to Benefit Baby’s Medical Procedures

Today we’ve got details about a worthy event that will help a young boy’s medical expenses and provide you with a chance to obtain some limited edition fine art prints for your walls! Prints for Platelets is helping raise funds for Nico Bond, the 17-month-old son of Arizona Master Printer Brent Bond of Santo Press and artist Veronica Villanueva.

Since November of 2011, Nico has undergone 2 bone marrow biopsies, over a dozen transfusions and is still undiagnosed with a blood disorder that leaves him with very low platelet counts.  Prints for Platelets will give you a 20% discount off all Santo Press Prints with 100% of the proceeds going to Nico’s medical expenses through the month of May.

Santo Press Prints offers high quality relief prints, monoprints and monotypes from 16 regionally and nationally recognized artists. Shown above is a photopolymer and reduction linocut from Veronica called Nicolas’ Odyssey.  Veronica tells us this about the creation of this print.

Getting pregnant wasn’t easy and the pregnancy was a high risk one.  I made this print when I was pregnant with Nicolás.  It seemed that even before birth Nico has gone through a whole odyssey.  And it seems that his odyssey continues… The key image was created digitally and relief printed from a Boxcar polymer plate, colors were developed via a reduction linocut.  The print was from an edition of 50 which was donated to Mesa Contemporary Arts at Mesa Arts Center for their annual fine art print calender fund raiser.

Click here to go to the Santo Press website and choose one or more signed, numbered, and titled prints from the artists and receive the 20% discount through the month of May.   The prices are very competitive and with an additional 20% off, it’s an easy but meaningful way to help this little boy and his parents while supporting fine art printmaking.

Boxcar Talk With Nancy Hill

Boxcar Press goes one-on-one with colorful Nancy Hill, one-half of the dynamic letterpress duo of Hazel & Violet Press, (the other printing power is Beverly Wolfe) to talk shop, slip in a few amazing printing stories, and show how letterpress has shaped quite an adventure the two will never forget. Read on to get the full interview.

PERFECT PRINTING PARTNERS We are two long time friends who share a love of typography, paper, and letterpress printing. Although we both have full time jobs, we love printing every chance we get.

LETTERPRESS LUCK We had been watching, looking, hoping… for just a table top hobby press – when an opportunity came along to buy a complete letterpress shop. We learned to print by taking classes, personal instruction, and good old fashioned trial and error.

AWESOME ARIZONA Our shop is in a completely renovated garage – complete with cabinets, sink, insulation and flooring. Not sure if you can call it ‘decor’ – but, we definitely have a turn of the century industrial feel. Since there are no curtains on the windows,  we would have to call it a shop, not a studio. We have a new style Chandler & Price 10×15 named Beauty and a Windmill named Baby. We also have a Potter #2 named Beatrix at our gallery in downtown Phoenix. Our favorite thing about our shop is that we get to print there.

PRINTING LEGACIES Ladies of Letterpress has been a great mentor for us. The team at our first NSS was just great and has led to many new friends. Many of our mentors we haven’t even met. They are the guys on Letpress.

PRINTER’S PARADISE We do not print full time – but that is really our goal!

PRINTING FEATS That our first job was a 3 color wedding invitation and we didn’t kill each other. Also being selected Best Letterpress of Phoenix 2011 by New Times.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Great patience and so much help from Cathy when we first started ordering plates. Even now Boxcar is so helpful when we call with stupid questions.

PRESS HISTORY Well…we saw an ad on Craig’s List for an entire shop for sale and we just jumped in. It took every friend we have and a horse trailer to get it to our shop.

SHOP TIPS  Our favorite business advice – don’t break out the wine until you finished cutting the job.

WHAT’S NEXT While we are still printing our retail stationery, we are well on our way to growing our commercial letterpress business. We are really enjoying working with designers on their projects, and we are starting letterpress classes later this summer.

Big round of thanks to Nancy Hill for letting us get the full story on Hazel & Violet Press!