The Call of the Press at Creative Beasties Workshop

Most letterpress printers find a sense of home in the happy clinking & whirling of the press. Danny Rhoades of Creative Beasties Workshop is no exception. The IT-by-day and printer-by-night found the letterpress bug bit hard after planning his own wedding. Turning part of his garage into his printing mecca, Danny finds inspiration in exploring creative options with his clients, his supportive family, and letting the press provide valuable teaching moments. Since our last visit with Danny, he caught us up on new printing tricks, the feeling when registration is spot on, and the wonderful rhythms printing has played in his life.

PRINTING JAM SESSIONS + FAMILY LIFE I’m a 37 year old married father of 2 adorable twin girls (age 2). It’s mostly me by myself printing since my wife is usually dealing with the kids. I sometimes have creative friends come over for printing sessions but other than that it’s just me.

BLOSSOMING PRINTING LOVE When my wife and I were planning our own wedding we both got super interested in the invitation options out there and came across letterpress. I instantly fell in love and that eventually blossomed into Creative Beasties Workshop.

PRINTSHOP EFFICIENCY Our workshop is in the tandem portion of our garage. It’s only about 288 sq ft so it’s very limited. My favorite thing about it is the Heidelberg Windmill 10×15 press that brings it all together.

AT HOME PRINTING  We’re in a pretty new constructed suburban neighborhood. The most interesting thing about our home is that it backs up to a 20 ft. sound wall for Highway 65.

PRINTING MENTORS One of the first people to teach me about letterpress was a gentleman I met on the Briarpress.org forums who goes by the handle, Inky. He taught both my wife and I the basics and helped us really understand the foundations of the process. I owe him a lot.

PART TIME PRINTING, FULL TIME FUN I wish I could print full time, but with a mortgage and budding family, I can’t afford to do that just yet. I work in IT and my day job pretty much supplements our workshop quite a bit.

DESIGN BROUGHT TO LIFE I don’t design as much as I’d like mostly due to time constraints, but when I do it’s usually after a lengthy conversation/meeting with the client to fully understand their motivation and inspiration so I can bring it to life and elevate it the best I can. One of my weaknesses is not knowing when to stop. This is something I am working on, and think I’m getting better … but I know it’s a flaw of mine.

PRINTING FEATS One of my proudest moments occurred when I was able to produce a 3 color work, shortly after having trained only for three days on the press. The registration was perfect and the colors were spot on.

PRESS HISTORY I learned on a C&P old style, but when I bought my own I went straight for the kill and got a Heidelberg Windmill 10×15. I didn’t even know how to use it! I was super scared at first and had to take a three day training to understand how to work it.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Anytime I need any advice … or help with a job I can always count on Boxcar to be there to walk me through it.

PRINTING TIPS For just starting out, don’t blame yourself too much. I blamed my inexperience a lot before I realized there was an actual problem with the press that needed to be fixed. The same thing happened with rollers. Once I changed to a different supplier things worked out much better. Sometimes, it is actually the equipment.

WHAT’S NEXT I hope to continue printing and eventually build a client base that can support me printing full time.

A big, huge Windmill-size round of thanks out to Danny of Creative Beasties Press! We look forward to seeing what cool, new projects come his way.

The Nature of Creative Beasties Workshop

West of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range and northeast of Sacramento is the beautiful city of Lincoln, California.  It’s home to the Creative Beasties Workshop and printing abode of Danny Rhoades.  The garage-turned-printing haven features the thrum of a Heidelberg Windmill on which Danny creates his latest colorful creations.  Danny throws open the doors to give us a tour of his studio.

EVERCHANGING WORKSPACE The workshop is in the tandem portion of our garage. I had a bunch of fluorescent tube lights installed to give better lighting. Other than that it’s pretty sparse. We tried to finish it with some texture and paint but we didn’t know what we were doing and made a mess. Then we decided just to leave it half done because we ran out of time and had to stop for equipment delivery.

THE HEART OF THE SHOP My favorite thing in the shop is my Heidelberg Windmill. It’s the heart of our workshop and is what makes all of our letterpress projects happen.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP It’s right around 288 square feet. 14’8″ x 19’8″

CALIFORNIA NEIGHBORHOOD Our house backs up to a highway, so our backyard view is a 20 foot sound wall. We’re in a recently developed suburban family neighborhood.

TYPE OF SHOP I’d actually really like to open my shop up to community printers and let them use my equipment to allow budding printers get started. However, I don’t know how to make that happen yet since I’m worried about the legality of it and if it creates any liabilities or risk which I’m sure it does.

THE PRESSES We rely on our Heidelberg Windmill 10×15 press from the late 70s to print all out letterpress projects. We also have some digital printers, a hobby laser cutter, vinyl cutter, and a heat press.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL There’s so many things I rely on heavily, but if I had to pick one, I’d go with my oil can. It really makes maintenance a breeze.

FAVORITE INK Van Son Rubber base inks are what we use. Current favorite ink color is probably Orange. I used it in a split fountain test run along with Purple and it really took me by surprise how nice of a color it is.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE We took Boxcar’s advice and use California wash. It seems to do the best job overall. We’ve also use odorless mineral spirits from time to time along with a roller wash we got from a local distributor, but usually come back to California wash again due to its reliability.

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE We use a Boxcar Base system, of course, along with KF95 and KF152 plates depending on the job. We’ve been using this system since inception in 2014.

OIL OF CHOICE We use Mobile DTE Oil Heavy.

WHAT TYPE OF RAG DO YOU CLEAN UP WITH We use Scott shop towels and white cotton rags that we cut from t-shirts.

PIED TYPE No type, we do everything on photopolymer.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE I keep all my packing materials in a drawer pre-sorted by weight for easy setup. I do the same with pretty much all my materials, but that’s the best example.

PRINTING ADVICE Spend the time to line up your plates on the Base. If you’re careful, you can save a ton of time on press.

Letterpress City Tour: San Francisco

In our third excursion of our letterpress city tour series, the cheery Kim Austin of Austin Press shows us the brilliant printing world that weaves its way through the vibrant San Francisco, California community. Beyond the year-round fog, iconic Golden Gate Bridge, and rows of colorful Victorian Houses, San Fran offers a haven for printers and artisans alike. Kim shows us around her historic Pier 70 neighborhood and beyond. Similar to her beautiful letterpress prints, the city is “where elegance meets function.”

Kim Austin of Austin Press (San Francisco) tours us through her creative and brilliant community.(All photography courtesy of Kim Austin unless otherwise noted.)

CALIFORNIA DREAMING I moved to San Francisco in 1988, just after graduating from college. I came here out of my life long desire to move to the city from the suburbs and also to go to graduate school to study photography.

DAILY LIFE Well, mostly my studio. I work a lot. But it is such an amazing place. Pier 70 is one of the oldest shipyards in the country. Lots of history and texture. My quarter of the town is also quite great. Bayview, the Mission, Dogpatch, Soma … all great neighborhoods with lots of functional and fun outlets.

The Noonan Building in the Pier 70 disctrict of San Francisco houses Kim Austin of Austin Press.Kim Austin of Austin Press (San Francisco) tours us through her creative and brilliant community.

MUCH LOVE FOR SAN FRAN I love SF. Always have since I was a kid. It is a beautiful city and it has always had a funky edge, which is such an important quality for artists. I made art here for years before I ventured into letterpress. It was a seamless transition for me. And yes, letterpress is much loved in our city.

The Mission of San Francisco has beautiful murals and creative energy.(Photography courtesy of The Bayview Performing Arts Workshop.org)

RICH IN LETTERPRESS RESOURCES There are some great resources here: Center for the Book being one of them. We also have Dependable Letterpress that has recently opened its doors for public events. The American Bookbinders Museum and Arion Press/ M and H Type are also great.

Center for the Book Arts in San Francisco. Center for the Book Arts in San Francisco.(Photography courtesy of Center for the Book Arts)

FAVORITE LOCAL COLLABORATION The open studio organized by Artspan is a fun event that artists participate in city-wide. We open our studios to the public for a whole weekend to share our work and process with the community. It is fun to welcome everyone from kids to grandparents and share the curious world of letterpress with them. Everyone is always fascinated. Letterpress seems to have a universal appeal.

Kim Austin of Austin Press (San Francisco) tours us through her creative and brilliant community.

SAN FRAN STYLE Well, of course, there is Hatch and Hamilton. We all bow to them and their brilliance. But I think anyone who takes the time to learn letterpress and struggle through the physical and emotional process is deserving of admiration. It is something you really have to work out on your own and when you do that, it speaks for itself.

COMMUNITY SUPPORT Lots of printers find their way to Kelly Paper for the basics: ink, paper, solvents, etc. Logo Graphics is another print shop that lends a helping hand to those starting out or in need of assistance.

FAVORITE NEIGHBORHOODS Pier 70 has long been a favorite spot for me: abandoned brick buildings, the bay, stray kitties… it is such a unique place – unpolished, with lots of texture. The Mission has also been such a fun part of my life here in SF. Ever-changing, lots to see, and do, and eat. again unpolished and lively! Artists work in Pier 70, every slice of life lives in The Mission. Pier 70 was the port where ships were built and rope was made. Workers flooded here during the day. The Mission has historically been the Latino neighborhood full of small shops and eateries to meet the locals needs.

 Pier 70 in San Francisco offers thriving creative and production scenes.Pier 70 in San Francisco offers thriving creative and production scenes.Pier 70 district.
(photograph courtesy of www.pier70sf.com)

FOOD + EATS El Toro for a great taco. Zuni for roasted chicken and oysters, Serpentine for great local SF vibe, Out the Door for the best Vietnamese, Mitchell’s for ice cream, All Good Pizza for sitting outside on a picnic bench in the center of the city.

SHOP ’TIL YOU DROP  The Mission is full of great interesting small shops. Dog Patch has lots of local makers, and of course, you have to go downtown to Union Square, right?

FESTIVAL + FAIRS We have lots of open street fairs, food fairs, holiday markets, and makers markets. You can also find music venues, lectures, and performances. Check out Yerba Buena for ongoing events. Bottom of the Hill has a great calendar of contemporary music. City lectures for the arts are also quite fun.

A LIVING, BREATHING CITY So many changes! Bayview is a neighborhood in transition but still holds tight to its history and locals. Dog Patch is now on the world scene. Pier 70 will be one of the most visited ports in the near future – think the Highline in NYC.

Center for the Book Arts in San Francisco.The Dogpatch in San Francisco.(top: The Bayview photography courtesy of Bayviewperformingartsworkshop.com | bottom: Dogpatch photography courtesy of Peter DaSilva)

FUN + DOWNTIME SPOTS Love Kabuki Spa for total chill. Also driving a bit down the coast to Sam’s Chowder House is such a treat and nothing is better than a healthy walk in Lands End.

CITY SPIRIT Well, we are good people. SF/CA is a place for those who think a little bit differently. We come here to find a path that is unique, not cookie cutter. We strive to look out for others and do the right thing. The weather helps and so does being close to water- on both sides!

Friend of the Urban Forest helps clean up neighborhoods in San Francisco.

HIDDEN GEM Kelly’s Mission Rock. It has been here forever and sits right on the water. Funky, lots of old wood including recycled bleacher seats to create the facade. Seagulls, views, and the best fish and chips and seafood salad anywhere. You can eat outside on the wooden deck and look across the bay to Oakland. Often there are huge container ships from far-off lands in the dock of Pier 70. The vibe is local and mellow. Dogs are welcome!

LETTERPRESS STUDIOS IN SAN FRANCISCO
San Francisco Center for the Book – San Francisco, CA
The Aesthetic Union – San Francisco, CA
Dependable Letterpress – San Francisco, CA
Noble Impressions – San Francisco, CA
M and H Type / Arion Press – San Francisco, CA
In Haus Press – San Francisco, CA
Paperflirt – San Francisco, CA
Ladybones Print Shop – San Francisco, CA
Thrysus Press – Berkeley, CA
Set In Motion Press – Berkeley, CA
Peter Koch Printers – Berkeley, CA 

MUST-SEE STOPS
American Bookbinders Museum – North America’s only museum dedicated to preserving and sharing the beautiful artistry and craftwork that is bookbinding.
Golden Gate Bridge – No trip to the San Fransisco area would be complete without stopping in at this iconic bridge with breathtaking views.
Chinese New Year Festival and Parade  Internationally-renowned Chinese New Year parade featuring a 270-foot Golden Dragon and thousands of parade-goers each year.
Seward Street Slide – Let your inner kid out and slide down these public concrete slides.
John’s Grill – The infamous diner where Sam Spade of 1941 noir film classic The Maltese Falcon orders his “chops, baked potatoes, sliced tomatoes”.
Lombard Street – Like the Golden Gate bridge, this landmark is worth the 27-degree incline uphill walk.
POPOS – 68 privately owned public open spaces scattered throughout the city.

We hope you enjoyed our third installment of our letterpress city guide! Interested in showing your city some love? Contact us today! And if you’re planning a letterpress-centric trip, be sure to check out the print trip map on Letterpress Commons!