Beneath the expanse of the blue skies and huddled next to the wheat & sunflower patches of Kansas, holds Two Crow Press. A Kansas born and raised Ashley Flinn meticulously threads her unique triple-play passions of bookmaking, papermaking and letterpress within Two Crow Press’s shop space. Ever one to experiment with the boundaries of printing & the love of paper, Ashley spent some time catching us up on the whimsical new “unromantic” Valentine’s Day cards and being featured into the finals for Kansas State University’s “Next Big Thing” Contest (to which she’s taken the Gold).
BIG PRESS ON THE PRAIRIE I’ve lived in Kansas for 25 years. I was raised in Manhattan, KS, attended classes at K-State, and got my BFA in Printmaking from the University of Kansas in Lawrence. In 2010, after graduating, I moved back to Manhattan and married my long-time boyfriend at a kick-ass wedding on the prairie. I’ve been taking graphic design and business classes at K-State and I started my own letterpress and graphic design studio last March. My first job was printing wedding invitations for friends from New Jersey.
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT At K-State there was a very talented book artist, Rachel Melis, and I had her for 2D Design. She was a great teacher, so I kept taking her classes. The next class I had with her was a summer class in book arts and letterpress. Before then, I had just been a photographer, but when I saw what letterpress could do and that you could make books by hand I was floored. It was amazing. Luckily, when I transferred to KU another teacher, Linda Sampson-Talleur, offered classes in those subjects AND papermaking. Basically if it involves paper, is process oriented, and needs a ton of paraphernalia, I’m into it. KU has a great letterpress studio and type collection, including 3 Vandercooks! I miss the shop there a lot. So much space.
SPECTACULAR IN THE SUNFLOWER STATE My print shop is in my basement studio. On one wall, I have a drying rack next to my press. I keep all my inks and supplies under the press table. Next to that is my binding and folding station on a low table in the corner. The rest of the studio is drawers of supplies and paper.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS My designs can start in a number of ways. Usually it’s an idea or theme I want to work with like “un-romantic” Valentine’s cards, neurotransmitters, or evolution calling cards (for when you really don’t want to explain for the nth time why monkeys don’t give birth to humans or “gaps” in the fossil record). Other times it’s just playing with type. One of the best things about designing on a computer is the amazing variety of forms we have access to. Though as a printmaker, I do love working within the limitations of a craft (I’m thinking about you, intaglio…), if I had room for physical type, I’d love playing with that just as much.
PART TIME PRINTING I don’t print full-time. My day job is being a computer lab aide at the local high school. My days are literally non-stop troubleshooting. My ultimate goal is to open a maker space with my husband that will have letterpress, screenprinting, intaglio and relief presses, papermaking, bookbinding, metalsmithing, and all kinds of tech things he’s involved in like 3D printing, a laser cutter, a CNC router, etc. with a shop and gallery attached. I’m really into educating people about various art forms and technology, but I also love creating objects (be it stationery, copper vessels, or limited edition prints). Also my husband wants to experiment with integrating letterpress with the things he knows, and try things like making wood type with a CNC router, etc. and we’re starting to form a sister brand to Two Crow Press for our collaborative work that will be a little edgier and darker (death metal Easter cards, etc.).
PRINTING FEATS Hand watercoloring autumn leaves for 100 wedding invitations for my friends. I felt like a badass. I never push my paper farther than it can go. I understand the desire for a deep impression, but I refuse to punch the paper to the point there’s a big indentation on the other side. If someone wants a deep impression, I use thick paper. I always print my paper damp as well (thank you Linda!) As for material accomplishments, I’m pretty new to the game, so no killer accolades yet. I have been doing pretty well with Etsy sales though, so things are shaping up nicely.
PRESS HISTORY My first (and currently only) press is a New Style Chandler and Price Pilot. I’ve had the pleasure of working on a Vandercook Universal I, but at the moment don’t have the space for a big press like that.
BOXCAR’S ROLE Without Boxcar Press, I don’t think my business would be sustainable. The ease and affordability of ordering plates through you guys is unrivaled. That less than 90 sq. in. equals 2 Day Free Shipping deal is AWESOME. Your website is also very nicely designed. Not to mention the recycling of plates gives me one more green selling/bragging point (and it’s just the right thing to do).
SHOP TIPS Try printing with damp paper at least once. Also try printing on many different papers. I started printing on printmaking papers (Somerset Velvet and Rives BFK) because that was what I was most familiar with, and then branched out to other papers. They all have very different qualities, and it’s good to experiment to find the ones you like best for certain projects.
WHAT’S NEXT This year, I’m hoping to have more time to dedicate to printing. I’m planning on increasing the amount and variety of things I print, and adding a part-time intern to my payroll. I’m really hoping to collaborate with a few local artists to produce limited-edition letterpress art prints. Maybe 3 color and 7” x 10” prints (that’s about the max my press can handle). I’m also going to try letterpress printing paper that has been chine-colléd, some delicate washi attached to Lettra might be really awesome.
Big heaps of thanks out to Ashley for letting us take a look at Two Crow Press!