Fresh Impressions: Ladies of Letterpress 2017

The Ladies of Letterpress annual conference never fails to deliver an amazing week of printing, creating, and inky, hands-on, up to your elbows fun.  Add to that two letterpress movies, and the time in St. Louis, Missouri was pretty much letterpress supreme delight. 

Cathy Smith I often find it hard to describe to other printers what the conference experience is like and to give it justice.  You are in a bubble for five days where conversations center around printing and antique presses and it’s never boring. The energy is great and I usually end up saying, “you have to go there next year”.

This year’s conference was in Saint Louis and was a collaboration with StL Print Week which is offered through Firecracker Press and Central Print.  St. Louis itself has a lot going on in terms of attractions, housing renovations, and pockets of strong community sustainability projects.

Boxcar Press has printing fun at Ladies of Letterpress conference 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Our activities centered around Firecracker Press and Central Print which share a wonderful joint storefront space.  The neighborhood has little “pocket parks” on many of the blocks, and is on the cusp of bursting into a vital place to live and work.  That just added to the appeal of our conference headquarters.

Boxcar Press has printing fun at Ladies of Letterpress conference 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri.

It was easy to get excited about our printing space because of the many vintage presses, the aisles of type cabinets, the retro and bohemian décor, and so much natural light.  With the help of Peter Fraterdeus, I gained a larger appreciation for wood type as we learned to look at the letters as art forms of negative and positive spaces,  I tried my hand at linoleum block carving taught by Rachel Kroh and have a new passion for this.  I love the endless possibilities of photopolymer plates; however, it was freeing to work with other tools to create printed projects.

Boxcar Press has printing fun at Ladies of Letterpress conference 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri.

What I really love is meeting fellow printers as we talk about all things letterpress.  I revel in the information sharing and passion of panel discussions, and can highly recommend Pressing On: the Letterpress Film.  

Boxcar Press has printing fun at Ladies of Letterpress conference 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri.

If you have an opportunity to see it, do so, and then watch it again.  This year, I was joined by three of our printers from Boxcar Press, plus owner Harold Kyle, and it was great to share with them the experience and value of a Ladies of Letterpress conference.

Samantha Peck Samantha is one of our windmill printers here at Boxcar Press and she agreed that being able to attend the event this year was an unforgettable time.

The opportunity to learn letterpress printing from the most advanced printers in the industry left me with a wealth of new knowledge, tips, and tricks to incorporate into my daily printing at Boxcar. Thanks to the great workshops offered, I now own my very first press that I built from household materials!

I also was able to use a variety of different presses and type to create unique prints that I turned into the covers of my handmade journals. I even got to try out linoleum block carving.

Boxcar Press has printing fun at Ladies of Letterpress conference 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Through hands on learning and expert printers’ shared stories and advice, I gained some absolutely invaluable experience and memories. It was very rewarding to see so many inspired and creative printers all in one place carrying on the art of letterpress printing together.

Madeline Bartley Another one of our windmill printers recalls that her best moment from Ladies of Letterpress was during her workshop, Advanced Windmill with Graham Judd.

During a demo we became curious about the condition of the windmill’s impression lever. Why doesn’t the lever release back to its usual position? The red ball lever didn’t move back far enough. The lead to Graham and I pulling out old die cut scraps from the base. Together we pulled out two waste baskets of oily paper detritus. 40 years worth!  It was like an archeological dig into letterpress history.

Boxcar Press has printing fun at Ladies of Letterpress conference 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri. Boxcar Press has printing fun at Ladies of Letterpress conference 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri.

This Boxcar Lady had a wonderful time attending the conference and is looking forward to more in the future!

Leanna Barlow My experience at Ladies of Letterpress/ Print Week was absolutely amazing.  Spending time in another city surrounded by people who love the same thing you do is surreal. I have only worked at Boxcar press for about 2 years. At Boxcar we don’t set type, so this was my first time seeing such a vast collection of type! And actually getting to use it. Firecracker Press has such a great space and the staff was so talented and passionate about printing. I think what I took away from the experience overall was the willingness to teach and be taught, particularly by some who have been printing substantially longer than me. It was nice to see that there was no “generation gap,” as they call it. The older generation of printers was genuinely excited to be with the new and up-and-coming printers like myself. For me, making my own press out of everyday supplies, along with the advanced windmill class, has helped me develop as a working printer and an artist.

A huge shout-out to all the amazing participants at the Ladies of Letterpress conference this year! Have a fun story or cool thing you learned at this year’s meet-up? Let us know in the comments below!

Printing Community Spirit: Ladies of Letterpress

With the upcoming Ladies of Letterpress conference plus Print Week happening just around the corner (September 28, 2017-October 1, 2017) in St. Louis, Missouri, we catch up with Kseniya Thomas on the Ladies of Letterpress’ excellent camaraderie, fun, and cool happenings (and don’t worry fellas, Ladies of Letterpress is happily open to men as well!). The Ladies of Letterpress conference features more than a dozen workshops, panels, printers’ market, as well as a must-see showing of “Pressing On: The Letterpress Film“.

When Jessica C. White and I started Ladies of Letterpress nearly ten years ago, our goal was pretty simple: make it easier for new printers to figure out what they were doing, and why. It doesn’t seem like that long ago, but it wasn’t easy in the aughts to get good info on how to operate letterpress presses with a minimum of frustration. And the letterpress community was localized and largely offline.

A lot has changed in the ensuing near-decade. Help is readily at hand online no matter what the letterpress problem, Wayzgeese abound coast-to- coast, and our own conference has grown to include workshops, business talks, technical instruction, and more. You never have to print alone, unless you want to! Ladies of Letterpress has grown and changed, and its mission now includes community cultivation, conference planning, trade-show wrangling, group projects . . .

It’s been interesting and rewarding for me to see how letterpress and printing have changed since we started LOLP. Seeing people struggle and succeed in the service of letterpress is inspiring; letterpress isn’t the easiest gig out there, but people fall hard for it and make printing work for them, and keep the art and craft of printing growing and evolving. This evolution inspires me to print my own work when I take a break from my regular jobs.

Though two people started LOLP, many, many people and organizations keep it going with their generosity, enthusiasm, and continued interest. The creative helpfulness of our fellow printers has only increased, and keeps growing as our numbers grow. LOLP represents one thing printers can make when they come together.

Boxcar Press salutes the Ladies of Letterpress and all the other organizations and clubs who are the mentors, tutors, trailblazers, and backbone of the art of letterpress.

www.briarpress.org
www.collegebookart.org
http://printinghistory.org/
http://www.apa-letterpress.com/
www.letterpresscommons.com
http://woodtype.org/
http://vandercookpress.info/
https://listserv.unb.ca
www.penland.org
http://www.thearmnyc.com/
http://www.fpba.com/
http://thebeautyofletterpress.com/
The more than dozen Book Arts Centers across the world

Letterpress and Life’s Little Gems

Wandering the displays at the Printers Fair at the recent 2012 Ladies of Letterpress Conference reminded me of a nifty pocket book written a few years ago filled with one liners about productively living our lives.  This great instructional guide gave little gems of wisdom and witty truisms such as “be courteous to everyone” or “remember people’s names”.  All good, sound advice.

Lo and behold, I started to notice a few good suggestions and observations at the printers Fair that we can probably all smile over, agree with or be improved by.  So here in a nutshell are interesting life reminders for all of us from our fellow letterpress printers, in beautiful form.

(photo credits: clockwise from top left –  Chris Charles – Fly Rabbit Press;  Amos Kennedy – Kennedy Prints; Rachel Hetzel – Pistachio Press)

(photo credits: clockwise from top left –  Chris Charles – Fly Rabbit Press;  Kathryn Hunter – Blackbird Press; Margot Ecke – Smokey Road Press; Jessica Peterson – Paper Souvenir.com)

(photo credit: above – Margot Ecke – Smokey Road Press)

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!

Ladies of Letterpress Conference

My very dear Cathy went to the Ladies of Letterpress Conference recently. (Read the post about her experience here!) She brought back many fine items, it did bring a tear to my eye to see this magnificent array! There are so many talented people out there, such a crowd of kindred souls that love this craft. Keep it up, do more! Next year’s conference will take too long to get here.

Boxcar_editedIMG_2639Boxcar_editedIMG_2640

Printers, Designers, and Paper-lovers, Oh My!

I am still on a letterpress high after attending the Ladies of Letterpress Conference in Asheville, North Carolina during the first weekend of August.  It was a well-done first attempt to bring together a group of people who had one thing in common – they love putting ink to beautiful paper.  Some do it with lead or wood type, others with polymer or linoleum, a few screen print – but we all felt an immediate kinship with each other.

The presentations and demonstrations only served to bond us more. Events were either at the conference center of the hotel, or at Asheville Bookworks.  It was all energizing. Some highlights for me included a handmade paper making overview with Frank Brannon,  and the making of the Dead Feminists Broadsides with Jessica Spring and Chandler O’Leary.  And I was delighted to watch Kelly McMahon give a ton of instruction during ‘Getting to Know Your Table Top Press’.  It was concise, thorough and loaded with great information so bravo to Kelly.  People were writing down notes feverishly.

The panel discussions were all applicable and interesting.  They covered topics such as Letterpress as a Business, Using Social Media to Promote Your Business, Community Print Shops, and the Future of Letterpress.  Long after the discussions ended, people gathered to talk over what they heard or ask more questions. We were immersed in letterpress the whole time and it never got dull.   And the personal interactions were the best part.

Thank you to all of our Boxcar customers who introduced themselves to me.  It was a treat to greet you all, friends old and new.  We’ll always have Asheville!

Take a look below at some of my favorite photos from the trip!

The colors of handmade paper are splendidly beautiful to the eye as they “hang out”

pretty-paper

First look at a Hollander beater:

hollander-beater

Raw materials in the handmade paper process

paper-raw-goods

Everything you need for printing on a table top press:

table-top-press-setup

A community print shop – Asheville Bookworks

bookworks

Boxcar Press represented at the Printers Fair

boxcar-table-setup

Amy Rau of Greengirl Press and Chris Charles of Fly Rabbit Press stopped by!

Amy-and-chris