The Second Annual Letterpress Broadsides Project

For the second year in a row, we are thrilled to share with you photographs of an incredible collaboration between the folks at the Writers in the Schools program (WITS) and the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, Washington. For the last two years, WITS has worked with terminally ill patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital to write poetry, out of which artists create beautiful letterpress broadsides. At Boxcar Press, we were privileged to be included yet again, and gladly offered up free photopolymer plates for the project. Below are photos of the process, as well as few shots of the incredibly inspiring poetry written by these kids and young adults.

The second annual portfolio includes 16 hand-set artist-made letterpress broadsides. WITS Writers-in-residence  Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplich worked with patients at the Seattle Children’s Hospital to write the poems, then 16 artists from the Seattle area took the poems and translated them into works of art. The poems were printed as letterpress broadsides and included in a striking red portfolio.

At the end of the project, each patient received a portfolio, as well as ten copies of their poem to give to their family and friends. Some patients were given the opportunity to read their poem in front of a live audience.

So many people worked to make this project a success, including letterpress printers volunteering their time, and Mohawk Papers donating paper. It is truly inspiring to see letterpress used in such a positive way!

Do you have any “Doing Good” projects you’ve worked on that you want to share? Let us know! We’d love to hear about them!

The Boxcar Press Holiday Gift Guide: 22 Gifts for a Letterpress Printer

(looking for our favorite letterpress cards for valentine’s day? Check that out here!)

Need holiday gift ideas for the letterpress fanatic in your life? We’ve put together a list of our favorite gifts for this holiday season—we found some amazing letterpress pieces online, along with some great books and handy supplies that any printer would love to receive.

A holiday gift shopping guide for letterpress lovers, created by Boxcar Press

1. Boxcar Press apron: A heavy duty printing apron with deep roomy pockets, made right here in Syracuse, New York. $16

2. 9SpotMonk letterpress placemats: 10 by 15 inch placemats, letterpress printed on 100% Recycled Kraft Paper, and packaged in a sealed, clear cello bag with 3 non-toxic crayons. $14 for a set of 24.

3. Studio on Fire calendar: Positive Apocalypse Edition. $30

4. Gutenberg Printing Press: A miniature Gutenberg Printing Press. $37.39

5. Wood type: The bold Preissig design is offered as a woodtype font – prices range from $22 – $470.25

6. Johann Gutenberg and the Amazing Printing Press: This book focuses on Johann Gutenberg as an innovator who developed a way of casting metal type, a linseed-based ink, and a press to allow the transfer of inked letters to paper. Great for ages 5 & up. $16

7. Pantone iPhone case: Available in 9 colors. $36

8. Rubber based ink: Rubber-based inks are our ink of choice for general letterpress printing. Choose from a variety of colors (prices vary). Oil-based inks, acrylic inks, metallic inks and other supplies also available. $31.20

9. Glow in the dark posters: Goodmorning, goodnight glow in the dark prints by Dolce Press. $45

10. Vandercook Press book: A new, essential Vandercook reference book by Paul Moxon based on his “Vandercook Maintenance” workshop with notes on significant models and competing presses. $55

11. The Cloudy Collection: Monster Parade:A four-color, 8″x10″ letterpress print created exclusively for the Cloudy Collection. The print comes in a custom folder that features metallic silver printing on black paper. $75

12. Boxcar Press t-shirts: Choose from the Vandercook Universal III; the Chandler & Price Craftsman 12 x 18; the Heidelberg Platen 13 x 18; and the baby Sigwalt 5 x 8. Made in the USA! View them all here. $16

13. Letterpress Woodland Creature clocks: This bird clock was letterpress printed by the Sesame Letterpress Shop. $30

14. LetterMPress App: Experience the craft of letterpress on your iPad or Mac. $9.99

15. Roller setting gauge: This handy tool will help you accurately measure the height of your rollers so your press can produce the crispest printing. $22

16. Mark Twain’s Book of Animals: Twenty-five impressions of each of the thirty-one prints Barry Moser designed, drew, and engraved for Mark Twain’s Book of Animals have been printed on an archival sheet from the Zerkall Paper Mill in Hurtgenwald-Zerkall, Germany. $3,500

17. Letterpress holiday coasters: Printed by Paisley Tree Press. $10 for a set of 8

18. The History of Printmaking: A highly interactive tour of the history of printmaking covers Sumerian cuneiform, the innovations of typographer Frederic Goudy, the works of Rembrandt and Henri de Toulouse-Latrec, and comic books. $13.77

19. Dead Feminists Broadside: On a Mission: A 10×18 broadside, printed by hand on an antique Vandercook Universal One press. Each piece is printed on archival, 100% rag (cotton) paper, and individually signed and numbered by both artists. $35

20. Gutenberg Printing Press pencil sharpener: A detailed, cast metal miniature model of the Gutenberg Printing Press, complete with moving parts, is also a pencil sharpener! $6.95

21. Letter from Santa: We love great type and letterpress, but man, seeing real live amazing gorgeous calligraphy gives us the chills. This is a hand-calligraphed, personalized letter from Santa (if Santa was a really talented calligrapher) $15

22. Hamilton Wood Type: A History in Headlines: A 65 page book outlining the history of the Hamilton Wood Type Company and the importance of wood type to the growth of printing world-wide. $20

Born in the Sky- Letterpress Poems by Pediatric Patients

Here at Boxcar Press we love hearing stories of letterpress doing good! We were honored when asked to donate our photopolymer plates to a letterpress printing project headed by the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle. The School of Visual Concepts teamed up with Seattle Arts and Lectures through their Writers in the School’s program. Working with a local children’s hospital they planned to create poetry broadsides with children who are terminally ill. We were privileged to be included and gladly donated our photopolymer plates. It’s an amazingly moving project (try reading over the poetry and keeping your eyes dry), and it reminds us of how cool the letterpress community is, and what great things we can all accomplish together.

The children wrote poems as part of a legacy project. The poems were printed as letterpress broadsides and included in a portfolio. Everyone pitched in on this project, from 12 letterpress printers volunteering their time, Mohawk Papers donated the paper, and a book cloth company (Ecological Fibers) donated materials for creating the actual portfolio.



Each child’s family will receive several copies and the others will be distributed to local children’s groups and hospitals to be auctioned off as a fundraiser. There is a limited edition of 75 on each.



Many thanks to all who were involved: Seattle Arts & Lectures,  Seattle Children’s Hospital, School of Visual Concepts, Mohawk Fine Papers, Puget Bindery, Ecological Fibers, Boxcar Press.


Boxcar Talk with Dead Feminists

What do you get when you mix Chandler O’Leary from Anagram Press and Jessica Spring from Springtide Press? Beautiful, detailed, thoughtful and bold broadsides letterpress printed under the series name Dead Feminists. With a new print impressing numerous eyes every three months since 2008, the Dead Feminist series strive to feature “a quote by a historical feminist, tied in with current political and social issues, and letterpress printed from hand-drawn lettering and illustrations.” We could simply just let the images do the talking, however the pair have shared with us more details about their work and efforts.

How did each of you first get into letterpress?
Chandler: For me, letterpress was at the end of a winding path and a long story. The short version is that I have an art school degree in illustration, a professional background in graphic design and print production, and a long line of first jobs that included things like hot wax paste-up and tractor decals. Add to that a long-standing interest in typography and storytelling, and a stubborn streak that leads me to insist upon doing everything by hand, the old fashioned way, and letterpress turned out to be the perfect fit.

Jessica: I worked as a typesetter at Macalester College, managing services for various publications on campus. I sat at a huge console in front of a green screen and coded fonts and output to RC paper which would be waxed and keylined. Not having the benefit of WYSIWYG really forced me to understand picas and points. After college I typeset road atlases for Rand McNally with these huge confusing charts with symbols and numbers, so when the Macintosh came along it was brilliant. I spent 10 years as a partner in a graphic design firm and we had the chance to get a Vandercook 3 – no frills, no motor, but it was a sweet machine. The more I printed the less I was interested in the computer – twenty-one years and several presses later, it’s even more true.


What was your very first press?
Chandler: I’m always telling people that investing in letterpress equipment is a lot like getting married – you can certainly get out of it, but not without a lot of pain and expense. So until I become a homeowner and won’t have to move again, the only press I actually own is a Kelsey 3 x 5″ platen press, which I use for studio demos and tiny projects, but I do the majority of my printing at various local letterpress studios with whom I have an arrangement – like Jessica’s studio, for instance. The first press I ever printed on, however, was a Vandercook No. 4 at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Since then I’ve printed on well over a dozen different cylinder and platen press models, a benefit of not having a permanent shop is being forced to become proficient with whatever is available. My favorite presses are still Vandercooks No. 219 and Universal One.

Jessica: See above. My second press was a Vandercook 4 that suffered horribly, overturned in a Chicago alley at the hands of incompetent movers. The third was another 4 (with extra parts from the deceased 4), then a Universal I and a C&P. I also have the pleasure of using a Universal 3 where I teach – it’s huge, completely motorized, and awesome.


What medium do you usually print?
Jessica: While photopolymer is fast and delicious, I prefer to use handset type. After collecting for years, I have enough type, ornaments and other goodies there’s no excuse not to use them, other than time or client work. I’m especially interested in daredevil printing, whether it’s handsetting curved type and complex registration of colors or using found objects that can be made type high. I’d put Chandler’s illustrations in that category too!
I also have to thank membership in the Amalgamated Printers’ Association to help me really hone my typesetting skills. It’s a group of both amateur and pro printers who are constantly inspiring through a monthly bundle of ephemera. Members must print 150 copies to exchange four times a year, and there’s nothing like printing for people who realize how hard you worked.


In your own words, how do you describe a broadside?
Chandler: The great-grandaddy of the poster, the broadside was one of the earliest forms of mass communication, usually containing important information and distributed by someone in a position of authority. Nowadays, the broadside has become a favorite of the letterpress world, and converted into an art form that combines both images and text.

Your work is so intricate. What’s your process from sketch to press?

Chandler: Jessica and I are both printers, and we each do our own work, most of the time. When we collaborate on the Dead Feminists series, though, our jobs on the technical side of things are pretty segregated: I’m the illustrator, she’s the printer. On my end, the design/illustration always starts with a lot of historical research. Then I complete a pencil drawing of the design at full size—and at the same time make decisions about color choices and how the design will work logistically for letterpress. Then I lay a sheet of translucent vellum over the pencil art and ink everything in black, separating the colors by hand (each color is a separate vellum layer) and cleaning up the inconsistencies in the pencil as I go. Then I scan each vellum sheet at a super-high resolution, set a colophon in digital type, convert each color separation to a bitmap file in Photoshop, and turn the files over to Jessica. Jessica then has film negatives made from my files, and makes her own photopolymer plates with the negatives. She then prints the broadside on a Vandercook Universal One, using my ideas about ink colors as a starting point, then making her own decisions on the fly, as needed.

Jessica: Chandler is being a little modest about her mad skills making all these separations convert to photopolymer—even though she shows me sketches and even color separations I’m always surprised and delighted when the printing is underway.

Who or what inspires you the most when deciding your next broadside?
Jessica: We have a lot of discussion back and forth. Often it’s triggered by an event – like the Gulf Coast oil spill or the passage of Prop 8 in California – though Rachel Carson had been on our list for awhile. We make a real effort to connect current events to these historical figures because their words are still so relevant and can provide inspiration, even guidance. Our country has been through some real turbulence since we started these broadsides, and there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of challenging topics to address (or women deserving recognition for their contributions).

How do you choose which organization to benefit?
Jessica: With the success of the series we’ve been able to direct some funds, and hopefully attention, to non-profits that support causes we believe in, and that connect to each broadside. We tend to focus on smaller, local groups that might not be as well known. In some cases, like Just Desserts, the state library in Olympia where we did broadside research had suffered massive budget cuts, so it was an obvious choice to give our support.


How has your response been to these series?
Chandler: We’ve been completely floored by the response these prints have had. We never even planned to print more beyond the very first broadside, let alone a whole series, but people have spread the word about the Dead Feminists, mostly thanks to the internet. Between (a marketplace site devoted to handmade items), blogs and old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing, the series has kind of taken on a life of its own. We’re now working on our tenth print in the series, and the broadsides have been collected by people in nearly every state in the country, as well as countries all over the world.

What are you looking forward to?
Chandler: I have a solo exhibition coming up in November, for a new editioned artist book I’ve been working on for the past two years. So that’s at the front of my mind right now, but the Dead Feminists are a nice current to have running in the background, something I can look forward to whenever I need to switch gears or give myself a break from a huge project. Jessica and I will both be exhibitors at the biennial Codex Symposium and Book Fair in Berkeley, CA, this February—we’re looking forward to taking the Dead Feminists on the road. The Dead Feminists will also be included in the upcoming anthology of design using handmade elements, Fingerprint 2, to be published by HOW Books next year.

Phew! Talk about a couple of busy ladies! Thanks, Chandler and Jessica, for your time and sharing insight into the Dead Feminists series. Don’t forget to check out the Anagram Press shop and Springtide Press shop, too.

Fine Press Broadside: When Poetry and Letterpress Meet

One of the coolest collaborations Boxcar is proud to be a part of is our sweet partnership with the YMCA’s Downtown Writer’s Center here in Syracuse. In 2002, the Downtown Writer’s Center launched a broadside series as fundraiser for their reading series. Two poets are selected annually and Boxcar’s own Harold Kyle takes the lead on designing and printing the broadsides in support of the series.

This recent broadside is for Jane Hirshfield’s poem, “Critique of Pure Reason” and Phil Memmer of the Downtown Writer’s Center calls it one of his favorites from the series. As Phil notes, “The detail in both the border and background is marvelous, and serves to echo the subject of the poem…and the careful way in which the poem itself is presented is simply perfect.” Phil also shares that the best commentary on the broadside might be from Jane herself, who gasped aloud when she first saw it – we love that!

You can check out other broadsides in the series in our letterpress portfolio. The Jane Hirshfield broadside, $25, and others in the series are available through the Downtown Writer’s Center by emailing

Vote right now!

Letterpress sure makes beautiful wedding invitations — but we love when letterpress uses its cast iron muscle for the political realm too. We fell in love with this broadside when browsing on Springtide Press’s web site, and we were super excited to learn that our Boxcar Base and Boxcar plates helped out in the printing. It features a quote from Elizabeth Cady Stanton, champion of women’s voting and civil rights. Here is what Jessica from Springtide Press had to say about the letterpress printing:
“Boxcar base and plates and platemaker and adhesive all done here! Chandler O’Leary is the talent portion of the project–she did all the handlettering then it was scanned and printed. We used 94FL plates on the largest base in my Vandercook Universal 1. The file was output as one plate and we used the “puzzle piece” technique to print in two colors. The paper is a fairly new recycled sheet made from 100% cotton rag.”

If you need more reasons to vote, check out Good Magazine’s 1,565 reasons to vote in their latest issue.