It’s hard to put into words how much our world has changed (both locally and globally) in just a short period of time. We struggle to keep up with daily reports and advisements. However, out of this comes sharing and goodness from those around us and our own printing community.
Here at Boxcar Press, we’d like to share with you a little bit of that goodness offered online (from a safe social distance in these times). It’s inspiring to know that there are good folks out there spreading some cheer!
If you’d like to shine the spotlight on someone, let us know! We’d love to hear from you!
Live Daily Readings of Children’s Books With Mary Bruno(of Bruno Press) via Instagram. Come share a good time from Minnesota with Mary every day starting at 12 Noon Central Time!
Wilderness of Social Distancing letterpress card from Waterknot Press (from Portland, Oregon).
Waterknot will be offering a buy 4 get one free special on their website — indefinitely. No code required. Just put 5 cards in your cart and you will only be charged for 4 of them. (via their IG account)
Free Downloadable Color Book PDF – cool creatures and fantastic beasts from Isaac Bidwell of Pickled Punks. Grab a set of crayons and have some fun from this fellow Syracuse-based artist!
(Fun fact: Isaac Bidwell is an artist that works in the same building as us — the Delavan Center in Syracuse, NY!).
Spring Ephemerals of New York State “Color Your Own Letterpress Print” from Lion Tail Press of Ithaca, New York.
Laurin Ramsey (via IG): “Hey friends! In these uncertain times, when so many of us are isolated indoors, it’s more important than ever to bring beauty and sunshine in however we can. Spring is coming, so I’ve created my first “color your own” letterpress print for us adults and kids, too! Printed on 100% cotton, acid-free paper, this takes beautifully to watercolors, colored pencils, markers, or whatever coloring tool strikes your fancy. Keep for yourself to brighten your home, or send to a loved one who could use some comfort.
Starting today, I’m also offering a 15% site-wide discount at liontailpress.com, when you enter code SHOPSMALL at checkout. This COVID discount also applies to LP e-gift cards AND custom design work going forward! Thank you so much for your continued love and support through this time, for reaching out to loved ones and neighbors, taking good care of yourselves, and taking all of it one day at a time. We’re in this together!”
Watch“Making Faces: Metal Type in the21st Century” for free via Vimeo. Grab a bowl of popcorn, your favorite snack & enjoy the beautifully documented film on making metal type by P22 Type Foundry and Rich Kegler (Rochester, New York).
Daily Art Challenge. Stretch those creative muscles daily with Raven’s Wish Gallery art challenge! Raven’s Wish (in Janesville, Wisconsin) posts daily on their Facebook the next thing to make, post, photograph, or do! There is sure to be a challenge theme that will rev your artistic juices.
Try A New Printing Technique (or Revisit a Favorite One!) Have fun pulling out some of your printing and printmaking books to brainstorm a new print project. Need ideas? The Printmaking Ideas Book by Frances Stanfield and Lucy McGeown is chock full of great projects!
Printing With Kitchen Items Can’t get to your press? Never fear – embrace your wooden or kitchen spoon to make a print! You’ll use the metal or wooden spoon as a baren to make fun, fantastic prints!
These suggestions are a drop in the bucket of all the ideas out there for creativity, entertainment, and boredom-fighting while you isolate and distance. Share yours with us! We’re curious to see what you’ve got going on!
I was very excited when I first read AJ’s poem because it would allow me to mix my love of comic books and letterpress. I love that AJ wrote a poem about the Incredible Hulk that a lot of kids and adults alike could relate to. His mom translated it to Chamorro, the language of the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands. I felt honored that I was trusted with creating a print using not only AJ’s words, but also the traditional language of his family.
Hulk is a character who struggles with fear, pain, and anger but also can use strength to do a lot of good as a superhero. Since AJ’s words reference all of these darker feelings, I didn’t want to emphasize the negative with imagery. What was a way that I could compliment AJ’s words and bring a little bit of that lighthearted feeling to a character who is everything but? How about Legos? I had been looking for the right project to experiment with printing Legos, and this seemed like a perfect fit!
I looked at a lot of inspiration for how to render Hulk using pixel art, and decided to use this as an opportunity to reference something else from my childhood. I used character sprites from the Super Nintendo video game “The Incredible Hulk” (1994) as a reference. Eric Bailey and Anthony Rosbottom were the original artists that worked on this game, and there were so many possibilities for really dynamic poses to draw from for my inspiration. In Photoshop, I created a simplified rendering of one of the sprites using a grid that was 32 pixel wide. I usually try to minimize the amount of time I’m on the computer when I’m working in letterpress, but I ended up designing every aspect of this print in Photoshop and Illustrator.
My broadside had a total of six passes on press. I rebuilt the pixel art using 1×1 Lego pieces, and a base that I made with a piece of wood and two sheets of Lego Baseplate. For the first pass, I started with the brighter green. Once the first color was printed, I slowly removed all of the Lego pieces using an ink knife. I should have gotten a plastic putty knife or some other tool to help remove these pieces as the ink knife really easily slipped and scratched the Lego pieces.
Once all the Legos were removed, I set up the pixel art for the dark green layer. I continued this process for the remaining pixel art colors. As I printed, I used a pica pole to help square off any of the Lego pieces that started moving around a bit. As they moved, it created an interesting energy/vibration that I really love the look of; as long as it didn’t get too out of alignment that is! All of my additional type for the poem, colophon, and byline were printed as my last pass on press using a photopolymer plate.
I didn’t get a chance to talk with AJ about his poem, but I hope that he enjoyed how I chose to represent his words. It’s an honor to be a part of this year’s Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project, and it was such a fun project to work on. I can’t wait to print with Legos again!
I always feel honored to participate in the Children’s Hospital Broadside project. This is my fourth year and each time it is such a treat to work with the poems and illustrate something that will hopefully resonate with the poet.
The poet had drawn a little comic that he used as inspiration for the poem so it only seemed right to keep that idea with the 4 sections of the poem. Rather than have a grid layout that’s common of comics, it seemed more appropriate to have it a little more freeform. The 4 sections of the poem are separated and on the page in a somewhat ordered yet almost haphazard way. Because of this, I added a light grey swoosh in the background to help draw the eye through the lines in the correct order. The final print came out with 6 colors in 6 passes (I had originally planned for a 7th but decided to skip it in the end).
I used rather non-traditional plates for this project. I have a laser cutter at home and decided to make my plates with it. I used an acrylic sheet (a break from my normal wood) as acrylics tend to warp less. I engraved the design onto the surface and while providing a great surface for inking, printing the background offered a bit of a challenge. It was not quite low or shallow enough and transferred ink so it was a little messy.
I had to do quite a bit of sanding and scraping to keep everything clean. Despite the challenges of printing with my homemade plates, I was pleased with the outcome.
My poet this year was Chance Petrone, who wrote What I Do. I was instantly drawn to this poet simply because of his cool name.
My initial idea was to play with the image of a lightning bolt based on Chance’s imagery of his lightning quick speed but felt it was too obvious. It only spoke to one aspect of Chance that he conveys in this poem describing himself. Aside from running at lightning speed, Chance points out that he doesn’t always follow the recipe and that people are drawn to him. These two descriptions led me to the magnet image with the surrounding force field. I liked that the magnet conveyed how dynamic he is and also had a lightning bolt-like shape.
The background blue I had initially planned to pressure print. I don’t know why I say I’m going to pressure print every year, as if it is some easy-peasy technique, because I just can’t seem to make it work the way I want it! While in the 12th hour, after attempting several unsuccessful approaches to pressure printing, I put out a request to the other printers on the project for a spare large piece of linoleum. I received many responses which just shows how supportive this group of printers are. BUT, as I was in the 12th hour, I needed something asap and found a small piece of leftover Marmoleum flooring from our kitchen. I had one chance to make it work.
I transferred the magnet outline and hoped for the best. Carving away this fairly simple shape was a bit more difficult than expected. The abstract pattern of the Marmoleum is the same throughout the layers. Carving into the flooring material was easy enough but once you carve out a spot it doesn’t look any different than the un-carved part. This made it hard to read. The results were fine and similar to what I had hoped from pressure printing.
I didn’t want the angled ground shape to be solid because I thought it would look better textured next to the texture of the blue background. I created a subtle texture with cloth under the draw sheet.
After these first two layers, next came the magnet fill/force field and the text which all went smoothly.
One of the most evocative stanzas in Audrey’s poem describes her comforting visualization of driving home from the hospital—softly, gently, like clouds drifting away. I seized the image of clouds, and her color of freedom, “real and super shiny gold.”
When I was sketching the design for this broadside, I was on vacation in New Mexico. There, I saw Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings of clouds from above. I admired the gradient in the sky, from a saturated blue to almost white. I decided to abstract my clouds into geometric forms and cut the printing plate from plywood on a laser cutter. I printed the sky on my Vandercook SP-15 with a split fountain of blue to opaque white, with the clouds knocked out, in the white of the paper. The gold ink in the title is made up of a two-part gold paste and varnish concoction that is the most “real and super shiny gold” I know how to print. I first printed the title in blue in order to give the gold ink something extra smooth to sit on so it would really sparkle.
All type was printed from photopolymer plates donated by Boxcar Press. I set everything at an angle, parallel with the clouds, and curved the left margin of the poem in a long graceful swoop to echo the shapes of the clouds and to give the broadside that “freedom feeling.”
This was my 2nd year as a printer for this project. Last year helped set my expectations for how quick the timeline moves and how to portion out my time. I had the best intentions for getting things done early, and ahead of time, but seeing my intended imagery through ended up taking a lot more time than I had hoped for. It was a relief to know what my absolute worst case timeline would be for finishing everything up. Thanks to Boxcar with the rush plates right on time!
Almost immediately after selecting the poem I was working with, I had an idea of how I wanted to accompany the poet’s words with imagery. He had listed many things that he was, and the last section of his poem he talks about going camping with his family. I thought back to the “Hidden Pictures” in Highlights magazine, where an illustration of a scene would have various items hidden within it. This seemed like a perfect fit, having a camping scene, and then including many of the other items in the poem.
I did my illustration in Procreate on iPad pro, which was a lot of back-and-forth… I couldn’t be entirely solid on the hidden pieces before drawing the scene. And I couldn’t draw the entire scene without figuring out how the hidden pieces would be woven in. This is definitely one of the things that ended up being a longer process than I had anticipated. I had such a vivid vision in mind of what this would eventually look like and it was harder to get that out onto screen and to paper.
When I finally got my linework of the illustration where I wanted it to be (as well as the text of the poem, of course!) and had hand-lettered the title, I worked on figuring out how to use color on the final print. I really wanted to use yellow, as that color was one of the things mentioned in the poem (and, “pee”). With the lush forest setting, I wanted green to have a presence as well. Still working in Procreate, I played with some fill layers, and settled on a light yellow and a light blue, that would (hopefully) layer to make a decent green. I exported my Procreate file to a PSD, and brought it to the desktop to do the nitty gritty of file prep and fine-tune some trapping, and get files plate-happy.
Fast-forward a couple of days, my plates arrived and my paper was on hand. I had reserved some (read: full day’s worth of) press time at SVC, cashing in a vacation day to do a weekday print marathon. I pawed through a swatch book to get a ballpark idea for ink mixing, but I’m always one more to shoot from the hip with my inks rather than precisely measure out proportions (it’s been working well for me!). Since I was planning for a lot of ink coverage and overlap, cobalt drier made its way into all three of my colors.
I got ready to print, paper counted out, press set up, my first plate stuck on to the base, and my creamy light blue ink on press. I thankfully didn’t need to do too much for makeready, and getting through my stack of 110 plus sheets went pretty quickly. Then, cleaning off the press and moving on to the light yellow I’d mixed that had a good deal of translucent white in it, aiming to get a nice green on the overlap of that with the blue areas. It worked, and the green that came out was actually better than I had been hoping for. My last run-through of the press was my key plate with all the linework and my darkest color.
The cobalt drier seemed to help, and when I went to trim my prints out a day or two later, they were plenty dry.
I wanted to create a broadside highlighting this poem, and enticing the viewer to keep looking, or to return later and find something new. I didn’t want to create something that was one-note, and could be digested in the first glance. I’m really pleased with how the broadside turned out. I believe I was able to breathe life into the words of a child, to share them, to memorialize the spirit that delighted in so many of the little things, and to celebrate that.
For our ninth year, we here at Boxcar Press have enjoyed the honor of supporting this year’s 2019 Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project. It is helmed by Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplick of the Writers in the Schools program (WITS) and the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle. This year’s creative young poets and printer/artists joined forces to build a magnificent collection of 20 broadsides in a limited run of 110 editions.
The works of arts are a collaboration of kindhearted printers bringing alive the thoughts of long-term patients from the Seattle Children’s Hospital. The result is nothing short of fun, colorful, whimsical, and inspiring. This first installment of a two-part blog highlights four printers who share their creative processes and showcase the magic of the children’s writing. Enjoy!
When we gathered at SVC to kick off this year’s series with the reading of the kid’s poems, I was convinced Gerald was a real llama. I wasn’t alone. After Ann Teplick (one of the lead poets for this project) finished reading Liam’s poem, she said she’d met Gerald. “He’s real?” another printer asked. “Oh no,” she replied. “He’s a stuffed toy, but he seems real.” Liam’s words had brought Gerald to life, a feeling that stuck with me through the creative process. We spent a lot of time together, me and Gerald. And he is quite a lovable little stinker.
His larger-than-life personality demanded the same dominating presence on the page. Picturing a simple illustration with a large color background, I set about figuring out how to turn the sketch into a reduction cut.
Not wanting to leave anything to chance, I tested my sketches on a small 2×3 inch linoleum block and printed a run of 200 so that I could play with color & the reduction cut process. Remember how I said Gerald was a stinker? Yep. He bit me. Twice. (Some may say my carving tool slipped, but they weren’t there. Gerald knows what he did.)
These tests were really informative. I quickly learned how opaque white ink would look on the cream-colored paper: in short, not as I expected. To make Gerald appear “white” I found it best to shift from my original plan of printing his entire body in white, to only printing the suggestion of his curly locks. I also played with the background color, and how to best define Gerald’s outline. These “Gerald trading cards,” as I came to view them, were later sent out to members of the Amalgamated Printers Association in the monthly letterpress bundle.
I like to create full size mock-ups to nail down the details before getting on press. The design of the broadside didn’t change much from these 2×3″ tests to the final 9×12 image; just a little rotation of the angle at which Gerald would be peeking out of the corner, in order to make room for the type.
The first pass through the press was Gerald’s curls and face. To prep my platen press (a 13×19 motorized Colt’s Armory), I let it run with opaque white ink for about 20 minutes to draw out any trace remains of other ink hiding in the rollers. I cleaned it with Putz Pomade and roller wash, and inked it up again with opaque white and began printing. The effect was subtle, but enough to make the non-printed parts of the page appear “whiter” than they actually were.
Carving the second part of the reduction cut was easy, even if Gerald wasn’t thrilled to receive the haircut. Removing his curls was deliciously satisfying.
I decided — with the help of an informal Instagram poll comparing my test prints — to set Gerald on a blue background, rather than a green one. At one point it was going to be a split fountain of the 2, but that was just a symptom of indecision.
Passes 2 (blue) and 3 (gray) of the reduction cut aren’t well-documented, but I did snag a photo of my alignment tests on make-ready from previous year broadsides. In these 4 prints you can see evidence of Home Life(2017), Self-Portrait Poem (2016), How to Fix a Laptop (2015), and Favorite Things (2013).
The fourth and final pass through the press was the metal type, printed in the same gray as Gerald’s eyes, nose, mouth, and outline. The title was set in Boul Mich, a typeface designed by Chicago’s Ozwald Cooper in the spirit of the trendy Broadway typeface of the 1920s. The body and colophon are set in Spartan, my house sans-serif face.
Working with Liam’s poem was a treat, and things that are important to Liam are clear in his description of his beloved confidante: strength, tenderness, and a co-conspirator willing to weather the highs and lows of life. May we all be so lucky to have someone like Gerald, stinky as he may be, by our side.
Every year as I contemplate and work on this project, it has tremendous importance to me. Yet, I never feel like I do enough. Some artists meet their poets or the poet’s family if the poet had passed. I have never done that. I don’t know if my heart can handle it. I have done 5 or 6 of these. I have cried each time. Even the funny poems hit me and not for any specific reason, although I experience so many feelings. It’s simply just how human the poems are.
You get this unique, precious look into another person’s life—and sometimes death. It’s a rare thing, especially in this era of phony social media where our curated personalities pretend to connect with others. I really wish I had taken more photos, particularly of process photos of my last print but I did have some fun with this one. I used Boxcar plates for all of my printing.
I had played with clean lines and texture. I ended up printing everything clean and then carved away parts of the plates. I used sandpaper and wood cut knives to distress the plates and then I overprinted again. I also wiped away a little ink on each pass. I wanted there to be some “grit” below the surface.
The poem is clean and neat. It’s really tight but there is some real agony beneath it. Happiness, too… but I wanted to lean into the darkness without doing something traditionally dark. As always, I feel very lucky to be part of this project and to exercise my skills.
My poem was an excerpt of a longer poem, written by Isaac Gardner, age 24. I was lucky and got to meet him a few weeks before I started the project. He was incredibly open and excited about seeing his poem in print.
Isaac’s poem was very powerful, and the excerpt I had was in reference to darkness and light, and how he had a star in his pocket that grew brightly as he called upon it for help in the darkness.
I was immediately drawn to the star, and to creating a dark, stormy background with a path of light cutting through. I’m interested in textures and colors as opposed to using literal images, but did use a star as a sort of centerpiece. Boxcar made the poem excerpt in polymer, and the rest of the broadside was done by hand.
I began by making a linoleum cut of a star and printing it as my first pass. Next I created a collagraph–I mounted bookboard and painted it with acrylic medium with brush strokes for texture. This was my second pass.
For the third pass, I wanted to make a dark area to surround the star, and so hand-cut linoleum sheets mounted to a piece of shelving, and printed this background in a dark bluish color over the textured collagraph. I had to make sure the blue was transparent enough to show the texture while still being dark and moody. It was tricky!
Finally, I printed the polymer plate with the excerpt of the poem in a dark reddish color to contrast with the blue.
I was happy with the overall result! And was thrilled to meet Isaac and participate in this meaningful project. Thank you Boxcar!
In the spring of 2019, myself and a lucky group of other letterpress printers gather to be part of the Children’s Hospital Broadside Project. This was the ninth year of the project. We listen as the poems are read and choose (and sometimes negotiate) which poem we will print.
Sierra and Ann are able to share a little bit about each poet and I learned that my young one, Finnley Foster, was already an accomplished rider and had her own horse named Norman. Because she was so young, I wanted to keep the colors of the broadside gay and colorful, suggesting a carousel. And yet, I wanted to keep the horses lifelike because she described them so specifically and because she really knew what horses look like.
I enlisted the help of one of the other printers, Laura Walczak, because she is more savvy than I am with cleaning up images on a computer to get them ready for reproduction and because she has a laser cutter. I found several copyright free images on-line which I thought suited the lines that Finnley had written. Laura was able to work on the images and create the wooden laser cuts in a matter of hours.
I worked out and mixed all the colors in advance to create a harmonious palette for the run of seven colors. I did many mock-ups of hand cuts shapes of the horses before settling on the positions for each one. I printed the text on my Vandercook SP-15 but I printed each of the horses on my 1926 10 x 15 Chandler & Price. The horses required quite a bit of ink to get full coverage on each image and I was able to achieve this more easily on the C&P although it did require some careful paper handling as the sheet was over-sized relative to the press.
Throughout all the press runs, each broadside had a slipsheet laid between them so the ink would not offset from the front to the back of the next. Even so, I laid all the broadsides out on my work table to dry for several days before the final trimming.
At the completion of the project, we gather to read the broadsides to one another and talk about the process of working on them. Then we wrap up a complete set of the broadsides in a portfolio along with ten copies of the poet’s own piece which are later presented to the young poet and/or their family. Because of Finnley’s enthusiastic interest in horses, I gave them all of the laser cuts in case she would like to play with them.
It is both moving and inspiring to be part of this project for nine years. I am grateful I am invited to be even a small part of the young poet’s journey as they are so sweetly encouraged to write by Sierra and Ann. The generous support of businesses like Boxcar Press, Ecological Fibers, Neenah Paper, Puget Bindery and Evolution Press working with all involved makes this possible.
Part two in this year’s Broadside blog series highlights more of the beautiful art prints from the printers and writers who came together in the 2018 Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadsides project. The Writers in the Schools program (WITS – a poetry program created by Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplick), the School of Visual Concepts, and long-term patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital all joined creative forces to produce original stories that come to life in beautifully crafts printed works. Sarah Kulfan reflects on this year’s printing experience of adding in fun & color to their special young writer’s words.
“I am always blown away by the talent and commitment of our young poets and this group of printers. Many have been involved with this project every year. Its an honor to be a part of this amazing collaboration. I am grateful for the support of business partners like Boxcar Press who help fuel this creative endeavor from the beginning.”
There are a couple of lines from the poem by Amanda Longees, Age 11, titled Beliefs, that inspire the forest and tree theme illustrations. My goal was to create a broadside that was bright and optimistic. In the first print pass, I created a split fountain gradient that represents the rising morning sun. With a design perspective of looking out across the treetops, there is a sense of spiritual uplifting. Which also reflects the title of the poem.
With the tree element design, it was only natural to include a wood type for the title. I worked with Boxcar Press to create plates for the poem and colophon.
The reduction cut process includes a total of 4 colors. Each color is a successive layer that is carved from the same block.
The colors typically go from light to dark. This year’s challenge for myself was to print a full bleed and a gradient on a portrait style broadside. Which includes several rounds of careful trimming, and maxing out my press’ sheet size in order to make that directional gradient work.
The talent and commitment of our young poets and group of printers are impressive. It is an honor to be a part of this amazing collaboration effort. I am grateful for the support of business partners like Boxcar Press – who help fuel this creative endeavor from the beginning.
This year’s broadside design illustrates a poem written by Ella Joy Won, Age 7, titled The Secret Place. Ella is a “sparkly girl,” and the design reflects this through the incorporation of bright colors and metallic inks. The printing of the poem starts with text which uses polymer plates from Boxcar Press. Next, is the artwork. This piece, in particular, there were 7 passes through the press. The press used a large reduction linoleum block that carves away sections of the block between each color pass.
Printing silver over a blue background for the first cut on reduction block. Carving away the things that I want to stay medium blue and then next is the teal layer…
Next, printing the gold pass. Followed by mixing ink for the purple coloring for its pass. Finally, I will print the text and trim the paper.
As a letterpress instructor at the School of Visual Concepts, it’s a real joy to see students evolve from fledgling ink slingers into skilled printers, and this Broadside project represents a milestone in that journey. There are many new names on this project’s list of printers this year, but by no means are they new to the press. This year the stars finally aligned for them to join this kind-hearted & generous group, raising the bar of talent even higher than before.
When first reading, A Lion by Rowan Delloway, Age 6, I was struck by how much power just a few words carry. Looking beyond the face value of his admiration of a lion, I interpret the lines “so you don’t run from anything / because no one can hurt you” as representing Rowan’s own fierce determination and strength. This concept was my guide through the design process to include bold elements and a careful use of color.
(All other photography courtesy of Amy Redmond.)
It would be easy to show the lion’s power through a literal translation of Rowan’s words. However, after making some quick thumbnail sketches, I chose to illustrate it through a display of calm confidence.
The lion may be at rest — claws in, tail curled around its body — but its one watchful eye says, “Think twice before you make your move.” I imagine it protecting Rowan, watching over him… ready to pounce and unleash that power upon any threat to his well-being. The first rough layout sketch was effortless. In contrast to how my process usually goes. When looking back at my choice to sketch on top of make-ready tells me I really didn’t expect that to happen.
I wasn’t sure if I would be able to capture that energy if I redrew it again. Instead, I used a thick charcoal pencil to rework the sketch on top of the original. When I removed the tape that was masking my margins and lifted the page from the table, I got a kick out of seeing my make-ready for Zack Edge’s poem (from the 2016 portfolio).
Moving on to typesetting, first I started with the easiest part: LION! Big and bold, the size alone limited my choices. Next, I selected a Latin wood type that when aligned to the right margin of my sketch. This left just enough room for the body text and colophon. Also, it also gave me the excuse to use the Latin Wide metal type in my collection. Typically, this is not a face I would normally choose for body text. Due to the short nature of the poem made it feels safe enough to try. I’m delighted that it worked!
By this point, my typesetting was complete for the day even though the colophon wasn’t done. This is my 8th year contributing to the broadside project. And my first year contributing by carving an image from linoleum. For those who are familiar with linoleum, it cuts the smoothest when warmed by the sun. Lucky for me, Seattle was having an unusually warm sunny spell in May. Time to move outside.
I usually shy away from carving. However, I had a strong vision of a bold and graphic piece, that I went for it. For the first time in over 20 years, I invested in a new set of carving tools. I also made sure to purchase extra blocks, just in case of a few errors. Careful viewers can see, right out of the gate, I forgot to reverse my image before carving.
On the second carving attempt, I decided to slow down and take a proof before moving forward with the paws and tail. The placement needed to be just right in order for the type to work. Refreshed by a new day, I also finished typesetting the colophon and proofed that as well. Out came the scissors and tape and Sharpies.
Paw and tail position decided, the remainder of the lion carving went well with only a few minor slip-ups. The sun was having a positive effect on my outlook, and I decided I could live with a few wayward marks. I moved back into the studio, locked it up, and printed the first run on my Colt’s Armory platen press.
With the lion in place, I now had a map from which I could now measure all future passes. I locked up the first form, gave the type a good scrub, and ran the second pass. (Shiny clean type is so satisfying.)
In a fit of stubborn efficiency, I decided to print the lion’s eye color with the last line of the poem (“LION!”), in one final pass of orange ink. To guarantee perfect alignment, I mounted a small rectangle of uncarved linoleum to a piece of furniture, made it type high, and composed it with the wood type.
Taking measurements of the lockup from the text printed in black, I was able to lock up this new form in the exact location in needed to be. Without changing my page guides on the tympan, I then pulled a blind proof on a still-wet print from the second pass to confirm that the text aligned as I wanted. The black eye of the lion offset onto the uncarved linoleum, revealing exactly where I needed to carve. I added a little trapping as a safety measure, in case some of my earlier prints had shifted alignment in the run.
This small series of careful acrobatics worked well, and I’m pleased with the final print. I hope others see in its design what I see in Rowan’s words. “That underneath his joyful and seemingly wild exuberance lies a trained force of powerful inner strength.”
Come check out Part 1 of this year’s Children’s Broadsides project! We would like to thank all of our young writers, organizers, printers, and families who help make the 2018 Broadsides project memorable and powerful.
We enjoy giving back to the letterpress community and supporting amazing opportunities for printers around us to create, shine, enjoy, and share in the magic that is printing. In its eighth year, Boxcar Press has had the honor of contributing photopolymer plates to the 2018 Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project. The culmination of combining the talents of Ann Teplic and Sierra Nelson of the Writers in the Schools program (WITS), the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, and young local poets at the Seattle Children’s Hospital was 20 cleverly crafted broadsides. Each print had a limited run of 110 editions. This first installment of a two-part blog highlights four printers who share their heartwarming experience bringing their young poets words to life.
The process of working on the Children’s Hospital broadside project each year is a combination of dedication and commitment as well as skill and inspiration.
Each year, children present to us a selection of poems before we come together as a group of printer/designers for the first meeting. At that gathering, the wonderful poets-in-residence who bring such heart to the project, Sierra and Ann, read each poem written by their young proteges. We have our preferential choices and usually end up with the poem we most wanted to work on…although that process may occasionally require some good-natured negotiating. It never feels like enough time to work on our broadside. Sometimes we receive helpful hints or information from the poet and/or their family. Sierra was able to connect me to the family of the delightful young girl who wrote about her grandmother’s dog and the times she spent with them. Her parents sent me some photographs of them with their daughter and she was happy, gay and playful in the photos.
I wanted to convey that delight in the broadside so I carved a linoleum block of a young girl dancing and spinning and another block of a playful dog who (I hope) looked like the one her grandmother had.
The type for the poem, title and colophon was a combination of handset type and ornaments from my own cases and Linotype set according to my specifications by my good friend and Linotype master in Los Angeles, Bill Berkuta. Each color is ran individually on the press. The sheets of paper went through my Vandercook SP15 and my Chandler & Price 10 x 15 a total of eight times. This was in order to avoid over-inking the type and/or under-inking the images.
Because of the nature of this project, there is a great deal of poignancy with it. I learned that my young poet had already passed away by the time this year’s project had begun. While I was charmed by both the exuberance of her poem and her photographs, it was bittersweet to know that she couldn’t see herself in the final printed poem.
When I first read Jesse’s poem, his words really stood out to me, and I wanted to put them front and center. To achieve this, I used his poem to create a typographic portrait instead of calling out a specific image he evoked. I wanted to elevate his voice rather than creating my own interpretation of what he was saying.
My broadside had a total of five passes on press using wood type, metal type, and photopolymer plates. I first handset and printed four lines of the poem that I wanted to emphasize in wood type. Scanning this type allowed me to arrange the text on top of a silhouette. I set the rest of the poem digitally using HTF Knockout, HWT American, and HWT Catchwords. I resized and rearranged the scanned wood type and digital type until I was happy with the composition.
Back in SVC’s letterpress shop, I used a printout of my digital layout as a guide. I set it down on the composition table and set type on top of the paper. Using upside down wood type, I created a woodgrain texture around Jesse’s words to help create the form for the silhouette. I handset the type for colophon, byline, and title using metal and wood type.
The woodgrain texture was my first pass on the press. I scanned one of the final prints of this first layer, made sure all of my digital text lined up properly, and then put in an order for my photopolymer plates. On press, I printed the handset colophon, followed by photopolymer plates for the light and dark blue layers. For the green layer, I used a smaller Boxcar base, so I could also print the handset title and byline at the same time as the green photopolymer plate.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to talk with the young author for this project. I just hope that my broadside helped amplify Jesse’s voice. It was really fun to design a piece of artwork around his words, and it was an honor to be part of this year’s Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project.
This year’s piece is all handset metal type and carved linoleum. In the past, I’d done elaborate pressure prints and layers. This year, I wanted to keep it simple and clear as I did not meet my poet.
The poem is called Brother & Sister Bear, by poet Jessyka Smith, age 16. It’s about her little brother, and what a great support and defender of her he’s been in her life. He calls her Big Sister Bear.
Jessyka’s poem made me think of a protective, strong, and fierce bear. Using linoleum, I carved a big slumbering bear to lay across and frame her poem.
It ended up looking like a polar bear. I thought it would be nice to have a cool, icy-blue area for the bear to rest on, which also added depth under the poem. This blue background was carved in linoleum as well.
Regarding the type, I hand-set her name in big, 72 pt. Goudy Text to make it stand out. I also liked how the curves and lines of the typeface looked with the bear. I chose Bernhard Gothic for the poem itself, to contrast with the Goudy Text. Also, I loved the W’s in this typeface, since there were so many that started each stanza! And the Bernhard Gothic ampersand for the title was unique and pretty.
The first item that goes to print is the bear, which uses black ink. Second, is the blue background with a split fountain which contains blue on the outside bleeding to trans white on the inside. Finally, the poem and colophon go to print.
Sarah’s poem entitled “Roots” speaks to me because of the nature imagery. Specifically, the imagery of wildflowers and roots. I often print from handset type, but for this broadside, I decided to print from polymer plates. This allows for flexibility on choosing cohesive imagery for the wildflowers and the roots.
The layout of the text was designed on a computer with digital fonts, of course. In addition, the foliage and flower imagery are also from a font! Really! The font is called Makalu and is a series of illustrations created by Juraj Chrastina.
I felt like the playful feel of the illustrations. It fits Sarah’s imagination and her poem. The overlapping of colors to fill the top of the page was a natural fit. To evoke a mid-century modern feel, the roots are a tangle of geometric lines.
Each of the four colors was printed separately. For an edition of 120, I started with 130 pieces of paper. For all of you counting this means I am feeding paper through the press 520 times!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our blog article series featuring more printers and their original and inspired prints.
We here at Boxcar Press love supporting our local community & recycling and we have found a great way to do both and give back to Central New York. We rolled up our doors this past Tuesday, October 16th to local Central New York art teachers for our annual Art Paper Giveaway.
Excited and energetic teachers from around and beyond the greater Syracuse area were thrilled to load up their cars, vans, and arms with boxes and bags full of brilliantly colored envelopes, papers, offcuts, boxes, and goodies galore.
With tightened budgets for school art programs on the rise, the Paper Giveaway for art teachers is a fantastic way for teachers to add more creative materials for students in their current classes. Many teachers come back year-after-year with smiles and a keen eye on the look-out for the next “something” for their kids to use in an upcoming art project.
Art teachers who are are interested in next year’s Paper Giveaway for Teachers event can contact us at email@example.com. Picking up paper is on a first come, first served basis and questions can be directed to Boxcar Press at 315-473-0930.
Just when we thought the last scrap of paper was carted off last week, Boxcar Press was able to secure an unexpected bonus of more paper for local area art classrooms.
Free paper and printing supplies lured Central New York art teachers to Boxcar Press’ warehouse for our annual Art Paper Giveaway on October 25th. However, Paper Giveaway Part 2 is coming up this Friday and Saturday, November 3-4, 2017, during our print shop Open Studio event.
A frenzy is not too strong of a word to describe the scene where excited teachers came, saw, and carted away boxes and armloads of paper. The colorful papers, foil rolls, envelopes, and plastic transparencies will find their way into journals, collages, mixed media art, and more in the coming months. One teacher was tasked with finding art supplies for her whole district, a daunting task as art budgets are trimmed every year.
Throughout the year, Boxcar Press employees earmark papers, print projects, and supplies for our giveaway. We like the idea of passing on our extras to kids and creative art teachers to design new artistry. It was a nice surprise this week to get notice of more paper arriving to our dock so we could turn around and place more supplies in the hands and on the art shelves of teachers.
Art teachers who are interested in this latest stock of papers can come to Boxcar Press during our Open Studio event at the Delavan Building during the hours of the event – Friday, November 3rd from 5pm – 8pm and Saturday, November 4th from 10am – 4pm. Please come to our front offices at Suite 135 through the 509 entrance and tell us you are an art teacher there for the giveaway. Picking up paper is on a first come, first served basis and questions can be directed to Boxcar Press at 315-473-0930.
Part two in this year’s inspiring blog feature of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadsides project explores the work of five more clever printers and their young poets as part of the collaborative effort between the Writers in the Schools program (WITS – a poetry program spearheaded by Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplick), long term patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and the School of Visual Concepts. These five printers share with us how they brought to life the young poets’ colorful imagination in a cornucopia of color, text, texture, and fun imagery.
Jane SuchanWhile at Seattle Children’s Hospital, 14 year old Mary McCann learned to knit and wrote the two poems used for her broadside. I was drawn to Mary’s poems because of their emotion and imagery. I work at Seattle Children’s, so I had the good fortune to visit and get to know Mary a bit.
As Mary and I were chatting she gave me some great design input: her favorite colors, the fun to be had with a ball of yarn, the sense of coziness and comfort she feels from sitting quietly and knitting. Mary is creative, energetic and playful, so I sought to reflect those characteristics in my design. Since we both have orange cats, and cats and knitting just naturally go together, I knew I wanted to include a cat somehow as our shared secret.
The big, cushy arm chair and a playful cat ready to pounce on a ball of yarn tells a little story to go along with Mary’s poems. This line in Mary’s poem “Fabric coming off the end of the needle” made me think of knitted sweaters with intarsia motifs, so that’s where I got the idea to create a stockinette pattern with Mary’s name. I printed in yellow behind the stockinette to create a fifth, blended color as a nod to Mary’s love of color. Mary’s vision is impaired, so I kept images simple, used easy to read fonts in a larger size and high contrast colors. My goal was to honor Mary and her poetry, to produce a keepsake that she would love and her family and friends would cherish.
These broadsides were printed on a Vandercook SP15 press at the School of Visual Concepts over three days. In my first pass I used a large Boxcar base to print a block of soft yellow that would become the background for Mary’s name across the top of the broadside. Printing the yellow behind the teal was an easy way to get a fifth color out of four passes on press.
I had photopolymer plates made for the rest of the design elements, and pass number two was a run of teal for the chair, Mary’s name and the colophon. Pass three was the orange cat and ball of yarn, followed by a fourth pass in dark charcoal for the poems.
The only tricky thing about my design was the tight registration of the orange cat and the back of the teal chair. I had the photopolymer plate made with the cat and chair positioned together as they would be when printed even though I knew they would be in two different colors. Before printing the chair I used an Exacto knife to carefully cut away the photopolymer plate for the cat and set it aside, along with the plate for the ball of yarn. After printing the chair, I left the photopolymer plate adhered to the Boxcar base in the press bed. I cleaned the teal ink off and added the photopolymer plate for the cat and yarn onto the base. I pulled away the photopolymer plate used for the chair and other teal elements, re-inked the press with bright orange and was ready to roll in no time.
Jenny WilksonThis year, Jules Remedios Faye and I collaborated on one poetry broadside. There were three letterpress processes we were excited to use: photopolymer for the text, because our chosen poem was the longest of the bunch; laser cut imagery, just because lasers are great, and collographs for detail in the illustration, which is Jules’ specialty.
First, we double-hit a solid with straight rubine red, to achieve a saturated dark pink background. After it dried, we overprinted purple laser cut butterflies, being careful to add cobalt drier to the ink so that it would dry on top of the pink pass.
Jules created a collograph for the light purple detail in the butterfly wings by gluing lace and sealing it with acrylic gel medium on an identical laser cut block, making registration a cinch. Finally, the gold text was printed using Boxcar plates.
Laura Bentley The broadside is a three color design printed with handset metal type ornaments, metal type, and photopolymer plates. Type was set and printed on a Vandercook SP-15 printing press from the 1960s. The ornaments were arranged dripping down the page with the spacing growing such that the ornaments were breaking apart in a nod to the poem’s title.
Simple shapes in dramatic colors echo the everyday and extraordinary experiences mentioned in the poem. The poem text and colophon was printed in a fourth pass on the same press with photopolymer plates and a metal base from Boxcar Press.
I didn’t get a chance to talk with either of the young authors this time. Sometimes with all that’s going on it isn’t possible. But I enjoyed learning about their experiences through their words. Poet Ann Teplick works with patients in this classroom and helps the students express their experiences through poetry.
While I have a good variety of metal type ornaments to print with, and found a great font to use for the author’s names, my metal type collection came up short when it came to typesetting the poem text and colophon. Using a photopolymer plate opened up the possibility to print any typeface available on the computer, but for this design I chose a digital version of a typeface (Venus) from the age of printing with metal. While I have a couple of metal fonts of Venus, none were appropriate sizes. I like that Boxcar can fill in gaps in my metal type collection!
(Laura’s full blog article goes in-depth here on this year’s printing journey)
Leah Stevenson As I was thinking about my poem for this year’s Broadside project, I was instantly inspired by the recurring presence of red and yellow/gold. I was also struck by how much more space was devoted to the thorny devil desert lizard compared to anything else Ewan wrote about in his poem. Because of that, I really wanted to have that be a focal point of this piece.
Toward the beginning of my process I received an email with some scans of drawings Ewan had done. They represented what he saw in his mind as he wrote and read his poem so I really wanted to find a way to incorporate them. While beautiful, I was a little stuck on how to use the drawings I had received from Ewan while remaining true to my own style. I ended up just starting to draw a desert lizard to see where it would take me. Eventually, I realized I could use Ewan’s drawings as little ‘tattoos’ on the lizard.
One of my favorite things about doing letterpress printing is combining my experience in digital design with the analog system of printing by hand. I was able to design the broadside digitally and used those designs to get photopolymer plates made. I printed the whole piece on a Vandercook SP15 press in SVC’s letterpress studio.
I ended up with four passes through the press. I had actually planned a fifth pass (a blue for the baseball cap to bring in the Cubs in stanza three), but was on the fence about how much it really added. Once I pulled a proof of it, I decided it wasn’t necessary and left it out, giving me some extra time for paper cutting and sorting.
Unfortunately, I was not able to meet with my author this year but I did get a little insight into his mind when I received the drawings he had made for the poem. I really loved having that extra bit of my poet’s creativity and imagination that I could incorporate into the broadside. It was fun to get a glimpse into his mind and see what he had envisioned when he was writing the poem and use that as another place to take my design.
Carol Clifford For this annual project I usually work with the assumption that the young poet will see the finished piece I created for them, and in the past my hope has been to create an image for them to grow up with. This year’s piece was different though because I learned during the poem pick meeting that sadly Julissahad passed away. Knowing this influenced the feeling I wanted to convey. I didn’t want to make something too frivolous or silly. I usually don’t, but felt particularly aware of that this time. Plus, Julissa’s poem was serious and reflective, so I wanted to honor that as well as create a piece that felt more reverent.
Initially, I had planned to combine several techniques: pressure printing, hand-set type, collagraphs, and linoleum cuts. However, I decided I didn’t want the “chatter” from pressure printing which is often a result. Nor did I want the heavier lines from linoleum cuts. I chose instead to use all polymer plates. In part for simplicity, but moreover for the clearer lines and shapes that I felt suited this poem.
My hope for Julissa’s family is that I created a piece that is quiet yet witnesses her questions. I, too, would like to believe that birds walk on the clouds.
Immense round of applause and thanks to all of the wonderful printers who donated their time and efforts to this truly beautiful project!
For its seventh year running, Boxcar Press has the immense pleasure of supporting the magical outcome created by this year’s 2017 Seattle Children’s HospitalBroadside project. Guided by Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplick of the Writers in the Schools program (WITS) and theSchool of Visual Concepts in Seattle, an inspiring group of young poets and artist/printers collaborated together to produce 21 broadsides in a limited run of 110 broadsides. WITS worked with big-hearted printers as well as long term patients at the Seattle Children’s Hospital in this exceptional opportunity for fun, creativity, and stirring works of art. This first installment of a two part blog showcases four printers who share their creative printing process and capture the wonder of the children’s writing.
Sarah Kulfan I was very excited to print Merrick’s poem for this year’s Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project. As someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, his colorful descriptions of the natural world resonated with me and provided a rich trove of inspiring imagery that would pair well with his words. I printed a total of 6 passes on a Universal I, combining a linoleum block, metal type, and a Boxcar plate.
This was my fifth year printing for this lovely project which brings together so many talented and generous folk. I was immediately drawn to Merrick’s poem. His words remind me of all the many blessings that nature provides, discoveries that I have found in my own wanderings outside. I haven’t met Merrick yet, but I hope to get a chance so that we can compare our adventures in nature.
This year, I wanted to try my hand at a reduction cut that would combine split fountain layers. Using high-drama imagery of a hurricane worked really well for this process as it provided a big-sky, full frame backdrop. The poem speaks to the cycles of nature and the process of destruction and darkness followed by light and new life. The gradients capture the weather transition from light to dark and the reduction cut allowed me to build up the dark layers of the passing storm clouds. There were four total passes on the reduction cut and these included two split fountains. I printed a fifth layer of metal type for the poem. The final pass was the colophon text, printed from a Boxcar photopolymer plate, which saved a lot of time hand setting and proofing tiny type.
Chris Copley Each year, I find myself wanting to push my artistic envelope in the Children’s Hospital Poetry Broadside Project — exploring a technique or concept while still making a piece of art that might appeal to people who know nothing of me or the poet or the project. I also try to reflect the feeling or personality of my poet.
Nandi, my poet this year, was not quite 5 when she wrote her piece about a huge stuffed animal that fell on her while she was in her hospital bed. The poem features strong emotions, and moves from upset and angry (at the big bunny) to loving and heartfelt (toward her mom). I tried to bring that out in the frame around the poem.
I also embedded folk-art-style drawings of animals and a few “easter eggs” in the frame, just for fun. I drew the original art on black paper, then cut it out with an Xacto knife. I scanned the cut-paper art and ordered a polymer plate from Boxcar; this was my third (and fourth) pass. The first two passes involved the technique I wanted to explore — perpendicular split fountain printing. I printed a red-to-mustard-yellow pass (the color blocks behind the text blocks), and then turned the paper 90 degrees to print a blue-to-olive-green pass (the highlight colors in the frame).
Unfortunately, in trimming the paper to permit it to fit on the press, I unthinkingly cut off my gripper edge. So when I went to print the polymer frame, I couldn’t. I quickly went through a list or three or four options for solving my disaster, and decided the least bad solution was to cut the polymer plate in half. The problem was compounded when printing the second half of the plate, when my favorite press inexplicably fish-tailed my paper a different direction on every pass, making close registration virtually impossible. I cried almost the entire run, convinced the broadside was ruined. But I finished the project, hand-setting the poem and colophon in Bodoni and printing it without a hiccup. And it didn’t look too bad, in the final analysis. Five passes through the press.
I never met Nandi, but I met her mom, Adele. Nandi was camping with Dad the week we met. We chatted for nearly an hour about Nandi’s poems and how her health crisis brought out Nandi’s strong spirit. I saw the connection between Adele and Nandi, and saw photos of the little girl and the big bunny. I wanted to bring out in my design Nandi’s playful, vibrant personality, and her love for her mother.
I used two other techniques: hand-set metal type; and pressure printing. I wanted soft edges to the color blocks behind the stanzas of Nandi’s poem, so I used the back side of a Boxcar Press base (with the swirly pattern of the grinder as a design element) and a paper pressure “plate.” I did the same thing with the color highlights in the frame. I like the contrast between the crisp polymer printing and the softer pressure-printed colors. And I like the way the metal type echoes the sharp edges of the polymer plate. This is another of those projects that turns out better than expected, with different parts contributing to a unified whole.
Heidi Hespelt As always, it was a privilege to illustrate one of these wonderful poems by these talented children. My poet was Nick Gerdin, age 9 and he wrote 2 poems, titled Orange and Red. His plan is to continue the series by writing poems about other colors of the rainbow. I love the word pictures that Nick painted. He is obviously an insightful guy.
I used several different methods to bring my illustration to life. The titles, Red and Orange, are done in large antique wood type, the rest of the type is polymer from Boxcar Press (thanks, Boxcar, for your support!), and I carved the tiger, the cheetah on lino blocks using photographs as inspiration.
The setting suns and the bottom border are also carved from lino blocks. All of the printing was done on a Vandercook press at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle.
Much of the joy of participating in the Children’s Hospital Broadside project each year (this is my fourth year!) is the camaraderie between the printers and the creative way each printer (artist) interprets the poem that they are given. I like to think that our efforts will live long lives on the walls and in the portfolios of the poets and their families, and that our artistic visions will add a dimension to the poems that brings out a deeper meaning.
Sukhie Patel I love carving linoleum and engraving wood, so I knew I wanted to draw and then hand-carve the poem’s illustrations. Carving is, for me, a form of meditation, and it was a beautiful way to contemplate this young poet’s life and honor her through that process. It was hard to narrow down what to illustrate, as the poem had so many vibrant images to choose from. I wanted the broadside to capture as much of the visual levity and sweetness of the poem as possible, so I chose to carve this metallic gold ice cream cone of whimsical pastel cotton-candy-esque clouds, with Mount Rainier popping out amidst them. It ended up being 6 separate blocks, and including text, 8 passes.
I found out two days after receiving the poem that the lovely young poet, London Marshall, had passed away at age 9. My approach thus shifted from designing a broadside to delight a 9-year-old audience, to designing a commemorative broadside for her family. I wanted to create something the family would want to return to at different stages in their grieving, that did not preclude a path of healing, and could bring them a smile. I hoped the illustrations would capture the levity of being nine years old, the vivacity of being a young girl, the earnestness of feeling in love with the world around her. It was an honor to print London’s poem, and spend time with her words.
My print consisted of 6 hand carved linoleum blocks and two photopolymer plates. I don’t know how I would have pulled this off without the help of Boxcar. I had never printed with photopolymer before, but with the structure of this poem (each line began with “I am”), I didn’t have any cases of metal type with enough capital I’s! Incorporating photopolymer also allowed me to select a more contemporary and youthful typeface. It was such a pleasure working with Boxcar on this project, and (despite being a sucker for handset type) I can’t wait to incorporate photopolymer in more of my designs. It really did open up my eyes to a whole new set of techniques and approaches.
Stay tuned & read on about this amazing Broadside project in the upcoming Part 2. The ever-inspiring work of both poets and printers and the brilliant results are why Boxcar has a big soft spot for such an amazing tradition year after year.
We are all thankful and proud that letterpress is enjoying such a notable degree of success at so many levels. From one print-person studios to large community print workshops, it’s exciting to think about all the presses that have come back to life for our artisan craft. Before this surge in the early 2000’s, letterpress was mostly a small part of university and college printmaking courses. Higher education was where letterpress was happening, quietly and without huge fanfare. Now, it’s a whole new story and we checked in with some colleges and universities around the country to find out the status of letterpress instruction today.
The press shop at Miami University is called Curmudgeon Press. They operate a Vandercook SP-20, C&P Pilot, and Vandercook no. 1 proof press. They also have around nine cabinets of metal type and a large flat file of wood type fonts. The class has been traditional handset combined with some lasercut experiments and lots of linoleum carving for illustrations. Their brand new photopolymer platemaker is going to open up even more opportunities!
Undergrad and graduate students who use the studio will take Art450, Alternative Design Media: Letterpress. They usually major in Graphic Design, Interior Design, Architecture, Art & Architecture History, Journalism, and Printmaking. Some like Katherine Fries of the University of Indianapolis even went on to create and teach letterpress at other universities. It is hoped it continues to be a diverse mix because the combination of areas of study and approaches to the process produce the most interesting collaborations and work.
There is a community education part of the letterpress program for non-students. Letterpress has been taught for three summers as a part of CraftSummer, which is open to anyone. It has brought in students from Nashville, Chicago, and all over Ohio — many are K-12 art teachers.
Over the past few years Miami University has hosted several Visiting Artists introducing the letterpress community to Miami students and faculty. Kyle Durrie made a stop in Oxford with the Moveable Type Truck; Brad Vetter was a visiting artist, and taught workshops and gave critiques; Scott Moore of Moore Wood Type brings his pantograph for students to learn the history and get to cut wood type themselves; and Chris Fritton The Itinerant Printer will be visiting later this school year.
Community exposure to finished letterpress projects include works that have been selected for the annual Best of Class Graphic Design show and less formally, the posters have been used for their original purpose, to promote events around Miami and the broader Cincinnati community.
Florida State University – Tallahassee, Florida— Letterpress is a new class within the FSU Printmaking curriculum, and started in the Spring of 2015 under the direction of Denise Bookwalter (Director of the FSU printmaking program) and Allison Milham (former FSU adjunct professor). Allison Milham designed and executed the entire letterpress studio, and taught the inaugural class last spring. The class is built around learning traditional letterpress printing techniques (hand-set metal type, etc.) in combination with more experimental techniques (pressure printing, laser etched printing plates, etc.). Students are taught the fundamentals of how the press works, so they can take that knowledge into any studio and find success on any press they come across. The pressroom has two Vandercook 219s (one is an Adjustable Bed), and one Chandler and Price Pilot Press.
Denise Bookwalter created the letterpress class so that it is open to both printmaking students, and students outside of the printmaking program. Ashley Gorham is teaching a Printed Book class in the studio in which the advanced printmaking students are using the Vandercooks to make artist’s books. For many of her students, this is their first experience with letterpress printing (and look how much fun they’re having!). The programs are still very new but possibly in the future there will be a community education program to broaden the interest and knowledge in letterpress.
University of Arizona – Tucson, Arizona — Karen Zimmerman says ASU has a course called Letterpress and the Multiple for graduates and undergraduates. It is an elective in the School of Art. Students can use the facilities for their own projects after they have taken the class or have experience. They have a lot of type, cuts, a photopolymer platemaker and digital output for “negatives”. The University of Arizona School of Art has BFA, BA and MFA students.
The Letterpress Lab is a couple of blocks north of the campus. The building used to be a restaurant, so the layout and style is a bit challenging, but it does have lots of windows, natural light, and a patio. There are five Vandercooks of varying sizes, three Chandler and Price, one Baltimorean and one Midget Reliance iron hand press (circa 1890).
There are 30 students on average and they can continue to use the facilities for projects after their class. Most are School of Art students, MFA Creative Writing students and Book Art Collective members. In addition, there are community workshops that typically take place during school breaks.
The letterpress lab at the college is about 10 years old. At first the equipment was used just for projects in a typography course, but the curriculum has grown in scope over the years. Now letterpress is a stand alone course. School of Art has poster shows in their student gallery showcasing the work from these classes or around visiting artists like Amos Kennedy, Paul Moxon or others.
Donations of equipment have led Zimmerman to learn how to move heavy equipment, rent machinery, and fix presses, all due to necessity. Organization has been a huge undertaking and it is still evolving. Social media is also a huge effort to get the word out about the lab and projects. The letterpress studio is slightly off campus in its own building, so it is hard to get people to it and parking can be an issue but it’s an exciting place to print and worth the trouble.
Madison College Center For Printing Arts – Madison Wisconsin —Beth Ketter is an Instructor of Graphic Design at The Madison College Center for Printing Arts. The Center also houses wonderful instructors such as Deb Vogt and Dave Stuber and a lab manager, Nick Loveland. They are in their fourth year of offering two sessions each of a 3-credit Principles of Letterpress course and a 2-credit Advanced Letterpress course as electives in their Graphic Design & Illustration Program. The 16-week classes are also open to anyone in the community and capped at 12 students. Typically there are 2–3 instructors present for each class and classes meet for 6 hours per week with 12 to 16 hours of open lab time each week.
Topics covered include designing for letterpress printing; hand setting metal and wood type; generating photopolymer plates using artwork created using computer graphics software programs; creating linocuts and pressure prints; press maintenance and press set-up. Students also learn how to mix inks by eye and using a scale. Students run projects on a variety of papers and inks and learn how to select the best paper for a project. There are guest-led workshops on special printing topics as well as guest speakers. Classes also go on tours/field-trips to tour small and large letterpress businesses and they are fortunate to be close enough to visit the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum.
Madison College owns ten presses made up of three Vandercooks; a Heidelberg Windmill; three Chandler & Price platens; a Kelsey Excelsior 5×8; a Washington Hand Press; and a Showcard. In addition, they own a Ludlow, and the lab has finishing and binding equipment, plus two offset presses and screen printing capabilities.
Persons of all ages and backgrounds take the classes. The courses are offered as electives to Graphic Design & Illustration Associate Degree students, enhancing their portfolios.
They also serve the Madison area where many take the course because of an interest in handmade books, printmaking, and commercial letterpress printing and entrepreneurship. For some students, this may be their first foray into making art. They are just getting into having short term workshops. Over the summer, workshops were held for high school students interested in printmaking and there are many requests for more of this in the future.
Every semester the Center for Printing Arts has 2–3 pop-up sales where student work is packaged, displayed, and sold. The proceeds help cover the cost of materials. Products include cards, calendars, prints, notebooks, ornaments, hang-tags and other paper goods. They use an iPad for sales and keep track of inventory. This experience also gives students a chance to see how to market their work at craft fairs and other such events. In addition, there is an art gallery which exhibits student-produced prints and they’ve also had shows at local galleries showcasing the students’ work.
The Book Arts Program and Red Butte Press at the University of Utah – Salt Lake City, Utah — In 1996, Gene Valentine, who now teaches at Arizona State University and runs Almond Tree Press and Papermill, began teaching summer letterpress intensives to community members. And In 1999, the first academic letterpress class was taught by Chris McAfee. Beginning in 2000, Marnie Powers-Torrey began teaching academic and community letterpress classes. She was joined by David Wolske in 2009. Currently, Crane Giamo and Marnie Powers-Torrey run the letterpress programming.
The shop has many, many presses: eight cylinder proofing presses including Challenge, Asbern, and various Vandercook presses; three Chandler and Price platen presses; two iron hand presses – a Columbian and an Albion; four bench-top platen presses, and 15 table-top presses.
U of U has 2 academic letterpress courses—Letterpress I and Book Arts II, each of which are requirements for students pursuing a Certificate or Minor in Book Arts. Letterpress I also fulfills the general education Fine Arts requirement.
A diverse swath of students take the classes. Graphic Design, English/Creative Writing, and Art students are mainstays of their printing economy. They have 25 students for each letterpress course, 50% of which arrive from the Art and Art History Department. They also attract many independent studio users —community members and former students — who have access to the print shop.
For community members, a multi-session letterpress class is taught for 8 weeks over the summer. As part of this, they reserve two slots of the academic letterpress courses for community members through lifelong learning/continuing education partnerships, and teach several single day and weekend workshops throughout the year.
To bring letterpress courses to the school, the idea has been “If you build it, they will come“ — marketing strategy a la Field of Dreams. Also, the school has generated a variety of digital marketing campaigns and community outreach programs. The underlying idea is that CONTENT=PROMOTION, so they curate 2-6 exhibitions per year, all of which feature some aspect of letterpress printing. Currently there are two exhibitions on display, one showcasing work from the Women’s Studio Workshop, the other featuring work from the 14 instructors who will be teaching community workshops throughout the 2016 calendar year.
There is much printing in the halls of academia and we applaud all of the colleges and universities that are keeping our art alive for their students and their communities. Does your college offer a letterpress program or print shop? Tell us about other programs in the comments below! terpress on campus