The Printing Realm of Genghis Kern

A decade has passed and the creative gleam in Jason Wedekind’s eye still outshines even the brightest of metallic ink accent in his impressive printing portfolio. The Colorado-based printing realm of Genghis Kern has grown from two dozen cases of lead type & a single press to setting-up camp (and shop) in his dream workspace (not to mention acquiring a drool-worthy collection of hand-set and metal type). With one foot rooted in both the design & job world, Jason and his exceptionally gifted team have repeatedly pushed letterpress printing boundaries and amped up the creative oomph to their printed work. We stopped in to chat with Jason about the joys of printing, working with his mentor Tom Parsons, balancing life with two wonderful kids, and keeping up with the flow of community workshops.

Jason Wedekind (left) of Genghis Kern in his Colorado-based letterpress printshop.
(from left to right: Jason Wedekind and Jeff Shepherd of Genghis Kern)

DECADE OF PRINTING INGENUITY I founded Genghis Kern 10 years ago this May when I started printing for friends while working as an art director for a small design firm in Denver. I still remember the day when I bought my first press, leaving with 24 cases of lead type banging around in the back of my SUV and saying “what the hell did I just do? I don’t even know if I like this?!?!” I had been introduced into this wonderful world by Tom Parson, Denver’s poet/printer grandfather of letterpress, and founder of the Englewood Depot Letterpress Museum. The letterpress bug bit hard and hasn’t stopped biting yet. I spent many a night printing all sorts of fun stuff while learning the trade.

Silver metallic letterpress printed invitation piece amps up the wow-factor at Genghis Kern.

The firm I worked for got hit hard during 2009 and I was thrust into the world of self employment. With an 18month old daughter, it was stressful, but the payoff was rewarding. From day one it’s been a nice mix of design work and job work, with the goal being producing tactile work that makes both us and our clients proud. “One foot rooted in each world” is how a recent shop visitor described what we’ve built.

CREATIVE IN COLORADO Our current shop is my dream space. I drove by it in 1999 and said “That’d be a cool place to work” and now we do. It was a Hispanic Furniture and Record shop 2 blocks from my house. We have 2,000 square feet up front which we turned into a co-working space for creative types, and our 1,000 square foot print shop is in the back.

Pressman and presses alike convene beautifully at the commercial letterpress printshop that is Genghis Kern.

When I brought my current pressman/designer Jeff Shepherd on over a year ago, he mentioned he had a windmill in his folks’ garage. My garage shop was full to the gills at that time, but I knew growth was in our future. You see, I had moved my design arm of Genghis Kern out of my bedroom 2 years prior into a shared work space with 4 other creative firms. When I brought a pressman on, they worked in my garage and I ran back and forth the 5 blocks from the new “office” to the print shop. It worked, but grew tiresome. Let alone having to keep my house clean in case they needed to pee. I started looking for a new space that would allow us to combine a print shop and office space, and reached out to the owner of the furniture store blocks from my house. It had been vacant since 2005.

He agreed to my crazy plan and we broke ground in January of 2015, gutting the space and crossing our fingers that our floorplan for the pressroom would work out. Then the dominoes began to fall. We started with my original 10×15 C&P, an Asbern ADR-1 (German SP-15 Clone), a 10×15 Windmill, and a 30″ Challenge cutter. While doing the buildout Jeff saw a Heidlberg KSBA at auction that had inkers on it. My “dream” press. So we added that to the mix, quickly shuffling our floor plan to be to make room. Then one of the printers from our bimonthly printer’s lunch in Denver walked into our garage and said “Did you guys see that Vandercook for sale on the western slope?” Jeff ran inside and put an offer down on it. HIS dream press, a Vandercook 4.

Pressman and presses alike convene beautifully at the commercial letterpress printshop that is Genghis Kern.

We figured we’d deal with the floorplan when we had a floor to plan. SOON. So that became our current shop. We set the two proof presses up in our “type alley” where we host an occasional workshop. It’s fun having different presses to turn to when something goes south.

TL;DR: Our shop started out in my garage 10 years ago. 1 C&P and a cutter. I then moved 3 blocks and built my second “garage” shop, large enough to fit a C&P, Proof press (not yet owned), and a windmill (not yet owned), a stone and a cutter. What I neglected to tell my wife when we were designing the floor plan, was that if the presses were to move out one day, my dad’s vintage BMW motorcycle collection could slide right in where the presses once stood.

Colorado-based Jason Wedekind of Genghis Kern prints letterpress with creativity and panache.

INTRIGUED BY LETTERPRESS While working as an art director back in 2003, someone brought in a beautiful custom duplexed letterpress/foil stamped card and said they wanted to add 3 initials to their name in 6pt. I looked at my print broker and asked “How the hell are we going to do that?” She told me letterpress. Hand-fed letterpress. I was intrigued. I knew of letterpress from the design annuals but had never been up close. That was about to change in a big way. I walked into the printshop of Tom Parson, our local “godfather” of letterpress and was transported to a different time. Tom printed that job and I said “I want a press (like every designer in the mid 2000s)” and he put me on the list. I asked him to teach me the process and he showed me how to do everything from hand washing plates to treadling. When it came time to print, he started kicking and I asked if I could try. He let me. The rest is history. I ended up kicking 600 cards in 40 minutes to which Tom asked “where did you learn how to do that?”. I told him my childhood was spent working in a decorating tool factory in Chicago, our family business which was started in 1908. Slave labor at its finest. But that slave labor instilled some hand eye coordination that I surely don’t complain about now.

The beautiful printing presses gleam in the sunshine of Genghis Kern (Colorado).

FIRST PRESS 1922 10×15 C&P

PRINTING MENTORS Tom Parson will always be my first mentor, but my inspirations are the people out there pushing the boundaries and keeping the art of letterpress alive like Jen Farrell of Starshaped Press in Chicago. A day rarely goes by when I’m not wiping drool of my phone thanks to her instagram feed.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I’m a designer and a printer. I’ve been hiring designers and printers. And we’re on a quest to turn some designers into printers. Feet in both worlds.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS My design process has been greatly influenced by the door that letterpress opened to the typographic world. Being faced with a design challenge and combining passions when applicable is the best feeling. Whether it be typographically or texturally, or both.

Jaw-dropping tight registration and beautiful letterpress printing are regulars at Genghis Kern (Colorado).

FULL TIME FUN, ALL YEAR ROUND Lately I’ve been printing a little more, but as the workload grows, I find myself printing less and less but enjoying the time in front of the presses even more. I’m also a member of the Amalgamated Printers Association, which is an incredible group of 150 printers from around the world who print 4x or more times a year. Each member gets a monthly envelope with everyone’s work in it. So creating for that keeps me on my toes and up to my elbows in type.

PRINTING FEATS I’m proud that I’ve been able to grow a business from a passion, and employ people with similar passions. I’m also proud to keep these ancient machines and type from the scrap heap. Those two kids I’m trying to instill a work ethic in before it’s too late? They make me proud on a daily basis. I think I complained more about “helping Dad” when I was their age. Eva and Jasper? Thanks for putting up with me!

BOXCAR’S ROLE The quality of Boxcar plates are unparalleled in my opinion. We have local photopolymer plate makers but letterpress isn’t their main focus. I know that if I get my artwork in on time, I’m going to get plates back quickly. And when there’s an issue with my plates, the help that the staff provides is top notch.

Eye-popping color and beautiful blind deboss letterpress pieces are hand-crafted with care at Genghis Kern (Colorado).

SHOP TIPS Embrace your local community. The amount of knowledge gained by the “olds” out there who aren’t getting younger, by the way, is invaluable. And most of them love sharing. If there’s no active community that you know of, start one by inviting over some old printers for coffee and donuts.

WHAT’S NEXT Just keep on organizing our new space. Offer a few more workshops. Streamline work flow. And continue to produce work we’re all proud of.

A huge round of applause (and thanks!) out to Jason of Genghis Kern for letting us get a sneak peek at his wonderfully creative printing world.

Unique International Printing Presses

Across the globe, letterpress printing has captured the heart of many a printer, be they from Italy, Brazil, the U.K. and beyond. Each country has dipped its own pen and added to our collective letterpress history through the beautiful creation of presses and the ingenious pressman at the helm of these metal beauties. We reached out to some our printing colleagues to check out what unique international printing presses are founded in their country or rare presses they have had the honor to ink up. Some are of their own countries’ origin in production and some are foreign-born masterpieces. Either way, the global letterpress community grows stronger as more of these special presses are inked up and shared with others.

Davide Tomatis – Italy – Archivio Tipografico  our latest press is a Schelter&Giesecke – Phoenix IV. This press is a sliding platen press, designed and produced in Leipzig at the beginning of last century (around 1905). The maximum printable format is 40 x 66 cm and its weight reaches 1600 Kg. It has 4 inking rollers that work in couples: one couple inks the form on its way down and the other couple on its way up. It’s a very sophisticated inking system that we’ve only ever seen on this kind of press. It ensures a perfect inking of the form, as the active inking rollers are always evenly inked and don’t carry back on the form the sign of the type they just inked.

Davide Tomatis of Archivio Tipografico (Italy) prints on a Phoenix IV (German press) | Unique International Printing Presses feature

We acquired it in January 2015; our friend Luca of Anonima Impressori told us about a place near Bologna with an incredible collection of platen and piano-cylinder presses. We weren’t in need of any new press but – as you can imagine –  we couldn’t help ourselves. We immediately went there and what we found was a very big, dark, cold and humid warehouse with presses everywhere. We never saw such a large place before.

Most of the machines were quite conventional: Saroglia, Heidelberg, Nebiolo… but just around a corner, hidden by a Nebiolo Urania 70×100, Emanuele couldn’t believe his expert eyes when he recognized his dream press: the Phoenix!

Davide Tomatis of Archivio Tipografico (Italy) prints on a Phoenix IV (German press)

The Phoenix press series, produced by Schelter & Giesecke, are a particularly big and sturdy model of presses and one of the biggest ever built in the history of printing. As far as we knew the only working Phoenix in Italy was in Enrico Tallone’s printshop; what’s more, the model in the warehouse, was the biggest one of the series. No need to specify that seconds after the discovery a decision was taken: we had to make place for her in our printshop. We had a lot of work to do on her: she had no inking rollers, no engine, no cleaning system and she was covered in years and years of dust and dried ink.

Davide Tomatis of Archivio Tipografico (Italy) prints on a Phoenix IV (German press)

The restoration was quite a long and difficult process; as we didn’t have any manual or technical info we pretty much had to guess everything, from the size of the rollers to the right kind of engine. After a few tries we found the right size of the rollers and we were very lucky with the discovery of a super engine by our trusted and experienced electrician (a beautiful original AEG model). After that we engineered a cleaning system for maximum practicality of use.

Davide Tomatis of Archivio Tipografico (Italy) prints on a Phoenix IV (German press) | Unique International Printing Presses feature

We had to come up with an original solution as the machine wasn’t originally equipped with any cleaning system: the printer had to dismantle the rollers after each use and clean them manually. Lastly, to look as beautiful and as majestic as she deserves, we restored the amazing details embossed in cast-iron on the body of the machine, as Schelter & Giesecke mark on the side of the press and the name of the model on the front and we brought them back to their original golden color.

Davide Tomatis of Archivio Tipografico (Italy) prints on a Phoenix IV (German press)

Now the Phoenix press holds pride of place in our space: it’s the most elegant, powerful and historically relevant press we’ve ever owned, and we’re very proud for having brought her back into printing shape!

Marcelo Pinheiro – Brazil – Carimbo Studio The first press we had was a small tabletop one. We found it with a guy who buys and sells graphic equipment here in Brazil. He also had some metal type with it (in fact he was going to sell it to the junkyard and have all the type melt). Its original colour was black, but they had it painted with this green hammered textured paint, that helps disguise imperfections, but on the other hand is good for cleaning with solvents.

It is a Japanese press, manufactured by Osaka Printing Ink company (serial number L603) but we don’t know much more about it.

Osaka Printing Ink Company press | Unique International Printing Presses

Here in Brazil this kind of press is called ‘socadeira’ or ‘prelo de soco’ as you have to pull the lever to make an impression (punch = soco, in Portuguese). We are trying to get this press back to its glory days and we plan to use it to show people how letterpress printing works, demonstration and such, as it’s very simple to operate (once you have already made all previous adjustments).

Another press we have in the shop is from a Brazilian manufacturer called Catu (meaning ‘Very Good’ in Tupi Guarani – Brazilian indians’ language). I think that “Minerva” – like the Goddess of Wisdom and Arts – is kind of a generic name that all platen presses are called here and on Latin America as well. The company was founded by German immigrants and started producing printing equipment in 1946 – and they still make offset equipment nowadays. It’s very common around here, but despite that, we can’t find much information about it – we don’t know when it was made and we don’t have a manual. It was still working as a printing press when we found it, but people also modify it for die cutting, thus removing all the inking system and all rollers.

This model is often referred to as Minerva Catu 1/4 – as its printing size corresponds for a quarter of a 99×66 cm (Brazilian standard) paper sheet. We heard that its design is based on some German model, but we really don’t know. It’s a hand fed platen press and it has adjustments for rail height and printing pressure. We find interesting the lever for turning the flywheel on – and off, as it also works as a break. It has adjustable speed but we like to run it slowly and appreciate the work as we go!

Marcelo Pinheiro of Carimbo Studio (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.Marcelo Pinheiro of Carimbo Studio (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.

Marcelo Pinheiro of Carimbo Studio (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.

There are lots of these presses here in Brazil, but they ended up mostly used for finishing (die cutting, scoring, numbering). We have seen people painting Catus with all sorts of colors (black, white, red, etc.) but we like ours as it was made and its greenish industrial paint. But we made special leather grippers for the impression handle and the start / stop lever. It gives our press a much cooler look! Coincidentally, we ended up buying it from the same person that we bought our Heidelberg Windmill from, but it was totally random.

Marcelo Pinheiro of Carimbo Studio (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.

It weights over 2500 pounds (1150 Kg) and has a printing area of 13 x 19 inches (335 x 487 mm). On our Catu we have printed album covers for a French / Brazilian Music label and we made posters for Association Typographique Internationale  and for Englewood Letterpress Depot, besides several other projects. It is our press of choice when running larger pieces.

The Catus are always accompanied by two side tables to keep the paper sheets: on one side you leave the blank paper and on the other one you put the sheets that were just printed as you are hand feeding the press.

We find it easy to setup and it has a feature that I haven’t seen on other presses: it is possible to adjust the parallelism of the platen vs. the form. This is sometimes useful when adjusting makeready. The maintenance is somewhat curious, mainly because of spare parts… Even with just one model, not all Catu Minervas have exactly the same design on parts and holes. It is said that if you disassemble 3 Heidelberg Windmills you will be able to reassemble the 3 machines again perfectly. But if you disassemble 3 Catus and mix all parts you won’t get 1 single machine assembled back again!

There are other machines on the Catu family though. It has a younger sister: Catu Mirim (something like Small Catu) – as the name says, the printing size area is smaller. They also used to make cylinder letterpresses as well and that’s something that we are considering adding to our roster, too!

Marcelo Pinheiro of Carimbo Studio (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.

Pamella Farrell – UK – Farrell Press We currently have three beautiful presses in studio, a 15×10 Arab Press c1894, an 8×5 No.1 Cropperette Press c1888 and an 8×5 Adana Press which were all lovingly restored by my husband.

I started out printing on the Adana, I’m mainly self-taught. I was the first letterpress printer in Ireland to reintroduce the craft to brides and grooms, offering letterpress wedding stationery in 2008 and the business has gone from strength to strength. As demand grew I knew I had to invest in a larger press. I searched throughout Ireland to no avail, I found out a lot of presses had been sold for scrap when litho printing became popular!

I then looked at the feasibility of importing a press from the UK or the US. I was lucky to stumble across a sale ad for the Cropperette and the Arab press. They were owned by a photographer in London, UK, who was moving house and found them while emptying his garage. He hadn’t used them in over 20 years. Myself and my husband took the ferry over to the UK and drove to London in a van to collect them.

Pamela Farrell of Farrell & Chase (UK) has a delightful Arab press in her printshop.

The Arab had to be taken apart as it was too heavy for us to lift, lucky they were designed to be “flat packed” and with the manual my husband (who is a construction plant fitter), knew what he was doing. A nerve-wracking journey home and a few days later, the two presses were up and running with thanks to my husband’s skill.

“The Arab is claimed by some to be the finest hand-fed platen in the World. In terms of cost and weight, it out-performs other machines; and the fact it is designed to be dis-assembled and rebuilt makes it easier to trans­port than other, sim­ilar, presses.” (source: http://britishletterpress.co.uk)

The Arab Presses were produced in the North of England and our Arab press is still painted the original blue with red accents and has a spoked flywheel which was later replaced by a solid wheel to reduce accidents.

The Cropperette is a very rare British press built in Nottingham by The Cropper Company, if you have ever heard the term ‘to come a cropper’, a common phrase in Ireland and the UK, it relates to printers catching their hands in the printing press! The Cropperette is the more beautiful press of the two and has been very hard to find information on. It’s painted black with gold accents and a beautiful heart shaped foot peddle. It is lovely and free, very light to use with foot power where as the Arab is a very heavy press and difficult to operate by foot power alone. I have since added a motor to run the Arab press.

Pamela Farrell of Farrell & Chase (UK) has a delightful Cropperette press in her printshop.

The Arab press is the work horse which I use daily, the Cropperette is reserved for smaller jobs like labels and business cards and is used quite rarely and the Adana has become redundant. I have toyed with selling it but just can’t let go of my first letterpress.

Fabiano Santos – Brazil – Pergam Press The press is a Model “Minerva Catu” also known as “Catuzinha” here. I’m not sure what year it was manufactured, but I believe it is around the 1960s. The origin of the Catu press manufacturer company has been through a family coming from Hamburg, Germany, and they began manufacturing the machines here in Brazil around the 1940s.

Fabiano Santos of Pergram Press (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.

Like the Windmill, it has all settings right at your fingertips, and it functions as an extension of our arms. It is very easy to adjust something on the press (according to the job being printed) because she “accepts” any setting. Even wire to hold up a few pieces of barnates tape for roller height adjustment. It is not widely used in Brazil. Some graphic design/print shops rarely use it for die cuts, but I have never seen anyone use it here to print other projects.

Fabiano Santos of Pergram Press (Brazil) prints with a Minerva Catu press, a press made originally in Brazil.

When I started looking for a machine to work with letterpress printing, I visited many old printers wondering where they had left their old equipment, and it was on one of these visits I met an experienced operator/printer who worked during the height of Minerva Catu. He had kept one of them in his garage. Since he had retired and no longer operated the machine, I bought it from him and now she has won a special place at our shop.

Corby – Singapore – Papypress Our press is a Super Ace on the machine with serial number 3361 on it. The labels are all in Japanese, and it’s an 8” x 10” Platen. Is this machine good? Not really, it has quite a few silly features that I haven’t quite figured out yet actually.

Corby of Papypress (Singapore) prints on a Japanese Super Ace press (detail: inkwell).).

This is the ink fountain.The knobs, as you would already know, control the flow of ink. However this is not a cylinder inking plate. It is an ink plate that rotates like an Adana. That means I can’t play with colors like one would do on a Vandercook. So why have knobs? Looks cool though.

Corby of Papypress (Singapore) prints on a Japanese Super Ace press (detail: inkwell).

This flywheel is like the tiniest thing I have ever seen. No bigger than 10” in diameter.

Corby of Papypress (Singapore) prints on a Japanese Super Ace press (detail: flywheel).

Sometimes when I want to print with a heavier depression the platen jams up and I would have to give it a manual push. But once you get the hang of it you’ll know what to do. Nonetheless it’s a nice “semi-automatic” machine to have around and not as bulky as a C&P. We use if for smaller cards that have images really close to the edge. By hand feeding, I can minimize gauge pin space.

Once we were at an old print shop looking for wooden stools to use in the studio (these type of wooden stools are always found in old print shops in Asia). In the corner of the shop I first saw the inking plate in the corner, when I asked if the machine was still around he pulled the cloth off and showed it to me. He said why would I want something like that? Why not buy a digital machine? Best deal I ever made.

Corby of Papypress (Singapore) prints on a Japanese Super Ace press (detail: wooden stool).

Presses like these were common in our region, the more common ones were even more block looking. Space was always an issue in Singapore, and these machines were built with big motors and smaller flywheels. I guess deep impressions only came much later and it would have worked perfectly for “kiss” printing.

If you have a unique printing press you’d like to share & gush about, join in on the conversation and post it in our comments section!

Perfect Aim With The Hunter Press

For those curious enough to venture into the beautiful and gentle rolling hills of the Scottish countryside, a thirty minute serene drive southwest from Edinburgh will find you in the company of friendly smiles, a easy-going pace of lifestyle, and the private farm workshop that is The Hunter Press. Lyndsey Hunter is the energetic entrepreneur manning the presses there and she let us in for a tour of her printing paradise — a true gem found in the heart of Scotland. She sat down with us between ink runs to talk shop, about her passions as a printer, and bringing more letterpress to the Scottish community.

Take a virtual tour of The Hunter Press, a private farm workshop that is home to Scottish printer Lyndsey Hunter.Take a virtual tour of The Hunter Press, a private farm workshop that is home to Scottish printer Lyndsey Hunter.

THE LOCATION The print studio is located on an arable farm just 12 miles outside of Edinburgh. It’s a nice peaceful spot, not too far from the nearest town but quiet enough to feel as though we’re in the countryside. The print space is adjoined to my husband’s blacksmiths workshop so things can get a little noisy at times. We’re currently restoring a 300 year old property further north in Highland Perthshire which we plan to relocate to within the next year. The print studio will then be located in one of the adjoining cottages.

I like to have a central hub which I can access from every point within the studio. Ours is a large prep/finishing table which often doubles as a set up area, computer station and photography surface.

SHOP SIZE 500 square feet.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP It’s quiet on the farm, away from traffic and city hustle and bustle, which really fuels my creativity. Within the studio, my favourite thing would have to be the old type cabinets which are used to hold surplus paper stock and our cutting dies. The drawers have taken a bit of a beating over the years, but add so much warmth to the space.

FLOORING MATERIAL Sturdy painted concrete below the printing presses. We added some comfy hard wearing carpet across the rest of the space. The studio can get really cold so it’s nice to have a little bit of comfort during those cold months.

TYPE OF SHOP Commercial but closed to visitors.

THE PRESSES 3 Heidelberg Windmills 10×15, one of which has been converted for Foil Printing, 1 Harrild and Sons Proofing Press in need of full restoration, and we are hoping to replace one of the Windmills with a Korrex Berlin Proofing Press very soon.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL Not a tool exactly but I definitely couldn’t run things without my wood burner on those chillier days! I’m not too sure how I managed without it at the beginning now.

FAVORITE INK + COLOR Ink of choice would be VanSon Rubber Based Inks. I often use oil based for specials. Current favourite colour to mix would be mint green.

CLEAN-UP ROUTINE Clean up is my least favorite part of the day!  Luckily the Windmills are fairly straightforward to clean.  I use a water-miscible roller and blanket solution with cotton rags and blue roll.

OIL OF CHOICE Castrol Magna 150 Mineral Circulating Oil.

CLEAN UP RAG OF CHOICE Old tshirts and sheets donated from the family.

PIED TYPE A very small amount of odds which we picked up with the presses.

BOXCAR BASE + PLATE SYSTEM I always work with Polymer Plates KF95. I had a couple of aluminum bases made locally when I started printing in 2012, they’re still going strong.

WORKSPACE ORGANIZATION TIPS Keeping things clean, especially the ink station.  I don’t like to leave the studio without carrying out a full ink clean up ready for the next day.  I also like to file and label all polymer plates from past projects.

PRINTING TIPS I’m completely self taught so I feel as though I’ve ticked my way through every mistake in the book and I still feel like I learn something new every day. It’s been said before but ink application was a big lesson! I started out using way too much ink, which in turn led to me wasting a lot and also spending too much time adjusting the roller heights. It’s best to start with a minimal amount of ink and build up to the desired effect. It’s much easier to add to than to run out and have to remix an entire custom colour. And always mix slightly more than needed (custom colour) in case of reprint. Oh, and oil those machines regularly!

Take a virtual tour of The Hunter Press, a private farm workshop that is home to Scottish printer Lyndsey Hunter.

A huge  round of thanks out to Lyndsey for this wonderful look inside The Hunter Press! Check out Lyndsey’s Pinterest page to see more of her work and inspiration!

Banshee Press: Best Friends in Letterpress

When best friends Britt Madden and Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press set-up shop in the creative & booming city of Denver, Colorado, they sought to foster the true tradition of letterpress by raising the bar for elegance, quality and beautiful craftsmanship. Fast forward a few years later and the magnificent duo still prints perfection, adds to printing ephemera collection, and heckles one one another in good fun. The brilliantly cheery pair sat down with us to catch us up on the next moves for the shop, properly cut paper (the foundation for success!) and why you shouldn’t print & mix colors alone at night.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in ColoradoBritt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

BUILDING FROM THE GROUND UP We are a duo (Ava & Britt) born and bred in Colorado. We met in high school and have been best friends ever since. After college, many travels and odd jobs we decided to unite our creative talents and work a job we loved and built from the ground up. We both majored in print, and decided letterpress was a perfect channel for our perfectionism and design dreams, so creating Banshee was an obvious move. Out of the studio we take advantage of all the adventure Colorado has to offer and spend our free time outside with our friends and family.

THE FIRST TASTE OF LETTERPRESS Britt didn’t have letterpresses in her school, and once she graduated decided that she needed to learn. She bought a C&P 10×15 New Style on Briar Press and taught herself in her garage. Ava’s school did have letterpresses and she learned to use them while in college. We maintained our practice the best we could until we began Banshee with the purchase of our second press, the Vandercook Uni I.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

CREATIVITY IN THE CENTENNIAL STATE Our shop is located in the RiNo (River North Arts District) of Denver. It’s a concentration of creative businesses, including architects, art galleries, designers, furniture makers, illustrators, wineries, breweries, sculptors, photographers, and an array of studio spaces. The buildings are covered in murals and color and the streets bustle with evening nightlife. Our space is full of natural light, plants, and presses, and we enjoy having people come and go as they walk by. Our favorite thing about it is that we can use the space for all of our creative endeavors, not just letterpress, and encourage our friends to visit us to do so as well.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

MEET THE PRESS FAMILY Our first press was a Chandler and Price 10×15 New Style. We now additionally have a Vandercook Universal I and a Heidelberg Windmill 10×13.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT We are both designers and printers and we print designs provided by our clients as well. We have a quirky aesthetic, and enjoy designs that utilize the unique capabilities that letterpress offers.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

THE CREATIVE FLOW Normally we begin any design job with close conversations with our clients. The more information we can gather, the faster and more efficiently we can design to their needs. It saves us energy and them money. We then move into our brainstorming sketch phase where we put whatever our brains come up with down on paper.

After a “would you want that to be your logo?” elimination, we come back to clients with a variety of ideas that we narrow from there.  Sometimes we know that either Ava or Britt will be more of a fit for a particular job and will work solo in those situations, but never without feedback from the other.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

PART-TIME PARADISE We do not print full time. Britt has two young kiddos that capture much of her attention and Ava owns and runs her own business as well. Printing full time is something we wouldn’t mind, but at this point in our lives is not something we can make the time for.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

PRINTING FEATS Making it onto Boxcar’s blog!  For the past two years we have published an artist series of letterpress editions that we are very proud of and enjoy doing immensely. We recently purchased a Windmill and have taught ourselves how to use it. And finally, we are best friends in business and we still love each other with all our hearts.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar is our patient, kind, and understanding babysitter. We know the rules, and yet, we sometimes break them. They always call us with a smile to remind us of our errors before we make them. They have kept us from adding additional stress to our jobs, and consistently make this huge piece of our process easy. Thank You!

SHOP TIPS Bow down to King Reggie and make him your friend. Properly cut paper is the foundation to success. And don’t mix and print color alone at night.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

WHAT’S NEXT In 2017 we are going to focus more on our own designs and begin creating a line of products all our own. It’s easy to lose yourself in printing other people’s jobs, and we want to keep our aesthetic a priority. It makes everything more fun.

Immensely huge round of thanks out to Britt & Ave of Banshee Press for letting us take a peek at their printing paradise!

Top 20 of ’16 Letterpress Valentine’s Day Cards

We count down the top 20 of ’16 Valentine’s Day letterpress cards and why not treat yourself (or your letterpress lovin’ sweetie) to a hand-picked (and pressed!) card or two for this upcoming Valentine’s Day! Let us know what you are getting your special someone this year in the comments below!

2016 Valentine's Day letterpress cards featuring sweet moments, funny cards, and letterpress beauties!

1.I Love You A Bushel And a Peck And a Hug Around the Neck card by Cherry Laurel Studio | 2. Scandinavian Folk Style Rose Pink card by Fluid Ink Letterpress | 3. Amore Forever badge card by Hammerpress | 4. Rococo Valentine Heart card by Foglio Press | 5. I Love You As Much As…. card by Paper Plates Press | 6. Cereal Love card by Paper Parasol Press

2016 Valentine's Day letterpress cards featuring sweet moments, funny cards, and letterpress beauties!

7. Hotspot Love card by Kiss and Punch designs | 8. The Moments card by Ditto Ditto Works | 9. Lobster Love card by ShedLetterpress | 10. Like Campfires card by Smock | 11. I’m Mad For You card by Rise and Shine Paper | 12. My Heart Belongs to You card by Pup and Pony

2016 Valentine's Day letterpress cards featuring sweet moments, funny cards, and letterpress beauties!

13. Lots of Love Heart card by Sugar Paper | 14. Love Ledger Paper by favorite design. | 15. You Rock My Socks card by Flyaway Paperworks. | 16. Happy Valentine’s Day card by Grey Moggie | 17. Love Bracket card by A Favorite Design | 18. We’re Purrr-fect together! card by Ratbee Press | 19. Love You Like No Otter card by McBitterson’s | 20. For Fox’s Sake I Love You card by Runaway Press

Let’s See That Printed: Primer Scares Up Fun

As soon as we found out the electric and spooky illustration designs of Primer were passing through our platemaking service department, we had to learn more about eye-catching letterpress poster designs. The printer behind Primer, Brian Isserman, and his wonderful wife gave us a sneak peek at the chilling yet beautiful tale behind these letterpress pieces.

Brian Isserman's halloween and spooky illustratrations going through the letterpress plateaking process from film to plate.

Brian helped fill in the blanks on how such captivating project came to be:

“Primer is a brand development agency located just north of Philadelphia in the historic town of Hatboro, Pennsylvania. We specialize in brand strategy development, graphic design, web development and video production, but what we really love, is print.”

Our "Let's See That Printed" article features the spooky letterpress posters by Brian Isserman (and wife) of Primer.

“Several years ago we purchased and restored a GEO. P. GORDON platen press circa late 1870’s. It was a 6 month labor of love to get it back up and printing (and see here for the journey!). Especially considering we knew nothing about letterpress printing when we started. Now we use it every few months for personal projects and small promotional runs for our clients.”

A beautiful Chandler & Price letterpress press stands ready for printing fun at Primer.

“Every year we put together a Halloween promotion as a thank you to our clients, friends and family for their continued support. It allows us to step away from coding and web development so we can get back to our roots, ink and paper. We usually create a short run limited edition series of prints. Two years ago the theme was Day of the Dead, last year it was the Universal Studio Monsters, this year we decided to go with vintage Halloween.”

Primer-IMG3

“Once we had the concept in place, we collaborated with the super talented Michele Melcher to illustrate a series of three iconic Halloween images. The flat graphic, off-registration look of those vintage Halloween decorations gave us a safe zone margin of error that helped us tremendously. This was our first multi-color print run and we wanted to create a design that was forgiving. It really worked out well. The prints that were in perfect registration looked awesome, the ones that were really off looked even better.

The print run itself ran over 15 hours and for the most part went pretty smooth. We learned a lot from the experience and I am totally looking forward to tackling another multi-color job. Everyone really loved the prints. We received numerous calls and emails and got lots of social media love.

PRO TIP – Our press is old. I mean really old – and although it still prints amazingly well, we knew it would be extremely difficult to keep the plates and prints registered. We do not have a paper cutter so we opted to not include crop marks of any kind on our plates and ordered pre-cut paper instead.”

Brian Isserman of Primer sets up manual color registration mock ups for his letterpress broadside poster.

“So, how do you keep everything in register without crop marks? Boxcar sent us a large press proof. We cut out the individual images and spray mounted those proofs onto our paper. We placed a small piece of tape on the front of the plate and aligned it face down onto the paper. Once in position we removed the sticky back of the plate and ran it through the press. The plate would then attach itself to our base. We then carefully peeled off the paper and tape, and we repeated the process with each of the 3 plates per illustration. Using the master proof helped keep all of the plates aligned.

I think one of the most interesting parts of printing is figuring out the little tricks and treats to make your vision come to life. We could not have done it without the guidance, plates and custom ink colors from Boxcar Press. Thanks Boxcar!”

Huge round of thanks out to Brian and his lovely wife at Primer for letting us get a closer look at these brilliantly colored poster designs!

Visitors!

We were thrilled recently to have a visit from members of the Syracuse University Printmaking Department and Amze Emmons, one of the editors and co-founders of the website Printeresting, “the thinking person’s favorite resource for interesting print miscellany.” Check out this site to twist your mind on different print projects, events, exhibitions, and much more.
Come visit us at Boxcar Press

Up close with a Finger print shop 11-14

This is part of a glue machine called a finger since it picks the glued piece away from the rollers. After a good while of the finger being used as many sheets are duplexed one after the other, droplets of paste tend to form and create a gnarly look.

Letterpress printing in action