On our next leg of our letterpress city tour series, Meghan Paine of Iron Heart Press gives us a down-south homestyle tour of her beloved Atlanta, Georgia. From awe-inspiring sites (Martin Luther King Jr’s birthplace, the headquarters of Coca-Cola & CNN, and former host of the 1996 Summer Olympics) to the best eats & treats, the Big Peach offers sweet artisanal shops, amazing neighborhoods, and of course, a brilliant & rising letterpress community. With Georgia on her mind, Meghan shares her printing picks, can’t-miss-spots, and insider gems.
A DECADE OF DOWN SOUTH LIVING I’ve lived in Atlanta for just over 10 years, so it feels like I’ve been here all my life.
FUN + FULL OF FLAVOR I spend a lot of time in my backyard, Old Fourth Ward Park, stuffing my face at Ponce City Market, and walking off the damage on the Beltline. (photograph courtesy of R. Neff)
WELCOME ARTISANAL SHOPS Atlanta is super receptive to letterpress. Old Fourth Ward is particularly invested in the handcrafted and maker space, and there are dozens of small paper shops that feature letterpress greetings and art. The festival scene in Atlanta is huge and well-loved, so crafters have a great stage for their art.
COMING TOGETHER: ATLANTA’S PRINTMAKER STUDIO The Atlanta Printmaker’s Studio hosts an annual event called Print Big! which features giant hand carved woodblocks, inks, and STEAM ROLLERS. STEAM ROLLERS, people! Total mic-drop event.
(photography courtesy of Atlanta Printmakers Studio)
ALL ABOUT THE COMMUNITY I currently participate as a teacher and volunteer with the Atlanta Printmakers Studio which offers amazing workshops for kids and classes for adults, and I’m happy to be a part of such a cool and meaningful organization. A few years ago I collaborated with Lifeline Animal project for a set of greeting cards to benefit animal adoptions, which is a cause very dear to my heart. Letterpress is such an awesome channel for collaboration — if there’s a message, it can be printed!
THIS COULD HAVE ONLY BEEN PRINTED IN ATLANTA I see a lot of truly original letterpress art coming out of Atlanta, but I think Atlanta is such a hub for printers who’ve lived all over the country that there’s no such thing as a homogenous style here. That diversity in art and culture is one of the many great things about the city. Everything is either unique, refreshing, or downright weird!
BUY LOCAL: ATLANTA’S BEST Letterpress printers in Atlanta are obscenely supportive and helpful, whether its sending clients to one another, sharing tips and tricks, or putting our heads together to solve a problem on a job. I feel like I’m a part of a community that I can rely on, and I work regularly with many other printers in my area.
FAV NEIGHBORHOOD PICKS Naturally, Old Fourth Ward is the best, but… I love the Highlands for drinks and a fun night out, Decatur for amazing food, and Inman Park for beautiful houses and lawns.
ATLANTA VIBE I’d describe the Old Fourth Ward vibe as “rational hipster”. Sure, we have lots of skinny jeans, fabulous mustaches, and dapper hats, but the demographic is mostly 30-something creatives and career types with just enough disposable income to support crafters and makers, drive sensible cars, and keep dozens of artistic and delicious restaurants booming. Art is crucial to this neighborhood, and you see some of the most amazing works of art in both sanctioned installations and graffiti.
(photograph courtesy of 365AtlantaFamily)
One of my favorite little tags is a set of incredible koi fish “swimming” up the Beltline right in front of Paris on Ponce.
O4W takes its food and music very seriously, too, and we should — The Masquerade is an Atlanta musical institution right in the center of the neighborhood, and City Winery is bringing even more talent into our backyard.
LOCAL EATS + GREAT TREATS Bocca Lupo is hands-down my favorite restaurant in all of Atlanta. It’s a long walk or a short drive from Old Fourth Ward, but after filing my belly with delicious, imaginative Italian food, the walk is never a bad idea. The chef is a frickin’ genius. You know how some high end restaurants mix weird ingredients in bizarre ways and leave you wondering if maybe you just don’t get “fine dining”? You’ll get creative ingredients at Bocca Lupo, but I’ve never had anything that wasn’t over-the-top delicious, and I end up feeling like a foodie because I can absolutely understand why duck and kumquats belong on the same crostini.
(photography courtesy of RVA News)
I’m also obsessed with King of Pops. Outside of Atlanta, no one has really heard of them, but they got picked up by Whole Foods Market, so they’re basically on the path to world domination. King of Pops started out as a few guys with little rainbow umbrella-shaded refrigerated carts selling popsicles in the park and now I gauge whether or not I will attend an event by the likelihood of King of Pops carts. They’re headquartered in Inman Park and even sponsor a Tuesday night yoga class in O4W next to the skate park that attracts hundreds during the nicer months (read: almost all of them), so they have my vote all around. Pro Tip — try the Blackberry Ginger Lemonade.
VINTAGE SHOP FINDS Ponce City Market has all the usual big-box stuff: Lululemon, Sephora, Williams-Sonoma, Anthropologie, etc., but if you want to find some treasures, check out Paris on Ponce and Pop Marche. They’re jam packed with vintage, handmade, wonderful, and weird from furniture to clothing to books to (occasionally) motorcycles. You never know what you’ll find.
(photography courtesy of Paris on Ponce)
HISTORICAL NEIGHBORHOODS I live just down the street from Freedom Parkway, which is modestly adorned by a cast iron sculpture of Martin Luther King. Not far is the King Center and Dr. King’s home, and it’s incredibly moving to tour the sites.
Because it’s part of our town, I think it’s easy for Atlantans to forget how special these places and monuments are, but we at least have the luxury of a holiday to remind us to go out and appreciate what’s right here at home.
CONSTANT GROWTH Atlanta is a living, breathing organism. Neighborhoods die, revive, gentrify, and backslide from year to year. Old Fourth Ward used to be a post-industrial tire dump, but that tire dump is now the centerpiece of the neighborhood: a stunning park with ponds and waterfalls and ducks, oh my.
NOT TO BE MISSED Just around the corner in the Highlands is a little karaoke joint that only the locals know about called 10 High. Now shhh, don’t go telling everyone you heard it from me. It’s secreted away in the basement of Dark Horse Tavern, making it feel like a prohibition secret spot kinda joint, and what makes it really great is the full band that will make you sound like a rock god, with Atlanta’s own famous radio personality English Nick singing backup for you.
Also, walk the Beltline — eventually it will be built out to connect the whole city, but my favorite section, the Eastside Trail, connects Piedmont Park (worth a half day’s visit on its own) to Krog Street. You’ll see great art, smiling faces, dogs, dogs, dogs, and you can end your walk with a beer and a tasty lunch at Krog Street Market. You might even see one of Atlanta’s Tiny Doors.
INSIDER INSIGHTS Atlanta is a really vibrant place, rich in culture and oddity. We embrace different like a big city, but we love to support our own like only a small southern town can. Come visit, and try the cobbler.
LETTERPRESS STUDIOS IN ATLANTA
Hyde & Seek Press – Lawrenceville, GA
Atlanta Printmakers Studio – Atlanta, GA
Alee & Press – Atlanta, GA
Bumblebee Press – Atlanta, GA
Farmwood Press – Atlanta, GA
Henry & Co. – Atlanta, GA
Cherry Laurel Studio – Decatur, GA
Megan King – Avondale Estates, GA
Aureate Press – Cumming, GA
Print Big! – Atlanta Printmakers Studio’s annual community art extravaganza held in the spring. Highlights include printing by steamroller.
Georgia Aquarium – Home to the Western Hemisphere’s largest aquarium.
Margaret Mitchell House – Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Gone With the Wind” author’s birthplace.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Center – An inspiring museum center dedicated to King Jr.’s legacy.
Atlanta Jazz Festival – Free Memorial Day Jazz fest in Piedmont Park.
Marietta Diner – Try the Spinach Pie; featured in Food Network’s Diners, Drive-in, and Dives.
World of Coca Cola – Tour the famous world-famous headquarters.
Xocolatl Chocolates – Award winning bean-to-bar chocolatier.
We hope you enjoyed our second letterpress city guide! Interested in shining the spotlight on your city? Contact us today! And if you’re planning a letterpress-centric trip, be sure to check out the print trip map on Letterpress Commons!