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!

Keeping Creative in California with Alissa Bell

Armed with a Chandler & Price 12×18, Alissa Bell flexes her creative muscles by balancing both business sense and creative aspirations. The cheery, go get-em gal has been in love with letterpress since she took her first class at the San Francisco Center for the Book, and has flourished as the Artist in Residence at the Kit and Ace Pasadena store, an iconic staple of creativity in Los Angeles. We caught up with Alissa between ink runs to catch up on her beautiful letterpress greeting card line and how her children are growing up with letterpress all around them.

We caught up with LA-based letterpress printer Alissa Bell of Alissa Bell Press about printing passions, flexing the creative muscles, and enjoying letterpress in sunny California.

CREATING BALANCE WITH LETTERPRESS I run a letterpress and design studio in Los Angeles with two girls, Hanna and Audra, and my dog Henry. Before I got into letterpress, I worked in public accounting for 4 years. I’m naturally a classic, type A person, but also love exercising my creativity. Creating my business gave me a perfect balance of both.

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT I first took a class in San Francisco at The Center for the Book. That’s where I got hooked.

LIVE IN CALIFORNIA Currently we are the Artist in Residence at the Kit and Ace Pasadena store. It’s definitely a unique opportunity to be doing our thing inside the shop while people browse the clothing and wander the neighborhood. My favorite thing about the space is that, compared to any of our previous locations, it’s the shiniest. Also, for this season, we are able to give people access to watch letterpress live, which is rare.

We caught up with LA-based letterpress printer Alissa Bell of Alissa Bell Press about printing passions, flexing the creative muscles, and enjoying letterpress in sunny California.

THE DESIGNER & THE PRINTER We do a little bit of both. I’m lucky to have a nice balance in our work that allows us to both flex our creative muscles, as well as execute another business or designer’s vision. I have been running the business for four years, three of which were full time.

We caught up with LA-based letterpress printer Alissa Bell of Alissa Bell Press about printing passions, flexing the creative muscles, and enjoying letterpress in sunny California.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS Giving my brain clear space to create is most important. So, cleaning my home or studio are musts, and sometimes getting out of my normal environment, either a coffee shop, or lately, RVCC in Downtown LA. The actual inception of an idea comes differently for me each time. Sometimes I have to just put a lot of things down on a page and see what I can pull from. Other times I’ll have a quick flash of an idea, in the shower or wherever, which are the easiest to materialize.

PRINTING FEATS I’m proud of my team. I’m proud that we’re working in Kit and Ace. I’m also excited we have grown, and are able to make creating our own collections of greeting cards a priority.

We caught up with LA-based letterpress printer Alissa Bell of Alissa Bell Press about printing passions, flexing the creative muscles, and enjoying letterpress in sunny California.

PRESS HISTORY A Chandler and Price, 12” x 18” was my first and my last.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar has been an amazing resource since the beginning. Even when I didn’t know what I was doing, Rebecca sat with me on the phone and talked me through what kind of base I would need and what kind of plates to order. Since then, I’ve used them for all of my plates. They always catch my errors, show me grace in the ordering process, and present a great product. I love them.

We caught up with LA-based letterpress printer Alissa Bell of Alissa Bell Press about printing passions, flexing the creative muscles, and enjoying letterpress in sunny California.

SHOP TIPS This may not be new to many people, but this year we got to experiment with ombré ink on a platen press. We were able to tie back the part of the press that rotates the ink disc so the color was applied unevenly, allowing us to create both color ombré and a black and white gradient.

We caught up with LA-based letterpress printer Alissa Bell of Alissa Bell Press about printing passions, flexing the creative muscles, and enjoying letterpress in sunny California.

WHAT’S NEXT For the next year, we’re working on finding a new location after our residency at Kit and Ace, focusing on continuing to teach Hanna how to print, and having a good time. Last year we launched our ready to order stationery collection, and in 2016 we hope to build our collection of ready to order wedding invitations on our site.

A huge appreciative round of applause (and thanks!) out to Alissa for letting us get a glimpse of her wonderful printing world out in sunny California!

Learning Letters with The Alphabet Press

Like letterpress, the city of Selengor in Malaysia sits on the crossroads of both traditional techniques and revolutionary technology. The country also is home to Zeejay Wong of The Alphabet Press, a custom letterpress print shop that offers unique letterpress stationery featuring bold colors and bright imagery in the form of endangered Malaysian animals and favorite food delicacies of the country. We caught up with Zeejay to see how the letterpress journey started with an across-the-globe trip to Melbourne, Australia and resulted in a thirst to make print come alive again in Malaysia.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

HANDMADE CREATIONS I was trained as a web designer and it was my profession for eight years before I got into letterpress printing. Shifting from high speed digital works to something that seems to be technologically backward; it was truly a transition. I am now a full-time printmaker at The Alphabet Press and I enjoy creating products that are made by my own hands.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Three years ago, we were a web design company who set out to look for something special for our business cards. We believe that the first impression is very important. I have been looking for printing technique such as letterpress in Malaysia, but we lacked the knowledge and resources. We decided to fly all the way to Melbourne to learn the craft itself from Carolyn from Idlewild Press. Since then, intrigued is an understatement to how I am at awe of the attention to detail that goes into letterpress printing.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

MARVELOUS MALAYSIA I co-founded The Alphabet Press with 3 of my fellow partners. We rented a small shop in Selangor which is the second busiest town in Malaysia. Compared to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, Selangor is less busy a town with good neighborhood. Everything is easily accessible. Our shop is located in a small town in Selangor surrounded by suburban neighborhood, which fits the nature of our business and choice of lifestyle a lot.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I am both a designer and a printer. I graduated from Multimedia courses in a local university, and I was trained to do everything that design entails from graphic to video to 3D modeling, web design, and more. But now, I have found my niche, which is letterpress printing.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS Malaysia is a big pot of culture. The vibrant nature of our nation that makes up from different races, cultural, food, and architecture really inspires me. I like to observe the little things that happen around me. Before I start doing any design, I will walk around in the town to get myself some fresh air and let the surrounding inspire me. And hopefully, I can find something that interests me and make it into a design subject. There are too many things to learn in Malaysia and the only thing that worries me is that I do not have enough time and resources to make it into something tangible. I usually don’t see this as just design but the documentation of our culture.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

FULL TIME FUN Yes, I have been a full-time printmaker for two years, since we started The Alphabet Press.

PRINTING FEATS We finally released a series of social cards, notecards, and notebooks featuring the endangered animals in Malaysia and favourite foods of Malaysians. We launched the debut at Kinokuniya Book Store in Malaysia and to us, it’s more than just a product launch. We did a letterpress demonstration as well to educate people about the old craft of letterpress with the lead types we salvaged from the old printing shops around Malaysia.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

BOXCAR PRESS We’re loyal supporters of Boxcar Press! There aren’t many resources for letterpress in Malaysia, and Boxcar Press has truly been our lifesaver. We started The Alphabet Press by purchasing most of the important tools from Boxcar Press. It’s not an exaggerated statement to say, without Boxcar Press, it would be pain in the arse to start a letterpress studio here. Oh, and the videos are particularly helpful for a beginner to start to learn how to use their Heidelberg platen press.

PRESS HISTORY A 1969 Heidelberg Platen Press (Windmill). We acquired this press from an old veteran printer. At first, he was quite reluctant to let it go. It took me 2 months to convince him to sell the press to me and promise that I will take care of it. Since then, we became good friends and he is also a good mentor of mine.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

SHOP TIPS Paper is expensive for us, especially when we import most of our papers. We used to have a big margin on our printing. Now, we have reduced it to just 14mm (0.551 inches) for top and bottom and 10mm (0.393 inches) for left and right of the paper. We usually stick the plate to the very edge of our aluminum base and use a gauge for my print jobs most of the time as I require a perfect registration. Besides, I will always have rosin powder around me to fix the most irritating problem – the ghosting when I print a large blotch of colors. Apply a little bit on the roller track and it can solve most of the problems.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

WHAT’S NEXT We will be focusing on our bespoke services. People love their wedding and business stationery printed with letterpress. Besides that, we will keep on participating in local art festivals to promote the craft of letterpress to the people in Malaysia. We want to make print alive again in our community and to upkeep the traditional printing skill that would otherwise become obsolete in the fast-moving world of technology.

Huge round of thanks out to Zeejay Wong of The Alphabet Press for letting us catch a glimpse into his vibrant printing world!

New North Press Pushes Printing Boundaries

Richard Ardagh of New North Press pushes printing boundaries by uniting technology and old-world printing traditions. The UK-based letterpress printer melds his traditional printing background, his reverence for type (and boy does New North Press have a few fonts… 700+(!) typefaces), and his love for technology. We caught up with Richard about how working with the 3-D printed typeface A23D (a first of its kind) continues to inspire him on a daily basis.

Richard Ardagh of New North Press pushes printing boundaries by uniting technology and old-world printing traditions.

LETTERPRESS IN LONDON My name is Richard Ardagh, I’m a partner of New North Press letterpress studio in London, UK. I studied graphic design at Central St. Martins and that’s where I was first got a flavour for letterpress. A few years after graduating, around 2008, I met Graham Bignell (who had founded NNP in 1986) and we began working together producing posters. In 2010, with the help of Beatrice Bless, we held an exhibition called Reverting to Type, showcasing contemporary letterpress from all over the world. New North Press is now run as a partnership, focusing on keeping the craft alive through teaching, working on commissions, and producing our own work.

Richard Ardagh of New North Press pushes printing boundaries by uniting technology and old-world printing traditions.

SHOP STORIES The building we’re in is an old shoe factory on a cobbled street in Hoxton, a previously industrial and now increasingly gentrified area of East London. The press shop is full to the rafters of type treasure. I love seeing people’s expressions when they visit for the first time. We have over 700 wood and metal fonts and three large cast iron hand-pull presses – two Albions and a Columbian – plus two proofing presses and an Adana.

Richard Ardagh of New North Press pushes printing boundaries by uniting technology and old-world printing traditions.

PRINTING MENTORS Beatrice and I are hugely fortunate to benefit from Graham’s 30 years of experience and enthusiasm.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT We set type by hand, so design is an integral part of what we do. We’re lucky to have clients who appreciate that and want to work with us because of it. It’s also an important part of our teaching to help people understand how to best communicate their intended message.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS Personally I start with a pencil and paper, getting ideas down and thinking through how to order the information. I prefer to start with a fairly clear vision, but have learnt to accept and work with the quirks of the process.

PRINTING FEATS In 2015 I ran a project to produce a 3D-printed letterpress font, with the idea of making a prototype that connected the newest and oldest forms of print technology. Thanks to an Arts Council grant I was able to commission the best people I could think of to work with: A2-Type to design the font and Chalk studios to fabricate it. The result, called A23D, is a font like no other; a wireframe design with each character made up of 0.3mm lines giving them a 3-dimensional appearance similar to an architectural plan. I’m very proud of it and hope it inspires the next generation to keep evolving what letterpress is and can be.

PRESS HISTORY Graham’s first press was the Albion and this was the press I learnt on too.

Richard Ardagh of New North Press pushes printing boundaries by uniting technology and old-world printing traditions.

PRINTING TIPS Pressmanship is a complex art, I seem to learn something on each job I print.  There are a million little tricks with hand-presses, ways of using the tympan for makeready and masking using the frisket.

WHAT’S NEXT We’ve been invited to be part of some exciting projects and also hope to attend the International Letterpress Workers Summit in Milan again.

A huge round of thanks to Richard of New North Press for letting us catch up with the delights of his printing abode.

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!

Sweetly Printing With Essie Letterpress

In the warm, flowing hills of Citrusdal, South Africa and nestled near the scenic Piekenierskloof Mountains is a tea, flower, and citrus farm. Explore just a little bit deeper into the farmland, and you’ll be surprised that amidst the sun-soaked fields is Essie Letterpress, the cheery printing abode of Ben and Vanessa Grib. From beginnings rooted deep in interior design, illustration, and a need to create, the printing duo took up letterpress as a means to satiate their creative cravings. We caught up with Ben and Vanessa between print and harvest runs to catch the scoop on how beautiful life can be with just a little more letterpress in the world.

Ben and Vanessa Grib of Essie Letterpress stand proudly with their Heidelberg Windmill.

FIELD CUT FLOWERS BY DAY, LETTERPRESS BY NIGHT We are a husband and wife team that operate from a flower farm on the Piekenierskloof Mountains in South Africa. We love creating notebooks, artworks, coasters and everything in between. Vanessa does all the printing and the day-to-day running of Essie Letterpress, while Ben does the design work when he is not farming. We just had our second little boy.

CREATIVE BEGINNINGS Vanessa started out as an interior designer. When she lived in San Francisco in 2001, one of her flatmates was taking a letterpress course and she fell in love with it. Ben has always been interested in illustration and design, and decided to teach himself while he was still a fruit trader. When we decided to move to the country, Vanessa needed a career change and was looking for something creative to do. Letterpress seemed like a new and exciting option, because it was not really done in South Africa at the time. It was quite a story to get the necessary equipment sourced and delivered to the farm, but we managed to find a machine in the back of a University storeroom. The rest was trial and error and Youtube videos.

The flowing hills and farmland that surround Essie Letterpress, one of South Africa's best letterpress print shops.

IMPRESSIVE VIEWS Our shop is a large open space with beautiful views of the farm. We converted an old farm shed into our studio, so we still get the occasional odd surprise, like a flash flood through the roof or a snake living in your drawers. It looks over an awesome dam and is surrounded by daily farm activities, so you have to be careful of speeding tractors.

Flower fields that surround Essie Letterpress from South Africa offers gorgeous views. Farmland views of Essie Letterpress are scenic and beautiful.

GETTING INSPIRED We wished we could have some mentors, but unfortunately they are all very far away. We had to stick to our manuals and run google hard for solutions. We are very inspired by Studio on Fire, Starshaped Press, Letterpress de Paris and Mink Letterpress. Artists that inspire… that’s a list too long to mention in case we leave anybody out. Every year we compile a list of our favorite local designers and invite them to do a calendar with us. That way we get to work with all our favorite people.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT We are trying to evolve to the kind of studio that only prints our own creations. I know this is not always possible, but we design with specifically letterpress in mind and we try and steer all decisions within the process’s limitations. It’s always fun being your own client. That being said, some projects need a specialized focus and then we get in the big guns for peace of mind.

Gorgeous floral and botany coasters printed by Essie Letterpress out of South Africa.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS The design process normally starts with a spark of inspiration while we are walking our dogs or picking flowers. This leads to some rough sketches and normally ends up on the computer. We like to alternate between digital design and hand drawn, as we believe both have an equally important place in letterpress. We try to steer clear of one specific style, and it’s always most exciting to try a new approach or technique. We like to let the product lead us in the direction that it wants to go.

Glamourous and eye-catching gold foil letterpress printed notebook from Essie Letterpress.

FULL TIME FUN Vanessa has been printing full time for the last five years, while Ben pops in through the day to fix the machine or mix a new color.

PRINTING FEATS We are very proud our own own little retail space in Cape Town that sells our products to the general public. It is nice to know that people are buying our products and putting it in their homes. It makes us feel that we have a small impact on people’s daily life.

Vintage hexagonal travel-themed vintage letterpress printed coasters from Essie Letterpress wow the eye.

THE IRON-CLAD BEAUTIES A Korex proofing press was our first press. There was a steep learning curve and a very tiresome process trying to print 150 three color wedding invites, one slow roll at a time. We learned a lot about the importance of paper quality and really thin ink.

SHOP TIPS These machines have personality, and as with all personalities, they sometimes have bad moods. So If something is not working, walk away, have a cup of tea, look at the trees, and then try again. It will always turn out better.

Beautifully printed nautical-themed letterpress print from Essie Letterpress.

WHAT’S NEXT We are currently taking it easy due to our new baby and only printing a few select projects. But we are using this time to re-evaluate what is important and molding our company to a more streamlined and effective beast.

Huge round of thanks and applause out to Ben and Vanessa of Essie Letterpress for letting us get an up close look at their wonderful printing world!

Stopping In At Route 3 Press

Timothy Fay of Route 3 Press prints in the heart of the Midwest. He left for a brief time to pursue an education in Montana, but he is firmly settled back in the Hawkeye State, sheltered on his centuries old Iowan family farm. He’s passionate about printing and sharing it with others. We welcomed the chance to “visit” his creative space.

Tim Fay of Route 3 Press sits with his linotype.Tim Fay of Route 3 Press prints on his linotype in his Montana letterpress print shop.
(photography courtesy of Linzee McCray)

THE PRESSES: I have a Challenge proof press, a 10 X 15 Old Style Chandler and Price platen, a V-45 Miehle Vertical and a 21 X 28 Miller 2-color flatbed. I also use a photopolymer plate maker and a Model 8 linotype.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP: 24 feet wide by 36 feet – 864 square feet.

THE LOCATION: My shop is attached to the back of the house I built on our family farm in 1984 — it’s been in our family 150 years now, since the Civil War. My town of Anamosa lies 45 miles west from the Mississippi River. The shop, like the house, is half underground, which makes it easier to heat. I enjoy the improved lighting and ventilation here, as opposed to the old store building I formerly inhabited.

My attached house features a cathedral ceiling, and the floor is made of local limestone. Much native and local oak is incorporated into the design. I like living where I work; commutes are for somebody else.

TYPE OF SHOP: I am a commercial shop, and I print some job and book work in addition to my annual Wapsipinicon Almanac. This annual publication is a 160-page collection of essays, fiction, reviews and various tidbits focusing on Iowa. The 2015 Almanac is the 21st issue.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP: It’s nice to work in a space I designed and built. I have a nice sound system in place, and since I’m the boss — no Muzak here…. I’ve been collecting letterpress odds and ends since the 1970’s, so I have a few fun items tucked away here.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL: I would say probably the big Miller. It’s a very rare press (the only other operating one in America of which I’m aware is at Arion Press).

FAVORITE INK: For most of my work, I use INX black super dense with no drier.

CLEAN-UP ROUTINE: I use gasoline for type and plates and press wash for rollers.

PROJECT WORKFLOW I set slugs on the linotype. My polymer plates are mounted on either blank linotype slugs or custom bases I had a local machinist make for me. I used to use magnesium plates mounted on wood. Those were expensive and took up too much space. Then I went to metal backed polymer mounted on homemade magnetic bases. Now I use plastic backed polymer and would never go back to metal. I try to avoid having any pied type around.  Lino slugs are re-melted into new bigs.

OIL OF CHOICE: For lubrication, I use Thirty weight non-detergent or heavier oil for certain spots on the C & P.  I like cotton rags.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE: I try to organize and “straighten up” before beginning each day. I harbor a good deal of big equipment in a relatively small area, so I need to keep on top of clutter.

PRINTING ADVICE: I would stress the importance (especially when running automatic presses) of regulating humidity levels. I don’t have air conditioning, but I constantly run humidifiers in winter and dehumidifiers in summer.

The printing presses of Route 3 Press in Montana are beautiful specimens that Tim Fay uses.(photography courtesy of Linzee McCray)

Printing Paradise at Granja Grafica

Through the vibrant thoroughfare of the hustling & bustling Gracia district of Barcelona, Spain you’ll find a cornucopia of artisan shops, studios, ateliers, and little curio shops settled alongside industrial offices. But if you take time to meander into the middle of the city, you’ll feel like walking around a small town where people take the time to cheerily greet you. Move in a little bit more and you’ll find that this small-town hospitality extends into the bright life that buzzes in Granja Grafica, the letterpress shop & home to Gaby & Elies. The printing duo told us about their serendipitous meeting on the other side of world in Tokyo, Japan, and filled us in on the journey that letterpress has taken them on.

Gaby and Elies of Granja Grafica stand proudly outside the entrace to their Barcelon, Spain printshop.

A SERENDIPITOUS MEETING We are Elies and Gaby. A Spanish letterpress printer and an Argentinian graphic designer that met by chance at the door of a hostel in Tokyo back in 2006. It was Gaby’s last day in the city and Elies’ first one, but during dinner we found many things in common and started a long distance – old fashioned – hand lettered friendship for a couple of years. In 2008 we decided to shorten the distances and Gaby moved to Spain. After a year of adaptation, the idea of Granja Grafica started to grow in our minds.

Gaby of Granja Grafica of Barcelona, Spain works happily on press. Gaby and Elies of Granja Grafica add ink to their Korrex (cylinder) press.

FOR THE LOVE OF LETTERPRESS Elies learned the craftsmanship from his father, Miquel Plana, who dedicated his life producing fine press books in Olot, Spain. He acquired a vast amount of knowledge and experience in engraving, typesetting, printing with platen presses, pochoir printing among many other things. When Gaby met Elies, she was finishing her graphic design degree and decided to do her final paper about letterpress printing. While investigating and observing the craft she developed an interest that went beyond the historical & theoretical learning and started helping Elies with his commissions.

Granja Grafica prints highly detailed city scape print.

WHERE LETTERPRESS LIVES Back in 2009, we were two newcomers in Barcelona but quickly fell in love with the city. We choose Gracia’s district to open the studio since it’s a very intimate and authentic neighborhood. There are plenty of studios, ateliers, and artisans still working and living in this area of the city. It is one of Barcelona’s most desirable districts since it is full of life, little shops, a great array of bars, places to have a drink, and many plazas where people gather around to watch the colorful life go by. You are in the middle of the city, but you feel like walking around a small town where people still take the time to greet you.

Hand-carved linoleum printing and broadside posters are printed expertly at Granja Grafica.

PRINTING MENTORS In letterpress printing we admire the experimentation with different materials in the work of Arcangela Regis here in Barcelona, the amazing and fresh work of Dafi Kühne and the exquisite books of Russell Maret. It is also very inspiring to see the commitment, the quest, and the experimentation of friends’ work, like the ones of Javiera Pintocanales, Dario Zeruto, and Ximena Perez Grobet.

Delicate and exquisite blind deboss wedding stories printed pieces from Granja Grafica.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT At first we were doing both design and print projects, but since we don’t have enough time for both, we decided to focus on printing and found some great collaborators for designing.

The clean printshop of Granja Grafica is inviting and spacious. Lucky!

FULL TIME FUN We have been printing full time the last 3 years. That was the original goal and we were very lucky to achieve it, of course it was not only luck, we put a lot of hard work and lots of hours into it.

Beautiful lettepress printed goods including business cards and tags from Granja Grafica.

PRINTING FEATS I guess in this past year what we are most proud of is becoming entrepreneurs. Being a letterpress printer is a very easy thing to do if you fall in love with it. Time goes by fast and you are excited to be mixing the ink, preparing the originals, choosing paper, setting up the machines and find yourself already thinking about the next project.

Even though there are some rough patches, for example, when mysteriously the registration is off and you can’t find the way around the machines, and the original manual is in German and you have nowhere to go to for answers! But after a few hours & trials you find that the frustration is gone and you are back to your old enthusiastic self. We learned to be entrepreneurs the hard way. Some days you spend a lot of hours doing budgets, accounting, publicity, social media, and you just want to go fast to the machine and tell her all your sorrows. Some days we even get ink anxiety. But then you realize that all those things are a step in order to achieve what you really love, which is printing, so we learned to cherish this business side and hope that it will last a long time.

Flaunting a Granja Grafica print apron and letterpress teal ink is all in a day's work at the Barcelona, Spain print shop.

PRESS HISTORY In 2009 when Granja Grafica was only an illusion, we saw a special offer on Ebay for a set of 5 Adanas (Kelseys) in London. We decided to make a car trip through France and come back with the car full of machines and type. I guess machine-traveling became common since last April we did another car trip, this time to Germany to look for the second Korrex (a cylinder press) for the studio.

Blind deboss letterpress printing is eye-catching when printed at Granja Grafica.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar has been of a lot of help since the beginning. Our second machine was a Heidelberg Windmill and neither of us had ever used one of them, so we watched the videos and manuals on the site a thousand times! The Boxcar Base helped us to work properly with the polymer plates and last year we were able to visit the headquarters, which was a great experience both in a human and a professional level.

Gaby and Elies of Granja Grafica set up the Korrex (cylinder) press for printing fun!

SHOP TIPS I guess the most valuable lesson in everyday printing is to be patient and think that the speed of the craft is not the same as the one in almost every other aspect of our daily life. You need to manage anxiety and develop serenity so as to be aware of all the details in every part of the work and projects. If not, you can’t learn from your mistakes or grow as a printer.

WHAT’S NEXT The past few years graphic design students have approached us wanting to get to know the studio better, since this kind of printing is still very rare in Spain. We would like to have the infrastructure to be able to open it more to the public and share the craft and experiences with the community.

An extraordinary round of applause and thanks out to Elies and Gaby of Granja Grafica! Salud!

The Right Type With Cotton and Pine

Letterpress is one part technique, one part soul, and it takes brilliant creative know-how to bind both together. At Cotton and Pine in Montgomery, Alabama, this is no exception. Recruiting from some of the finest talent that Alabama offers, Cotton and Pine has been a dynamo on the letterpress printing scene (from distinct die-cuts to eye-popping prints) and hasn’t stopped since its inception two wonderful years ago. We were able to catch a glimpse of this incredible printing abode in the Deep South to see just how brilliantly letterpress can shine.

        Printing on the Miehle, Heidelber Windmill, and Chandler & Price at Cotton and Pine.

MODERN MEETS VINTAGE Cotton & Pine is a combination print shop and design studio. The company was founded in Montgomery by Daniel Mims and Steven Lambert, and was designed to be a place where modern design and vintage printing could come together in collaboration.

LETTERPRESS BEGINNINGS The idea that eventually became Cotton & Pine Creative came to Daniel and Steven of Mims Management Group after years of searching out and collaborating with talented and dedicated craftsmen and creative minds from across the Southeast. They had spent some time finding and working with letterpress printers and that ultimately led to the idea of housing printers and designers under one roof.

Cool letterpress printed Father's Day cards from Cotton and Pine press are a visual treat!

RECLAIMING LETTERPRESS Our shop is split down the middle: half for designers and half for the print shop. The shop is outfitted with hart pine beams reclaimed from a hundred-year-old cotton mill located in Lanett, Alabama. We’ve surrounded our letterpress machines with a wall of windows so that anyone who comes in the shop can see the presses at work.

The gorgeous and spacious atrium of Cotton and Pine presshop is inviting and hearty.

DESIGNING FOR PRINT We have a staff of printers and designers who we’ve recruited from across the state of Alabama and we are very proud to be powered by home-grown Southern creativity and craftsmanship.

Southern craftsmanship and perfectly inked prints from Cotton and Pine press.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS We design a very wide range of materials, from personal stationery, to business collateral, to wedding invitations. And we approach each of these projects in a unique way, based on the client’s wants and needs. But designing for letterpress is always unique and exciting. We love playing in a wide spectrum of different aesthetics, whether it’s an elegant wedding invitation, a sophisticated business card, or a playful postcard.

The wonderful Miehle press of Cotton and Pine plus colorful printed piece by Cotton and Pine.

FULL TIME FUN We’ve been in business since 2013, but our printers have had decades of experience as full-time printers.

PRINTING FEATS We are always really proud of the projects that pose an interesting challenge. For example, we printed, letterpressed, and bound a special edition book for a poet from London. We are also always really excited for any project that allows us to combine letterpress with other printing processes, like foil stamping, embossing, or die-cutting. 

And it’s always a fun project when we get to fire up our 1908 Miehle, which can letterpress up to 26″ x 40”. We’ve had several jobs where we got to hand carve plates and print them on the Miehle—those are the ones that are always really striking and eye-catching and have so much character and individuality in each print.

Die cut letterpress building piece expertly printed from the fine folks at Cotton and Pine press.Grand Opening printed sign is bold and beautiful for Cotton and Pine.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar has been an absolutely incredible help to us! As we receive new projects and continue to take on new challenges in letterpress, we are so grateful for Boxcar helping us to improve on our work every day.

Bright and cheery "Heart of Dixie" printed piece from Cotton and Pine.  Printing on the Miehle press at Cotton and Pine.

PRESS HISTORY We were very lucky to inherit five letterpress machines from a hundred-year-old family-owned print shop in Birmingham, Alabama. Our real work horse is our Original Heidelberg Windmill, but we also have an Original Heidelberg cylinder press, a Chandler & Price, a Kluge 14×22, and a 1908 Miehle.

SHOP TIPS FROM US “Roller trucks and bearings need to be in tip-top shape to achieve good printing quality, especially on a Heidelberg Windmill. You can achieve fine print without having to mix such thick ink.” – Larry (be sure to check out Larry on press here!)Cotton and Pine's very own Larry Champion in near a beautiful Heidelberg Windmill.

“Don’t give away your secrets. And if you have trouble, make sure the problem isn’t between the floor and the switch.” – Johnny.Johnny Oates of Cotton and Pine is all smiles in from of his shop.

“Don’t use 20 year old Pantone books, and don’t eat chips in bed.” – Steven.Printing on the Miehle press at Cotton and Pine.

WHAT’S NEXT This summer we are attending several music and arts festivals across the South, where we’ll be selling letterpress goods from our retail shop, C&P Mercantile. We love getting a chance to meet other Southern artists and craftsmen and sharing the beauty of letterpress in something as simple as a note card or coaster that anyone can take home and enjoy.Gorgeous "Y'all Come Back" Alabama lettepress print from Cotton and Pine.

Huge heaps of thanks and a round of applause out to the wonderful folks at Cotton and Pine for giving us a peek inside their shop!

In the Printing Vein at Nane Press

One of the best types of letterpress print shops is cozy (but mighty!) — one where you can kick up some beautiful prints, sway to some good tunes, and enjoy a good scone or cookie (or two) from the local bakery just a stone’s throw away. If this sounds like a printing haven to you, Nane Press (rhymes with rain) in Red Hook, Brooklyn is a must-see. Jennie Putvin will be be slinging ink with a cheery smile on her face when you walk in to her printing abode (just be sure to say hi to Bradley the shopcat while you’re there).Jennie Putvin of Nane Press with her beautiful letterpress printed cards and invitation sets. MEET THE PRESSES I have two presses: a Vandercook Universal I (her name is Phyllis) and a C&P Oldstyle 10×15 (his name is Bill). I love them both and feel so lucky to have met them.

SIZE OF PRESS SHOP A small but mighty 300 square feet!

THE LOCATION My studio is an old church in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Red Hook is a great neighborhood full of artists and makers right by the water, a little off the beaten path. On long workdays (and, let’s be honest, shorter ones too) I always make my way over to the local bakery, Baked. They have a breakfast cookie that is to die for. The pier with amazing views of the city is also a 5-minute walk away. In a city full of tiny spaces, being in a church with 3 stories of open air in the middle is amazing. I sublet from an artist who makes robots and kinetic sculptures, so there is always something interesting happening in the space!

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP I have my own space, which is great. And I have a full cabinet of adjustable furniture, which I hear is a rarity. I love the idea of a little perfect set of tools making its way through time, finding its way to my printshop.

I’m constantly rolling through Pandora playlists. Usually I listen to mellow folksy music, but the hiphop makes its way out after 9pm. I also have some large prints hanging up and some gorgeous antique schoolhouse lights I installed myself. We also have an ornery shopcat named Bradley.

NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN SPACE I’m the only printer in the space, and my rooms are private. But there’s a full metal shop on site, which comes in quite handy when you need any kind of a tool for a press repair!

I CAN’T WORK WITHOUT My Schaedler rule. I’m obsessed with making sure things are straight, and I’m totally lost without it.

THINK PINK INK I use Van Son Rubber based inks. I was completely obsessed with neon pink 806 for awhile, but I think I’m currently in between favorite colors. I guess you could say I’m playing the field!

KEEPING IT CLEAN I use mainly Crisco, and then Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits to finish. Not having an HVAC system, I looked at a lot of different options when I got my first press, looking for the lowest amounts of VOCs in my cleanup as possible. My system works great, and I haven’t really noticed any wear or pitting on the rollers.

DRESSING THE PRESS I have a Boxcar 9×12 base for the Vandercook. I used to use the 94FL plates, which I loved. I’ve just switched to the KF95 and those work great, too. I’ve just got the C&P up and running, so I have to do some experimenting with my current base, because I want whatever system I have going forward to be able to work with both presses.

OIL OF CHOICE I have a bottle of 3-in-1 that works great.

WHAT TYPE OF RAG DO YOU CLEAN UP YOUR PRESSES WITH I’m all about the roll of reused cotton rags from the painting department at Home Depot. They’re amazing — no lint and heavy duty.

FLOORING MATERIAL When Paul Moxon came by a couple years ago, I think he commented that I had the most uneven floor he’d ever seen. Because the floor has been recovered in the past to preserve and replace the original wood, the floor in my rooms is made of about 3 different materials. This is going to sound totally shady (it’s not though, I swear), but there’s actually a raised spot that gives right in the footpath in front of the Vandercook, so I don’t even need a floor pad.

FLOOR PLAN TIPS In such a small space, I’ve just got everything lining the walls as much as possible. I need every square inch to move around in! But having your ink right next to the press is essential.

PIED TYPE I purchased my first press with a type cabinet and galleys. There’s so much set type in the galleys that I have not even TOUCHED. It’s a project that I keep saying I’ll get to one day…

KEEPING IT ORGANIZED Let everything get into complete disarray until I can’t find anything and I start knocking things over, and then do a major overhaul cleanup. I’m joking (but only a little bit)! I don’t keep parent sheets of paper on hand since I don’t have a guillotine, so I really have to keep my paper and envelope stock organized and separate, otherwise the overrun from jobs builds up and there’s towering stacks of paper everywhere.

PRINTING TIPS Push everything a little too far before you pull it back. That goes for inking, impression, and design. I look back on old jobs and on a lot of them there’s always a little nitpicky thing I would have done differently. But I think that’s part of the process of growing as a craftswoman. It’s important to challenge yourself. Sometimes that extra hour (or two, or three!) you spend on makeready makes all the difference in the world.

Jennie Putvin of Nane Press inside her wonderful pressshop on a Vandercook.