West Coast Printing: Thom Caraway of Spokane Print & Publishing Center

Printing on press is as much a personal creative time as it is an experience you just can’t wait to share with others. This is an observation from Thom Caraway of the Spokane Print & Publishing Center. The full-time teacher and Center organizer has enjoyed creating a space where all interested in the craft could roll-up their sleeves and get inky. We spent time with Thom to talk shop, and to see how the printing world in Spokane is being discovered by others at their printing paradise.

GEARING UP FOR PRINTING ADVENTURES I’m a university English professor in Spokane, Washington via Whitworth University. I write poetry and teach classes in editing, book design, and print culture.

In 2015, I inherited a C&P from a printmaking professor who didn’t want it in the school art studio anymore. I was excited about it but had no idea what to do with it (or even how it worked). Shortly after, I met Bethany Taylor, who was getting her shop off the ground, and we decided to make a place where neophytes could come learn. She’d been to the Independent Publishers Resource Center (IPRC) in Portland, and we modeled ourselves off of their space and got going.


PRINTING CENTER COMMUNITY We closed Iteration one in 2018 when our lease ran out, and moved into the new space as Spokane Print & Publishing Center in 2019. With the bigger space, we were able to add more presses and expand from letterpress and screenprint into relief and etching as well. Later, we added book arts and digital design and printing. My favorite thing is when there are members spread out across the shop all working on different awesome things, especially if several presses are going at once.

ALL IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD We’re a 5-minute drive from the Kendall Yards neighborhood and the Spokane River. Downtown is just across the river, so we are close to food and shopping.


PRINTING MENTORS Letterpress Instagram kind of kept me sane during lockdowns, and with no formal art or print shop training, I’m a big fan of the School of Bad Printing. Amos Kennedy, Mizdruk, Fresh Lemon Press, Bright Press, Marcos Mello. Also Rick Griffith, Amy Redmond, Ben Blount, Chris Fritton, Base Press, Stephanie Carpenter…so many great printers out there!

PART-TIME PRINTER, FULL-TIME FUN This is a side hustle from my day job teaching. I would love to get to a point where I could print full time though.


THE CREATIVE PROCESS I’m becoming more of a planner, but mostly I’m a seat-of-my-pants designer. I like seeing what happens with different applications of color, and big messy press beds full of wood type. From there, I might layer in a quote or phrase, or play around with the letterforms of larger wood type to see what happens.


PRINTING FEATS Making a more formal turn from writing to printing in the last four years has been a lot of fun, if a little nerve-wracking at times. But mostly I’m proud of our little shop. We’ve weathered COVID well, and offer classes pretty much every week now. I feel like we’re really developing Spokane’s appetite for the print and book arts, and training up a bunch of new printers!

PRESS HISTORY I have that first press – a C&P Old Style with a broken flywheel axle. Have still never gotten that thing fully functional.


BOXCAR’S ROLE We’ve gotten a bunch of ink from Boxcar, and had some plates made. And we’ve been meaning to order some logo plates, too!

PRINTING TIPS & TECHNIQUES I print mostly now on a Vandercook 14, which is really basic, so no ink rollers. Everything is applied by hand. My advice for letterpress printers is don’t be afraid to mess it up a bit. I love a nice clean print as much as anyone, but I’m also really interested in the accidents and goofs. Those are usually my favorites.


WHAT’S COMING NEXT I’ve got a full slate of letterpress classes spread through the year. I am hoping to grow our membership base once things open back up, and continue developing our Print Town USA events, which get the public into the shop for sales and demos, and are just a lot of (socially-distanced) fun.

A double round of applause & thanks out to Thom of Spokane Print & Publishing Center for letting us take a sneak peak at the wonderful community-driven printing center!

Ali Norman: All In The Details

Crafted with care, hypnotically delicate, and dizzyingly detailed are what instantly come to mind when viewing Ali Norman’s body of printed work. A traditional printmaker by nature, Ali enjoys expressing her vivid concepts through silkscreen, etchings, and now letterpress. The Florida-based printer shares with us the joys of learning new techniques, infusing nature motifs into her work, and pushing the limits of her art.


I’m a printmaker with a huge passion for etching, but I also love to dabble in other processes (such as letterpress!). I first learned about it from the amazing Eileen Wallace during my MFA. She helped spark my interest and encouraged me to push the limits of my polymer ideas. Learning from her was an incredible privilege!


Currently, I have access to etching presses at home and at work (the University of Tampa), but no real letterpress access. I’ve been lucky enough to make friends with Sarah and Phil Holt, who have the cutest little letterpress shop at home!

They were very kind to let me use their beautiful orange Vandercook to print my most recent polymer creation. I’m hoping to work with them more in the new year! You can check out Sarah’s letterpress work on instagram at @monpetitpaperco.


I am really inspired by and thankful for the amazing printmaking community that has popped up on Instagram. I have “met” so many amazing artists and learned some cool techniques just from the internet. On a more personal note, I pay close attention to my dreams and am strongly attracted to old engravings, magical texts, and tattoo linework.


I am not currently printing full time. Having just finished my MFA in the spring of 2018, I’ve been teaching part time at the University of Tampa. This gives me a good amount of free time to work on making and selling art on the side! So far I am finding it to be a really healthy and rewarding balance. Although I grew up here [in Florida], I haven’t been back for quite a while! I’m still currently exploring the area.


I absolutely LOVE designing for photopolymer!! I’ve found that drawing the key layer first on tracing paper allows me to then flip-flop my ideas, scan them, and easily draw color layers. I’ve tried working more digitally, but always go back to the tracing paper!


Works take me anywhere from a week to two months to complete before printing, but I’m always working on a few things at once. I try to keep it slow and steady, drawing at least a little every day until I am satisfied. I also often work back in to images, so that can end up dragging things out… as goes printmaking!


Intaglio will always be my go-to process, but it’s not always very practical! I like to change things up, especially with quicker processes like letterpress or lithography. It is so satisfying to see a trapped layer lock perfectly in to place each time, and to feel like one with a machine. I also really enjoy how the design process for each technique is so different – it keeps me on my toes!


At this point in my career, I am just very proud and grateful to have made it this far! I’ve been working hard to make my passions a reality and am really seeing that come back to me lately.


I currently have a little tabletop Conrad E12 etching press that was found by a friend of mine at a thrift store! After some heavy cleaning, I now use it almost constantly. I’m hoping to also have a letterpress to call my own some day. Floridian printers – hook me up please!


I had my polymer plates for my most recent print made by Boxcar Press! I was a little nervous about someone else making my matrices, and they turned out perfectly. I’m really grateful for this service.



I’m still quite the beginner at letterpress, but I manage to learn something new every time I print. I even managed to smash my fingers in the Vandercook once (oops!).


Lots more printing!!

Tight Registration with Slackline Press

Connecticut-based Lourdes Irizarry of Slackline Press balances printing life with outdoor adventures in her garage-turned-printing haven. With her Golding Jobber press (which she rescued from dust-covered days), Lourdes enjoys creating punchy, colorful designs and incorporating her love of travel into her work.   In our chat with Lourdes, topics flow from selecting the perfect paper for large solid jobs, to the allure of letterpress and sketching out her future line of wedding invitations.

PRINTING PASSION  My name is Lourdes. I’m a digital art director by day and run Slackline Press as a passion project for now. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, lived in Orlando, Florida and now reside in Connecticut with my boyfriend and two dogs.

LOVE AT FIRST IMPRESSION I started my letterpress journey in 2013 as a creative outlet from my day job. As a designer, I had always been interested in letterpress but had never looked into what it would take to get set up. After researching different types of presses, I decided a Golding Jobber or Pearl would be the right size for my studio and the type of work I wanted to create. I started poking around online and found a Golding expert in my area that did workshops. It was love at first sight and I immediately became obsessed with building a letterpress studio.

CREATING IN CONNECTICUT My shop is in half of a detached garage behind our tiny cape on the CT shoreline. The detached garage was a selling point when we bought the house but it was in pretty rough shape. We hired a contractor who worked with my crazy vision of building a tiny loft in the crawlspace. It’s definitely my favorite thing about the space. It turned out way nicer than I ever would have imagined.

SURROUNDED BY ADVENTURE I love that I can bike to the beach in our town. There are also a number of outdoor adventure opportunities in the area. Rivers for water sports, plenty of forested trails for hiking and letting the dogs run around as well as a number of quaint town greens with farmers markets, shops and restaurants.

My favorite landmark is the shoreline trolley museum which renovates and runs old trolleys from East Haven to Branford. We’re also 1.5 hour train ride from New York City.

PRINTING MENTORS Yes! John Falstrom of Perennial Designs connected us with our first press and offered an incredible amount of knowledge on the best way to move and renovate our Jobber. Also John Barrett of Letterpress Things whom I acquired my other 2 presses from. His warehouse is packed with supplies and letterpress ephemera. They are both a huge wealth of knowledge and are just wonderful people to know.

Inspiration is everywhere in our surroundings but I’m particularly inspired by travel and culture. I am currently infatuated with Mediterranean patterns.

PART TIME PRINTING, FULL TIME FUN I have a day job so I work my printmaking schedule around that. I’m still working out my long term goals for my letterpress business and figuring out the balance between custom work and my own stationery line. But I would love to build relationships with other crafters and artisans who need branded stationery or packaging.

THE CREATIVE FLOW I always start with really rough thumbnail sketches on paper, on my iPad or just write down ideas. I then try to choose a few that I keep coming back to, develop the sketches a little further and then illustrate them in Adobe Illustrator. Lately I’ve been designing vector art on my iPad Pro to save time going from sketch to digital. I then send my designs to Boxcar Press to get plates made and then print in my studio. I love to photograph my travels and surroundings and often times I use that as inspiration or reference vs having to go online and look for visuals.

PRINTING FEATS I’d say my biggest accomplishment so far is just getting a dedicated space built to house my presses and that I can work in through the seasons. Having it separate from the house but still easily accessible is really convenient.

PRESS HISTORY A Golding Jobber 8×12 platen press that was cooped up in a tiny stone cottage in the mountains of Vermont and unused for 7 years.

BOXCAR’S ROLE First and foremost, Boxcar customer service is the best! They helped guide me when I got started, and are very quick to get on the phone when there’s something wrong with my order or if I have questions. A moment that stands out to me when Boxcar went above and beyond happened when I was having an inking problem. They worked with me for hours (some of which were after business hours) to help me solve my issue. Boxcar has a quick turnaround, convenient real-time uploading and proofing, and fast shipping. Overall, it’s been an affordable way for a small press like me to get started.

PRINTING TIPS The more I print, the more I realize how inking varies depending on the paper I use. If I design something with larger areas of solid color or want smoother inking, I try to print on smoother paper and tend to over-ink. If I have a design that has more fine lines or has a grungier style to it, I try to print on a more textured paper with less ink to add to the grunginess of the design. Also, the brighter white paper is less forgiving in terms of showing imperfections.

WHAT’S NEXT I’m growing my stationery line of greeting cards as well as adding more personalized options like wedding invitations. I would love to attend the National Stationery Show for the first time next year and am learning as much as I can in order to get me there.

The Call of the Press at Creative Beasties Workshop

Most letterpress printers find a sense of home in the happy clinking & whirling of the press. Danny Rhoades of Creative Beasties Workshop is no exception. The IT-by-day and printer-by-night found the letterpress bug bit hard after planning his own wedding. Turning part of his garage into his printing mecca, Danny finds inspiration in exploring creative options with his clients, his supportive family, and letting the press provide valuable teaching moments. Since our last visit with Danny, he caught us up on new printing tricks, the feeling when registration is spot on, and the wonderful rhythms printing has played in his life.

PRINTING JAM SESSIONS + FAMILY LIFE I’m a 37 year old married father of 2 adorable twin girls (age 2). It’s mostly me by myself printing since my wife is usually dealing with the kids. I sometimes have creative friends come over for printing sessions but other than that it’s just me.

BLOSSOMING PRINTING LOVE When my wife and I were planning our own wedding we both got super interested in the invitation options out there and came across letterpress. I instantly fell in love and that eventually blossomed into Creative Beasties Workshop.

PRINTSHOP EFFICIENCY Our workshop is in the tandem portion of our garage. It’s only about 288 sq ft so it’s very limited. My favorite thing about it is the Heidelberg Windmill 10×15 press that brings it all together.

AT HOME PRINTING  We’re in a pretty new constructed suburban neighborhood. The most interesting thing about our home is that it backs up to a 20 ft. sound wall for Highway 65.

PRINTING MENTORS One of the first people to teach me about letterpress was a gentleman I met on the Briarpress.org forums who goes by the handle, Inky. He taught both my wife and I the basics and helped us really understand the foundations of the process. I owe him a lot.

PART TIME PRINTING, FULL TIME FUN I wish I could print full time, but with a mortgage and budding family, I can’t afford to do that just yet. I work in IT and my day job pretty much supplements our workshop quite a bit.

DESIGN BROUGHT TO LIFE I don’t design as much as I’d like mostly due to time constraints, but when I do it’s usually after a lengthy conversation/meeting with the client to fully understand their motivation and inspiration so I can bring it to life and elevate it the best I can. One of my weaknesses is not knowing when to stop. This is something I am working on, and think I’m getting better … but I know it’s a flaw of mine.

PRINTING FEATS One of my proudest moments occurred when I was able to produce a 3 color work, shortly after having trained only for three days on the press. The registration was perfect and the colors were spot on.

PRESS HISTORY I learned on a C&P old style, but when I bought my own I went straight for the kill and got a Heidelberg Windmill 10×15. I didn’t even know how to use it! I was super scared at first and had to take a three day training to understand how to work it.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Anytime I need any advice … or help with a job I can always count on Boxcar to be there to walk me through it.

PRINTING TIPS For just starting out, don’t blame yourself too much. I blamed my inexperience a lot before I realized there was an actual problem with the press that needed to be fixed. The same thing happened with rollers. Once I changed to a different supplier things worked out much better. Sometimes, it is actually the equipment.

WHAT’S NEXT I hope to continue printing and eventually build a client base that can support me printing full time.

A big, huge Windmill-size round of thanks out to Danny of Creative Beasties Press! We look forward to seeing what cool, new projects come his way.

Printing Inclinations With Jennie Putvin of Nane Press

Part-time printing doesn’t have to mean small design. Big-hearted printer Jennie Putvin of Nane Press excels at breaking the mold as a side-business letterpress printer. The tactically inclined and design-centric Jennie has been printing up a storm in her unique studio that gleans its creative current from surrounding artists within the building and from the fact that her studio is part of a refurbished church. We caught up with her between late night print runs to check out how beautiful the perfect balance of makeready can be to the thrill of holding the final finished custom letterpress piece.

Jennie Putvin of Nane Press works expertly on her Vandercook printing press.

photograph courtesy of Eliza Gwendalyn

A LOVE FOR PRINTING At my day job I’m a graphic designer, but at heart I’m a craftsperson. Letterpress printing is a great marriage between the two; making something wonderfully tactile with your own two hands gives you a sense of satisfaction you just can’t get sitting in front of a computer.

Letterpress work samples from Jennie Putvin of Nane Press

HOME IS WHERE THE PRESS IS My studio is in a refurbished church with gorgeous original details and kooky additions. While I’m the only printer in the space, other artists of different disciplines are always working and creating. Feeding off the creative energy in the environment is definitely something that keeps me going.

A peek inside the Nane Press letterpress print shop

NATURAL BORN PRINTER I took printmaking classes in college, and as a designer, I’ve always been interested in type and book design. So it sort of came as a natural progression to take my first letterpress printing class at the Center for Book Arts in New York City. It was also great to be able to rent studio time in their facilities before I bought my first press.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I design and print my own work, as well as print other people’s designs. Other designers’ work always poses an interesting technical challenge, and I think makes me a better printer.

A peek at the type inside the Nane Press letterpress print shop

THE CREATIVE FLOW I’m always collecting images and writing down ideas. For custom jobs, I always make an inspiration board with a color palette. Some of my projects are hand-illustrated, and some are only type-based. In the past, each of my designs has been tailored towards a specific client, but I’ve got plans to start building cohesive ready-made designs that look more like my personal style.

Letterpress cards from Nane Press Letterpress work samples from Nane Press
(above photographs courtesy of Eliza Gwendalyn)

FULL TIME FUN I don’t print full-time, but I would love to one day!

PRINTING FEATS Paper has the ability to impact people’s daily lives in a very unique way. I’m always excited when my work is shown in galleries or published in a book—but when I hear that someone has received an invite or card I’ve printed and loved it enough to save it, well, that’s the best compliment a girl can get!

Letterpress work samples from Nane Press

BOXCAR’S ROLE The great folks at Boxcar help me troubleshoot along the way. If there’s a part of a design that’s going to be challenging for the plate to print (usually with punctuation in a thin font), I get a call from them with the heads-up. Knowing more about the limitations of the photopolymer has probably saved me dozens of hours of headache on the backend.

Letterpress work samples from Nane Press

PRESS HISTORY A Vandercook Universal I. Her name is Phyllis, and she’s a great press.

The Vandercook press at Nane Press

SHOP TIPS I couldn’t live without my calipers. My shop isn’t humidity-controlled, and I spend a decent amount of time getting packing right. I’m always swapping in and experimenting with different types of paper, and knowing how thick your makeready is before you disassemble what’s under the drawsheet takes out a lot of guesswork.

Letterpress wedding invitation samples from Nane Press

WHAT’S NEXT I’ve got a collaboration in place with a calligrapher that I’m super excited about. I also just got a die-cutting jacket for the press, so I’m really looking forward to experimenting with that!

A huge round of thanks to Jennie of Nane Press for letting us catch up with the delights of her printing abode.

Keeping in Touch With Gutwrench Press

Letterpress has always been an ingenious outlet for creative and informative expression, and Hope Amico of Gutwrench Press is an avid subscriber to both. This California-based printer keeps the inspired gears turning each month via her community-involved postcard Keep Writing Project. We caught up with Hope as she let us in on the fantastic letterpress journey that has her smitten with printing.


FOR THE LOVE OF LETTERPRESS  I have always loved letter writing and storytelling. I have had penpals since I was 10 and have been self-publishing stories since high school. Learning the craft of letterpress was one more tool for me to express this. Postcards are my favorite thing to print, and my monthly interactive postcard subscription, the Keep Writing Project, is my reason to keep printing.

INK IN THE BLOOD I was already printing woodblocks and etchings. A friend had a little tabletop press and some type and let me print a few woodblocks with captions for a print show I had coming up. After a few terrible prints, I got enough work together to apply to school. I went to art school as an undergrad in my 30’s because they had letterpress and papermaking equipment that I wanted to learn to use.


MY PRINTING ABODE I rent space from Painted Tongue Studios. They have a Heidelberg Windmill and a Vandercook 4 and a platemaker, which is about everything I need to print postcards. I print on the weekends alone. The other aspects of my work are so social I love having the quiet studio to myself. It is located about a mile from downtown Oakland but what I love is that it is about 6 blocks from my house, so I can usually get back and forth with just my bike.


PRINTING MENTORS Vintage postcards. I was an intern at Blackbird Letterpress and Kathryn taught me about patience, precision, and making good choices. I still write and read zines. I love collecting things, eclectic styles and experimenting.


THE CREATIVE PRINTER I do it all [designing & printing]! Though sometimes I team up with illustrator friends who design a postcard for me, most of the time it is all me! I am also a part time yoga teacher, and work 2 nights a week at a restaurant. I would eventually love to give it up to just print and teach.

THE DESIGN PROCESS For the Keep Writing Project I come up with a design that has both a theme and a question every month. I keep a list of ideas in my notebook and draw from that, sometimes trying to match ideas with timely events or holidays. This year for December I printed a holiday fill-in-the blanks card which was a challenge and a lot of fun. Writing your own mad lib-like story is tricky. The image I create is usually based on function — either trying to convey a message or an excuse to try a new trick.


PRINTING FEATS Maintaining the Keep Writing postcard project since 2008 despite multiple moves and 2 long-term stays in Italy. During my second trip, I brought a gocco printer and a bunch of cards with text already letterpress printed on them. I added the images with the gocco while my roommates slept. It was a lot of trouble to print with the little press — I accidentally packed it on my carry on and almost missed my flight because I forgot about the exploding flash! But I love that I have this monthly challenge for myself and it is also part of my job.


I also printed a broadside for a bookstore in the city as a part of California Independent Bookstore day. It was designed in collaboration with John Waters, so when he read at the store later that month, I asked him to sign it for me. I told him I was the printer, but he was more interested in talking about how easy it is to find blue hair dye nowadays.

PRESS HISTORY I still don’t own a press! I had 2 presses that were given to me because they had been flooded during Hurricane Katrina — both were tabletop presses, one for etching and one was a proof press. I gave them both away to friends who needed them. I’ve always been lucky enough to be able to share presses when I need to. I’ve also moved around a lot, and I think I have been hesitating to commit to a press until I think I might stick around for a few years.

BOXCAR’S ROLE I ordered my first plates from Boxcar! Two years ago I bought myself a base so I could use the windmill I had learned on to increase production and efficiency. It was a big step for me. I have been slow to move from passion project to full-time business, and I am en route. But Boxcar has been supportive in every step, with every question.Hope-Amico-img2

SHOP TIPS I got great advice once in school that stayed with me — find the thing that makes your work yours and push that aspect. This was something I needed to learn about process — that despite all my training in letterpress and love of craft, I am not a minimal or precise or neat printer, so I learned to work with those aspects that made my work unique. I can print very fine lines with super tight registration and I did that as I printed other people’s work, but for myself I tend to keep it a little more loose. Also, staying true to my love of postcards has been a more difficult business choice but I love what I do so much, I am willing to find ways to make it work.

WHAT’S NEXT I want to print more yoga-themed cards, integrating my two favorite things. And maybe more collaborations this year. A few artists have asked and I love the idea of it.

Huge round of thanks to Hope of Gutwrench Press! Keep up the amazing work!

Flying High With Two Crow Press


Beneath the expanse of the blue skies and huddled next to the wheat & sunflower patches of Kansas, holds Two Crow Press. A Kansas born and raised Ashley Flinn meticulously threads her unique triple-play passions of bookmaking, papermaking and letterpress within Two Crow Press’s shop space. Ever one to experiment with the boundaries of printing & the love of paper, Ashley spent some time catching us up on the whimsical new “unromantic” Valentine’s Day cards and being featured into the finals for Kansas State University’s “Next Big Thing” Contest (to which she’s taken the Gold). Two Crow Press sat down with Boxcar Press for an interview about their latest work

BIG PRESS ON THE PRAIRIE I’ve lived in Kansas for 25 years. I was raised in Manhattan, KS, attended  classes at K-State, and got my BFA in Printmaking from the University of Kansas in Lawrence. In 2010, after graduating, I moved back to Manhattan and married my long-time boyfriend at a kick-ass wedding on the prairie. I’ve been taking graphic design and business classes at K-State and I started my own letterpress and graphic design studio last  March. My first job was printing wedding invitations for friends from New Jersey.

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT At K-State there was a very talented book artist, Rachel Melis, and I had her for 2D Design. She was a great teacher, so I kept taking her classes. The next class I had with her was a summer class in book arts and letterpress. Before then, I had just been a photographer, but when I saw what letterpress could do and that you could make books by hand I was floored. It was amazing. Luckily, when I transferred to KU another teacher, Linda Sampson-Talleur, offered classes in those subjects AND papermaking. Basically if it involves paper, is process oriented, and needs a ton of paraphernalia, I’m into it. KU has a great letterpress studio and type collection, including 3 Vandercooks! I miss the shop there a lot. So much space.

SPECTACULAR IN THE SUNFLOWER STATE My print shop is in my basement studio. On one wall, I have a drying rack next to my press. I keep all my inks and supplies under the press table. Next to that is my binding and folding station on a low table in the corner. The rest of the studio is drawers of supplies and paper.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS My designs can start in a number of ways. Usually it’s an idea or theme I want to work with like “un-romantic” Valentine’s cards, neurotransmitters, or evolution calling cards (for when you really don’t want to explain for the nth time why monkeys don’t give birth to humans or “gaps” in the fossil record). Other times it’s just playing with type. One of the best things about designing on a computer is the amazing variety of forms we have access to. Though as a printmaker, I do love working within the limitations of a craft (I’m thinking about you, intaglio…), if I had room for physical type, I’d love playing with that just as much.

Two Crow Press is a letterpress print shop based in Kansas

PART TIME PRINTING I don’t print full-time. My day job is being a computer lab aide at the local high school. My days are literally non-stop troubleshooting. My ultimate  goal is to open a maker space with my husband that will have letterpress, screenprinting, intaglio and relief presses, papermaking, bookbinding, metalsmithing, and all kinds of tech things he’s involved in like 3D printing, a laser cutter, a CNC router, etc. with a shop and gallery attached. I’m really into educating people about various art forms and technology, but I also love creating objects (be it stationery, copper vessels, or limited edition prints). Also my husband wants to experiment with integrating letterpress with the things he knows, and try things like making wood type with a CNC router, etc. and we’re starting to form a sister brand to Two Crow Press for our collaborative work that will be a little edgier and darker (death metal Easter cards, etc.).

PRINTING FEATS Hand watercoloring autumn leaves for 100 wedding invitations for my friends. I felt like a badass. I never push my paper farther than it can go. I understand the desire for a deep impression, but I refuse to punch the paper to the point there’s a big indentation on the other side. If someone wants a deep impression, I use thick paper. I always print my paper damp as well (thank you Linda!) As for material accomplishments, I’m pretty new to the game, so no killer accolades yet. I have been doing pretty well with Etsy sales though, so things are shaping up nicely. Two Crow Press is a letterpress print shop based in Kansas

PRESS HISTORY My first (and currently only) press is a New Style Chandler and Price Pilot. I’ve had the pleasure of working on a Vandercook Universal I, but at the moment don’t have the space for a big press like that.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Without Boxcar Press, I don’t think my business would be sustainable. The ease and affordability of  ordering plates through you guys is unrivaled. That less than 90 sq. in. equals 2 Day Free Shipping deal is AWESOME. Your website is also very nicely designed. Not to mention the recycling of plates gives me one more green selling/bragging point (and it’s just the right thing to do). Two Crow Press is a letterpress print shop based in Kansas

SHOP TIPS Try printing with damp paper at least once. Also try printing on many different papers. I started printing on printmaking papers (Somerset Velvet and Rives BFK) because that was what I was most familiar with, and then branched out to other papers. They all have very different qualities, and it’s good to experiment to find the ones you like best for certain projects.

WHAT’S NEXT This year, I’m hoping to have more time to dedicate to printing. I’m planning on increasing the amount and variety of things I print, and adding a part-time intern to my payroll. I’m really hoping to  collaborate with a few local artists to produce limited-edition letterpress art prints. Maybe 3 color and 7” x 10” prints (that’s about the max my press can handle). I’m also going to try letterpress printing paper that has been chine-colléd, some delicate washi attached to Lettra might be really awesome.

Big heaps of thanks out to Ashley for letting us take a look at Two Crow Press!

Magnificent Printings of The Mandate Press

Today George Graves of The Mandate Press gives us a look at how the beginnings in hand-processing plates to running automatic presses (and the joys and headscratchers that go with it) gave him a sharp eye, a cool sense of printing logic, and a overflowing passion for all that is letterpress. We sat down with George to go over the finer details of press work, polishing opinions of modern letterpress, and of course the cool happenings of the AIGA Salt Lake City.


(left photograph courtesy of Angela Klempner)

EAST MEETS WEST I’m an East Coast boy with Maine roots, some Boston blood, and a passion for craft and quality.

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT My faculty advisor and typography professor, Cynthia Roberts, first introduced me to letterpress after recognizing my appreciation for handwork. This was during my first or second year in the design program at Endicott College. It wasn’t until the second semester of my senior year that I was able to get my first taste of printing thanks to an introductory course at another school across town: Montserrat College of Art.

I spent my time in that course learning the basics of hand setting type and operating a treadle-powered C&P and a Vandercook SP-15. My first real exposure to photopolymer plates came when I printed a nine piece series of two-color posters for my senior thesis at Endicott. Limited by a college student’s budget, a tight schedule, and the need to hand-process each plate, that project taught me the finer points of imperfections and “happy accidents”.


In the spring of 2011, I was offered a 90-day internship at The Mandate Press in Salt Lake City, Utah. It would be a nearly 3,000 mile cross-country trek, in a 20-year-old Volvo. I couldn’t remember ever being further west than New York, but it was also the one gig that I had told myself I would move anywhere for. My moment of truth had arrived.


I started at Mandate in late June, it had been a year since the last time I had cranked a press, and I quickly realized just how little I knew. After I had reacquainted myself with the Vandercooks, I stepped up to our automatic presses.

Expecting to have some aversions to printing other designers’ work rather than my own, it was somewhere in the process of learning to operate the automatic presses that I realized the design and printing of a project were equally important pieces. My confirmation that this is what I want to do with my life came from making that discovery for myself and finding an intense pride in the trade I have chosen and the work I do each day.


BRILLIANCE IN THE BEEHIVE STATE The Mandate Press is 10 blocks south of downtown SLC in a brick and mortar building on Main Street. The shop is just under 8,000 square feet and split between front and back. The front end of the shop serves as a gallery space, storefront, and our “office” space while the production all happens in the back. We have two glass garage doors in the front with a treadle powered platen press (a Chandler and Price and a Challenge Gordon) sitting just inside each one. While we run almost every job on automatic presses, we do run some lower quantity jobs on one of our Vandercook 4s in the front end of the shop. We actually have two 4s but one is in the middle of a rebuild.

Besides the four presses in the front of the shop, we have five automatic presses in the back. Two Heidelberg Windmills, Two Heidelberg Cylinders and a Frontex Automatic Cylinder. All built in the 50s or 60s, our lineup of automatics each has different muscles to flex. While the windmills are our workhorses and we have them cranking all day every day, our cylinders allow us to do larger work, heavier floods, and deeper impressions. The more comfortable I get with each press as I learn it, the more I appreciate the variety of abilities and each press becomes another tool in the shed or weapon in the arsenal.


As cheesy as it might sound, my favorite part of the shop is literally just being a part of it. From being a part of the planning that went into the show now hanging in our gallery, to learning the ins and outs and quirks of each press, to clearing room in the back of the shop so that we could drop our newest press into place with a forklift, each day at the shop reaffirms my desire to be a part of it. Especially considering my own doubts and the doubts that others had about my ability to make my letterpress goals a reality.


PRINTING MENTORS I owe every part of my daily routine to Ben Webster – owner, bossman and original pressman of The Mandate Press. He taught me the in’s and out’s for routine setups, he has patiently helped me develop the skill set necessary to solve new problems as they arise, and we are constantly discussing and polishing our opinions about the finer points of modern letterpress.


One of my biggest motivations at Mandate is a desire to repay Ben for the chance he took on an East Coast Luddite after a single Skype interview. I don’t think I’ll ever be sure if our chat really went that well or if he just wanted better access to fresh New England seafood.

Although Ben is the most obvious mentor of mine, I can’t forget the people that encouraged me to consider this path in the first place. Without the support of a core group of my professors at Endicott College (Specifically: Cynthia Roberts, Sanford Farrier, Larry Volk and Barbara Burgess-Maier), I may have never seen my current career path as a realistic option. Without Sarah Hulsey’s course at Montserrat College of Art, I might still be itching to try my hand at printing. And, although it was never a “mentorship” of any sort, without a heads-up from Mike Dacey of Repeat Press in Somerville, Massachusetts, I wouldn’t have known about the internship at Mandate. I will always be thankful for the role each of these people have played in allowing me to connect the dots on my path.



DESIGNER IN THE PRINTER As the Lead Printer at The Mandate Press, I don’t currently have the bandwidth to do any design for the shop but I try to stay active in design outside of Mandate. In June, I joined the board of AIGA Salt Lake City as Membership Director. Just recently, I designed a piece for a gallery show at the shop, and each year, I try to design a piece as a thank-you for those who support my Movember efforts.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS In a word: inefficient. I run in circles with too many different ideas and too many different sketches that get scanned and tweaked and printed and altered and scanned and tweaked etc, etc, etc… Until the final piece comes together during the last 5-10% of the process. Maybe one of these days I’ll streamline my design process but, for now, I’m content to focus my efforts on my performance in the pressroom.


PRESS HISTORY My first press is an 1880s Kelsey Excselsior tabletop press. When I started working with letterpress, it came to light that Red, a friend of my grandfather, had the press just sitting in his basement collecting dust. Not sure what Red wanted for the press, my dad and I went ahead and made plans to go get it. Red had inherited the press from his father, an old union printer who did some hobby printing at home, and it turned out that he was happy just to see the press go to a happy home. What I didn’t realize was that our haul included six cigar boxes of wooden type, a couple drawers of printer’s cuts and a small cabinet of lead type. After paying in handshakes and friendly banter, we headed home with the van riding low.

A trip to John Barrett’s Letterpress Things in Chicopee, Massachusetts quickly rounded out my small shop with a Hamilton cabinet, composing stone, and a few other odds and ends. I barely got things set up at home in Maine before heading to Salt Lake City so the press is in my dad’s custody now and he has been patiently tracking down rollers to fit the press. The press is old enough and the dimensions are odd enough that he has been sent two sets of misfit rollers and is waiting on the third round now.

PRINTING FEATS My number one point of pride is simply the fact that I packed up and moved across the country on the off-chance that I might hack it as a letterpress printer. Making that choice and now seeing the progress I have made as a printer is extremely gratifying.

From less of a selfish standpoint, my biggest point of pride would have to be the show currently hanging in our gallery space at The Mandate Press. We have held a variety of events in our space but this was our first curated, letterpress specific show. We asked 21 artists to create a 2-color piece (Red 032 and Cool Grey 6) within the theme of “The Ghost in the Machine”, which we then printed in-house. The variety of interpretations and styles were held together by the consistency of paper, color, and the loose theme. Being involved in every aspect of the show from the early planning stages, to printing promotional materials, to final set up for the show made the opening night feel like that much more of a success. The prints from that show are still available for purchase from our Big Cartel store or in our Salt Lake City storefront.


BOXCAR’S ROLE  Although we do have an assortment of type – both wood and lead – and printer’s cuts at Mandate, we use photopolymer plates for all of our client work. I hate to place those plates on anything but a Boxcar Base. In a commercial shop, where we pride ourselves not only on the quality of our work but also on our efficiency, the Boxcar Bases are one of the most useful tools in the shop because of their grid. When running two or more colors on a job, the grid allows me to quickly drop the next plate into place even if I’m running that plate on a different press.


SHOP TIPS “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast” ~ Phil Dunphy, Modern Family

Ben will quote this here and there around the shop and although its source is amusing, the point made is incredibly relevant. With the quantity of work that we see come through the doors at The Mandate Press, it could be easy to become focused on the timeline of each job and just push things through the shop. By slowing down and taking our time with each setup, or any process around the shop for that matter, the jobs run more smoothly, curveballs are eliminated, and things actually get done more quickly.


WHAT’S NEXT We are just now catching our collective breath from the efforts put into The Ghost in the Machine as well as a heavy shop involvement in AIGA SLC’s second Design Week. Jim Sheridan of Hatch Show Print visited SLC in early December to give a lecture and used our space to do a workshop as well. Hatch was one of the first shops I was exposed to when I first became interested in letterpress and getting a chance to meet Jim and work with him is an opportunity I never really expected to have.

Big round of thanks to George for letting us take a sneak peek at The Mandate Press!