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.

ALL AROUND LOVE FOR PRINTING

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!

HOME IS WHERE THE PRESS IS

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.

PRINTING MENTORS

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.

PART TIME PRINTER, FULL TIME FUN

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.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS

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!


ALL IN THE DETAILS

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!

FAVORITE PRINTING TECHNIQUE

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!

PRINTING FEATS

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.

PRESS HISTORY

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!

BOXCAR PRESS’ ROLE

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.

PRINTING TIPS

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!).

WHAT’S COMING NEXT

Lots more printing!!

Hidden Treasures at Type High Letterpress

Right down the highway from Syracuse, New York, is Rochester’s very own Type High Letterpress. At the helm of this cozy, treasure-packed print shop is Tony Zanni. From wood & metal type goodies to presses that shine, Tony gives us a tour of this hidden gem tucked away in upstate New York.

Tony Zanni Type High Letterpress IMG 1
Tony Zanni Type High Letterpress IMG 4

PRESSES AND WOODCUTS AND TYPE, OH MY!

Our shop is located on the second floor of an old candy factory in downtown Rochester, NY called the Hungerford Building. It houses around 40 other artisans of varying crafts. We occupy a 1,200 sq. ft. space that is long and narrow.

At the front of the shop is a small retail area. The rest of the shop is packed to the gills with over 700 cases of wood and metal type, and over 150 galleys of dingbats and cuts. At the back we have our 4 large presses:  a Damon & Peets 8×12, Heidelberg Windmill (with factory foil stamping attachment), a Vandercook No. 3 Proof press and a giant Wesel Iron Handpress. We also have a fun collection of small table top presses hiding around the shop as well.

The space in and of itself isn’t really interesting, however, what it’s filled with captures imaginations and inspires creativity. There are all sorts of letterpress goodies to look at. We have originals of Adobe’s Wood Type Ornaments typeface, old wood cuts from various shops around the western NY area, slug cutters, miterers… The Hell Bucket. There’s a lot of stuff to look at if you ever visit.

MOST PRIZED POSSESSIONS

This is going to sound funny but my favorite thing about the shop is that it’s heat included. Our original location was a bit better but boy was it cold in the Upstate winters. The new space… Toasty!

As for fun things / prized possessions, there’s a couple. First would have to be my Vandercook, Izzy. Yeah, I named her Isabelle or Izzy for short. I found her thanks to Shelly at French Press. I asked Shelly to visit this estate sale (because I couldn’t attend) and had her look for Vandy’s. She called and said there was a Vandy in the garage, mostly complete.  I said great, put me on the phone with the seller, offered $500 sight unseen. They said yes and I picked it up two days later. I honestly think this was the last $500 Vandercook to be had and this was back in 2009.

This past summer I acquired another nifty item: a Lufkin 6 ft. tape measure with inches and Pica rules on it. Maybe not super practical, but pretty cool.

One more super cool thing I have is an original plate of the very first Photographic image printed in a magazine. It is “A Scene in Shantytown, New York”  that appeared in the March 4, 1880 issue of New York Daily Graphic – the first halftone photograph ever printed by a newspaper. Yes, we have a pretty cool collection.

SHOP SIZE

I jokingly refer to my shop as the “train car”. It’s about 15′ wide by 65′ long and has 3 windows in the back and a double door up front. With any luck we’ll be moving down the hall later this year a space that is 1500 square feet. I’m not looking forward to moving all this again.

PRINTING IN THE EMPIRE STATE

We are in the Hungerford Building. surrounded by many other creative artists.  On the first Friday and second Saturday of every month we host events. We are the northern border of an area called the Neighborhood of the Arts.  About 3 blocks away are the Memorial Art Gallery, Anderson Alley Arts building, plus a host of other galleries & public art pieces.

TYPE OF SHOP

Type High is a commercial letterpress print shop specializing in hand set typography and design for letterpress printing. Obviously, I use Boxcar Press for our plates when the need arises. We teach letterpress workshops in our space, how to set type properly and print an edition. In addition, I also teach a semester long letterpress design class for the Rochester Institute of Technology.

PRESS FAMILY

The long list of things currently in the shop from largest to smallest…

  • Wesel Iron Handpress
  • Sheet 18×24 printable 16×22
  • Vandercook No. 3 Proof press
  • Sheet 14×20 Printable 13.5ish x 18.5ish
  • Heidelberg Windmill 10 x 13 with Foil
  • Damon & Peets 8 x12
  • Nolan Proof press 12 x 18 galley proof press
  • Showcard Press 14 x 20ish
  • Old style Pilot Press 7 x10
  • Craftsman 5×8
  • Golding 4×6
  • Kelsey 3×5
  • Sigwalt 2×3 toy press
  • Challenge 26.5″ cutter

MOST VALUABLE TOOL

The most valuable tool in my shop is my line gauge, Pica Stick, ruler… whatever you want to call it. My favorite one is a Gaebel 612H-12 with inches, Picas, Points and millimeters. Not only is it great for measuring and drawing straight lines, but it’s also great for opening ink cans, cutting open packages, getting things out from under the press. Not to mention, slicing pizza, and cutting cookie cake on those special occasions.

GETTING INKY

My favorite inks are from the old cans we pull out of shops that we buy out. The older the ink, the better the coverage. Plus it’s usually free and we’re saving it from going to the landfill. When we have to buy new stuff, it’s usually Van Son due to ease of ordering with our local supplier.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE

Don’t tell anyone, I order California Type Wash. It’s an older solvent, that’s probably not as good for the environment as some of the newer stuff but it’s by far the best i’ve ever used. It cleans quick, dries fast, and will take 100 years of ink off in only a few wipes. I like to challenge myself when cleaning up the Vandercook to do it only using one or 2 rags at the most.

BASE SYSTEM

For most jobs I need plates for, I use the Boxcar Base and polymer plates. My base is beat up, but it still does the trick. To be honest, I hate printing with polymer plates. It’s been my experience that the ink does not carry well, and they can be finicky at times with the amount of ink on the roller and the roller height. Since we go in between hand-set type and plates, it is challenging at times for make-ready.

OIL OF CHOICE  

You’re supposed to oil these things? Honestly, I just use the same oil I use for my race car. If it’s good enough to run at 6000 RPM for an hour in a race car it’s good enough for a press.

PREFERRED CLEAN-UP RAG

I’m cheap… I use Scotts Rags in a box… but only the ones from small mom and pops hardware stores, because they are different from the ones at Home Depot.

PIED TYPE

I just recycled a 91 lb. bucket of pied worn out old metal type. However, there’s still standing forms from shops we cleaned out years ago. Some of the type from those shops may have been sold or dumped at this point but the standing forms are still in our galley storage. There are also 5 drawers of miscellaneous wood type hiding in the shop. I need a few more hours in the day to handle pied type.

ORGANIZATION SECRET

I guess the only secret I have is a Sharpie. I have a pretty photographic memory for where my type is, what it is, and to where that random Cap L needs to go.  When I take something out to use, I write in Sharpie the cabinet and drawer number on the back of it. Other than that, as long as I put it away I know right where it is. When I don’t,  well let’s just say I swear a lot until I find it.

SHOP TIPS

Things I wish I knew from day one: How to price my work for lines of type setting, vs pricing a computer-aided design. And pricing for press time vs make-ready time vs finishing time. That probably needs to evolve for each person. As a one man shop, it’s tough to figure all that out. If anyone has a magic button for that, let me know.

Tony Zanni Type High Letterpress IMG 4
Tony Zanni Type High Letterpress IMG 1


2018 Holiday Letterpress Gift Guide

We count down the top 18 gift ideas in our 2018 Holiday Letterpress Gift Guide for that special printer on your list. Featuring calendars, prints, and type-themed goodies that are sure to please!  Let us know what’s on your wishlist in the comments section below!

Holiday Gift Guide 2018

1.  Flurry Paper from Boxcar Press.  | 2. The Vandercook 100 book by JustVandy   | 3.  PANTONE holiday ornament by PANTONE.   | 4. RGB & CMYK & PANTONE sticker by gschroeds.  | 5. Letterpress Metal Type 110 piece puzzle by alicing.  | 6. Hamilton Wood Type Water Bottle from Hamilton Wood Type.

Holiday Gift Guide 2018

7.  Letterpress type Serving Tray by forrest.   8. Live Love Letterpress mug by OddMatter .  | 9. Letterpress Metal Type Composing Stick Enamel Pin  by ThePaperCarnival.  | 10.  2019 Fundraising Calendar from Green Pea Press. 11. 2019 Letterpress Calendar by HighwayPress.  | 12. Heidelberg Windmill Press t-shirt by Boxcar Press.

Holiday Gift Guide 2018

13. Hamilton Wood Type Blue Pullover Hoodie from Hamilton Wood Type. | 14. Daredevil furniture from Springtide Press.  |  15. Gallery Magnets from Springtide Press.  |  16. Printing Digital Type on the hand-operated flatbed cylinder by Gerard Lang |   17. Letterpress Paper Turtle Sculpture Kit by Questionable Press.

20th Anniversary Boxcar Press printing apron - Boxcar Press - Holiday Gift Guide 2018

18.  Boxcar Press Printing Apron by Boxcar Press.

Making the Leap Into Letterpress: Lauren Rolph

 

Newly fledged full-time architect-turned printer, Lauren Ralph of Helen Edna letterpress shares with us her printing journey so far. From being inspired by the vivid color palettes of Van Gogh and Kandinsky to taking up printing lessons at the International Printing Museum in Carson, CA, Lauren’s bright and clean designs reflect her dedication to the printing tradition.

TACTILE ARTIST

I began my career as an architect. Shortly thereafter, I came to the realization I missed working with my hands. The summer of 2018, I embarked on a new journey and opened my letterpress stationery studio, Helen Edna.

Lauren Rolph letterpress

I took printing lessons at the International Printing Museum in Carson. My favorite part was learning the printing process and being able to print my hand-drawn designs and turning them into cards. As a result of the printing lessons, I bought a Golding Pearl. Next, I made the leap to start Helen Edna!

LOVE AT FIRST PRINT

Letterpress cards in boutiques are something that I have admired. Being able to design and print my own cards for people to enjoy is something that brings me great joy. 

Lauren Rolph letterpress

CALIFORNIA COOL

I live a really neat area in California that is close to just about everything. My house is near the Headlands Conservation Area, Dana Point Harbor … and next to Strands Beach in Dana Point.

All the design work and order fulfillment takes place at my home in Dana Point. While all the printing happens at my husband’s grandmother’s home (which is nearby).

PRINTING MENTORS

One of my printing mentors would be Mark Barbor, the International Printing Museum Director. Not only did he give my husband and I a printing lesson at the museum. Even more, he has been helpful in getting me started. In addition to Mark as a printing mentor, artists such as Van Gogh and Kandinsky are inspirational.

Lauren Rolph letterpress

FULL TIME FUN

Over the last several months, I have been printing full-time. It is a true pleasure in seeing my designs come to life!

CREATIVE PROCESS

How does the creative process begin? First, I begin drawing thumbnail sketches in pen and ink. Next, I take a photo of the design is uploaded in Adobe Draw. From here, I use the Apple Pencil to create the illustration. After this, I export the drawing into Adobe Illustrator and adjust the Pantone colors. Finally, I prepare the design file to send to Boxcar Press. The design file includes adding registration for the designs that are full-bleed.

Lauren Rolph letterpress

PRINTING FEATS

One of my biggest printing feats is opening Helen Edna. Opening this store is something I have dreamed about for years. 

FIRST PRESS

A Golding Improved Pearl No. 11, which I bought from the International Printing Museum in Carson, CA.

BOXCAR PRESS’ ROLE

Boxcar Press’ customer service is impressive. They have a really fast turnaround, are always very polite, and willing to help with any questions you may have.

Lauren Rolph letterpress

PRINTING TIPS

I have three pieces of printing tips. My first, If you are looking to save time … for card designs that are not a full bleed (and have a good margin around the design) I order precut and folded A2 Crane Lettra, from Astro.

My second tip, to achieve the perfect registration try overlaying your design with the printed design on vellum.

The final printing tip, if you are looking for Pantone ink colors to be spot on, and able to apply directly from the tube onto the disk, check out Southern Ink.

WHAT’S NEXT

I’m hoping to exhibit at the National Stationery Show for the first time! I also plan on doing more craft fairs and continue to play with designs for my line.

Immensely large round of thanks + appreciation out to Lauren of Helen Edna!

Let’s See That Printed: Isle of Dogs by AJ Masthay

As soon as AJ Masthay’s “Isle of Dogs” print passed through our platemaking department, we had to know more. Discover as we catch up with AJ of Masthay Studio, and this sneak peek. Find out what is the inspiration for this ultra-detailed piece… and where can you enjoy this piece.

The piece was created for an upcoming Isle of Dogs group exhibition hosted by SpokeArt NYC at the Parasol Project, 213 Bowery, NYC. From their Facebook event page:

“Spoke Art is pleased to present the Isle of Dogs Art Show. This is an officially licensed art exhibition tribute to Wes Anderson’s most recent film. The dynamic group show features over one hundred artists, painters, sculptors and print makers, debuting one weekend only in New York City’s Lower East Side.

Isle of Dogs Wes Anderson AJ Masthay letterpress print

Isle of Dogs

Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson’s most recent project, is a stop-motion animated film set in a Japanese dystopian future. The story follows a boy’s journey to find his dog after the species is banished to an island following the outbreak of canine flu. Inspired by the adventurous tale that Anderson brought forth, a select group of artists have created character portraits and highly detailed environments and scenes inspired by Isle of Dogs. Featuring a diverse array of painting, sculpture and limited edition prints, each artist offers their own unique perspective and interpretation of the Wes Anderson film. This whimsical and canine filled pop-up exhibition is an absolute must see.

About the Piece

I personally love the quirky works of Wes Anderson and am a huge dog lover. I have two very spoiled Labrador Retrievers Dexter & Halley. When asked to participate in this exhibition I immediately said YES!

My piece features the main characters from the film, both human and canine. As well as, the scene in which they debate whether to attack. Spoiler alert – they realize he has come searching for his own dog “Spots” and decide to help him in his quest. 

Isle of Dogs Wes Anderson AJ Masthay letterpress print

The print is a reproduction of a detailed graphite drawing utilizing a Boxcar Press’ photopolymer plate with a 133 LPI halftone screen applied. We’ve found that once dialed in on our Vandercook Universal III, these halftone plates reproduce tonal drawings beautifully. They come very close to the detail typically found in lithographs.

To mimic the graphite work we do the following steps. First, we mix a fairly stiff, dark gray ink with a touch of brown to warm it up a bit. Next, we use a paper that is soft and supple, such as Arches 88. Finally, we finish the piece with a hint of hand-applied color in the pilot’s eyes. As a result, this slight variation adds a personal touch of individuality. The hand coloring piece complements the printing perfectly.

Isle of Dogs Wes Anderson AJ Masthay letterpress print

The Final Edition size is 100 signed, numbered and titled, 15”x20” on Arches 88. Prints are available to purchase at the event. Remaining prints will be made available online following the event, through SpokeArt.

The Isle of Dogs Art Show group art exhibit is running from November 9th, 2018 – November 11th, 2018. For more details, check out their Facebook page here.

2018 Paper Giveaway to Local CNY Teachers Inspires Creativity

We here at Boxcar Press love supporting our local community & recycling and we have found a great way to do both and give back to Central New York.  We rolled up our doors this past Tuesday, October 16th to local Central New York art teachers for our annual Art Paper Giveaway.

2018 Paper Giveaway for Local Central New York Teachers Adds More Art Materials to the classroom.

Excited and energetic teachers from around and beyond the greater Syracuse area were thrilled to load up their cars, vans, and arms with boxes and bags full of brilliantly colored envelopes, papers, offcuts, boxes, and goodies galore.

2018 Paper Giveaway for Local Central New York Teachers Adds More Art Materials to the classroom.

With tightened budgets for school art programs on the rise, the Paper Giveaway for art teachers is a fantastic way for teachers to add more creative materials for students in their current classes. Many teachers come back year-after-year with smiles and a keen eye on the look-out for the next “something” for their kids to use in an upcoming art project.

2018 Paper Giveaway for Local Central New York Teachers Adds More Art Materials to the classroom.

2018 Paper Giveaway for Local Central New York Teachers Adds More Art Materials to the classroom.

Art teachers who are are interested in next year’s Paper Giveaway for Teachers event can contact us at info@boxcarpress.com. Picking up paper is on a first come, first served basis and questions can be directed to Boxcar Press at 315-473-0930.

Graham Judd: A New Zealand Printing Gem

Cozied in the north shore of New Zealand is Birkenhead – a suburb of Auckland that offers gorgeous beaches, picturesque vistas, and the hidden gem that is GTO Printers.  Graham Judd was able to take a minute to talk shop with us about his trip to the Ladies of Letterpress last year, falling for printing on day one, his cozy (but efficient!) garage-turned-shop, and gearing up to create more workshops to spread the love of letterpress in New Zealand.

FAMILY AND PRINTING LIFE I grew up in a small country town in New Zealand, had a happy family life, the middle child of five. My dad was the local radio station manager and mum sang a lot in local operatic shows, so we were brought up with music and social activities in our home. We were sent to the local Baptist church and there I made a decision to follow Christ at age 17. This has influenced my journey in life ever since. I moved to Auckland with my wife in 1975, and we are still here. We now have three adult children. They all love what I do, but all have their own careers outside of printing.

FALLING FOR LETTERPRESS I left school with few qualifications and no idea of a career, but a friend who was a compositor in a local printing company suggested I look at an apprenticeship in the printing trade, which I did. And I loved printing from day one. My apprenticeship was as a letterpress machinist, training on Heidelbergs mainly, platens and cylinders. I later retrained on offset as letterpress was phased out.

NEW ZEALAND WONDERS Up until January 2018 I have been leasing a small building in the local area where we live, and I think my ‘apprentice’ Christina kept our local coffee shop in business with her mocha purchases. The situation changed and it was the time to move the business home. So now I have a small (one car garage size) area that houses most of my equipment. I’m allowed a bit of extra space in the real garage for paper stock, and I have my old Albion press at the local library. My print shop is typical, with the Heidelberg 10×15 platen and Polar guillotine taking most space, then a small stone, galley rack, ink stand, work bench, a type cabinet with my wood type, and that leaves enough room to take one step to get to anything! It works well, I can’t buy any more stuff, which is probably good!

MENTORS + INSPIRATION My basic training was done a long time ago, I’m now at the stage of life where I’m passing on my bad habits to others. But people who come to mind that impress me with their work are Jenn at Starshaped Press, the lettering of Jessica Hische, and the work of local printer Tara McLeod who would be New Zealand’s most experimental letterpress printer. In my trips to USA the things that really stand out have been visits to Hamilton Wood Museum, the International Printing Museum in Carson, Edes and Gill Printing Office in Boston, the Crane Printing Plant, and of course our visit to John at Letterpress Things in Chicopee.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I am really a printer only, very dependent on artwork being supplied by clients. This possibly means I miss out on some jobs that won’t get past the designer/printer shops, but it does mean the job is ready to print when it gets to me, so the decisions that can make a job hard work are all done. It does mean that designers that have pushed the limits of what letterpress can do in their design, give me challenges on the press.

FULL TIME FUN I have run my business full time for nearly 35 years, that included offset and later digital machines. I was fortunate to go through the period between letterpress and digital, when offset ruled, and there was a lot work for a small commercial printer. Now that I am nearing the end of my professional career, I am ok that work is slowing a little, but I still love inking up the press whenever I can.

PRINTING FEATS In 2014 I printed a set of art prints for a client, which won me the supreme award in the Pride in Print Awards in New Zealand, the best of the best printing for that year, beating all the big offset and digital boys in the country. I thought it should get some recognition when I entered it, but was delighted and amazed that the judges put it at the top. That was pretty cool. I have trained up two ladies who have both set up successful letterpress businesses in New Zealand. I am very proud of both of them, and proud to think I had a small hand in their success. I feel the printing trade has been good to me, and am happy to give back as I can.

PRESS HISTORY The first press I purchased was an AM Multi 1250, a small offset press, back in about 1982. By 1987 I had replaced it with other offset presses, and got me a brand new Heidelberg TOK that year. My first letterpress machine was an Adana 8×5, purchased in about 1995 I think. That was about when I got a desire to dabble in letterpress after a 20 year break. I purchased my Heidelberg Platen in 2008, and that’s when I got serious about commercial letterpress again.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Living in New Zealand means I have had little to do with Boxcar Press, only seeing the name pop up regularly on google searches for letterpress stuff. Meeting the boss and Maddie and others at the Ladies of Letterpress convention in 2017 was great. I was most impressed that Maddie was willing to dive into the press to pull out all the rubbish deep inside! Getting the ink into your blood is a prerequisite of a dedicated letterpress printer!

SHOP TIPS My experience is mostly with Heidelbergs, so one thing I reinforce is, for new operators, set up and get the feeder running consistently before inking up the press. If it’s not feeding well it’s just adding to the battle of getting a good job done.

WHAT’S NEXT There are opportunities to run more workshops, both beginner letterpress and Heidelberg platen workshops. I have a plan to set up a mobile printshop, visiting schools, libraries, and events where I can share the letterpress experience. I’m on the lookout for an ex-ambulance or similar. And for a while yet continue to run my little print shop as a profitable and happy place!

A world of thanks to Graham of GTO Printers for letting us take a sneak peek into his New Zealand printing world!

Allison Chapman and Why She Loves Letterpress – Printing Passed On

Letterpress leaves a lasting impression on a young printer who now loves to kindle this spark in others. Allison Chapman, of Ohio-based Igloo Letterpress, shares with us how a family tradition lives on in her press shop and how she came to love letterpress.

I was lucky enough to learn about letterpress printing from my grandad, Mark Gibson.  He became a hobby printer in the 1960s after finding a Johnson Peerless platen press in a neighbor’s barn.  He restored the press, joined the Amalgamated Printer’s Association and was hooked.  As his “assistant” growing up, I loved to help with whatever projects he was working on.  I soon had a small toy press that I could use while he was printing.  As a kid, I loved letterpress because of the sound of the press running, the smell of ink and paper and the pleasure of repetitive tasks.

As soon as I got to college I realized how special the time in his print shop had been.  I took every printmaking class and started making up independent projects so that would allow me continued access to the print studio.  I successfully schemed and created a study away experience that focused on letterpress history.  I began an internship under Elizabeth Harris and Stan Nelson at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.  At the time there was an amazing demonstration area in the museum where I learned how to knock up ink balls, change the frisket on the common press and fold newspaper hats.

That internship cemented my love of letterpress and of making.  I wanted to read and write about the history of printing, but I also wanted to increase my skills.  I began working at Minnesota Center for Book Arts and learned how contemporary artists were using letterpress and bookbinding.  The 11 years I spent working at MCBA heightened my appreciation for the finer points of the craft.  I became a better printer and bookbinder through the instruction I received and the projects I completed in my home printshop.

A surprise move from Minnesota to Ohio forced me to move the presses out of the house and into a storefront.  This became an accidentally wonderful way to build a community for myself in my new town.  I quickly found an active design community that welcomed Igloo as a print resource.  To build the business I ramped up custom work for local customers and launched a wholesale line at the National Stationery Show.  As production increased I brought in extra hands through talented interns and contractors.  Eventually, I gathered a talented crew of artists and makers to join Igloo’s staff.  Through our work as letterpress printers and bookbinders, we encourage a love of making and an appreciation for fine craft.  Visitors are welcomed to see the presses in action as they shop in our store and are encouraged to stop & make a journal at our book bar or sign up for a class to create their own project.

After 22 years of collecting and teaching, I still love letterpress and find joy in making something new every day.

Smitten for letterpress? We’d love to hear from you! Share your story in the comments below!

Rob LoMascolo: The Call of Letterpress

We enjoy hearing from wonderful members of the letterpress community on how the printing tradition has inspired them to their true calling. Aurora, NY-based Rob LoMascolo of The Press of Rob LoMascolo shares with us on why he is smitten with the printing tradition.

Why do I love letterpress? Letterpress appeals to me on many levels, but I think it is the tactility of it that appeals foremost to many of us. You can feel and see the difference. When looking at crisply printed type with just a slight bite into the paper one gets the sense that each and every letter is a physical thing, not a digital recreation of a thing, but every letter is a real actual thing that is very much part of that printed sheet.

My mom likes to tell people that in first grade we kiddos were all asked what we wanted to do when we grew up. Most of my classmates wanted to be athletes, firefighters or follow in their parent’s footsteps, but I wanted to own my own museum!

Yup, visitors always say my shop is like a working museum. Letterpress combines my loves of history, art, design, books, old machines, and above all, it has a realness about it that is lacking from so much of our digital world.

As much as I love letterpress for all those reasons, the reason I do it is simply because I have not found any better way.