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.

Shop Tour With Lourdes Irizarry

East Haven, Connecticut hugs the shoreline of Long Island Sound and is home to Lourdes Irizarry of Slackline Press. Lourdes’ self-proclaimed printing hideaway has cool tunes playing in the background, a loft nook above the main printing floor, and a treasure of letterpress tools collected over the years. Stepping back from her platen presses, Lourdes gives us a tour of where the printing magic happens, thanks in part to the support she has found in the New England letterpress community.

MINIMALIST PRINTSHOP Our shop is small so I like to keep it light and tidy. It has neutral, recessed lighting throughout and natural light from two windows and a sliding barn door that opens to the outside. The floor is a sturdy but affordable, wood textured linoleum over a leveled cement floor that I don’t have to worry about damaging. We built shelving from old wood we salvaged from the renovation, as well as a 7 ft. workbench with storage for large sheets of paper.

MOST PRIZED POSSESSION My favorite thing about our shop is a small crawl space in the rafters that was converted into a tiny loft for storage. I outfitted it with an old letterpress tray table I made. It’s a great space to hide with my laptop or sketchbook when I need quiet time to design. My prized possession is my first press – a Golding Jobber #6 named Brumhilda.

SHOP SIZE The entire space is approximately 300 sq ft.

CONNECTICUT SPLENDOR Our shop is a half of a detached garage that was drywalled and insulated to be functional throughout the seasons. It’s located behind our tiny cape on the Connecticut shoreline close to New Haven. It’s a short bike ride away from the town beach and town green where the library and farmer’s market is.

TYPE OF SHOP Our garage turned studio is in a residential neighborhood, on the border of a commercial part of town.

PRESS FAMILY I have 3 platen presses – a Golding Jobber #6 8×12, Golding Pearl #11 7×11 and a Sigwalt Nonpareil 6×9 tabletop press.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL  It sounds silly, but I can’t live without my pocket ruler, to help center or square artwork while printing.

INK OF CHOICE I print with Van Son rubber-based inks. My favorite is rubine red. It never gets tacky, is easy to mix and looks lovely by itself.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE I find mineral spirits work best for me. Easy Street, which was recommended by someone at Boxcar, is a huge help when switching colors, cleaning up dark ink or if ink has been on the rollers for more than a few hours.

BASE SYSTEM I’ve had the Standard Boxcar Base for the 5 years I’ve been printing. I started with KF95 plates then switched to 94CHFB but I can’t decide if I like one more than the other.

OIL OF CHOICE I use 3-in-1 oil.

PREFERRED CLEAN-UP RAG just use old t-shirts that I collect from anyone getting rid of them!

PIED TYPE I don’t have a lot of metal type but what I do have came nicely sorted, so I don’t think I have any lying around.

KEEPING IT ORGANIZED Clean as you go! Everything in my studio has a home, and if I didn’t put things back in their place I either wouldn’t find them when I need them or I wouldn’t have enough space to work. I think my favorite organizational solution is plastic shoebox size bins to store printed cards. They’re stackable, easy to see what’s inside and keep dust out.

SHOP TIPS I feel like I will always be learning. I did notice very early on, how friendly and eager the letterpress community is to share advice. I think acquiring presses that needed some elbow grease and restoration helped to get to know the ins and outs of my presses. They all have their own unique quirks. It takes time and patience but I think it’s a really valuable way to learn.

The Inquisitive Printer: Extra Things That Caught Our Eye

From cool printing events happening in central New York and across the border into Canada (as well as a nifty pitstop for an unusual store in Alabama), we focus in on amazing things happening that captured our attention this week. We hope you enjoy this latest edition of things that caught our eye (and maybe jump-start some new project or travel destination plans!)

Madeline Bartley: Outside of working in the Boxcar printshop, I play with other forms of printmaking. Such as carving a woodblock. Like a really big 4 foot by 4 foot block. I really enjoy working with large scale imagery. The making of this woodblock is leading up to an outdoor event called the Big Ol’ Steamrollin’ Print Invitational.

Instead of a large printing press, you rent a steamroller to apply the pressure to transfer ink onto fabric. This will be my third year participating in the Big Ol’ Steamrollin’ Print Invitational and overall my sixth time I have been involved with steamrolled prints.

The Big Ol’ Steamrollin’ Print Invitational will be taking place on Friday, June 29th during the 2018 MWPAI Arts Fest. It is free and open to the public.

PrattMWP Gallery is located in the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Museum of Art
at 310 Genesee Street, Utica, New York.

Cathy Smith: I have been emailing with a gentleman from Canada who bought a press last year – a Heidelberg Wiindmill 10×15 – and he says it’s part of his retirement program!  He also enjoys a little public speaking and wood engraving. Why buy the press?  He started a Butterfly Conservatory in Cambridge, Ontario 18 years ago and it’s time to embrace a new challenge.  Check out the Butterfly Conservatory as it is beyond impressive in terms of programs, exhibits, and gardens.  I love when customers share cool things with me!

Rebecca Miller:  For your next trip to the library or bookstore, we heartily recommend checking out “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” by Mason Currey. A delightful book that logs the daily routines and anecdotes of famous creatives from Charles Dickens to Benjamin Franklin (a fellow printer, we might add). This delightful book is a page-turner for the trivia-enthusiast as well as the creative artist or printer seeking inspiration for organizing their day-to-day workflow.

Ever wonder where some of unclaimed luggage goes to? Although we can’t say whether the Unclaimed Baggage Store in Scottsboro, Alabama has a container of pied type or a case of vintage lead type, we love the notion that there is a “catch all” brick-and-mortar store for those bags that are never claimed.

Never fear, the items & luggage that are in this store go through a rigorous 3-month tracing period by the airlines. Once the all-clear is given, the Unclaimed Baggage Store buys the items before putting anything on the shelves for sale. If something cannot be sold but is still in good condition, the store then donates them to those in need.

Do you have a cool thing you’d like to share with us, an awesome printing event coming up that you’d like to give a shout-out to, or see something cool that catches your eye? Email us at info@boxcarpress.com as we’d love to hear from you! We’re always on the look-out for wonderful + fun things!

The Nature of Creative Beasties Workshop

West of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range and northeast of Sacramento is the beautiful city of Lincoln, California.  It’s home to the Creative Beasties Workshop and printing abode of Danny Rhoades.  The garage-turned-printing haven features the thrum of a Heidelberg Windmill on which Danny creates his latest colorful creations.  Danny throws open the doors to give us a tour of his studio.

EVERCHANGING WORKSPACE The workshop is in the tandem portion of our garage. I had a bunch of fluorescent tube lights installed to give better lighting. Other than that it’s pretty sparse. We tried to finish it with some texture and paint but we didn’t know what we were doing and made a mess. Then we decided just to leave it half done because we ran out of time and had to stop for equipment delivery.

THE HEART OF THE SHOP My favorite thing in the shop is my Heidelberg Windmill. It’s the heart of our workshop and is what makes all of our letterpress projects happen.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP It’s right around 288 square feet. 14’8″ x 19’8″

CALIFORNIA NEIGHBORHOOD Our house backs up to a highway, so our backyard view is a 20 foot sound wall. We’re in a recently developed suburban family neighborhood.

TYPE OF SHOP I’d actually really like to open my shop up to community printers and let them use my equipment to allow budding printers get started. However, I don’t know how to make that happen yet since I’m worried about the legality of it and if it creates any liabilities or risk which I’m sure it does.

THE PRESSES We rely on our Heidelberg Windmill 10×15 press from the late 70s to print all out letterpress projects. We also have some digital printers, a hobby laser cutter, vinyl cutter, and a heat press.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL There’s so many things I rely on heavily, but if I had to pick one, I’d go with my oil can. It really makes maintenance a breeze.

FAVORITE INK Van Son Rubber base inks are what we use. Current favorite ink color is probably Orange. I used it in a split fountain test run along with Purple and it really took me by surprise how nice of a color it is.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE We took Boxcar’s advice and use California wash. It seems to do the best job overall. We’ve also use odorless mineral spirits from time to time along with a roller wash we got from a local distributor, but usually come back to California wash again due to its reliability.

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE We use a Boxcar Base system, of course, along with KF95 and KF152 plates depending on the job. We’ve been using this system since inception in 2014.

OIL OF CHOICE We use Mobile DTE Oil Heavy.

WHAT TYPE OF RAG DO YOU CLEAN UP WITH We use Scott shop towels and white cotton rags that we cut from t-shirts.

PIED TYPE No type, we do everything on photopolymer.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE I keep all my packing materials in a drawer pre-sorted by weight for easy setup. I do the same with pretty much all my materials, but that’s the best example.

PRINTING ADVICE Spend the time to line up your plates on the Base. If you’re careful, you can save a ton of time on press.

Keeping the Printing Rhythm With Tom Virgin

From Midwest to Miami and to teaching art by-day and printing-by-night, Tom Virgin of Extra Virgin Press weaves a letterpress journey of printmaking.  We caught up with Tom after hours on what makes his printing clock tick, the tales of teaching art in the high-school classroom, and the excellent food fare that is a must for a late night printing session in Miami.

Tom Virgin of Extra Virgin Press prints on a Vandercook.

PRINTING, SLUGS & ROCK’N’ROLL I was born and raised in the Midwest, just outside of Detroit. Fueled by blues, jazz, Motown, and rock & roll, I made my first print in 1972. I am now in my sixth childhood, having spent twice as much time in South Florida than in my native Great Lakes State.

IN TYPE-TOP SHAPE In 2004, I took a letterpress class with Kerry McAleer at Pyramid Atlantic Center in Silver Springs, Maryland. We made cards with a short quotation of our choice. Mine was:

“The course of true love nevər did run smooth.”– William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream | Act 1, Scene 1

I quickly realized my mistake, reset the type, and reprinted. I decided the typo was more in the spirit of the original quote, and returned the position of the second “e” to the first version. This is my first love of letterpress story.

THE PRINTING TRANSITION I am a bookworm (and a storyteller). Printmaking eventually led me to book arts. The ability to create archival editions from press printed text and images was what made me finally get into letterpress.

Tom Virgin of Extra Virgin Press prints beautiful broadsides.

I have always worked in communal studios as a printmaker, so the transition to letterpress was a natural step. The first presses I printed on solo, were at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts in Boca Raton, Florida. Arthur Jaffe bought my very first book for the Jaffe Collection, and mentored me for the rest of his life.

SPLENDID IN THE SUNSHINE STATE Nestled in the middle of Little Haiti just north of Downtown Miami, I am a five minute drive from Korean fusion BBQ, Haitian cuisine, Thai food, awesome burgers and, right next door, Clive’s Jamaican Jerk Shop. Four blocks away is the Little Haiti Cultural Center. I am a white guy in Miami, living the cushiest minority experience on the planet. Extra Virgin Press has a Vandercook 4 Proof Press (formerly owned by Gaylord Schanilec, and lovingly donated to EVP by Regula Russelle of Cedar Fence Press- both from the Twin Cities in Minnesota). Our second press is a Challenge 15KP. Both presses are bringing back letterpress printing to the Miami community. The presses keep me from eating all of that amazing food, every waking hour.

The printing abode of Extra Virgin Press in Miami, Florida.

PRINTING MENTORS I am fortunate to have had many teachers and mentors, all of whom have contributed mightily to my printing practice. I am especially indebted to Arthur Jaffe, who welcomed me to the Jaffe Center for Book Arts, and John Cutrone (Convivio Books/Jaffe Center) in South Florida. Stephanie Shieldhouse at Highway Press, in Jacksonville, Florida gave critical support when Extra Virgin Press became a reality in 2016.

In Red Wing, Minnesota, in my home-away-from-home, the Anderson Center at Tower View, I have been well schooled by the proprietor of Red Dragonfly Press, Scott King. Scott and Robert Hedin, the retired Director of the Anderson Center also introduced me to Regula Russelle (Cedar Fence Press), Chip Schilling (Indulgence Press), Monica Edwards Larson (Sister Black Press), Amanda Degener (Cave Paper), CB Sherlock (Seymour Press), Gaylord Schanilec (Midnight Paper Sales), and Richard Stephens, all from Minnesota Center for Book Arts, one way or the other. Moe Snyder and Maria Cardenas set me straight in Portland, Oregon. Many others have lent me assistance and support.

Tom Virgin of Extra Virgin Press prints beautiful broadsides.

GETTING INSPIRED My Instagram feed is a constant inspiration. I follow all I can find. Regula’s Russelle’s books offer me a sublime view of the world of color that helps me escape from black and white woodcut prints. (Mary) Bruno Press, another Minnesota great, keeps me smiling, Amos Kennedy in Detroit offers a powerful moral compass, and damn fine work to back it up. Another Motown great is Signal-Return. When I grow up, I hope to create a community of dedicated printers like Lynne Avadenka has, in Downtown Detroit. Can I just say, “Hatch Show Print in Nashville?” Writers have enriched my life immeasurably.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS My visual arts practice included printing, painting, drawing, book arts, and public art, prior to my entry into letterpress printing.

Teaching high schoolers letterpress printing with Tom Virgin.

Teaching a full spectrum of arts classes in Title I Public High Schools in the fourth largest school district in the United States helped me with design. I suspect the students teach me more than I teach them. My colleagues in grad school, as well as fellow Professors, Adjunct Professors, and working artists have helped me to bring some skills to the letterpress world.

Tom Virgin and helper set-up Vandercook printing press.

PART TIME PRINTER, FULL TIME FUN At this point, I am printing after school and on weekends. That is the bulk of my waking hours. My retirement from the public schools will make it possible for me to print full time.

PRINTING FEATS —In 2006 I received the Florida Artist Book Prize for Right There, an artist’s book about Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and a semi accurate account of my childhood in Michigan.

–I have taught five or six thousand teenagers about art.

–Extra Virgin Press has received support from the Knight Foundation, Cannonball Miami’s Wavemaker/Long Haul Grant, Miami Dade County Cultural Affairs, and the Miami Foundation, in its quest to bring letterpress back to Miami.

PRESS HISTORY [My very first press was] a Vandercook 4 Proof Press, Serial #13622.

Vandercook presses inside Extra Virgin Press in Miami, Florida.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Cathy and Rebecca make it possible for me to function in a letterpress world, answering far more questions than can be reasonably expected. The words on the website about setting up a letterpress shop are revelatory. Thank you Harold and Company.

SHOP (AND LIFE) TIPS I am still learning, but you will be the first to know.

WHAT’S NEXT I look forward to more printing, more books, more kids, more grant applications, and teaching new printers, so that I can run both presses every day.

A triple round of applause & thanks out to Tom Virgin of Extra Virgin Press for letting us take a sneak peek at his wonderful + tropical printing world!

Top 20 of ’18 Mother’s Day Letterpress Gift Guide

From being your Queen Bee to the one who knows whether you like the crust cut off your sandwiches (or not!), we rally up the 20 of ’18 of the most beautiful, humorous, and heartfelt Mother’s Day letterpress gifts to show Mom who’s tops. See a gorgeous must-have that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

mothers-day-letterpress-gift-guide-1

1. Therapist-Approved Mother’s Day card by Shed Letterpress  | 2. Wine Bottle Tags for Mom by Chez Gagne |  3. What I Learned From My Mother Broadside by Campbell Raw Press  | 4. Mom Yelling – I Love You card by Ladyfingers Letterpress  | 5. Super Mom card by Hello Lucky

mothers-day-letterpress-gift-guide-1

6. Mom’s Recipe card by Blackbird Letterpress  | 7. Super Mom card by The Fingersmith Press  | 8. Mother-Daughter Timeline letterpress card  from Chez Gagne |  9. Orange Bouquet card by Sesame Letterpress  | 10. Needlepoint Mother’s Day card by Greenwich Letterpress

11. Buy Mom a yearly membership in Ladies of Letterpress  | 12.  Happy Mother’s Day Tulips by deeandlala |  13. Mom Heart by Karolin Schnoor from Bison Bookbinding & Letterpress

mothers-day-letterpress-gift-guide-1

14. Tip-top Mother’s Day card by Anemone Letterpress  | 15. Mothers day specialty letterbox from sky of blue cards  |  16. Gal Who Fixes Everything card by Igloo Letterpress  | 17. Beautiful Letterpress Coasters by Haute Papier (pick a fun one for mom!) |  18.  Fun and colorful letterpress notebooks from Hammerpress  |  19. Letterpress Flower coasters by Ruby Press  | 20. Boxcar Baby T-shirts from Boxcar Press (for moms-to-be)

The Inquisitive Printer: More Things That Caught Our Eye

Our focus lately has gone from New York to New Mexico and over the water.  We hope you enjoy what has captured our attention this week.

From Carrie: A windmill printer at Boxcar Press.
On the Letterpress Digest podcast: As a giant letterpress and book nerd, I was so thrilled to hear about a new product devoted to my beloved particular form of the Black Arts. The host, Jordan, interviews printers, suppliers, and others active in the field.  It has been a treat to hear my letterpress heroes talk about their adventures and get to know others I may have missed out on otherwise.  The interviews have been engaging and educational and had me laughing at things only other print nerds would find funny.  Even though only a dozen episodes have aired, I can’t wait to hear who will be next.  This is exactly what my printer’s heart was longing for – hearing letterpress things while making letterpress things.

From Cathy: On Facebook, there is a great resource of printing brains and experience over at The Heidelberg Letterpress Page so I have been encouraging all to join this group.

Next, I am a big fan of knowing how things are made, so this story in the New York Times combines some pretty nifty photography with a good story on one of America’s last pencil factories.  It raises my respect for this basic tool.

tom leech(photography courtesy of savingplaces.org)

So excited to see an article about the Print Shop and Bindery at New Mexico’s Palace of the Governors, with an interview with printer, Tom Leech.  Tom and I have corresponded over the years so am loving this peek into the working shop / museum.

From Rebecca:  Coming in May 2018, the inspiring folks over at the Corning Museum of Glass (just a day-trip drive from our location here in Syracuse) will be launching the GlassBarge ship.

barge(photography courtesy of Corning Museum of Glass)

This barge ship will sail through the New York Waterways (visiting & stopping from ports in Brooklyn to Buffalo) this spring while giving free glassblowing demonstrations to the public in each port city on its itinerary. A rare and wonderful event that we’ll be checking out when it comes to town!

We hope you explore some of our links and perhaps learn a little bit more about the things that caught our eye here at Boxcar Press.  Email us at info@boxcarpress.com the things that delight you also!

Inquisitive Printers Want to Know – Things that Caught Our Eye

Those of us here at Boxcar Press are a searching, probing, questioning bunch of folks.  We are drawn to many things creative, fascinating and colorful.  Letterpress definitely fits those criteria, so we have to believe all of you out there are like-minded as us.  It should be no surprise we discover through reading and listening and yes, emails from you, a goodly number of interesting stories that are parts imaginative, informative, and just plain neat.  We are sharing folks too.  Every other week, we endeavor to pass on to you a few bits of knowledge that have caught our eye and think you might ooh and ahh over as well.  So, here goes…

From Cathy:  A video on a German papermaker that is hypnotic and soothing as you watch him at his craft.  

From Norway, the Future Library – An incredible story of a forest that was planted in 2014 and in one hundred years will be harvested to make paper to print 100 books written in that time period. The part I particularly like is that they are also preserving a printing press and instructions to operate it, in the event that books may not even be printed on paper in 100 years.  I think a letterpress machine is perfect for this and have pondered which press might be fitting. The whole undertaking of the Future Library fascinates on many levels.

haunted press in Toronto, Canada
(photo courtesy of www.printcan.com)

And for fun, an amusing story about an alleged haunted Washington Model printing press in Toronto Canada. in the home of a newspaper editor.  Perhaps he has a deadline to meet.

From Rebecca:  Graphene is a technological marvel to watch out for as it is on the fast-track to revolutionize the medical, construction & safety, and art realms. This material has been documented as being 200 times stronger than steel, yet lighter than paper. Here’s a fascinating “how it’s made” video to pique the mind and jump-start new ways of utilizing this material. Maybe one day the mighty graphene will affect the way printers of all disciplines use their machines in new creative ways?

Next, we’ve been following letterpress printer Tristan Rodman for quite a while on his experiments with letterpress printing and creating playable paper records. Tristan has been keeping a log of his experiments and perhaps with a few more tweaks, letterpress can pave a way for a new way of sharing and collecting musical masterpieces.

Bonus: Although a few years old, listening to the first 3-d printed record album still gives us goosebumps as the needle hits the plastic. We find it a fine choice to honor Nirvana with this intriguing new way to braid new 3-d printing technologies with old school craftsmanship.

We hope you explore some of our links and perhaps learn a little bit more about what interests us here at Boxcar Press.  Email us at info@boxcarpress.com the things that delight you also!

Colorful Prints With The Cranky Pressman

The printing life of Salem, Ohio’s very own Keith and Jamie Berger of the Cranky Pressman has catapulted since they first set-up shop more than three decades ago. From tight-registration and spot-on prints to changing into a decidedly full-on letterpress shop, the duo creates expertly crafted letterpress prints. We caught up between in runs with the brothers to talk shop, see how the printing world has changed, and keeping up the tradition of old-fashioned know-how.

ALL IN THE PRINTING FAMILY  KEITH BERGER It was the 70s and my father was a Graphic Artist and worked with printers. He told me, a lazy teenager without any interest in school, to “learn a trade” and printing seemed the answer. After a 2 year vocational school stint I was ready to go out and be a printer. I worked in the prepress departments, doing camera work, stripping and color separations. It was 1983 when I found a local small print shop where the owner was selling his business. I have had the shop ever since. Fighting the good fight.

 = Stacks and stacks of Cranky Bucks (the Cranky Pressman).(A fresh stack of letterpress Cranky Bucks notes. Don’t tell the cops!)

JAMIE BERGER: Cranky Pressman is a partnership between brothers, Keith and myself. The Cranky brand was launched in 2003 but the partners are good old boys who have been around much longer than their Victorian era mascot.

In 1983, Keith bought a printing business that had been around since 1938. The shop likely started as a letterpress printery, serving the local business community in Salem, Ohio, which was a thriving industrial town at that time.

Much of the equipment was very old when Keith first acquired the place, from the Chandler & Price platen press (retrofitted with an electric drive motor) to the various pieces of old bindery apparatus such as perforators, drills and cutters. Of course the old shop also had many antique line-cuts, wood and metal type, plus the 1,000s of bits and pieces of furniture and other standard letterpress printing supplies.

(Pica the cat: the mascot of Cranky Press near a beautiful specimen of vintage wood type)

I was living and working as a graphic designer and art director in New York City in the mid-1980s. At that time in my career, pretty much all of the work I was involved with was print-based. Most graphic design materials at that time were printed with offset lithography including slick 6-color presses. However, letterpress was often preferred for projects like corporate event invitations or when a classy personalized presentation was required.

Parse & Parcel letterpress printed business card shines brilliantly.(Business card for Parse & Parcel that includes foil stamping and letterpress printing on a custom duplexed stock, design by The Studio of Christine Wisnieski)

The 80s print shop did have small offset lithography presses which were the workhorses on day to day jobs. Beside invitation work though, letterpress at this time was mostly used for imprinting packaging and other pre-converted materials, die-cutting, scoring, numbering and foil-stamping.

We were always fascinated by the array of old machines, type and cuts around the place when I was in town visiting. Actually, they hand-set and printed my wedding invitation by letterpress in 1988.

Over the next decade or so, with the advent of the Macintosh and continued growth of lithography and eventually digital printing, the traditional craftsmanship of printing began to fade around the shop. In the early 2000s, Keith felt it was time to change and get back to craft-printing.

Red on yellow stock paper letterpress printed business card by the Cranky Pressman.(Close-up detail of a piece we did Carly Rounds at Design 360)

Cranky Pressman, an all-letterpress shop, was born in 2003 [and] now serves the graphic designers, ad agencies and other creative businesses throughout the country.

THERE AND BACK AGAIN, A PRINTSHOP’S TALE KEITH: The shop I mentioned [earlier] came with a C&P, a Miehle Vertical, lead type, lock-up table and a cream puff of a Heidelberg Windmill that the original owner hardly used and was unable to train me on. Me being the ever savvy businessman decided that offset printing was the way to go. So I traded in that cream puff of a windmill on a fancy single color offset.

Meanwhile I was numbering, perforating and die cutting on the hand feed and Miehle. Eventually, I started doing stuff like napkins and book covers which were fun but made no money. The offset seemed to be going the same way. Sales were becoming tough-going and everything was changing to digital. This is when we, Jamie and myself, saw that letterpress as the way to go. To make a way too long story short, eventually we converted to all-letterpress and I sold that offset and brought back in a another Windmill exactly like the one I had sold years earlier!

JAMIE: Other than the wedding invitation mentioned above, my involvement with letterpress was mostly as an observer and occasional print buyer until I moved back to Ohio in 2012. I mainly look after the creative and marketing for Cranky Pressman. This has meant spending a lot of time studying and learning about the craft, more as a journalist than a hands-on printer.

Vandercooks and type cabinents make for good printing buddies at the Cranky Pressman.

However, when you spend so much time around printers, working closely on projects as a designer and/or art director, you get the urge to have a go and making some prints yourself.

Since relocating and working out of the letterpress shop, I’ve begun to dabble in some small hand-set pieces, mainly for Cranky Pressman promotions. This inspired me to begin working in print doing personal printmaking, including hand-setting, linocuts and woodcutting.

OPULENCE IN OHIO KEITH: Our small business was located downtown in the depressed small town of Salem, Ohio, on the second floor in a back alley. What could go wrong with that! But the invention of the internet helped save the day. Then again being that savvy visionary businessman, I figured that 10,000s of lbs of equipment should probably not be located on the second floor of a 125 year old building. Luckily there was a freight elevator, so we packed up the old print shop that was in the same place since the 50’s and moved it a block and a half away. Moving a letterpress shop is a story in itself. Fortunately, I have blocked the experience from my memory so that I can begin to function fairly normal again.

BBQ letterpress invitation by the Cranky Pressman.(Letterpress printed and die-cut gift card holder for Lucille’s BBQ)

JAMIE: After being at the same location since the 1950s (the first owner started the shop at another location in the 30s), the shop was recently moved two blocks down the road but in the same small town of Salem, Ohio.

The former location was on the 2nd floor of a 19th Century industrial building that was being converted to shopping and dining businesses. This was the ideal time to move the letterpress shop into a more appropriate ground floor workshop space.

Salem, is a historical old town in northeast Ohio, exactly halfway between Cleveland, Ohio and Pittsburgh, PA. There are still some factories in town but many of the old industrial buildings are empty. The town came upon some bad times, with factories and businesses closing, starting in the 1970s through the end of the last century. The closest bigger town in Youngstown, which suffered the same sort of economic downturn as Salem, but on a larger scale. The surrounding areas are mostly farmland.

Being more of an outsider myself (my family moved to this area from nearby Akron when I moved away to college) I can honestly say, the local folks are a hearty bunch. They can sometimes come across a little gruff (they’ve been through a lot after all) but there are many who never left and never intend to.

I am happy to report that over the past 10 years or so, it seems as though the little town is breathing new life. There are new shops, bars and restaurants around. The local high school stadium was recently renovated and other civic improvements are underway. Strong local historic and preservation groups are key to a lot of these good things happening around town. The Historical Society itself also went through a fairly recent expansion and the displays there are very well done and interesting. It nicely showcases the town’s rise, fall and rising again.

The space we recently moved from had some good old-world charm, with wooden floors and a rickety freight elevator. Our new workshop is much better organized, brighter and built for letterpress production on one side, and letterpress creative printmaking on the other side. We don’t yet have the place fully decorated or broken-in but everyone is happier working in the new space.

GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD EATS My favorite two local places to go out are among the oldest and most, shall I say, down to earth.

For eating (and drinking) you can’t beat the honest food and atmosphere at Mike’s Penn Bar and Grille. For pure drinking, soaking up local color and pool playing, I like Fernangeles. They don’t have a website and their Facebook page is only half-built, but is was the 1st or 2nd licensed bar in Ohio. The wooden walls in the bar area have paintings from the 19th Century that were done by travelers in exchange for room and board. Please note, you will likely get a good sampling of a variety of local yokels if you visit, so don’t wear your best clothes.

Keith Berger of the Cranky Pressman inspects his Heidelberg Windmill.(A shot of the printmaking-studio-side of the shop. You will see Jason in the shot again. He is such a ham!)

PRINTING MENTORS KEITH:  Early on I used a hot type setter that had Intertype and Ludlow typesetting machines. Bob Lesh is his name and he loved the trade of hot typesetting and we would discuss the history, and more interestingly, the system of a letterpress shop. We both believed that the usefulness of hot typesetting and letterpress would always have its place. Easier said than done, especially for the hot type, I am trying to save his vast collection and keep it viable for future generations.

JAMIE:  Current Favorites: Dafi Kuhne, Church of Type, Brad Vetter, Starshaped Press
Been Around: Hatch Showprint, Lynd Ward, Albrecht Durer, Guadalupe Posada

DESIGNER + PRINTER  KEITH: Mainly a printer but designer’s were originally printers so both I guess.

JAMIE: I studied and began my career as a graphic designer. I then spent most of my career working as an advertising art director. I am now (re)learning to be a graphic designer and printmaker at a ripe old age.

FULL-TIME SHOP FUN JAMIE: Yes, the shop is a full-service commercial letterpress shop.

PRINTING FEATS KEITH: Staying in the printing business for 30 + years. Although it has never been pretty it has always been interesting.

JAMIE: I had two prints (1 linocut and 1 woodcut) accepted in this past year’s Regional Artists juried show at The Butler Institute of American Art. So I guess I am beginning to learn how to print a bit.

PRESS HISTORY  KEITH: It was not a letterpress, but an AB Dick duplicator that I ran in my living room!

JAMIE: Never owned a press myself but enjoy using others!

Inside the studio at the Cranky Pressman.( Jason Vaughn (our head pressman) discusses printing specifications with Keith (at left).)

BOXCAR’S ROLE  JAMIE: The Boxcar Press website and blog has been an inspiration and valuable resource for letterpress information over the years.

SHOP (AND LIFE) TIPS  KEITH: Listen to your elders. They may have a different perspective but you can always modernize their advice.

JAMIE: I am still learning so you may not want any of my tricks if I had any!

WHAT’S COMING NEXT KEITH: To save the hot type and letterpress system and to “learn a trade.”

JAMIE: We will be continuing to set up, organize and decorate the shop. We hope to have more events such as workshops and visiting artists working in the space. We also are working on some new bindery and printing offerings to be announced.

A double round of applause & thanks out to Keith and Jamie of the Cranky Pressman for letting us take a sneak peak at their wonderful printing realm!

Top 14 Valentine’s Day Letterpress Gift Guide-2018

Specially chosen with care, we tally up 14 beautiful, heartfelt, and humorous 2018 Valentine’s Day letterpress gifts, including cards, prints, and letterpress classes (date night, anyone?).  Let us know what you are getting your printing paramour this year in the comments below!

Valentine's Day Gift Guide 2018 - featuring classes, cards, and beautiful letterpress prints.

1. Tinder Love card by Steel Petal Press  |  2. Trap Valentines card by Bench Pressed |  3. Letterpress Valentine’s Day Card Making workshop (February 13th, 2018 – Pittsford, NY)  |  4. Personalized letterpress notecards by Inclosed Letterpress Co.  | 5. You & Me Letterpress Love Greeting Card by Paisley Dog Press

Valentine's Day Gift Guide 2018 - featuring classes, cards, and beautiful letterpress prints.

6. Personalized large primary notepads by Haute Papier   |  7. Main Squeeze letterpress card by Inclosed Letterpress Co. | 8. James Joyce Letterpress Quotation Valentine Card by LarryOrlandoDesign  |  9.  Tear & Share letterpress valentines perforated cards by Igloo Letterpress |  10.  Introduction to Letterpress class by Igloo Letterpress (date night anyone?)

Valentine's Day Gift Guide 2018 - featuring classes, cards, and beautiful letterpress prints.

11. e.e. cummings lettterpress print by Thimblepress  |  12. Cheers to Us – Valentine Love Lobsters letterpress card by darlinpress  | 13. Letterpress Valentines Cards class (February 11th, 2018 – Fort Lauderdale, FL)  |  14. Anywhere With You letterpress card by Permanent Collection