Boxcar Talk with Maginating

Brad Woods from Maginating has been on a wild ride the last six years. Although he had a degree in classical animation and a Master’s in computer animation, it was love at first sight for Brad and letterpress. Being surrounded by computers most of the time, letterpress enabled him to use his hands again: drawing, erasing, cutting and packaging until soon he couldn’t get away from the cast iron machine and the tactile qualities of letterpress. He took time away from his one man studio to have a Boxcar Talk:


How did you first get into letterpress?

About six years ago I was at a restaurant with my sister.  She suggested I check out the shop next door – she thought I’d think it was pretty cool.  Turned out it was Sugar Paper, a letterpress company who specializes in stunning custom letterpress and includes a storefront.  Anyway, I was blown away!  I’d never seen anything like it before.  Jamie, one of the owners, was in the shop that day and was very kind – she was happy to answer all my questions.

About six months later I was fortunate enough to meet Bob Paduano – a master of all things letterpress.  He’s been in the business a long time and was able to restore a Kluge 10×15 for me.  At the time I was still doing freelance work so, for about a year, whenever I had some spare time, I worked down in our garage – trying to figure this big hunk of cast iron out.  I never took any classes…couldn’t find any that used platen presses.  I just kept looking online for answers, and spoke with all sorts of helpful and generous printers.  It took some time but eventually my knowledge base grew to a point where I was able to get going at an operable speed.

Believe it or not – my first job was a wedding invitation set. Miraculously, it turned out great – the client was very happy. Knowing what I know now, this was a craaazy first piece. I don’t know what I was thinking. In my defense, I plead temporary insanity (and a whopping case of ignorance.)  Glad I didn’t blow it!

Not long after that I stopped taking on any freelance work and dedicated all my time to creating a greeting card line. That was almost four years ago. (It’s important to note that none of this would have been possible had it not been for my lovely wife, Stacy.  She supported me all the way – encouraging me as I gradually expanded the card line and brought in no income…)

What was your very first press (and are you using it still)?

Yes, I still use my first press – a hand-fed 10×15 Kluge. It’s fantastic – I’ll probably keep it forever!!

What medium do you usually print (lead/wood type, photopolymer, lino, etc.)?

I only use photopolymer (specifically KF152)

What’s your process from sketch to press?

I have this little sketchbook (4×6) that I keep close at hand. It’s crammed with doodles – all the ideas that come to me, wherever I am… Most of the time they’re these crummy little drawings, but that’s all they need to be. I don’t want to pause to consider the logistics of a design but act more as a camera to my mental images. If an idea looks like it’s going to work as a card, I take a photo with my point-and-shoot digital camera and import it into the computer. I find it’s good enough quality to meet my needs and much faster than scanning. This next stage is where the computer comes into play – it’s hard to avoid. I prefer the crisp edge of a vector graphic as opposed to a raster one, so I tend to work in Adobe Illustrator (check this out for more information about the difference between the two.) I import the photo of the doodle into Illustrator and “trace” it.  A lot of the refinement happens in this stage and I try to keep it as loose as possible when using a mouse. Once I feel it’s done I then consider whether or not it’s good enough to be a card (I really don’t know until then). Sometimes it isn’t, and I’ll go back to the drawing board. Sometimes I’ll rework the design over a couple of months (or several years.)  For example, my “Birthday Owls” card began as an idea in 2006 but wasn’t released until 2009. Once it’s received the “Maginating Seal of Approval,” I send it off to you guys at Boxcar Press to be converted into a photopolymer plate and we’re off and printing not long after that.


What other print shops do you admire?

I am a big fan of many, many print shops, however, I recently discovered Pie Bird Press at the National Stationery Show…their work blew me away – everything about it was awesome! (and yes, it’s letterpress!)

P.S. great blog, too

Who or what inspires you the most?

I find inspiration in a great variety of things, artistically speaking, some of those are:
Jon Klassen

Danish Modern furniture

William Joyce

Mo Willems

UPA animation studios

Alexander Girrard

Charles and Ray Eames

… and Jim Henson

What do you enjoy most about working with Boxcar Press?

I love Boxcar’s photopolymer system – I have a Deep Relief Boxcar Base and appear to be addicted to KF152 photopolymer plates…(but I can quit at any time – I swear).

Any neat tricks you can share?

As anyone who uses Crane’s Lettra knows, it draws like crazy when cut in large quantities. The same problem applies when you try to corner round a good quantity of finished cards. Our solution has been to create a die for each card size with round corners and the score line included. It’s quick, efficient, and everything comes out perfect!

What are you looking forward to? (i.e., upcoming shows, publications, events, etc.)

I’m working on a top-secret project right now…can’t tell you about it (but I’m very excited!)

What was the experience like for you at NSS?

We’ve been exhibiting at NSS for the past three years. This year was fantastic – it’s taken some time, but we’re finally beginning to see the full merits of what the show has to offer. While sales are always great (and we’re grateful for each and every one) the NSS offers a potentially massive networking opportunity. While it’s always been a part of our show experience, it’s becoming more substantial.  The opportunity to speak with bloggers, press, fellow card-creators, reps, designers and all sorts of other creative types is not only fun, but a great way to increase your “prosperity” at the show.

Do you have any suggestions for people hoping to exhibit next year or how to promote their new product lines?

There are so many details to consider when exhibiting for the first time at NSS. I would highly recommend signing up for the mentor program offered by George Little Management. This program will partner you with a “veteran” exhibitor – someone who has similar design sensibilities and product and has exhibited at the NSS before. And for those of us who have already exhibited at the show, I would highly recommend that they also sign up as a mentor for GLM’s program.

I would also recommend not using foam core walls – they may be fast and look great, but they’re expensive.  Also, once the show’s over, you’re probably going to leave the walls there (everyone else does) – which, to me seems like a terrible waste (and a bit odd, given the push on keeping this industry as green as possible).  I would recommend trying to create a flame-proof soft-wall, using some type of fabric, sign material – something like that.  I’ve seen all sorts of amazing applications!  The show’s already expensive enough and the last thing you want to do is spend more money on shipping or materials (or foam core walls).  That said, I have semi-hard walls (burlap stretched over wooden frames).  Had I known about the weight and shipping factor (my booth’s just under 400lbs.), I would have done a soft wall.  I’ll keep using what I have for now (get my money’s worth), but will go the soft-wall route next time around, for sure.

Thanks, Brad, for such fantastic advice and input! We can’t wait to hear about your top-secret project!