Big Beautiful Prints At Tiny Dog Press

While managing a Baltimore, Maryland stationery store, Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press fell in love with letterpress printing while attending a weekend class in Austin, Texas. Fast forward a few years later, and the happy-go-lucky printing gal set-up shop in her cozy (but comfortable) 20’ x 20’ garage. Packed to the brim with printing sights, smells (ah! the smell of fresh ink), and studio canine pals, Kari has carved out a slice of printing heaven at home. We caught up with the Baltimore-based printer as she talks shop about an amazing love for letterpress, urban gardening, and the kicking off a new card line.

Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press produces big, bold, and colorful prints in her cozy Baltimore-based garage printshop.(all photography courtesy of Side-A Photography)

PRINTING, PUPS, & PASSION I am a Baltimore-based, Texas native with a deep love of printing, color, and urban farming.

I am the owner of Tiny Dog Press in Baltimore, Maryland. I am married to my loving & supportive husband and we currently have 2 dogs and 2 cats who love driving me crazy by barking at every bird in our yard while I am printing.  I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art with an emphasis in Printmaking from Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

I love city life and love living in Baltimore, Maryland which has a rich history in culture and printing.

When not in the studio, I spend time planting and tending my urban farm, otherwise known as the jungle of my backyard. During summer months, I can be found leaving boxes of vegetables on neighbor’s porches.

FOR THE LOVE OF LETTERPRESS While at Baylor University and searching for a degree that would intrigue me, I landed on Studio Art in Printmaking. At the time, my most recent art class was from elementary school. The dean allowed me to take Drawing 1 and 4-1/2 years later I graduated awarded as one of the top students.

Unfortunately, Baylor did not have a letterpress. That was the only print form I did not study in college. Years later I was managing a stationery store in Baltimore and was introduced to the commercial side of printmaking. I immediately fell in love with several letterpress companies (all of who I still follow). I understood letterpress printing by concept at that point, but did not learn the actual process until a few years later when I attended a weekend class in Austin, Texas.

Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press produces big, bold, and colorful prints in her cozy Baltimore-based garage printshop.

The love of paper, smell of ink and physical labor required drew me to printmaking. I loved being able to reproduce one image and share it with multiple people. I love the feel of the impression with letterpress printing. At markets, I ask each customer if they would like to feel a card. I believe the handling of the paper and experiencing the impression gives a greater joy to the receiver of the card than one that is printed digitally.

TINY SPACE, BIG HEART Tiny Dog Press’ print shop is in my 20’x 20’ garage. We purchased our home knowing I would need a studio workspace. Few houses in Baltimore have garages and ours happens to be a detached garage which makes it into its own separate building. I love my little garage. Shortly after moving in, we renovated the space which included rebuilding 2 termite damaged walls, adding windows, a sink, new walls, cement floor, lighting and doors. At the end I was told by our contractors that it would have probably been better to do a full demo and rebuild. Little did they know that printers love restoring old and broken things in order to make new and beautiful work.

The best part about the location of my studio is that I stay within my neighborhood/community. During most months, my windows display my garden. School days I hear, see and wave to the kiddos walking past after school. During the summer months, I open the studio up for neighborhood kids to produce work with artistic mentorship. I love receiving knocks on the door from kids who know they can come in to draw, paint or print for 15-20mins before running back out to play. One young lady has been my apprentice for the past 3 years. She started with helping fold & package cards. This past summer, I taught her how to print, mix ink and general up keep of the shop.  During August, she designed and printed her own cards and then sold them at a holiday market! All of which she loved doing while it helped her push herself to new levels within her creativity and abilities to sell her products. I love when I receive random knocks on the door with kids showing me their recent design ideas! If I was in a traditional location, I know this would not happen as organically.

PRINTING MENTORS Kyle VanHorn & Kim Bently have been great mentors as I have started my business. I started Tiny Dog Press while renting print time at The Baltimore Print Studios.

Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press produces big, bold, and colorful prints in her cozy Baltimore-based garage printshop.

As for printers who inspire, I will always love the work of Kiki Smith for its artistic beauty. For commercial printers, I was first drawn to letterpress through Mr. Boddington’s Studio and Hello Lucky.

DESIGNED FOR PRINTING I am a printer at heart. From the touch of the paper to the smell of the ink, my happy place is being behind a press.  I have a love-hate relationship with the computer. I design due to its necessity to grow a design-print business. I love printing for graphic designers, which is an area that I hope to grow in my business.

Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press produces big, bold, and colorful prints in her cozy Baltimore-based garage printshop.

FULL TIME FUN I have been running Tiny Dog Press as my full-time job since March 2013. At the time, I was also running another small creative business. Now I only focus on letterpress printing through Tiny Dog Press. I have focused my business to grow organically, building the business with profits it produces. This year I will start paying myself from the business! My husband and I wanted the business to be self-sufficient from the start, so we have focused all profit back into growing the business.

PRINTING FEATS 2016 was a year of many accomplished goals within the business. Each accomplished goal brings great joy. The two that I was most proud: first time a product published in the Baltimore Magazine local shopping guide {August 2016 edition} and bringing on 5 new retail stores, one of which I had been wanting to have product at for over 3 years! 2017 has started off great with a first time mention in the Mid-Atlantic edition of The Knot Magazine!

Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press produces big, bold, and colorful prints in her cozy Baltimore-based garage printshop.

Besides those goals being accomplished, as a business I am most proud of being able to use my business for more than producing products but also to reach my community for something bigger than the stationery I produce. This past November, I was proud to organize and host the Benefit Baltimore Market that brought more than 500 people out on a cold & rainy “Giving” Tuesday evening to a local brewery in support of 5 Baltimore City non-profits. Through beer, food and vendor sales, collectively we raised $2,000 which were donated to the 5 non-profits. In August, I collaborated with a local retail store to create and sell cards that would benefit a popular area that experienced severe flooding. I love having a small business that gives back to the community where it is placed. I love having the financial ability within my business to be able to give back to the community. I hope this is something Tiny Dog Press is able to continue and grow further into.

PRESS HISTORY Besides working on presses as a college student, my “first” press is the L Letterpress. Embarrassing, but we all have to start somewhere. After taking a class in letterpress printing and not having access to a press or permanent location to house a press, I purchased the L Letterpress to print mine and a friend’s wedding invitations. I still have the press and use it for kid workshops.

After moving back to Baltimore, I was able to focus on letterpress printing by renting time at The Baltimore Print Studios printing on a Vandercock SP20. I purchased my 1949 Chandler & Price press in 2014 and finally finished restoring it in 2016!

Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press produces big, bold, and colorful prints in her cozy Baltimore-based garage printshop.

BOXCAR’S ROLE I purchased my first printing plates from Boxcar Press back in 2010 when I was printing on the L Letterpress. Since then they have been a great resource for plates and materials. When setting up my studio, I purchased my base, ink and several small supply items through the Boxcar store.

SHOP TIPS Any advice I have, others gave to me. If you are looking to start your own print shop, don’t fret – a press will come on your radar at the right time! Don’t try to force that time to happen sooner than it should. I was working on having a C&P press shipped to me from Texas which I found in an antique store, when suddenly the press I now own came on the market and was located less than a mile from my house. Huge cost and logistics saving.

When switching to a new press, give yourself time and grace. Each press prints differently. Different is not worse or wrong, it is just different. Learn how to design towards those differences or learn how to use those differences as a positive in product development.

Also, remember to ALWAYS check your crop mark line thickness or Boxcar will call you when you are at the grocery store.

WHAT’S NEXT Spend more time in the studio designing new cards and getting my hands dirty with ink! I am also looking at hosting a kids maker camp this summer and several kid focused workshops.

Huge round of thanks out to Kari at Tiny Dog Press. Catch her amazing new work on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter! Printed goodies can be purchased here on Etsy.

Printer’s Wonderland at Ice Pond Press

Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is a self-taught, Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire. From imbibing in the lush, raw natural beauty of her home state, she translates that creative power to form airy, beautiful, and bright eye-popping colored prints.  Seven years and counting, Molly still lives up to her own inspiring words – “there are many creative ways to reach a beautiful result.” She sat down with us to talk about her new card line, creating beautiful printed goodies, and taking the time to enjoy the natural gems that surround her daily.

Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

(All photography courtesy of Susan Beth Breuner Elements of Light Photography, Emma Light Photography, and Ice Pond Press)

PRINTING MARVELS IN MONTANA I live in Bozeman, Montana by way of Utah, Colorado and Michigan. Past job titles include: dog photographer, public relations director, professional skier and cookie cart peddler. I ski, fly fish, mountain bike, trail run and pretty much eat up everything Montana has to offer, most often with my husband and big white dog. And then we drink some beer.

Blind deboss business card from Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

SELF-TAUGHT CREATIVE I don’t hold an MFA or graphic design degree, have never taken a printmaking class, and I hadn’t used a press until I purchased one so you might say I am a homespun case. I have embraced the concept that there are many creative ways to reach a beautiful result.

I’ve had my backyard letterpress studio, Ice Pond Press, for seven years. I parlayed a full-time career in public relations straight into full-time letterpress. I suddenly had a need to create something tangible by using words, images, art, ideas and gorgeous paper. The extra reward is that this work could all come together into a product that makes people happy.

Knowing I was on the search for a press, my father-in-law spotted a gigantic Chandler & Price Craftsman at his printer in Utah. After an epic journey involving several U-Hauls, massive machinery, a mountain pass and a road trip with my in-laws, we delivered my press to the studio my husband had just finished building in our back yard in Bozeman.

Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

PRINTING ABODE I feel so lucky to have my little studio. My husband BJ had his sights set on building a sauna with wood from an old family barn. Plans were under way and it really sounded nice but I jumped in with big plans for a letterpress studio. Luckily he was not only supportive but speed-built the studio (with the help of builder friends,) hanging the barn door just in time for the C&P to arrive. We rented a Spider Lift to deliver it from the driveway to the backyard. It was a tenuous trek and several tree branches haven’t been the same since. Still, the 2.5 ton press was gently placed on the studio floor on a diagonal, facing the window and allowing for a view of surrounding trees and wildlife. It is an absolute delight to be in my studio space; it offers me peace and a lovingly created space where I feel good working hard. 

Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

PRINTER AT HEART I do some of the design, particularly if it involves stick people, flowers or text-only. Mostly I work with designers; my #1 being Michael Johnson. It’s like he has a view into my brain…he can translate my heady explanations of concepts into works of brilliance.

Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

FAVORITE DESIGN SOFTWARE I love Adobe Illustrator Draw.

Red and blue traditional wedding invitation from Ice Pond Press.

FULL TIME PRINTING FUN Yes, for the past five years. (After two years of learning and printing small jobs.)

PRINTING TRIUMPHS In my early days of Ice Pond Press, I was contracted to print a poster for a private Keith Urban concert. The job forced me to purchase a large Boxcar Base which was a turning point because now I do a lot of larger format posters and art prints. I feel a personal triumph each time I collaborate with artists to create beautiful letterpress prints that allow them a different medium for their art.

Also, I’m happy & excited to be a part of the Boxcar Blog’s printer profile series!

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar is like no other partner I know. Every single time I upload an order I have the feeling that everything will be expertly done and will arrive on time. In fact, just today Rebecca fixed a phantom crop mark I didn’t even know was in my file. It’s things like that that create 100% trust. I can call and ask their opinion on how a file will work for platemaking and that helps me know if I can help a client’s wishes come true. Boxcar helps me create my weekly printing schedule because I know exactly when plates will arrive. Their efficiency helps my efficiency.

Boxcar Base in action at Ice Pond Press.Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

PRESS HISTORY My current press is my one and only: Chandler & Price 14 1/2″ x 22″ Super Heavy Duty Craftsman Press

Blind deboss business card from Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

SHOP TIPS As a self taught printer, I think everything I do might be a trick or a hack. One that’s tangible is HENRY GAGE PINS! They can take a beating and their malleability makes them invaluable. Also, crop marks on plates for pre-cut paper. I typically register by printing a blind deboss on my tympan (which is actually butcher paper,) using the impression of the crop marks to register and finally trimming off the crops before inking. Or, if my press is already inked, I tape a piece of tracing paper my setup, make an impression and then follow the same steps. 

WHAT’S NEXT I’ll roll out a talking vegetable card line and keep up with the year-round wedding season. I’m generally forging on into the wilderness of this wonderful letterpress world.

Immense round of applause out to Molly of Ice Pond Press for taking the time to let us discover the hidden printing gem in Montana’s backyard!

Taking Flight With Wolf & Wren

Combine best friends, nerdy artsy passion, part-time printing & designing, and cheery, brilliant letterpress cards and you have the formula for the winning dynamic behind Wolf & Wren. Colorado-based Lauren Stapleton and Chicago-based Liz Wolf have harnessed their love for letterpress, passion for printing, and “go get’em” attitudes to flourish from a small ten card line to a 78-card line sold all over the country. Both sat down with us to discuss how they’ve been able to manage working across the country, the loving support of friends & family, and the happy, coffee-soaked moments when they get a chance to meet up throughout the year.

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country.

THE CREATIVE DUO Wolf & Wren Press is best friend duo, Liz Wolf and Lauren Stapleton.  We collaborate to produce special letterpress printed cards and other paper goods.

We met in childhood as budding artists. As adults, our background in the arts ranges from printmaking and paper-making to painting and bookbinding. Our sustaining mantra is combining good ideas with diligent planning, elbow grease, patience, and a little fun. We started Wolf & Wren Press to create unique and heartening products. All cards are illustrated, printed and packaged by us!

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country (with the help of a canine friend too!)

LS:  I live in a beautiful old town neighborhood of Longmont, Colorado with my husband, Matt, 1-year-old son, Micah, and our Newfoundland, Beatrice. In my spare time I try to fly fish, print for pleasure, eat s’mores by a campfire, cook, and drink beer. But spare time doesn’t really enter my lingo very often as my husband can attest to.

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country.

LW: I live in Chicago, IL in the Andersonville neighborhood on the north side. My husband Will and I are expecting our first baby in 6 weeks. I love to draw, hunt for vintage treasures, go out for walks and brunch, drink coffee or red wine, and laugh with friends. Currently, I love to binge Netflix, go for short walks, and prep our apartment (whoa- nesting is real!).

Our workload with Wolf & Wren has increased a ton in the last year, but Lauren and I are able to keep our lives in balance. I attribute this success to running a business with your best friend. It is so satisfying to accomplish our goals together.

LETTERPRESS LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT LS:  In college at Colorado State, I was a printmaking major, and simultaneously worked in the preservation lab of the university library fixing books. After college, I moved to San Francisco and became a bookbinder at Taurus Bookbindery, and took some classes at SF Center for the Book on letterpress printing. I realized that letterpress was the commonality between books and printing and fell in love. I immediately found a job as a letterpress printer to learn the trade further.

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country.

LW. My last semester of college at University of Illinois, I took a book arts class. My professor Bea Nettles introduced me to the Columbia College Chicago Book and Paper program. Soon after I started the MFA program and delved into the world of papermaking, letterpress, and bookmaking. I still concentrated on drawing which was/is my main interest. I was able to produce all of my drawings into printed matter, which was awesome. I love letterpress.

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country.

PRESS HISTORY LS: I bought a Vandercook SP15 in 2008.  I actually ran the business hand-feeding every piece till 2015! Now that I have a Heidelberg Windmill 10×15, that seems unimaginable. I do all my scoring on a Golding Pearl No. 3.

The wonderful print space of Wolf & Wren (Colorado).

PRINTING HAVEN LS:  I have a shop at my home. It’s actually a shop and not a garage, with no heat in the winter which gets pretty interesting. It holds all our stock of cards, the Pearl and the Vandercook. I had to get a different shop when I bought the Windmill. It’s just a couple blocks from my house, and holds the Windmill and the guillotine.

DESIGNER + PRINTER LS: Printing is my wheelhouse, though I can dabble in design work.  This work suits my skills to a “T”.

LW: I do the drawing and designing of our plates for printing. My knowledge of letterpress printing helps immensely when designing plates (hey- no full page color washes).

Brilliant and festive letterpress printed cards from Wolf & Wren.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS LW: When designing our cards, we start with a big brainstorm session that usually concentrates on a series of cards we are working on. Sometimes we start with the text, other times it is the imagery. For example, our most recent series is based on natural wonders. We knew we wanted the text to have sentiments like “You are amazing”, so we thought of all of the natural wonders imagery that would fit. We decided on a double rainbow, a geyser, an erupting volcano erupting, and a comet. After I’ve completed an initial sketch, I will send them to Lauren; we will discuss changes, color options, and layout adjustments. I will then create the final drawing, scan it, and work in Illustrator to create the final design. Lauren and I will look at the final file (are the crop marks correct?), and then upload onto the Boxcar’s website (which is so easy)!

FULL TIME FUN LS: Liz and I have been working towards the goal of running the business full time for years and we are closer than ever. We both go to work at our respective day jobs, and run this business at night, on the weekends, and pretty much every spare moment. Luckily, we have had a lot of fun getting to where we are now and I wouldn’t change any of it. We are so thankful for our supportive husbands and families for helping us along the way.

PRINTING FEATS LS: I am so proud of us for starting this business. We have been best friends since we met in 8th grade and we often talk about if we could have shown our past nerdy artsy high school selves what we would be doing as adults, I would have been so happy! Why did I worry about what I was going to do when I grew up?!

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country.

There have been a million accomplishments along the way too. Every single time I have moved and taken presses with me has been a minor miracle.

LW: Ditto! I am so happy that we started our business and have sustained our vision. After reading “In the Company of Women” I was struck by the similarities of the successful entrepreneurs interviewed. It is not an easy or straightforward path. You need support from family and friends, a lot of grit, and to continually cultivate your creativity. We started our line with a suite of ten cards that we sold at fairs and on Etsy. Now we have 78 in the line and sell upwards of 4,000 cards per month.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar plates have been the base for all our cards.  They are always friendly and happy to help if needed. Uploading files with the automatic color separation is amazing. Registration is a breeze with the plates and the Boxcar Base.

National Park-themed funny letterpress birthday card from Wolf & Wren.

SHOP TIPS LS: Static Guard Spray! Life saver. When I first started printing on my windmill it was last winter. I was having the strangest registration issues. I suspected it could be static.  This spray changed everything. Hours and hours of frustration solved. It’s so dry here in Colorado that static is a major issue for me. I was getting shocked every time I touched the press.

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country.

WHAT’S NEXT We are always working on new cards, and this year we will expand our line with new products. We don’t want to give away too much, but we will be working on prints amongst other things. Our winter 2017 catalog will be coming out in the next few weeks.

The creative part of our business has always been the easiest part, because there is never a lack of ideas! We have a production plan for our coming projects and will start checking off the list. 2017 will be an exciting year for W&W!

Huge round of thanks out to Lauren and Liz of Wolf & Wren! Keep the amazing work going!

The Printing Realm of Genghis Kern

A decade has passed and the creative gleam in Jason Wedekind’s eye still outshines even the brightest of metallic ink accent in his impressive printing portfolio. The Colorado-based printing realm of Genghis Kern has grown from two dozen cases of lead type & a single press to setting-up camp (and shop) in his dream workspace (not to mention acquiring a drool-worthy collection of hand-set and metal type). With one foot rooted in both the design & job world, Jason and his exceptionally gifted team have repeatedly pushed letterpress printing boundaries and amped up the creative oomph to their printed work. We stopped in to chat with Jason about the joys of printing, working with his mentor Tom Parsons, balancing life with two wonderful kids, and keeping up with the flow of community workshops.

Jason Wedekind (left) of Genghis Kern in his Colorado-based letterpress printshop.
(from left to right: Jason Wedekind and Jeff Shepherd of Genghis Kern)

DECADE OF PRINTING INGENUITY I founded Genghis Kern 10 years ago this May when I started printing for friends while working as an art director for a small design firm in Denver. I still remember the day when I bought my first press, leaving with 24 cases of lead type banging around in the back of my SUV and saying “what the hell did I just do? I don’t even know if I like this?!?!” I had been introduced into this wonderful world by Tom Parson, Denver’s poet/printer grandfather of letterpress, and founder of the Englewood Depot Letterpress Museum. The letterpress bug bit hard and hasn’t stopped biting yet. I spent many a night printing all sorts of fun stuff while learning the trade.

Silver metallic letterpress printed invitation piece amps up the wow-factor at Genghis Kern.

The firm I worked for got hit hard during 2009 and I was thrust into the world of self employment. With an 18month old daughter, it was stressful, but the payoff was rewarding. From day one it’s been a nice mix of design work and job work, with the goal being producing tactile work that makes both us and our clients proud. “One foot rooted in each world” is how a recent shop visitor described what we’ve built.

CREATIVE IN COLORADO Our current shop is my dream space. I drove by it in 1999 and said “That’d be a cool place to work” and now we do. It was a Hispanic Furniture and Record shop 2 blocks from my house. We have 2,000 square feet up front which we turned into a co-working space for creative types, and our 1,000 square foot print shop is in the back.

Pressman and presses alike convene beautifully at the commercial letterpress printshop that is Genghis Kern.

When I brought my current pressman/designer Jeff Shepherd on over a year ago, he mentioned he had a windmill in his folks’ garage. My garage shop was full to the gills at that time, but I knew growth was in our future. You see, I had moved my design arm of Genghis Kern out of my bedroom 2 years prior into a shared work space with 4 other creative firms. When I brought a pressman on, they worked in my garage and I ran back and forth the 5 blocks from the new “office” to the print shop. It worked, but grew tiresome. Let alone having to keep my house clean in case they needed to pee. I started looking for a new space that would allow us to combine a print shop and office space, and reached out to the owner of the furniture store blocks from my house. It had been vacant since 2005.

He agreed to my crazy plan and we broke ground in January of 2015, gutting the space and crossing our fingers that our floorplan for the pressroom would work out. Then the dominoes began to fall. We started with my original 10×15 C&P, an Asbern ADR-1 (German SP-15 Clone), a 10×15 Windmill, and a 30″ Challenge cutter. While doing the buildout Jeff saw a Heidlberg KSBA at auction that had inkers on it. My “dream” press. So we added that to the mix, quickly shuffling our floor plan to be to make room. Then one of the printers from our bimonthly printer’s lunch in Denver walked into our garage and said “Did you guys see that Vandercook for sale on the western slope?” Jeff ran inside and put an offer down on it. HIS dream press, a Vandercook 4.

Pressman and presses alike convene beautifully at the commercial letterpress printshop that is Genghis Kern.

We figured we’d deal with the floorplan when we had a floor to plan. SOON. So that became our current shop. We set the two proof presses up in our “type alley” where we host an occasional workshop. It’s fun having different presses to turn to when something goes south.

TL;DR: Our shop started out in my garage 10 years ago. 1 C&P and a cutter. I then moved 3 blocks and built my second “garage” shop, large enough to fit a C&P, Proof press (not yet owned), and a windmill (not yet owned), a stone and a cutter. What I neglected to tell my wife when we were designing the floor plan, was that if the presses were to move out one day, my dad’s vintage BMW motorcycle collection could slide right in where the presses once stood.

Colorado-based Jason Wedekind of Genghis Kern prints letterpress with creativity and panache.

INTRIGUED BY LETTERPRESS While working as an art director back in 2003, someone brought in a beautiful custom duplexed letterpress/foil stamped card and said they wanted to add 3 initials to their name in 6pt. I looked at my print broker and asked “How the hell are we going to do that?” She told me letterpress. Hand-fed letterpress. I was intrigued. I knew of letterpress from the design annuals but had never been up close. That was about to change in a big way. I walked into the printshop of Tom Parson, our local “godfather” of letterpress and was transported to a different time. Tom printed that job and I said “I want a press (like every designer in the mid 2000s)” and he put me on the list. I asked him to teach me the process and he showed me how to do everything from hand washing plates to treadling. When it came time to print, he started kicking and I asked if I could try. He let me. The rest is history. I ended up kicking 600 cards in 40 minutes to which Tom asked “where did you learn how to do that?”. I told him my childhood was spent working in a decorating tool factory in Chicago, our family business which was started in 1908. Slave labor at its finest. But that slave labor instilled some hand eye coordination that I surely don’t complain about now.

The beautiful printing presses gleam in the sunshine of Genghis Kern (Colorado).

FIRST PRESS 1922 10×15 C&P

PRINTING MENTORS Tom Parson will always be my first mentor, but my inspirations are the people out there pushing the boundaries and keeping the art of letterpress alive like Jen Farrell of Starshaped Press in Chicago. A day rarely goes by when I’m not wiping drool of my phone thanks to her instagram feed.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I’m a designer and a printer. I’ve been hiring designers and printers. And we’re on a quest to turn some designers into printers. Feet in both worlds.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS My design process has been greatly influenced by the door that letterpress opened to the typographic world. Being faced with a design challenge and combining passions when applicable is the best feeling. Whether it be typographically or texturally, or both.

Jaw-dropping tight registration and beautiful letterpress printing are regulars at Genghis Kern (Colorado).

FULL TIME FUN, ALL YEAR ROUND Lately I’ve been printing a little more, but as the workload grows, I find myself printing less and less but enjoying the time in front of the presses even more. I’m also a member of the Amalgamated Printers Association, which is an incredible group of 150 printers from around the world who print 4x or more times a year. Each member gets a monthly envelope with everyone’s work in it. So creating for that keeps me on my toes and up to my elbows in type.

PRINTING FEATS I’m proud that I’ve been able to grow a business from a passion, and employ people with similar passions. I’m also proud to keep these ancient machines and type from the scrap heap. Those two kids I’m trying to instill a work ethic in before it’s too late? They make me proud on a daily basis. I think I complained more about “helping Dad” when I was their age. Eva and Jasper? Thanks for putting up with me!

BOXCAR’S ROLE The quality of Boxcar plates are unparalleled in my opinion. We have local photopolymer plate makers but letterpress isn’t their main focus. I know that if I get my artwork in on time, I’m going to get plates back quickly. And when there’s an issue with my plates, the help that the staff provides is top notch.

Eye-popping color and beautiful blind deboss letterpress pieces are hand-crafted with care at Genghis Kern (Colorado).

SHOP TIPS Embrace your local community. The amount of knowledge gained by the “olds” out there who aren’t getting younger, by the way, is invaluable. And most of them love sharing. If there’s no active community that you know of, start one by inviting over some old printers for coffee and donuts.

WHAT’S NEXT Just keep on organizing our new space. Offer a few more workshops. Streamline work flow. And continue to produce work we’re all proud of.

A huge round of applause (and thanks!) out to Jason of Genghis Kern for letting us get a sneak peek at his wonderfully creative printing world.

Perfect Aim With The Hunter Press

For those curious enough to venture into the beautiful and gentle rolling hills of the Scottish countryside, a thirty minute serene drive southwest from Edinburgh will find you in the company of friendly smiles, a easy-going pace of lifestyle, and the private farm workshop that is The Hunter Press. Lyndsey Hunter is the energetic entrepreneur manning the presses there and she let us in for a tour of her printing paradise — a true gem found in the heart of Scotland. She sat down with us between ink runs to talk shop, about her passions as a printer, and bringing more letterpress to the Scottish community.

Take a virtual tour of The Hunter Press, a private farm workshop that is home to Scottish printer Lyndsey Hunter.Take a virtual tour of The Hunter Press, a private farm workshop that is home to Scottish printer Lyndsey Hunter.

THE LOCATION The print studio is located on an arable farm just 12 miles outside of Edinburgh. It’s a nice peaceful spot, not too far from the nearest town but quiet enough to feel as though we’re in the countryside. The print space is adjoined to my husband’s blacksmiths workshop so things can get a little noisy at times. We’re currently restoring a 300 year old property further north in Highland Perthshire which we plan to relocate to within the next year. The print studio will then be located in one of the adjoining cottages.

I like to have a central hub which I can access from every point within the studio. Ours is a large prep/finishing table which often doubles as a set up area, computer station and photography surface.

SHOP SIZE 500 square feet.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP It’s quiet on the farm, away from traffic and city hustle and bustle, which really fuels my creativity. Within the studio, my favourite thing would have to be the old type cabinets which are used to hold surplus paper stock and our cutting dies. The drawers have taken a bit of a beating over the years, but add so much warmth to the space.

FLOORING MATERIAL Sturdy painted concrete below the printing presses. We added some comfy hard wearing carpet across the rest of the space. The studio can get really cold so it’s nice to have a little bit of comfort during those cold months.

TYPE OF SHOP Commercial but closed to visitors.

THE PRESSES 3 Heidelberg Windmills 10×15, one of which has been converted for Foil Printing, 1 Harrild and Sons Proofing Press in need of full restoration, and we are hoping to replace one of the Windmills with a Korrex Berlin Proofing Press very soon.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL Not a tool exactly but I definitely couldn’t run things without my wood burner on those chillier days! I’m not too sure how I managed without it at the beginning now.

FAVORITE INK + COLOR Ink of choice would be VanSon Rubber Based Inks. I often use oil based for specials. Current favourite colour to mix would be mint green.

CLEAN-UP ROUTINE Clean up is my least favorite part of the day!  Luckily the Windmills are fairly straightforward to clean.  I use a water-miscible roller and blanket solution with cotton rags and blue roll.

OIL OF CHOICE Castrol Magna 150 Mineral Circulating Oil.

CLEAN UP RAG OF CHOICE Old tshirts and sheets donated from the family.

PIED TYPE A very small amount of odds which we picked up with the presses.

BOXCAR BASE + PLATE SYSTEM I always work with Polymer Plates KF95. I had a couple of aluminum bases made locally when I started printing in 2012, they’re still going strong.

WORKSPACE ORGANIZATION TIPS Keeping things clean, especially the ink station.  I don’t like to leave the studio without carrying out a full ink clean up ready for the next day.  I also like to file and label all polymer plates from past projects.

PRINTING TIPS I’m completely self taught so I feel as though I’ve ticked my way through every mistake in the book and I still feel like I learn something new every day. It’s been said before but ink application was a big lesson! I started out using way too much ink, which in turn led to me wasting a lot and also spending too much time adjusting the roller heights. It’s best to start with a minimal amount of ink and build up to the desired effect. It’s much easier to add to than to run out and have to remix an entire custom colour. And always mix slightly more than needed (custom colour) in case of reprint. Oh, and oil those machines regularly!

Take a virtual tour of The Hunter Press, a private farm workshop that is home to Scottish printer Lyndsey Hunter.

A huge  round of thanks out to Lyndsey for this wonderful look inside The Hunter Press! Check out Lyndsey’s Pinterest page to see more of her work and inspiration!

New North Press Pushes Printing Boundaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boxcar Talk with Ke Francis

It has been over forty years since Ke Francis of Hoopsnake Press and Flying Horse Press set up shop in the creative haven of Tupelo, Mississippi. But recently, Ke has been bitten by the revitalizing bug and it shows—from spirited gatherings (with spirits) at the academic mecca of the Bellagio Center, revamping his dear and true Hoopsnake Press, and having his work shine in a multitude of galleries and collections, including The Polaroid Collection. Here, young-at-heart Ke reveals the awe-inspiring interstices found in the lush canopy of design and message.

AN ARTIST WITH MANY TALENTS I am a narrative artist with 40 years of experience. I came to be involved in book arts because I had written stories that I wished to publish and I am a trained printmaker. I set up a studio in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1970 and worked there as an independent professional artist / book artist from 1970 until 1996. I am presently in the process (a two year project) of moving my studio back to Tupelo. In 1996 I moved Hoopsnake Press to Orlando, Florida and became the Director of Flying Horse Editions at the University of Central Florida. Over the past 15 years FHE has had two other directors (Ryan Burkhart and Theo Lotz) and the press has become a world-class facility with their help. I have served as a tenured professor in a number of administrative capacities during that time period, but have always maintained Hoopsnake Press and an active studio career.

I am represented by Lowe Gallery in Atlanta and regularly exhibit there. My book works, paintings, prints, photographs and sculptures are in numerous public and private collections including The Getty Museum, National Gallery, National Museum of American Art, High Museum, New Orleans Museum of Fine Art, San Francisco Museum of Contemporary Art, Yale / Sterling Memorial Library, Van-Pelt Dietrich Collection, and The Polaroid Collection, among many others.

THE ADVENTURE BEGINS I went to Italy on a Rockefeller Grant to the Bellagio Study Center where I was lucky to spend time with some very interesting professionals, including Carl Djerassi (Djerassi Foundation in California), Rollo May (psychologist), Paula Fox and Martin Greenberg (authors) and many other interesting characters. We drank bourbon and read each other stories in the evenings for entertainment. I was encouraged to find a publisher. Following up on their suggestions, I went to see Andy Hoyem in San Francisco. He shut down Arion Press for the afternoon and I read them short stories and showed them my woodcuts. Andy was interested and liked the work but he realized I wasn’t as well known as the artists and writers he has chosen to publish (Dine, Motherwell, James Joyce, etc.) and he would have a hard time selling my work. He’s a good person and a smart businessman.

I returned to Mississippi, entered a national print competition with a woodcut and won first prize (Warrington Collescott was the juror) and met a person at the exhibit reception that wanted to sell a 14.5 x 22 C&P. I bought the press then and there and hauled it back to Tupelo. With no formal instruction I printed my first book, Jugline, using woodcuts and lead type. This strikes me as silly to have started on this letterpress venture with no formal training but I did have friends who were commercial printers and they were helpful. I sold over 150 copies of Jugline and it is in some terrific collections.

Letterpress printing would represent about 15% of the concept development and production of one of my projects so it probably makes sense that my mentors cover a wide range of disciplines. Jim Trissel was an early letterpress influence. I went to Colorado College as a visiting artist, at his invitation, and got interested in his early work with photopolymer.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS My creative process is highly intuitive. I tell my students that if they successfully complete their envisioned project with no mistakes then they have probably plagiarized someone. Unless a person is a true”visionary” they are copying ideas they have seen and appreciated. Every time they make a mistake and find a creative solution that solves a problem (a fanfold to correct an imposition mistake, etc) then the creative project moves one step closer to being their own idea and not a plagiarized idea. Mistakes are your friend…maybe even your savior…

I have been working so long I can actively steal from myself. My process is a crossover of  the creative writing process, the visual imaging process and the processes involved in multiple production. Each of these processes benefit from the mistakes made in their sister processes. Each mistake provides opportunities for innovation and creative problem solving. Every time a problem is solved creatively the whole body of work takes a giant step forward. Even the frustration becomes bearable when this principle is understood. Almost…

CRAFTSMANSHIP SHOULD BE NEARLY INVISIBLE  The history of printing has produced an amazing group of specialists who have traditionally worked on the collaborative efforts involved in the writing, designing, illustrating, printing, and binding of a book. Each of these processes have their own heritage and history.


These craftsmen and artists have devoted their whole lives to their portion of these collaborations and it is not unusual at fine press sites to find projects involving writers with fifty years of experience, designers with fifty years of experience, illustrators with fifty years of experience, printers with fifty years of experience and binders with fifty years of experience. The sum total of their experience is often 250 years (or more). I respect these collaborative craftsmen and artists and often am amazed by their facility and their faultless production.

I really have tried, throughout my career, to stay focused on the communication of concepts and ideas and in order to do that I have maintained the position that I am neither an artist nor a craftsman. If the first response to one of my works was, “it is beautifully printed – beautifully crafted” then I would certainly feel that I had failed in my effort. If the first response was an intuitive strong emotion based on the content of the work then I would feel pretty good. I am of the opinion that the assessment of craftsmanship should be (at least) a secondary response to a communicative object.

Craftsmanship, in my estimation, should be nearly invisible.

SOURCES OF PRIDE I am proud to be a contributing member of an artistic community whose primary purpose is to encourage and support the highest cultural ideals. I am proud to have been directly associated with so many brilliant and talented people, and I am proud of my family (immediate and extended) and their ongoing contributions to make this a better society.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar Press has played a supportive role in my efforts since Boxcar began. Early conversations about my work, advice on plate making, technical support for the photopolymer processing, printing advice and sometimes just swapping funny stories and the moral support given by Harold and all of the employees has helped me through relocations, equipment moves and the many ongoing frustrations associated with trying to achieve the experience necessary to produce the work at hand.

THE PRESSES It’s a long story [laughs] involving a bunch of great folks and many presses. C&P’s, Challenge Proofers, large and small Vandercooks, Pocos, Etching presses I built and purchased, and the old Reliance – I still own them all.

SHOP TIPS The best piece of applicable advice came early in American history…Ben Franklin said, “He who teaches himself has a fool for a master.” Hard to argue with or improve on that statement.  I have flown in the face of that advice and paid a heavy price.

I have also learned some really innovative and interesting stuff from my mistakes. All of which would have not occurred if I followed some master’s advice. The important part of the quote is that it informs you, early on, that the creative and innovative path isn’t a pleasant experience….maybe rewarding, but not pleasant or easy.

WHAT’S NEXT I am currently on Sabbatical from the University of Central Florida where I maintain a research space as part of Flying Horse Press. I intend to finish some book projects that are long overdue and work on a series of paintings and engravings based on the theme of “Rafters” (people and animals isolated on rafts in dire circumstances)…stories will follow the graphic work and the books next. I have several one person exhibits (Florida Mining Gallery in Jacksonville in the Fall and Piedmont College in Georgia this winter). I am in the process of upgrading my studios in Mississippi and expect to be in production there again by the Fall of 2014.

Big round of thanks to Ke for letting us get the double-scoop on both Flying Horse and Hoopsnake Press!

Inktacular!

A common downfall of new printers using light colored inks is thinking the print will be the same color as how the ink looks in the can. Here is a can of nice deep rust orange ink but it is actually meant to be a light apricot color. When applying an unfamiliar ink to your press, use a small amount and work your way up to color. That is much easier than having to wipe ink off and possibly put lintballs from a rag on the ink drum or disc. If you do have way too much ink on, it’s less trouble to simply wash up and start over. There is never an end to learning more press tricks!

apricot letterpress ink canapricot ink letterpress printed at Boxcar Press

Boxcar Talk With Julie Nash of Duet Letterpress

The soft staccato clicking of a Pearl Press. The fluid transfer of the ink to paper. The deft movements of feeding the press. All sync together in a performance that results in one of the many print runs at Duet Letterpress. We caught up with Julie Nash to find out just what it takes to keep this letterpress dance moving.

THE DUET DUO Duet Letterpress is a graphic design and letterpress studio owned and operated by a husband and wife duo. We specialize in custom projects including (but not limited to) stationery, invitations, announcements and business cards. Everything is designed in-house and individually handprinted on our turn of the century, pedal-operated Golding Pearl press.

I’m Julie, half of the Duet duo. I’m a Cajun girl who loves traveling, dark chocolate, really good music and pretty things. My husband, Kacey, is the other half. He was born in Texas and raised in Tulsa. He loves movies, video games and has a crazy knack for trivia. He’s an avid sailor. We also happen to be passionate about letterpress printing.

IN LOVE WITH LETTERPRESS My obsession with letterpress printing began when we were looking for invitations for our wedding. Once I held a thick, cotton letterpress printed invitation in my hand, I was in love. It felt so luxurious and special. I wanted to know more about how it was made. I started doing extensive research into the art of letterpress printing and was positively hooked.

TWIN TALENTS IN TEXAS We print in a small 12′ x 12′ studio in the Austin, Texas area. With a lot of organization and a flood of natural light, the space works out quite well for us. And, I love being in such a creative hub.

PRINTING ROLE MODELS When we were first starting out, smaller letterpress businesses like Simplesong Design [who has since really taken off!] to larger, print heavy companies like Studio On Fire really inspired us and still do!

THE DAILY GRIND Many concepts start with a brainstorming session and a pencil and paper. From there, I’ll either take the designs into the computer and convert them to vector artwork or start fresh using Illustrator to recreate the designs. The vector graphics are then sent off to Boxcar to make photopolymer plates to use for our letterpress printing.

DESIGN MEETS PRINT Thanks to my strong graphic design background, we are able to provide both print and design services. For me, I see letterpress printing as an extension of what I already knew and loved – designing. By doing our own printing, I’m able to have a hand in everything from start to finish. From brainstorming on pencil and paper to mixing ink to holding the freshly printed piece in my hand. I crave what I do and truly love it.

FOCUSED ON THE BUSINESS I design and print full time. Although we established the business in 2008, it wasn’t until 2009 that I was able to focus my attention solely on Duet Letterpress. Prior to that, I was working full time as an in-house graphic designer.

PRESS HISTORY We spent many months researching the type of press that would best fit our needs. We needed it to be on the smaller side yet pedal-operated. Once we decided on a Pearl Press, we then spent many more months locating one.

Since then, we’ve acquired another Pearl Press as well as an Old Style Chandler & Price that we are currently restoring and hoping to get it printing again.



We searched from Texas to Florida and then started making our way north through the states until we located a Golding Improved Pearl No. 11 Press in Missouri. One weekend, Kacey and I rented an SUV, drove up to Missouri, disassembled the press and drove it home. Then, it took more months for him to clean it, prime it, paint it, reassemble the press and get it working again.

PRINTING FEATS I’m really proud of how far we’ve come with our printing knowledge and techniques. On our little Pearl Press, we’ve been able to print some very laborious pieces with tight registration like the invites we printed for our daughter’s first birthday party.


BOXCAR’S ROLE
The printing information and videos on Boxcar were very valuable when we were first starting out. We’ve also gotten several tools and inks as well as the photopolymer plates that we use each time we print.

SHOP TIPS A while back on a letterpress printing forum, I remember reading about how there is a reason other forms of printing took over letterpress printing in the mainstream world of printing. Letterpress printing is hard work and very time-consuming. However, the finished piece is beautiful and something to be admired and respected. When it’s done right, it is truly a piece of art. It’s one of the reasons we continue to do what we do and love it so much!

WHAT’S NEXT I just feel so happy that I’m able to do what I love each day. I plan to continue to design and print and see where 2013 takes us!

Big round of thanks to Julie for letting us get the full story on the many sides of Duet Letterpress!