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.

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!

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!

Taking Flight With Mejiro Graphics

Harumi Kobayashi of Mejiro Graphics is a letterpress printer whose pan-Pacific Ocean life travels have brought her zen on press, a wealth of creativity, and a patient approach to challenges on her beloved Chandler & Price. Her eye-catching, beautifully crafted letterpress work features whimsical Japanese-style artwork with bold, striking colors. Harumi fills us in on the trek so far and what lies ahead on her printing & creative horizons.

Harumi Kobayashi enjoys a cup of tea after printing on her C&P at Meijiro Graphics.
Eye popping color of whimsical and beautiful Japanese cats in kimonos grace Harumi Kobayashi's expertly printed letterpress cards.

THE PRINTING ADVENTURES SO FAR I am originally from Japan and I’ve been interested in lettering and calligraphy since I was a child. I was able to use my calligraphy experience and take a position as an assistant to a freelance book cover designer in Tokyo. After this I worked for a printing company in their graphic design department. In 2003 my husband and I moved to the US. We lived in Kauai, Hawaii and Port Ludlow, WA.

When we lived in Port Ludlow, we found a two-week-old kitten in the forest and we bottle-fed and raised him. Since then Olele is a member of our family and the inspiration for my letterpress card designs.

Harumi Kobayashi says hello with her cat; gives a tour to her printing press shop.

In 2016, we moved to Sherman, TX, where I work at a small commercial printing shop.

FINDING CREATIVITY When we moved to the States, I established Mejiro Graphics** and I’ve been enjoying working as a graphic designer. Later I taught myself web design to broaden my services.

Creating the websites was interesting, but I felt I was always trying to keep up with current trends and technologies. It was about then that my sister told me about letterpress printing. I googled letterpress and learned about people who still put value in setting lead type and printing on fine paper [and] on old printing presses. I felt I had found something that I had been looking for and was hidden inside me for a very long time. I told my husband I wanted to buy an antique printing press. He enthusiastically supported me and helped me find a press and he built me a printing shop.

**A Mejiro [may-gee-row], or Japanese White-eye, is a small olive-green songbird with a conspicuous white eye-ring.

A cozy and neatly set-up letterpress print shop is home to Harumi Kobayashi and Meijiro Graphics.

SEASIDE ENDEAVORS We moved to Port Ludlow, WA so my husband could attend a wooden-boat-building school, and we were very lucky to rent a house on Puget Sound. So my husband built his shop and my printing shop in the 2-car garage, and we each had an ocean view. It was very quiet and peaceful. We heated our shops with wood we harvested from the forest and felt quite self-sufficient.

PRINTING MENTORS I was delighted to get to know Ellie Mathews and Carl Youngmann at the North Press in Port Townsend, WA. Ellie taught me how to set type and Carl always gave us good advice and solutions when we had problems about printing. Through them we met many local letterpress printers and bookbinders.

Their work and their enthusiasm for printing inspired me a lot.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I’m a designer and a printer. I enjoy exploring and sketching the ideas for our greeting cards. My husband and I evaluate the designs and re-sketch many times. When we’re satisfied with the design, I scan the sketch, create a digital file in Adobe Illustrator, and fine-tune the design.

Sketches for upcoming letterpress printed cards feature Japanese cats in elegant kimonos. Artwork by Harumi Kobayashi.

I order the polymer plates at the Boxcar Press. When I receive the plates, I mount it on a Base, hand-mix the ink and print it. As all you know, the press doesn’t work the same way every time and we are sometimes frustrated. But usually one of us has patience and comes up with an idea to fix the problem.

We put our hearts into the process and we’re always happy and content when we see the finished card. It’s delightful to see the colors come alive when printing on fine paper and for the image to take on the depth that letterpress printing gives.

PRINTING FEATS I’m proud that my husband restored our press completely. In addition, when we realized how important it was for the rails to be flat and of even height after a lot of trial and error printing, he began to think of ways to build up the rails. He wasn’t satisfied with the multiple layers of tape to make up for the heavily worn uneven rails so he disassembled the press again and using a metal and epoxy mixture, renewed the rails to almost new condition. Then we moved on to inking and other challenging printing issues. I’m happy that we worked together and continued to enjoy the challenge of printing our original greeting cards.

Meijiro Graphic is home to gorgeous letterpress printing and a beautiful Chandler & Price printing press. Harumi Kobayashi helms the vintage metal beauty.

PRESS HISTORY We found our first press in Portland, OR. We brought it home covered in tarps in a rainstorm, of course. It is an old-style 1890, 8×12 Chandler & Price. It is our first and only press for now. We think it is beautiful.

BOXCAR’S ROLE When we bought our press, we didn’t know anything about printing and polymer plates, and we didn’t know anybody to ask. When we called Boxcar Press, they were always happy to help us and gave us information and suggestions.

SHOP TIPS I have two Boxcar Bases of the same size. For two-color printing, I put each plate on a Base and test print without inking to adjust registration and packing. This way I can see where to add packing easily and it helps avoid the ink drying out on the plates because we use and prefer oil based ink.

Clean, beautiful Japanese-styled letterpress prints are favorites of Harumi Kobayashi's work. Fun & bright colored halloween letterpress printed card from Harumi Kobayashi features japanese-influenced cats.

WHAT’S NEXT When we moved to Texas, unfortunately we needed to put our press in storage. We don’t have a lot of extra money at the moment so we’re looking for a free or low-cost place to set up our shop. I have several new card designs and hope we’ll be able to print them in early 2018.

A huge round of thanks out to Harumi Kobayashi of Mejiro Graphics (Etsy store) as we’re eager to see what she comes up in the not-too-distant future. 

Real and Beautiful: South Carolina’s R&B Printery

R&B Printery is a letterpress haven to husband-and-wife team Robin & Brannon Carter. From down-south roots, clean printed impressions, pops of punchy color, and a whole lot of letterpress love, the South Carolina duo’s work continues to inspire. We catch up with the creative couple to talk shop, honoring their printing mentors, and the allure of pulling open vintage drawers of metal type for the first time.

FROM REFRIGERATION INSPIRATION BOARD TO TAKING THE PLUNGE My wife Robin and I were already on a journey to discover a creative outlet that we could adventure into together when we happened to open an issue of Southern Living Magazine and read an article featuring 9thletterpress out of Florida. The old vintage press, stacks of clean paper, and colorful inks intrigued us.  At the time, I really had no idea what letterpress printing even was!  We tore out the article and hung it on our refrigerator for inspiration.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

A few months went by as we continued searching and talking about what would inspire us.  One day standing in front of the refrigerator, I looked at that photo and said, “I wonder if there is anyone around us doing letterpress?  Someone we could take a class from. See what letterpress is all about”. After some internet searching and a few phone calls to local artists, we discovered that there was this old guy in Spartanburg, South Carolina (at the time we were living in the next county over) teaching the art of letterpress.  We looked him up and signed up for his introductory to letterpress class.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

We took the Intro class.  Then signed up to take his Letterpress 2 class. Meanwhile, we discovered that the printing studio where he worked was part of an artists’ cooperative.  The printing studio was amazing!  Drawers full of old vintage metal and wood type, century old printing presses, and everything you’d need to have fun printing, all ready to go!

So, having no real background in art, other than childhood art classes for both of us in high school, we took the leap, signed up to be members of the West Main Artists’ Cooperative and set out to become real letterpress artisans!  Oh, and that old guy became our mentor and cherished friend.

We ended up moving just to be near the presses when we officially launched R&B Printery!

PRINTING IN THE PALMETTO STATE Our printing studio is in the basement of the West Main Artists Co-op in Spartanburg, SC.  The Artists Co-op hosts creative spaces for 50+ local artists in an old renovated Baptist church building turned gallery and studio space just two minutes from the heart of downtown Spartanburg.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods. Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

As member artists of the co-op, we get to mingle and share creative space and ideas with some amazing artists.  From other printmakers, to fine jewelry, ceramics, glass works, fiber arts, painting and water colors, to music, photography, and videography, the co-op is home to a breadth of creative talent.

The city of Spartanburg, the only city in the United States with this unique name, has a vibrant art community centered around a Downtown Cultural District, featuring an array of outdoor art, including a new Lighten Up Spartanburg walking light bulb outdoor exhibition featuring 28 light bulb sculptures.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

We work out of the co-op for print production and our home studio (which is just a mile away – bought for that very location!) for design, inventory, and shipping.

PRINTING MENTORS The late Mr. William “Bill” Wheatley (that old guy we mentioned earlier), was our mentor for several years and helped us through the beginning stages of learning the technical aspects of printing with vintage presses and equipment.  Sadly, he died in 2015 but his legacy lives on as we try to continue what he started.  Wheatley worked tirelessly to build a printing space that could move beyond simply housing old stuff to be admired, to creating a living, breathing print studio that could run as a fully-functioning print shop.  We still miss him.

We love Instagram for its ability to find and follow amazing letterpress artists. InkMeetsPaper, Waltzletterpress, Sunnymullarkeystudio and PhilipHunterBell are just some of the amazing artists that we follow and are inspired by.

DESIGNER + PRINTING TEAM We are a husband and wife team living, working, and creating in the Upstate of South Carolina.  We both grew up as creatives.  Robin, in a house surrounded by a family and a lifestyle that nurtured the creative spark.  I grew up from an early age drawing with a pencil through my early high school years, even taking AP Art.  Our natural giftedness for art was set aside for both of us as we became involved in other school-related activities.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

But, the small flicker of that creative spark is what brought us to letterpress printing.  I love getting my hands dirty with activities such as positioning type in visually appealing arrangements.  I also handled the digital design elements for our custom clients.  Robin has always been drawn to hand lettering.  In college, she was the unofficial banner maker for her sorority, hand painting most of their event banners.  Hand lettering our line of letterpress greeting cards is now a major design focus for Robin. You can watch a short video of us working in our studio.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

We both hold Masters degrees in biology and have worked as professional teachers.  Robin also has an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science. So, we both bring this need to protect the environment into our printing.  We consider ourselves first, an eco-friendly letterpress printing studio.  Our line of greeting cards uses a 100% post-consumer waste (PCW) recycled, 110# card stock manufactured in Germany and sourced locally here in the United States. Our in-house envelopes are also 100% PCW recycled and our clear card sleeves are made of a corn-based bio-plastic that is compostable and 100% biodegradable.  We recycle papers and makeready materials through our production and packaging process, reusing and reclaiming scraps for other purposes.  We also use soy-based inks, and collect discarded and reclaimed inks to keep them out of the landfill.

FULL TIME FUN WITH A DASH OF PART-TIME PLAY Brannon has just recently, about 6 months ago, been able to devote all of his official “work” time to R&B Printery.  Robin still teaches online high school, but devotes her time away from the classroom to designs, local artist markets, and social media. Maybe one day, we’ll both be free to pursue our creative side together full-time!

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

PRINTING FEATS I think one of the biggest points of excitement for us is to look back at some of our very first designs and prints.  Cards we thought were amazing and that people would just love to purchase and put in the mail.  To look back now, four years later and wonder “what were we thinking!”.  Some of our early prints were terrible!  But looking at where we are now, that we’ve been able to persevere the highs and lows of starting and running your own small business, and to see that we can now truly print some wonderful letterpress pieces that our clients love, this just makes us ecstatic!  We hope 4 years from now we will still look back and think the same thing about what we are producing today as evidence of continued improvement and ongoing growth!

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

Another accomplishment we are proud of is that we’ve designed and built custom displays for participating in handmade markets and pop up shops.  Our newest display is only a few months old but we debuted it at the prestigious Indie Craft Parade in September.  It was a feat of engineering to build something modular so it would fit into our car while still being eye catching to draw in shoppers.  We are super proud of the way we built in the ability to run a video of our process on loop with our iPad Pro as a part of the display.  It’s proven to be a wonderful way to introduce new clients to our process and discuss ways we can print something custom just for them.

MEET THE PRESS FAMILY As I stated earlier, we were lucky in finding the West Main Artists Co-op and being able to benefit from all of the hard work of those who built the printing studio from scratch.

Our main workhorse press, that we started on and still use today, is a vintage 1906, 8×12 Chandler & Price old style.  We are lucky to also have access to a manual Vandercook proof press that we use for some custom projects.  We also have a newer 10×15 Chandler & Price Craftsman style that we’re in the final stages of getting operational.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar Press is our go-to provider for everything photopolymer.  We use the Boxcar base + photopolymer plate system and have found the team in platemaking to be extremely knowledgeable when questions arise.  It feels like we have a team of people working for us when we send off designs to have made into plates.  Every once in a while, I’ll get a call from platemaking to check on a rendering aspect of our design which we greatly appreciate.

The Boxcar videos on setting the roller height of our presses using a roller gauge were extremely helpful early on.  The blog and articles at Boxcar and the discussions posted on Letterpress Commons have been invaluable during the learning process.

SHOP TIPS I write and mark all over my boxcar base during makeready and setup.  Periodically, I need to clean up my base and start with a clean slate.

Brannon Carter and Robin of R&B Printery create handmade and letterpress printed goods.

I’ve found that Mr. Clean Magic Erasers do an AMAZING job of bringing my Boxcar base back to life.  Two minutes and a Magic Eraser and it looks like I’ve bought a new base!

WHAT’S NEXT Our biggest goal for 2018 is to expand our name recognition in our community, the Upstate of South Carolina, and across the State.  We are printing projects for clients all across the U.S. but we want to let people in our own state know that they don’t have to go far away to fill their letterpress needs.  We’re right here, close to home.

Immensely huge round of thanks out to Brannon & Robin of R&B Printery for giving us a look into their lovely printing world! 

The Cutting Edge of Printing With Publicide

From luxury letterpress printing to honing their newest & hottest bespoke design trend, Publicide Printing breaks barriers and redefines artisan printing with fleet-footed service. The New York City-based print shop celebrates 11 wonderful years of printing excellence (and counting!), while sharing with us what’s in store for them next–from taking fresh inspiration from the bustling city around them to honoring the addictive craft that is letterpress printing and beyond.

Publicide prints letterpress, digital and beautiful business cards.

IN THE HEART OF THE BIG APPLE Publicide Printing is located in the Historical Times Square District–rife with the filth & fury New York should still be known for. At our NYC Print Shop we find the clamor of trucks, buses, freaks, geeks, tourists, and morning-shift strippers to be suitably inspiring matches to the clamor of our Heidelberg Presses and Kluge Machines. To the clamor’s credit, the racket brings a paradoxical equal/opposite effect to the print jobs rolling through our sleepless workshop. There’s nothing like broken-glass glitter, flashing signs, and non-stop commotion to provide a super-neat registration. We can fathom few other explanations for the continued presence of Holographic Foil Stamping in our personal and Commercial Printing.

Publicide prints letterpress, digital and beautiful business cards.

THE PRINTING DRIVE We attribute much of our success to situational circumstances. When we set up shop 11 years ago, we kept our techniques traditional, providing letterpress services to a totalitarian degree. Devoted to pushing the letterpress “bite,” we’d like to think we became the go-to printer for deep impression, dimensional prints. Naturally, we credit the influence of our original Hudson Square locale–the mid-century’s center of book printing & publishing–for giving us the proper juju to succeed. Speaking of books, we first began branching beyond our love for Letterpress Business Cards & Stationery as requests for unique, custom Lookbooks made their way through the door. Lookbooks & Hanging Tags have become a shop specialty as of late, prompting us to include High Quality Digital commercial printing to our cabal of custom services.

EXPONENTIAL GROWTH As the fashion world kept calling, we found our lease terminated: a gift that took us to our current post in midtown Manhattan, while honing our expertise in Corporate Stationery Printing, Brochure Printing, Spot UV Gloss & high-shine Glossy Lamination Services, Asset Management, Real Estate Printing, Emboss & Deboss, and–as the nearby ghosts of Studio 54 would have it–unlimited Event Printing.

Publicide prints deep impression letterpress business cards.

LOOKING TO THE HORIZON The future is truly unknowable. Come 2049, we know we will still be at it, no matter what form the printing arts take. We go to sleep hoping for the following: (1) the advent of 3D-printed Pantone Color & Color-Matching; (2) to find the majesty of Foil Stamping integrated into respectable Letterpress Studies; last but not least, (3) a global craving for gigantic solid color by way of oversized, overprinted Offset Floods, with boundless room to create melting duo-tones and tri-tones.

Publicide prints deep impression letterpress business cards.

An immensely huge round of thanks to Publicide for letting us have a sneak peek into their fantastic and inspiring printing world!

Letterpress Printing Journeys: Amy Redmond of Amada Press

A mindful approach to letterpress (and life) is the buzz behind Amy Redmond of Amada Press. When we last caught up with Amy, she had a ball visiting & touring the Boxcar Press press floor. Now, the Seattle-based printer, visual artist, and instructor for Seattle’s School of Visual Concepts is blending a sense of creative well-being into her craft while nurturing a closely-knit community of printers. Between collaborating on her next project, keeping the fire lit under her fingertips, and happily giving back to the community with her involvement with the SVC Childrens Broadsides project year-after-year, Amy lives up to her press’ Spanish name origins: beloved.

RENAISSANCE WOMAN + PRINTER I’m a self-employed visual designer and artist, and teach beginning and advanced letterpress classes at Seattle’s School of Visual Concepts. In my private studio, Amada Press, I work with metal and wood type, fabricating stories inspired by my collection of old ad cuts and
half-tones, and adding linocuts when inspired. In recent years, I’ve been incorporating collographs and pressure printing into my work. I primarily print on a Colt’s Armory 13×19 platen press, but also work on a Vandercook 4.

This is the form for the keepsake from my first studio tour under the name Amada Press. All photos courtesy of Amy Redmond unless otherwise indicated.

My Colt’s Armory Press has a long history of fine press book work for me to live up to; years before Stern & Faye acquired it, our friend Clifford Burke used it to produce his book “Printing Poetry.” 

View of the Amada Press studio from behind the Vandercook 4, which also came from Stern & Faye Printers.

THE LURE OF LETTERPRESS My first job out of college was as a book designer, and it turned into a quest to learn more about the finer points of typography. I was also feeling the loss of not working with my hands — computer design time had been balanced by working with tangible materials while earning my BFA. Although gainfully employed in the creative field, I was effectively starving myself creatively.

That changed when a friend saw a listing for a weekend workshop with Seattle artist Bonnie Thompson Norman (Windowpane Press), and I thought letterpress would be the perfect remedy for me. It was, and still is. Halfway through the first day, I was hooked on setting type by hand, so much that Bonnie had to politely kick me out of her studio so that she could go have dinner — promising that the type would still be waiting for me in the morning.

These accordion books were the first letterpress project I ever typeset and printed, in collaboration with 3 other students. Bonnie runs an admirably tight ship: we wrote, printed, and bound these in just 2 days! 

Six months later, in October of 1998, I met Chris Stern and Jules Faye (Stern & Faye, Printers) at a Seattle Literary event called Northwest Bookfest, and fell in love with their work. The following week I drove up to their Print Farm in Sedro-Woolley, Washington to share my portfolio. The interview turned into dinner, and soon after I began apprenticing one day a week in their shop, doing whatever was needed in exchange for learning. A few years later, I put all of my things in storage, moved into a small corner of the upstairs bindery in the print barn, and worked in exchange for rent.

This was Stern & Faye Printer’s “print barn” in Sedro-Woolley, WA. The concord grapes would hang heavy on the barn, and it was impossible to resist snacking off the vine every time you entered the shop. 

Here I am mixing ink at Stern & Faye Printers, sometime around 2002. This may have been taken during the 6 months I was living at the print farm. Credit: Jules Faye

The 180-mile round-trip drive up to the Skagit Valley each week was well worth it. It’s hard to believe it’s been 19 years since then; it was such a pivotal moment for me. It not only instilled a sense of creative well-being and fine craftsmanship, it also introduced me to an amazing community of artists, designers, and printers that have become dear friends.

Pictured left to right: Rebecca Gilbert, Jules Faye, Brian Bagdonas, Amy Redmond. Rebecca & Brian, of Stumptown Printers & C.C. Stern Type Foundry, recently visited me and Jules Faye at her home in the Skagit Valley. Getting together with them is always a fabulous family reunion, and never without homemade pie. Credit: Stumptown Printers

NORTH SEATTLE’S BEST KEPT SECRET My private studio, Amada Press, is just steps from my back door in a quiet neighborhood in north Seattle. I describe it as a garage with a detached house — because that’s exactly how I went about looking for space: the studio came first. When Jules Faye approached me in 2008 about becoming the next steward of Stern & Faye’s Colt’s Armory 13×19 Press, I knew it was time to get serious about buying a place. I’d been in Seattle long enough to know that I couldn’t own a press that big and be at the whim of a landlord. The stars happened to align at the right time with both work and the burst of Seattle’s real estate market, making it all possible.

Inking up the Colt’s Armory Press. Cleaning up the press, and all 8 of its rollers, takes me about 30 minutes. 

Close-up of the badge on my Colt’s Armory Press. 

In spite of being large enough for 3 cars, my shop has never had one in it — the previous owners were also artists, and built it as their painting studio. It has flat, alley access with high overhead clearance for big trucks, smooth cement floors and plenty of outlets. What really charmed me was its wood stove — that’s exactly how we heated the Print Barn at Stern & Faye. I took all of those things, along with the apple tree (Stern & Faye also had a tiny orchard), as signs that this was the right place for me. The press was the first thing that got moved onto the property — it took another week for me to move my personal things into the house. So you can see where my priorities lay.

My shop’s sunny location makes it the perfect spot to grow tomatoes. A little bit of Seattle history lives in this photo: those red bleacher chairs are from the Kingdome, saved before it was blown up to make way for a new stadium. 

What truly makes my shop special is what’s inside of it — it has all come from local printer pals, many of whom have since passed. Most of it, like my presses and type, is from Stern & Faye and Byron Scott — but I also have a cabinet and slant top from Jim Rimmer (Pie Tree Press), and a handful of choice cuts from Maura Shapely (Day Moon Press). It’s all very beloved to me… which is how I came to choose “Amada” as my press name, the Spanish word for beloved. It also happens to be the meaning of my first name.

Upper lefthand photo: Everything in my studio is up on 4×4’s so that it can be easily moved with a pallet jack.  |  Upper righthand photo: Thanks to the careful curation of past printers, I have many lovely typefaces — but Spartan (ATF’s version of Futura) claims most of the space in this row of cabinets. |  Lower righthand photo: These are my two main work surfaces: the cabinet in the foreground is a staging ground for my notes, and the larger work table in the background holds my stone.  |  Lower lefthand photo:  This photos is the view when you walk into my studio — the cabinet on the far right is the very first one I got (complete with the obligatory case of Copperplate).

PRINTING MENTORS AND INSPIRATION Chris Stern & Jules Faye will always be my number one mentors; even though Chris passed away in 2006 and the context of my work with Jules has evolved, I consider my apprenticeship to be lifelong. They have given me so much of their time and talent, and never restrained their passion for print & typography. When the two of them collaborated on personal projects, the final print was always a tapestry of fantastic stories and captivating imagery. Their print, “The Typographic Horse,” exemplifies the “love at first sight” effect their work had on me.

Shortly after Chris Stern passed away, I wrote an article about the passionate process of artwork for the Society of Typographic Aficionados . You can view more work by Chris Stern & Jules Faye on SternAndFaye.com. 

I also find inspiration from my ever-growing network of printer pals and students — they all keep a fire lit under my fingertips, and Instagram has played a big role these past few years with feeding me a steady drip of amazing work. Those who really stand out are the ones with determination and a clear vision in their work as a whole; I really admire that — it’s not something I come by easily.

From an aesthetic standpoint, I’m drawn to the graphic design work that took place between the 1910’s and the 1950’s. As a design student I didn’t understand how the work I admired by Fortunato Depero, Piet Zwart, El Lissitzky, H.N. Werkman, and Jan Tschichold was produced — becoming a letterpress printer who works with handset type brought a whole new appreciation to it. It’s like I found a missing piece to the puzzle that is myself.

DESIGNER + PRINTER I fall into the designer/printer category; they are very intricately related and it can be hard to tear one apart from the other. Design is what led me to letterpress, but letterpress is what reinforces my attention to detail and ability to think about how a design will be produced — whether it’s a website or a printed piece. When you’re printing your own work, you’re the one that pays the price when you design something that’s hard to pull off. And so you learn how to plan.

I find the mindful approach that letterpress requires to be blissfully consuming; it’s a nice contrarian lifestyle to the on-demand parts of life. As I browse my collection of metal type and ornaments, I slow down, I notice, I contemplate, I dream, and I plan. I form connections with things I’ve seen or heard. Stories materialize as excerpts from imagined conversations.

This text, from my print “Scavenger,” was taken from a scrap of paper I’ve been carrying around in a sketchbook since 2006. 

The computer has no place here — pencils, scissors, Xacto blades, and glues sticks are crucial to my work’s development; the tangible trace of my hand is evident yet invisible. Ideas become sketches, ink is drawn, mock-ups take shape. Text is set, one letter at a time. Images may be old ad cuts, or created with collographs, pressure printing, or carved linoleum.

A snapshot of the design process for the broadside for “The Thirst of Things” by poet Alberto Ríos, for Copper Canyon Press. See the finished print here. 

Precision on press requires planning, but with my art I allow room for migration once ink hits paper: colors may shift, misfeeds inspire new compositions. The process of acting/reacting is cathartic; committing an idea to paper simultaneously invites resolution to old problems and invites opportunity for new ones.

In the dead of winter this mindfulness is emphasized even more: my shop is heated primarily by a wood stove, and I can’t just start printing without some planning. The night before, I bring the inks and photopolymer base into the house to warm up; I check to make sure an air quality burn ban hasn’t been triggered by a stretch of cold, windless days; I prep a pot of homemade soup for lunch. On press day I get up early and get the studio’s wood stove started so that it can pick up the electric heater’s slack, and simmer the soup on the wood stove next to my coffee. Once I get going, I hate having to stop to make lunch… and it makes for the most delicious-smelling print shop.

PART TIME PRINTER, FULL TIME FUN There are days when I think I could be a printer full time, but I don’t think I really want that — it’s having variety in my work that keeps me sane. I currently set up my work week so that I work Monday–Thursday for my design clients (web & print), and spend Fridays in my studio. Anyway you slice it I’m just a one-woman shop, so there’s a lot of pressure to stay profitable and still be able to invest in my retirement.

If I could spend my days playing on press, making art without a care for income, then yes I’d do it in a heartbeat. But if I have to take on a job printing what someone else has designed, then no — I’d rather that time be spent doing digital design, so that my print studio remains a stress-free place to be creative. There’s enough separation between how I think about the two different types of work that they fuel, rather than drain, my energy for them.

PRINTING FEATS I consider it a great honor to have been teaching letterpress at the School of Visual Concepts for the past 14 years, and to play a part in building our program. I was cautious when Jenny Wilkson first invited me, as my mentors Chris Stern & Jules Faye were also teaching there — and who was I, with just a few years at the press under my belt, to be teaching? Upon hearing my concerns, Chris and Jules invited me to assist in their class — and gave me their encouragement to accept Jenny’s offer. This wasn’t an issue of confidence; it was about respect for all the years Chris and Jules had spent in front of presses.

top photo: We have a well-appointed shop at the School of Visual Concepts, and our volunteer Teaching Assistants do their part (and then some) to making sure it remains a gem. Credit: Radford Creative. |  bottom photo: Elizabeth Mullaly (right) is one of my current Teaching Assistants. The way she quietly jumps right in when she sees something or someone that needs attention is a work ethic I admire. Credit: Sukhie Patel.

PRESS HISTORY I was about to say it was a Pilot Tabletop Press — but truly, it was a toy press given to me in elementary school, the Fisher Price Arts & Craft “Printer’s Kit”. I’m really hoping it’s still stashed in my parent’s basement, as I’d love to get it back and play around with it.

But as far as “real” presses go, the Pilot really was my first. In June of 1999, I went to Bellingham, WA with Chris Stern & Jules Faye to visit their friend Rob. We were talking about printing and I was admiring his 7×9 Pilot Press sitting in the corner on its original stand. After a while Chris turned and said, “Well Amy, you can have it if you can pick it up.” I laughed and then saw Rob nod his head — Chris was actually serious, and Jules confirmed it. Together we moved it out that day.

My first studio was efficiently tucked into a tiny breakfast nook in a shared house. We didn’t use the dishwasher, so it became my ink table— I kept ink and tools on its racks. 

Chris and Jules then helped me put together a cabinet of type from their collection, and Scotty (Byron Scott, their adopted grandfather and avid letterpress collector) contributed some things as well. I still have that cabinet today; on the back, scrawled in chalk, it says “Scotty,” and I love that. Also in that cabinet is a 50-pound case of figures from various typefaces, all displayed face-up. It had been sitting in a stack of cases in the print barn & I remembering cooing over it with Chris when he said, “Yeah it’s purdy, but ya don’t ever wanna buy a case of junk like that.” He then turned to me with a sly grin. “Ya want it?”

I lovingly refer to this 50-pound case of figures as one my apprenticeship “hazing” moments. 

I had the Pilot for 2 years, and when I moved into the bindery loft of Stern & Faye’s Print Barn, they convinced me that it was time to move on to a bigger press. To this day, the Pilot still lives in Seattle with John Marshall, former owner of Seattle’s Open Books Poetry Shop in Seattle. It’s nice to know it’s still in our Pacific Northwest literary letterpress family.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar has been making my photopolymer plates since — I think — 2003 or 2004. At that time there weren’t many options, and most required faxing in a proof of the artwork — which was a royal pain. But Boxcar spoke my design language and accepted PDF proofs (revolutionary!) and that was the hook that got me in the door.

But the real reason I keep coming back is the people — everyone is so helpful and accountable to doing good work, and I appreciate the time spent helping me troubleshoot. As an instructor I know I can direct my students to Boxcar and that they’ll be well-taken care of. And as a participant in SVC’s Poetry Broadside project with Seattle Children’s Hospital and Seattle Arts & Lectures, I know that the project would not be financially possible without plate donations from Boxcar and paper donations from Neenah. On behalf of the printers at the School of Visual Concepts, thank you!

PRINTING TIPS Roller bearers are my best friends — I never lock up a form in a chase without them. Also, always use protection: slipsheet your prints. These two simple things can prevent so many problems.

Wide, type-high rule placed on the inside edges of the chase act as roller bearers, preventing ink slur as the rollers roll on/off the form. 

Document your work. David Black, another letterpress instructor at SVC, once advised starting a shop log to keep track of press maintenance. I do, and it has become so much more than just a record of press oiling. I document ideas, typeface choices, and archive my mockups. These logs are valuable resources that I refer to often.

I currently have 4 studio logs, and added a fifth just for the projects I do for APA (Amalgamated Printers Association), of which I’m a member. 

And finally, when it comes to buying equipment, be patient. The right press, the right type, it will come along. Talk to people, get to know them… there’s an underground current of dedicated printers that offer a far more rewarding experience than a whirlwind bidding session on Ebay will, and you’ll meet people genuinely interested in your success if you take the time to invest in your local community.

WHAT’S NEXT I’m finally — finally!— going to set up an online store for Amada Press. I’ve been in several group and solo shows over the years, but the positive response my work received in the 2017 “Pressing On” Exhibition at Hatch Show Print really highlighted the importance of investing time into making my work more accessible.

I also have several ideas on my perpetual project list in different stages of production, including two book concepts and a long-form broadside. The more I cross off, the more room I have for new ideas. My work is fueled by motion.

The red and blue flags in my studio logs mark ideas that have not yet been printed. I’m happy to say it’s a never-ending list. 

Immensely huge round of applause & thanks out to Amy for the gorgeous peek into the printing realm of Amada Press. Keep up the beautiful work and we look forward to seeing more of your printing adventures unfold. Find her on Instagram too (@AmadaPress)!

Press Pursuits With Texas-based STUDIO 204

From middle of the night press checks to early morning calls to her printshop mentor, Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 has carved out a beautiful living printing to her heart’s content in her spacious Arlington, Texas studio. Teaming up with her wonderful husband, Kim enjoys the freedom of press pursuits, sharing the alluring hum of printing with workshops, and inspiring a new generation of designers & printers.

Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.

A STUDIO BUILT FOR TWO I have practiced graphic design for the past 39 years. The last 10 years involved learning and practicing letterpress printing and bookbinding.

Purchasing a 219 Power Vandercook required more space, so my husband and I decided to relocate the studio to his father’s former 1950’s television shop in Arlington, Texas. Studio 204 is located in the historic area of downtown Arlington which is going through an extensive revitalization.

Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.

LETTERPRESS’S ALLURE As a designer, I learned printing in the middle of the night when I received a call that my job was on press and they needed someone to approve the printing. Hardworking pressmen held the press until I arrived to review the work. There were no female printers in those days and it could be intimidating but that is where I learned to print. All those years press checking paid off when letterpress reemerged. Now “I” can print and experiment with no restrictions.

Bold prints: Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.
Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.

PRINTING MENTORS Casey McGarr of Inky Lips Press is my print mentor and hero. He was and still is my 24-hour print crisis line and I owe him a great deal. My husband — a print designer as well — and I share the studio and presses. He is my constant inspiration and biggest fan.

Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.

FAVORITE INK COLOR Favorite ink at the moment is any fluorescent printed on Astrobrights neon paper.

DESIGNER & PRINTER I am a graphic designer, printer, bookbinder and a teacher. My process begins with research, design, experimentation and fabrication— though not necessarily in that order.

A EUREKA MOMENT One time I scanned a python skin, created a bitmap and sent it for plates. Before Boxcar made the plates they called to ask what it was? A bit skeptical, the next question was, what are you going to do with it? I told them I was going to print it on Pulsar Red Curious Cosmic. Curious Cosmic is a soft matte metallic coated paper, but when I printed on it became glossy and reflective. Eureka, it looked like I had foil stamped it. My client who designs couture handbags made from python was impressed. So we printed all her invitations with the python pattern on different metallic paper. She is now making a python clutch bag. Metallic foil is applied directly to the skin before the bags are sewn.

PRINTING FEATS For 10 years I was fortunate to work with David Carter Design developing print collateral packages for five-star resorts on many continents. My last assignment was rebranding The Stoneleigh Hotel in Dallas, Texas, the place I called home.

PRESS HISTORY First and still is my 219 Power Vandercook.

Boxcar custom-made plate on Boxcar Base. Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar’s customer service is a rare commodity and I talk about it all the time. Their knowledge is the best in the business.

LIFE (AND SHOP) TIPS Keep print alive. Pay it forward.

Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.

WHAT’S NEXT More printing, more experimentation, more design, more teaching and cooking lessons in Southern France.

A huge round of thanks & applause out to Kim of STUDIO 204. May the future printing roads always rise up to meet you!

Big Prints at The little Blue Chair

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer. From enjoying the whirling clinking of her C&P, the heartfelt pride of raising a family (toddlers in tow), and the bliss of walking into her backyard studio, Hope’s infectious energy & passion resonates in her close-knit client relationships and breathtaking, colorful, & airy letterpress printed goodies.

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

LETTERPRESS LABOR OF LOVE In college, I focused my course training in Printmaking. I spent many hours in the basement print-lab at Louisiana State University. My hands were callused and ink covered 90% of the time, and from then on, a labor of love was born. Fast forward six years, I’ve acquired two (new to me) presses for my backyard studio. My company, THE little BLUE CHAIR has found its home in my heart.

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

INK IN THE BLOOD My first dabbling in letterpress printing was an elective class that I opted to take in college, a book arts and binding course. I always knew I loved the texture letterpress left on fine papers, but to be honest, I had NO idea how it was done. I just knew it was something I was attracted to. After a year’s worth of printmaking courses, pulling lithography and intaglio prints off of relief presses, I finally asked my professor about letterpress printing. Unbeknownst to me, I had been working in the lab 20 feet away from a Vandercook Letterpress all this time. That following semester, I enrolled in the book arts and binding course offered and I knew I had found something special.Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer. Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

HOMEGROWN STUDIO My printshop is located about 20 yards outside my back door in a Mayberry-type town near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. My first press was a tabletop Chandler and Price that sat in my spare bedroom (now home to a head-strong toddler).

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

My husband built our home, and when he began to add an outdoor living area to our garage, we decided (well, maybe I decided) that we should build a studio attachment as well. I’ve since acquired a 10×15 Chandler and Price that proudly sits in that backyard studio. With two little ones now, it’s an unbelievable blessing to be able to have my work so close to my family.

PRINTING MENTORS While at LSU, one of the professors was Kathryn Hunter, owner of Blackbird Letterpress. My book arts teacher was a grad student that worked for Kathryn for many years. They both had such passion for the art and inspired me to continue learning and perfecting the craft. 

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

DESIGNER + PRINTER As a mother, I wear many hats. I’m a chef, chauffeur, referee, and of course their mom. When I enter my studio doors, I wear the designer & printer hat (and the accountant, social media manager, business coach, and customer service). I absolutely love having both roles as the designer and printer. I feel I have maximum control over the final product and it amplifies my pride in the finished piece of work. I primarily work with the soon-to-be-wed as their personal stationery designer. My work is extremely process driven and involves a creative input from all hands involved. It becomes a true collaboration.

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

The end goal for me and my clients is to create a branded design throughout …in a way that really speaks to the wedding guests and tells the individual story. This may look like an illustrated monogram or crest, a handcrafted map of the venue’s city, along with venue illustrations that help narrate the feel of the hosted event. I love working with handmade papers as well …there’s nothing better than letterpress printing on a natural cotton, wrapped in silk ribbon, sealed with a wax seal stamp. Add on some vintage stamps and I’m a happy lady.

FULL TIME FUN Over the last five years, I have grown from part time to full time. It’s the dream to be able to wake up (walk out the back door) and have my job be what it is …creating something new every day. I’ve honestly had a hard time calling it a job, because I love it so much. People can love their jobs, right?

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar has played a colossal role in my workflow process. Since 2012, I’ve outsourced all of my platemaking to Boxcar and have had such a wonderful experience doing so. I use a polymer plate for both my Chandler and Price presses and have produced work from intricate illustrations to bold typefaces.

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

I have to give a special shout-out to the printmaking department at Boxcar. The customer service I have received over the years has been nothing short of grace & love. This crew knows what they are doing, but they have such heart for their printers and a passion for the art. Boxcar is a company I will always stand behind. 

WHAT’S NEXT This year, I am excited to be releasing a wedding stationery collection that will reflect and support as many handmade artists as possible, from the platemakers at Boxcar to the papermakers around the country. This collection will be geared towards the refined and organic bride and groom with a special story to tell. I can’t wait!

Thanks Hope for the beautiful peek into THE little BLUE CHAIR. We tip our hats to you and your amazing printing adventures and keep up the fantastic work!

Letterpress Party at Bay View Printing Co

Ashley Town of Bay View Printing Co. in Milwaukee, WI cultivates printing camaraderie amongst its 75+ members while artfully conducting the printing festivities of the by-day commercial and by-night whirl of workshops, co-ops and print parties. Ashley sat down with us to talk shop about how two and half beautiful years that have flown by since buying the shop (and taking the full-on plunge as full-time letterpress owner) to how teaching, supporting her family, and sharing the joys of letterpress have more in common than meets the eye.

Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co.

A PRINTING COMMUNITY TREASURE A little about me…I’m a mother, a teacher, a wife and a super curious and anxious body that prefers to be in constant motion. At the shop, I love crossing items off of a to-do list, thinking of new ways to flex my creative muscles and try really hard to stay engaged in my community. At home, I love wrestling and reading books with my son, cooking together as a family and drinking local beers with my husband. Prior to owning the shop I worked as a designer and faculty at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design.

Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co.

A little about my shop…it’s amazing! Bay View Printing Co. is 100 years old this year and I’m incredibly lucky to have fallen into it 2.5 years ago. In 100 years of existence I’m only the third owner (first female – huzzah!). We have 8 letterpresses, 3 offset presses, a small foil press, an Intertype, and upwards of 350+ wood and lead typefaces all crammed into the basement of a once Protestant Church in the Bay View neighborhood of Milwaukee. Historically, the shop has always been very involved in the Bay View community and supportive of other local small businesses and organizations, but somehow relatively hidden and unknown to a large percentage of the public community. I lived in Milwaukee for 12 years as an active member of the art community before I had ever even heard of its existence. So, when I bought it 2.5 years ago my goal was to take that treasure chest and share it with the community, to make letterpress design and printing accessible to anyone and everyone in the community who has an interest. It’s been about two years in the making, but it’s happening! We teach one to three print-related classes a week, have a print co-op of currently about 75 members and people are making beautiful stuff within our walls on the daily. I like to say that during the day we’re a commercial design+print shop and at night we’re a print party.

Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co.

THE LURE OF LETTERPRESS The tactility and the physical labor are what initially drew me to letterpress and what continue to do so today. I went to grad school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and spent most of my time in the writing department. I began investigating my personal memories and the lines, or blur rather, between truths, lies, memory and the construction of each. I was documenting really personal, gritty, hard memories on a daily basis and creating drawings/illustrations to accompany them. I ended up writing a book, but every time I printed proofs I knew something was off. The feeling of holding these stories, touching the letters and really feeling the experience or reliving those memories was completely gone. So I knew I had to print in a way that would allow for that. I needed the tactile quality that only letterpress printing can offer. And the physical labor and real work that went into typesetting and printing each and every page of the book just felt right. A cathartic experience that couldn’t have happened any other way.

Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co. Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co.

WISCONSIN’S OWN My little shop is located in Bay View, in my opinion the best neighborhood in Milwaukee. Historically, Bay View is the most diverse neighborhood in the city and there is a ton of community pride here. Neighbors still shovel for one another, have morning chats in the alley, and genuinely support one another.

Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co.

Milwaukee in its entirety is also the perfect place to have a community print shop – the arts culture here is vast and growing and currently in love with craft and handmade goods.

MENTORS + INSPIRATION In terms of the letterpress community, I’m a baby so I’m constantly looking at and learning from other printers. Sometimes that means creeping on Michael Hepher’s (Claw Hammer Press) process videos or drooling over Kathryn Hunter’s (Blackbird Letterpress) linocuts on Instagram. Sometimes that means sitting down in the studio and pouring over all the boss babes and their work in my Ladies of Letterpress book. And sometimes that means calling Jim Baker (the previous owner of Bay View Printing Co) and begging him to come show me that little trick on the Kluge just one more time. Although, as I grow as a printer and a curious student the latter is being replaced by hours of tinkering on my own accord.

Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co.

DESIGNED TO PRINT I’m a designer + printer + artist. Although in my opinion, anyone who prints is an artist. The decisions that go into creating perfect prints are most definitely artistic ones and the process itself is an art form. In terms of my process…I’m lucky enough to work with a lot of clients that have seen our portfolio of work or known someone we’ve worked with and they offer up complete creative freedom with their business, packaging, branding, wedding invitations, etc. etc. That means I get to make design decisions that embrace ideas that can only be realized through letterpress printing so the client truly gets unique work.

Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co.Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co.

I just finished a wedding suite for a bride that saw one of our “Nasty Woman” posters in the shop during our consult and said, “Can I have that for my invites?!” She was talking about the inking technique which was me going nuts with 5 ink colors and a brayer. I thought, “for an entire wedding suite? That’s insane. But oh so beautiful. YAAAS. Let’s do it!”

FULL TIME FUN Yes. Most days the hustle is real. Trying to balance designing, printing, hosting print parties, teaching classes, keeping co-op members engaged, running the business and remembering that I have and love my family is a disaster of a balance but I’m also 100% living the dream. I hear my dad in my head on most days saying, “You can sleep when you’re dead”.

Ashley Town is the creative tour-de-force behind Milwaukee, WI’s Bay View Printing Co.

PRINTING FEATS The accomplishment I’m most proud of is raising my son, Oliver. And doing so while running a business. Neither one is an easy task and every day that he continues to grow into an awesome human is a notch on our belts. I’m also proud of the change and growth that Bay View Printing Co. has gone through in the past 2.5 years. When I made the decision to buy the shop someone said to me, “Don’t buy that old man’s shop – you’ll be wearing his clothes for the rest of your life.” That was really scary. Jim is an amazing person and a super talented printer, but had zero interest in design or teaching classes or anything of the things that I wanted to do. The bulk of his work was offset printing for local small businesses and crash imprinting banking forms. The idea of taking over a business whose current focus was completely opposite of what I saw myself doing was a bit terrifying. But here we are. Doing all the things. I maintain if you do awesome stuff, you attract awesome people.

I couldn’t be more proud to work with all of the incredible Milwaukee folks that we work with in all the different capacities that we do.

PRESS HISTORY I guess my story is a little weird and atypical. Most folks that I’ve met or read about dreamt of acquiring a press for years before they found one or they spent a decade piecing together a type collection, whereas I was lucky enough (or crazy enough) to acquire the whole shebang all at once. But, the first press I fell in love with at the shop is our 8×12 C&P platen press. The model was manufactured in 1894, it’s the oldest press in the shop and still my reliable little babe. But I’m currently in a love affair with our Vandercook No 4. There’s something about hand cranking every print through the press that’s really satisfying right now. Feels like work. Really beautiful work.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Ah man, thank god for Boxcar Press!! When I first started designing and printing wedding suites it was all handset type all the time. But we just grew so dang fast and the wedding work was out of control. Designing with all handset type wasn’t sustainable if I wanted to continue to grow that part of our business. And then I found Boxcar and holy smokes did the doors fly right open. The idea that I can design digitally and send proofs back and forth to clients and then have polymer plates at my door days later and STILL get that sexy impression on paper that everyone is looking for…well, that’s mind blowing. I remember the first time I printed with a polymer plate from Boxcar I felt like I was cheating. Ha! I still do sometimes, and there is still a part of me that needs to slow down and design with our type collection as much as humanly possible, but having other options is incredible.

SHOP TIPS Focus on continuing to listen to all the advice and filter what works for BVP Co. and what doesn’t. I suppose that might be good advice for anyone, huh?

WHAT’S NEXT Keep on keepin’ on. We’re babies and we’re growing our commercial print client base and our portfolio of wedding work and our assortment of classes and our print co-op community. We’ve worked really hard to get here and I think it’s time to settle in for a bit.

Immensely huge round of thanks and appreciation out to the ever-brilliant Ashley of Bay View Printing Co. Keep up the awesome & inspiring work!