Paul Moxon: Why I Love Letterpress

Paul Moxon shares with us why he loves letterpress from all aspects as a printer: the fascination, the community spirit & camaraderie, and the beauty that letterpress brings into his life.

Letterpress printing specifically, and the book arts in general, are the nexus of my interest in language, literature, biography, history, and mechanics. After thirty years in graphic arts, my enthusiasm for letterpress remains. As a designer, the physical labor of printing can clarify the message, inform my digital work, and lift my spirits. As a publisher, controlling the means of production is a point of pride.

I am fascinated by the vintage equipment, tools, and accouterments made with precision and inherent beauty. And it thrills me whenever I can purchase materials made today with the same diligent care. Eventually, I became an instructor and mechanic to help sustain this vibrant community paying it forward for all those who helped me along the way.

paul moxon vandercook

Most people know that Paul also developed and continues to moderate the Vandercook Press web page. It’s the first place to visit for significant info, photos and answers to questions on Vandercook presses and similar brands of flatbed cylinder proof presses. He has added greatly to our appreciation and preservation of these presses.

Why I Love Letterpress with David Clifford: Letterpress Printing – A Life

David Clifford of the Canadian-based Black Stone Press recounts how he started working in printing and then falling in love with the beauty and the craft that is letterpress.

In the fifties, practically all printing was letterpress printing. In October 1951, I started my six year apprenticeship as a machine operator (machine minder), at the age of fifteen. It was at a small printer in London at the Borough near Elephant and Castle. There were three compositors setting type and in the basement, the machine room had two Wharfedales (cylinder presses), a Heidelberg Platen and a hand-fed Arab Platen. It was a little limited, fortunately, my apprenticeship agreement meant that I attended a technical school (Camberwell School of Arts) once a week to learn the trade.

( Indenture – The apprenticeship papers from 1951 )

After the six years had gone I worked in a few different printer shops. One of them was Ever-Ready Battery Print Works. There were about eighteen to twenty machines printing the big battery covers on card stock. Another printer specialized in cigarette cards. Roughly 1.25” x 2.5” cards, these were put in cigarette packages to make them stiffer. They were very collectible with fifty cards to a sheet printed in four-color process, one color at a time. Subjects included: butterflies, birds, flowers, sports, etc. etc. These were printed on small Dutch cylinder machines – Glockners (to get an idea of the trading cards visit this link).

( Me in 1961 on the Heidelberg Cylinder )

In 1962, I moved to Nice, France and worked at the biggest printer in Nice: Imprimerie Meyerbeer. There were fifty to sixty workers. Presses included two hand fed big Miehles, Albert cylinder presses and Heidelberg platens. After the student riots and worker strikes in 1968, I felt it was time to move. In 1970, Vancouver, Canada was chosen. Not much letterpress printing was to be found in Vancouver, so I had to run offset presses (ugh), which have never been my favorite – too many chemicals. I spent about twenty years as a Graphic Designer and in 1996 Black Stone Press was born with one Heidelberg and polymer plates made by hand. Now there are three Heidelbergs, a Golding Platen, a Vandercook 4 and an 1846 Albion, crown size hand press.

(Yasmine (Yaz) on the Golding)

I still work a few hours a week, but do not have the strength I had before. Sixty-eight years of printing, I am worn out. Fortunately, my daughter, Yasmine has taken over. She keeps everything running.

( Spring 2019 – me this last spring )

At the beginning, printing was just a job and I couldn’t wait to get off work. But the last thirty years I really appreciate the joy of letterpress printing.

Inquisitive Printers: Even More Things That Caught Our Eye

We remain on the look-out for all things creative, fascinating and colorful. Check out a few of the intriguing items, events, and cool happenings that recently caught our eye.

From Cathy:  

I have always enjoyed the CBS Sunday Morning program as it has introduced me to many fascinating creative people and stories over the years.  On the March 10th broadcast, they focused on fine press books from the printing to the binding.  It is always exciting to see a letterpress print shop on network news.  Enjoy the segment if you haven’t already viewed it.

Larkspur Press Bookmaking Bookbinding Letterpress, Inquisitive Printers

(photo courtesy of cbsnews.com)

From Maddie: 

Whew! BOY HOWDY! Anyone in need of a podcast recommendation? Yes!? OKAY. Let me tell you about my favorite podcast OLOGIES, hosted by Alie Ward. This show is all about asking smart people dumb questions.

Alie sits down with a specialist in a different field of study in every episode. For example: Entomology (Insects), Selenology (the Moon), and Tuethology (Squids!!!). This podcast series does not disappoint. You will be giddy with excitement to learn all there is to know about each episode’s topic and an added bonus: delightful side notes of fact checking or defining fancy scientific words. Also worth mentioning, if you listen to the very end of each episode Alie will share a secret with the listeners. 

Inquisitive Printers : Alie Ward Ologies

(photo courtesy of allieward.com)

I listen to this show while printing. Yyou can tell when I am listening to this podcast as I am laughing out loud and smiling. OLOGIES is a delight and I hope you give it a listen…then proceed to tell all your friends about the wondrous information you just learned about Entomophagy Anthropology (eating bugs), Mixology (cocktails), or Somnology (sleep). Enjoy! 

From Rebecca:   

Everyday there are more than 12,000+ planes travelling around the world at any given time. Want to see just how populated the skies are? Check out this nifty website, flightrader24.com, that shows in real-time who could be flying above you!

Inquisitive Printers

(photo courtesy of flightrader.com)

Glass meet metal.  UK-based  Heriot-Watt University has some interesting news for welders, fabricators, and artisans. They’ve been able to weld together certain types of glass and metal using a specialized ultrafast infrared laser systems. The University’s scientists and partnering research labs are still working on perfecting the method. Hopefully, this could lead to some interesting developments in both the manufacturing and art realms.

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

Inquisitive Printers Want to Know: Extra Things That Caught Our Eye

This month’s installment of the Inquisitive Printers Want to Know showcases an enjoyable animated video short “Typesetter Blues” and today’s Mars-bound InSight probe. Read on to learn more!

From Cathy: How can you not love a title like Typesetter Blues?  Enjoy this short animated video about the fickleness of love in a print shop (Fun Fact: the printer in the video is named “Harold”).

Typesetter-blues-letterpress-printing - inquisitive(photography courtesy of TOGETHER/Pahzit Cahlon)

From Rebecca:  Seven months ago, NASA sent up the Mars-bound InSight probe. Today, the probe is schedule to land on the surface of Mars. The cool little probe has the job of collecting data of Mars’ surface and drilling a hole 5 meters (16.4 feet) down.

Mars_insight_probe-NASA(photography credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The data will be able to help scientists understand the creation of Mars and its geological landscape evolution.

Graham Judd: A New Zealand Printing Gem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inquisitive Printers Want to Know: More Extra Things That Caught Our Eye

Keeping our eagle eyes on the look-out for intriguing and cool things, this month’s installment of the Inquisitive Printers Want to Know highlights Lori Schneider (a woman with Multiple Sclerosis who has scaled  the “Seven Summits”), the wealth of information at letterpresscommons.com,  as well as a very beautiful look at global weather patterns. Read on to learn more!

From Cathy: Recently, I was fortunate enough to hear a talk by Lori Schneider, the first woman with Multiple Sclerosis to climb the “Seven Summits” of the world.  Here she is in a Ted Talk at TedXGrandRapids.

The Seven Summits are the highest peaks of the seven continents.

Listening to her describe her Mount Everest climb sparked a strong curiosity about this particular mountain and sent me searching for all sorts of information.  What I learned was equal parts awe-inspiring, eye-opening and a little beyond belief.  You can Google and find hundreds of articles but this How Stuff Works article is a good introduction to how daunting it is.

Next, I paid a recent visit to Letterpress Commons, specifically to view any of the new videos added since my last look (and to view some of the others again).  There is a wealth of info shared by others on “The Commons”, so it’s highly recommended that folks putter around at the site every few months to see what treasures have been added.  And if you have a tidbit or more to share, check out how to be a contributor.

From Rebecca Taking global weather pattern views to a whole new level is the Earth.Nullschool.net website. This handy website displays in real time the current wind, temperature, and CO2 levels. You can zoom in and twirl the globe to different locations worldwide to see how different weather patterns are moving.

It’s very fascinating (and beautiful!) to see how the Earth’s oceans and landforms effect one another.

Have something nifty or cool that you’d like to share with us? Let us know what it is in the comments below!

Flourishing Creativity with PRESSDD

Braiding her cross-disciplines of graphic design, web programming, psychology and a love for minimalistic & organic design, Giorgia Katerina of PRESSDD creates beautiful letterpress pieces with panache. Having come by letterpress from a curiosity to know more about the printing tradition, Giorgia has woven into her bespoke creations a love of floral motifs, her great eye for detail, and welcoming warmth. We talk shop on her next adventures into a custom line, the joys of finding zen in her press room, and the exciting feeling of accomplishment when an ink run lines up just perfectly on the press.

RENAISSANCE WOMAN Obtaining a degree in psychology, I originally envisioned pursuing something in this field. Shortly thereafter, I came to the realization my love for design was stronger than that of psychology. As a result, four years ago I started out as a freelance graphic designer and web programmer. Now, I specialize in bespoke wedding stationery. 

GETTING HOOKED ON LETTERPRESS  My journey into letterpress was very unconventional. With a background in graphic design, letterpress was the last thing on my mind. Always looking for design inspiration, I started noticing beautifully printed pieces. Curious by nature, I became eager to learn how to make stationery pieces. As a result, I became hooked on letterpress!

PEACEFUL PRINTSHOP My press room is my personal oasis, complete with no distractions … just me and my press. First and foremost, the accessibility of my press room is second to none. Connected to my home studio, this gives me the flexibility to print at any given time. In this room, you will find a Chandler and Price 12×18 press. In addition, I have a Kensol 27T (which is not part of my studio). Complete with no distractions, just me and my press!

BEAUTY IN THE BUCKEYE STATE I’m based in Rocky River, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. A picturesque little town where coffee shops and restaurants are all within walking distance.

FINDING THE CREATIVE VEIN As a self-taught printer, with no true print mentor I find my design inspiration comes from minimalism and organic elements. With a passion for exploring various textural elements, I love how letterpress can create a beautiful, deep blind impression.

PART TIME PRINTING, FULL-TIME FUN As a stationery designer, and a part-time printer I always look forward to press days … as it gets me up and moving, and away from the computer! 

EFFECTIVE AND FLORAL INFUSED DESIGN  As a designer, I like to keep things simple and modern with a touch of organic elements. I love working with florals. Whether it is scanning them to use as background images or sketching them for the press. Similarly, I like to incorporate elements of old-school romance in my work. My favorite period is the French Renaissance!  

PRINTING FEATS My clients are second to none, and I absolutely love working with them and helping bring their vision to life. Simply put, there is no better feeling than being able to give my clients a bespoke letterpress wedding suite designed and pressed specifically for them.

PRESS HISTORY As a perfectionist, and having spent countless hours on any given project, my first print job was such a rush! I had just started as a full-time freelancer … and my first assignment was a wedding suite.

BOXCAR’S ROLE First and foremost, I want to give a shoutout to my girl Rebecca, who was a dream to work with! She and Boxcar Press have saved me quite a few times during the plate making stages. From helping me stock my studio with all the essentials (like everything in my shop … and outside of my C&P and type) to being an excellent printing resource in my times of need. Needless to say, I was lost without the help of Boxcar Press!

PRINTING TIPS My biggest frustrations is setting up a registration for a run. I have spent countless hours measuring, and remeasuring just to ensure the plate is in a perfect position. My advice, print a digital copy of the plate design using the same size sheet of paper you’ll press. Next, tape the plate over the print and transfer it to the base. This will help you save time, and will minimize the number of hours spent measuring (or remeasuring).

WHAT’S NEXT There are a couple big plans on the horizon for PRESSDD. Most recently, I’ve reintroduced greeting cards into my printing repertoire. In addition, I will also be looking to expand my wedding stationery and will be releasing a semi-custom collection.

We here at Boxcar Press would like to give a huge round of applause and thanks to Giorgia Katerina of PRESSDD! We’ll keep our eyes peeled for what she cooks up next in the print shop.

If you would like to be one of Boxcar Press’ featured printers, please complete the Printers Profile questionnaire.

Inquisitive Printers Want to Know: More Things That Caught Our Eye

Always scanning the horizons (and our internet browsers) for intriguing and cool things to bookmark, this week’s installment of the Inquisitive Printers Want to Know showcases the Austin Center for the Book’s amazing workshop offerings, horse-riding librarians in the Great Depression era, and two handy websites that help identify that mysterious typefaces & fonts. Read on to learn more!

From Cathy: I have been enjoying a little stroll through the pages of the Austin Book Arts Center website.  The Center has only been around in its official state since 2015 but was a growing idea since the 1980’s through a group of enthusiastic book workers.  They offer an amazing wide variety of workshops every week and I am drawn to the ones for teachers and kids.

Combine women, books, and horses into one bundle and you get the Pack Horse Librarians.  Started in 1934, over 50,000 families in Appalachia were served with books delivered on horseback.  This program was started as part of the New Deal’s WPA and books and magazines were donated.  When they became too worn, they were repaired or turned into scrapbooks and circulated again. Here are two websites with fascinating stories and photographs. In this age of E-books, it is neat to read about a time when books were scarce treasures.

From Jake:  The printshop offers many wonders when wandering through on a daily basis. The photography captured here shows the light spectrum in all its rainbow glory in the wash-out unit in one of our platemakers. 

Jake-inquisitive-printers-platemaker

From Rebecca: Ever come across a design with such a gorgeous typeface or font….but you don’t know what the name of it is? For both computer and mobile,  WhatTheFont is a great starting point to demystifying that font that’s been on your mind for ages. WhatTheFont is a site where you can snap a photo (or upload one if you are working on your computer) and the online program will start identifying what it may be.If you are into a more answer-questions-type-of-mood, a secondary good website is Indentifont.

Have something awesome or cool that you’d like to share with us? Share with us what it is in the comments below!

Inquisitive Printers Want To Know – Even More Eye-catching Things

Keeping sharp eye on the lookout for more cool things & intriguing “must-bookmark-this!” items, this week’s installment of the Inquisitive Printers Want to Know features a Wisconsin-based printer and bookmaker, a new specialized coating that is the “blackest of the blacks”, and a celebration for a book series that inspires one of our printers. Read on to learn more!

Cathy:   I recently found a website with a blog that pleased me.  It is called Letterpress Book Publishing and it belongs to Mike Coughlin of Superior Letterpress of Cornucopia Wisconsin. He calls himself a Printer and Book Maker and his blog reflects on his love of his profession. His posts are comfortable and friendly.  He hasn’t posted since December 2017 so I am hoping some new visitors to his page will prompt him to give us something new to read.

He is at the tip of Wisconsin before it drops into Lake Superior so come “chat” with the rest of us, Mike, and let us know what is on your mind or on your press.

Rebecca Miller: While we do love a good, deep rich printing black (a printer’s bread and butter), we often wonder about Vantablack.

(Photography credit: Surrey Nanosystems)

Hailed as the “blackest of blacks”, this is borderline cartoonish-ly black coating is neither really a pigment nor paint per se. Instead, the specialized coating (made by Surrey Nanosystems) is made up of series of long, extremely tightly packed (and quite microscopically thin) carbon tubes. So dense is this “forest of carbon nanotubes” that any light shined onto it is immediately absorbed (99.96% to be exact). 

The very precise need for those densely packed carbon nano tubes to be laid in a certain way limits how the coating can be applied. Currently in the works is a not-as-dark version in a spray variety aimed at the STEM community (and it will set you back a pretty penny).

Bonus: The “Vanta” in Vantablack stands for “Vertically Aligned Nanotube Array”.

Leanna: Happy Birthday, Harry (July 31st)!  I have been a huge Harry Potter fan since it was introduced to me by my fourth grade teacher. It was subsequently banned from the school a couple months later, so I had to sneak it in my lunchbox to read during break. Over the years since last book and film were released, I took to mainly searching Pinterest for fan art and periodically listening to the audiobooks while I work in the shop (and people wonder why I’m tearing up at the press, it’s cause I’m listening to Snape die for the 100th time!).

(Photography courtesy of monsieurmonsteur.co.uk)

Did you know that 2018 is one of the years in which the book ‘The Cursed Child’ takes place? According to the timeline, Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is 1991. The Battle of Hogwarts is in 1998 making the “19 years later” of the epilogue of ‘The Cursed Child’ to be in 2017. Weird right? Now imagine the movies taking place in the early 90’s instead of the 2000’s!

In honor of Harry’s and J.K. Rowling’s birthday today, here are a few of my favorite Harry Potter things to inspire a bit of “magic” for their next print project! 

Artists to Check Out:

Wonderful Potter-related Articles and Exhibits:

Do you have a cool thing you’d like to share with us or see something that tickles your printing fancy? Email us at info@boxcarpress.com as we’d love to hear from you! We’re always on the look-out for fun + wonderful things!

Letterpress Passions with Puro Papel

Join Boxcar Press on this “adventure of a lifetime,” as we get a first-hand look at Miami based printer, Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel and find out how she brings the heat when it comes to passionate letterpress printing. Best known for her vibrantly colored projects (both printing and non-printing) discover how Catalina’s worldly travels inspire her work, creativity and how she shares this printing tradition with her local community.