Striding through The Red Door Press brought us to the warm & welcoming cheer of Tammy and Adam Winn, shop owners that love soaking up every little morsel of printing they can. The printing duo shared cherished printing advice (and stories!) with us from the Great Northern Printer’s Fair, the Ladies of Letterpress and with the Amalgamated Printer’s Association. We caught up on the tale of their first press (a rescue mission) and what makes their shop oh-so-charming.
PHOTOGENIC PAIR We have been married for almost four years, but have known each other for almost fourteen. Our studio, The Red Door Press, was officially founded in 2012. We had been tinkering with presses and type for a few years before that, but decided to make it official. We became known as “The Red Door Press” because every year we go to the same red door to take a photo. We plan on carrying on this tradition until we’re old and gray.
IN THE SHOP We currently have seven presses – an 8×12 C&P New Series, a 10×15 Windmill, three 5×7 Kelseys, a Vandercook Model One, and a showcard press. We spend most of our studio time working on prints and greeting cards, but also keep a fairly steady stream of clients wanting business cards, wedding invites, and other custom projects. We’ve only just recently started doing craft shows, and are enjoying the experience tremendously. It’s a great joy to be able to share our work with the public at large.
A LUCKY BREAK Tammy has a background in printmaking and design from her time at Colorado State University, and had long expressed interest in letterpress. Adam comes from a technical background which makes him incredibly handy to have around the shop. When an unexpected opportunity to get a press came up, Tammy didn’t think twice.
HEIDELBERGS IN THE HAWKEYE STATE The best feature about our shop is that it’s located about 15 feet out our back door. We converted a two-and-a-half car garage into our shop, so we’ve got plenty of space and it’s VERY close to home. We’ve learned that whenever we get a new press or lockers, we need to rearrange to make the most of our small space. Over the last year and a half our shop has changed quite a bit from acquiring equipment and type. We’ve also been working on getting a spiffy red door attached to our shop.
PRINTING MENTORS We have received so much great printing advice from all over. But since our journey into letterpress is fairly new, some of our most cherished advice is from a LOT of long-time printers in the Midwest, but most notably three names stand out: Arie Koelewyn from Michigan was the first person we met at the Great Northern Printer’s Fair in Mt. Pleasant in 2012, who has always been so helpful to teach us tips and tricks around printing. Jim Daggs, owner of Ackley Printing, who has been an invaluable friend to our shop as he helped to answer so many random questions and moved in our first Heidelberg. And Dave Peat, an avid type and print collector and long-time member of the Amalgamated Printers Association whose knowledge friendship has meant the world to us.
DESIGNED FOR PRINT We do both. It was Tammy’s love of design that got her interested in letterpress in the first place, so those skills have proven invaluable in our studio.
THE CREATIVE FLOW One of the most wonderful things about working with hand-set type is it forces you to remain flexible in your designs. You can’t be rigid about your designs when you find out that you don’t have enough of a certain letter in a particular size or font. Being forced to think creatively on how to complete a project has led us to create things that are far more interesting than our initial design started out to be.
FULL TIME FUN That’s the dream, but right now we both work full time. We run our studio in the evenings, weekends and of course have that occasional middle of the night print session. Some day we hope to have a full-time shop to be able to share all the great knowledge about letterpress that we’ve learned with the community.
PRINTING FEATS We’ve only been doing craft shows for a short time, but the response we’ve gotten from the community has been great. Every time someone is excited to buy one of our prints and take it home, it’s a great feeling.
PRESS HISTORY Our first press was our 8×12 C&P New Series – Tammy rescued it from the warehouse of an old pharmaceutical company. They were going to send it off for scrap when Tammy heard about it, and she wasted no time in whisking it away to the safety. Adam was in for quite a surprise that day when he arrived home to Tammy’s new-found hobby. We call her “Minnie” and she dates back to 1926.
BOXCAR’S ROLE When we were starting to put our studio together, Boxcar was our go-to place to get us started — from ink to a base and everything in between. Since our start we have continued to use Boxcar for our base systems and polymer plates. They have some of the best customer service, hands down. We love that they will answer our silly to complicated questions and are so flexible around our odd schedule.
SHOP TIPS The best things that have ever happened to our studio happened because we got involved in the letterpress community – there are so many great people out there who are willing to share experience and expertise. We’ve met so many great printers and designers over the past couple of years.
We have loved being a part of the APA (Amalgamated Printers Association) and the Ladies of the Letterpress. We’ve learned things from how the process of cutting wood type works to how use a sheet of newsprint when cleaning your press to help reduce the amount of cleaner you use. We love the opportunities of being able to soak any little bit of letterpress or printing that we can.
WHAT’S NEXT Now that we’re done with craft fairs for the winter, we’re just going to get back out in the studio and print as often as we can. We’re really excited about doing more prints and one of the big things we’ve been getting into is printing on different/reusable materials, so we’ll keep experimenting. We can’t wait to find some more events to participate in 2014 and really start getting our products out into the public.