the original way of printing
Letterpress printing is a 550-year-old process of printmaking in which paper is pressed onto a raised surface, with ink in between. Originally, letterpress was done with hand-set wood and metal type; I use modern plastic plates that allow me to print artwork from digital files. It’s exciting to combine this incredible art form with modern day aesthetics. More and more, I see people turning to letterpress for the beauty of the materials and kinship with the hand-crafted object. Printed pieces aren’t just “kissed” with ink, but instead have a “bite” — that deep impression that letterpress leaves in the paper. I love working with machines that have such a long history along with the challenge of managing their many different variables. When you consider all of its subtleties of texture and color, I truly believe that the results of letterpress printing are unmatched.
Letterpress is an artform
With letterpress, each print could be different, and that’s what I find so exciting. That’s what makes it an artform. I start with an idea, and then I grab a journal and sketch. Once the sketch is complete, I scan it and turn it into vector art so that I can send it to Burlington, NC, where a printing plate is made. Once I have the plate, the real work begins. I hand mix inks until I get the color just right. I check and double check and triple check the registration. I create die cuts in any shape the customer wants. And I’m big into delivery. I package the final goods to make the best possible presentation because I believe that’s what my customers deserve.
Leaving a lasting impression
You’ve got to start with a quality paper, one that feels great in the hand and leaves a memorable impression. I’ve found that people value quality paper, distinctive design and excellent print quality. They want their materials to stand apart. My house sheet gets them noticed. It’s an outstanding product: 100% cotton paper that comes in single ply 110# or double ply 220# thickness and has an impressive eggshell finish.
The rhythm of printmaking
There is a rhythm to letterpress that’s almost like a meditation. As the press opens and closes, it’s a swoosh… an in and an out… an inhale/exhale kind of thing. I can tell, just by listening, whether or not the press needs an adjustment. Each of my Heidelberg Windmills have a different personality. One is newer and quieter. The other one can be a little tricky. You learn how to work with each press once you get to know them. Heidelbergs have the ability to print on cardboard or something as thin as onion skin. It’s so amazing that letterpress has that much range of adjustment, but that’s largely what allows me to achieve the effect that customers want.
A tradition that never gets old
It’s easy to get people excited about letterpress when they see the process and what goes into a print. There are a lot of ups and downs with letterpress printing. It’s a labor of love. But there’s nothing like that satisfaction of when the printed piece appears. Even now, after seeing millions of prints land in the delivery table, I’m still amazed at how beautiful letterpress is.