Letterpress Studio

Letterpress Studio

I work out of my homestead studio. My studio is a converted one-car garage that is a separate building from my home.

When I say "homestead" I mean that I live on four acres on a south-facing mountain side along with my husband Luke and our daughter Dorothy. We grow and cultivate vegetables, culinary and medicinal herbs, shiitake mushrooms, fruit trees, chickens, and vermicompost - using worms to create compost. 

My studio proudly houses two Vandercook #4T presses. These are flatbed printing presses. I bought one from my first letterpress teacher, Dan at The Arm, in Brooklyn, NY (shipping it to NC was quite a process!). My second press came from my mentor and friend, Laurie, in Asheville. I bought my presses in 2015. I also have a small Chandler & Price pilot press, which I mostly use for coasters. 

I use photopolymer plates for printing, which I adhere to the base of the press. I hand-crank the carriage (where my paper is clipped in) over the image. This process both inks the image and presses the image into my paper as it rolls over (more details about this process below). 

I have worked with hand-set type and carving my own linoleum blocks previously, but these methods are not part of my current process. 

Creative and Printing Process

Most of my cards and prints begin with physical pen & ink drawings. I scan these onto my computer and then digitally tweak and manipulate in Photoshop and Illustrator.

After designing the card layout in InDesign, I order a photo polymer plate from Concord Engraving. Once the plate arrives in the mail, I adhere it to my base on the bed of my Vandercook #4T letterpress machine and I'm ready to print!

Next, I decide on a color palette and pick out a variety of cans of colored rubber-based ink. Taking ink from each of the cans, I hand-mix my own colors using a palette knife on a thick sheet of glass.

Once the colors are mixed, I apply a thin layer to the printing rollers and turn on the press to get the rollers rolling, which distributes the ink evenly and maintains the ideal consistency.

Using scrap paper, I start proofing to check the inking (too little is too faint, too much is clumpy), the impression (to achieve that lovely letterpress feel), and the alignment (making sure the text is printing on the desired spot of my paper). After a few rounds of proofing and adjustments, the first color is ready for printing.

I gently feed each card one-at-a-time through the press, keeping an eye on quality control. After about 40 cards, a small bit of new ink needs to be applied. When all of the cards have been printed with the first color, I clean the press by wiping the ink off of each roller and removing the first text block. The entire process is repeated for the next color if applicable.

The last step is the packaging process. Each card is individually folded, matched with an envelope, stuffed in a clear plastic sleeve, and stored.


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