The studio

Ever since I fell in love with typography and letterpress in college, I knew one day I’d buy a press. One day meaning when I had a house to put it in and the time to do it (ok, so maybe just the former).

Then came craigslist. The boyfriend, he is addicted, and he found this press under an hour away from where we live. With everything I needed to start a studio. Plus type. For cheap. How is this possible? Well, of course because I had nowhere to put it. Then the most surprising part of this whole enterprise, my parents were easily sweet-talked into letting me take over half their basement. I had a studio!

just after she moved into the basement (left) and with her second inking (the first one was a bit of a disaster)
Bess, my press: just after she moved into the basement and during her second inking (first successful print — the first one was a bit of a disaster)

A very dirty studio. A studio covered in dust and bugs and 120 years of ink and solvent (mixed with dust and bugs of course). I bronze-brushed every square inch of the press (ok, only the important square inches, but it works, doesn’t it?) and have been slowly but surely going through the process of taking every compartment of type out, cleaning it in denatured alcohol, drying it and putting it into a clean type case.

dusty type (no bugs in this drawer at least), a toad who thought a freshly washed type drawer would make a nice home, delicious squeaky clean lead type.
Top: the drawers of type. Bottom, left to right: dusty type (no bugs in this drawer at least), a toad who thought a freshly washed type drawer would make a nice home, delicious squeaky clean lead type.

Then I had to figure out the whole image thing. The only image I had ever letterpressed before I made with a solar plate, which didn’t create a deep enough impression, wasn’t mounted at the right height and was generally a total and complete pain in the ass. Thanks to briarpress, I found boxcar, and later Owosso Graphics.

While boxcar does beautiful work and many many letterpress artists swear by their photopolymer system, I like Owosso for two reasons. 1) The initial investment is significantly less (as in less than 10% of what it would have taken to start with boxcar’s system) and 2) There’s something wonderful about working with wood and metal, materials that have been used in this manner since this method of printing was invented, that photopolymer plates simply can’t match. Since then, I’ve also found they have great customer service (as in they call you if they’re unclear on your order—a real person, not an automated anything) and a super quick turn-around. GO OWOSSO!

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