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Letterpress Arcana

Scope: design, printing, and artist collaborations
Published: 2020-present

I’ve had a 1906 Golding Improved Pearl #11 letterpress for nearly 20 years. It’s a small platen press with a 7x11” chase and capable of printing small projects (around 5x7” image area max) with light impression. It’s a beautiful 700lb. hunk of cast iron, and it mostly sat in our garage unused for most of the two decades I’ve had it. I had resigned myself to thinking it would be my hobby when I retired, becoming an old man shaking his fist at the sky and printing nonsense manifestos and screeds.

With the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, I decided to renovate a small room off the garage into a bonafide letterpress studio. I got the place wired, insulated and fully set up. I disassembled the press (and an 1880s Paragon guillotine paper cutter), cleaned them up and got everything back into working order. Then I spent a couple months reading all my old letterpress operation books, scouring the internet for information, gathering all the inks, tools, and makeready materials I’d need to begin printing. 

Toward the end of 2020, I felt like I had things set up more or less the way that I’d want them, and I began designing cards and art prints in InDesign and outputting them to polymer plates, which I then could mount to an aluminum base and print on the press. These creative efforts naturally landed into three camps, which I soon gave their own silly brand names: Accent Grave Studio and Press - for the weird and mysterious; Queen Hattie Press and Apiary - for the more elevated, regal, and dare I say more commercial; and Limbic Shift - strictly for collaborations with other artists. 

You can buy some of these nerdy art prints and greeting cards at my store: Letterpress Arcana.