1,000 Words About: Printing and Me

I recently started a personal project to write 500 words every day. I've been writing about a variety of topics - personal essays, short stories, sports, podcasts, etc. I skipped my writing both days this weekend, so it's 1,000 words today. (Plus I'm terrible at editing myself.) Today's topic is printing related, so I've decided to share it here. My friend Dan suggested I write about how I chose printing as my profession. I've decided to share my letterpress printing timeline. The more I think about printing, the more I realize that I never had a choice in the matter. Printing chose me and wouldn't let go. (Not that I'm complaining.)

June 23, 2007: I walked into an antique store in Arcadia, Florida and saw a tabletop printing press. I didn't have any idea what kind it was, how to use it, or what it was worth. I just knew that I needed it. I paid $100 (way more money than I had to spend at the time), and brought it back to my dorm room. I was in college studying graphic design and spending my summer break as a teacher's assistant for a high school summer program. I worked during the day and spent my evenings cleaning and organizing the lead type that came with my press. I've always loved antiques. As a kid, one of my favorite family activities was browsing antique stores with a particular item in mind. This antique press intersected beautifully with what I was learning in History of Graphic Design. I loved that era's aesthetic, work ethic and machinery. That day in the antique shop was a chance encounter that changed the course of my life.

May 12, 2009: I attended a one day workshop with letterpress printer Paul Moxon. I came in knowing very, very little. I left knowing much more, but most importantly knowing that I must continue to get inky. I was weeks away from college graduation and a cross-country move to Seattle. All of the crisp, clear plans in place for my career were suddenly blurry. What I'd trained four years to do and what my heart was pulling for were growing farther and farther apart.

October 26, 2009: I took a letterpress class at the School of Visual Concepts taught by Chandler O'Leary. I was 1 month into my first post-college job, and it was a comically bad first job. (Well, it's comical now but wasn't at the time.) Getting my hands inky again and seeing my first design come to life on paper... It was all I needed to quit the bad job. (The CEO dropping by my desk to ask me if I was going to go home and commit suicide should have been enough to quit, but I suppose I was young and naive.) I loved my letterpress class. By the end of the 6 weeks I was sending dozens of emails to Seattle area letterpress printers, offering my services as printer's devil, letterpress indentured servant, or anything else I could do to gain more knowledge and keep getting inky.

December 12, 2009: I started my apprenticeship at Myrtle Alley Press. My first tasks were organizing spacing material and leading. I'd quit my job, so I had plenty of time to throw myself into this new part of my life. I remember how exciting every little task felt. I got to be around printing - watching, asking questions, listening, learning. It wasn't long before I was learning to print on the platen press. That year was sort of like my master's program. Except instead of spending time in a classroom, I had inky hands. The act of printing on the platen press was so daunting at first. I was nervous about smashing a hand, felt out of my element and uncoordinated, and my legs ached badly at the end of each day. But the bigger a challenge is in my life, the more determined I am to conquer it. It was only a matter of time before the press and I found a common rhythm. I loved troubleshooting my projects to make the next one better than the last. I loved seeing the prints stack up. I still love that now. 

January 10, 2011: It was time to set out on my own, and I'd just signed a lease on my first studio space. On the day before my 24th birthday, I bought my first full size platen press. We moved it that day too. (I've probably got another 1,000 words in me just about moving presses.) I loved letterpress at the time, but buying, moving, and refurbishing this press skyrocketed that love to a whole new level. I was confident about printing on the platen press at Myrtle Alley, but I got to know my press intimately. As the above photo illustrates, this press was in terrible shape. I spent $500 (way more money than I had to spend at the time), and we moved it into my studio. I named her Josephine. I spent countless hours alone with this press scraping off rust, cleaning out gunk, oiling joints, and finding replacement pieces. I had no guarantee that this press would ever print, but I believed in her. I had no guarantee that I could actually make a living with letterpress printing, but I believed in me. 

February 27, 2017: Today. In the last 6 years, we've moved Josephine two more times. I've bought and learned how to print on several more presses. We brought a press back over the border. I've passed on a few presses to other printers, including my first little press. Our current print shop is part of a beautiful storefront space, so everyone gets to see letterpress printing in action. I've taught many workshops. I've had the privilege to take on many interns. I've designed and printed so many projects for so many people, including a full catalog of greeting cards for our own wholesale line. I've hired and trained an assistant, who became my replacement when I decided to be a full time mom. So much has changed. And yet...

I'm still printing. When I'm printing, I'm home. I listen to the sound of the press, feel its rhythm. My body works in unison with the press to create something beautiful. My hands and feet are busy with the task at hand, but my mind goes elsewhere. My brain works best when I'm on press. It's a quiet, safe place to work things out. It's productive and physical. I still love it. 

Practically, printing is the way I create the things that make me money. But it's so much more than that. Printing found me in a Florida antique store. Printing gave me a dream for the future that was bigger than all the jobs I didn't get. Printing helped me quit a bad job and believe I was worth more. Printing got me out of my comfort zone. Printing gave me a tool to bring my thoughts, ideas, words, and art to life. Printing helped me grow up. Printing is a lifelong challenge to pursue. Printing gave me community, a business, a purpose, a future. And I still have inky hands.

 

2016 Highlights

Happy New Year!
As we get ready to ring in 2017, I want to take a few minutes to look back and share some of our highlights from 2016. Thank you so much for supporting us this year!

JANUARY Moving our Heidelberg Windmill into the shop

JANUARY
Moving our Heidelberg Windmill into the shop

FEBRUARY Our Valentine's Day pop-up shop at Public Bikes + Gear Seattle

FEBRUARY
Our Valentine's Day pop-up shop at Public Bikes + Gear Seattle

MARCH Our first order of socks for the shop! They've been a huge hit this year.

MARCH
Our first order of socks for the shop! They've been a huge hit this year.

APRIL New shop photos by our talented team member Meredith

APRIL
New shop photos by our talented team member Meredith

MAY Exhibiting at the National Stationery Show and winning a Best New Product award!

MAY
Exhibiting at the National Stationery Show and winning a Best New Product award!

JUNE A front page feature in our neighborhood newspaper!

JUNE
A front page feature in our neighborhood newspaper!

JULY Exhibiting at Renegade Craft Fair in Seattle

JULY
Exhibiting at Renegade Craft Fair in Seattle

AUGUST We joined the "Fur Baby" Club by bringing home our rescue dog, Lola!

AUGUST
We joined the "Fur Baby" Club by bringing home our rescue dog, Lola!

SEPTEMBER Our 2nd anniversary at the Fishermen's Terminal

SEPTEMBER
Our 2nd anniversary at the Fishermen's Terminal

OCTOBER The C&Co. team dressing up for Halloween!

OCTOBER
The C&Co. team dressing up for Halloween!

NOVEMBER Sharing moments of love and support at the shop in uncertain times.

NOVEMBER
Sharing moments of love and support at the shop in uncertain times.

DECEMBER Our beloved Sounders FC won the MLS Cup!

DECEMBER
Our beloved Sounders FC won the MLS Cup!

CommunitySuzi MantleComment
Celebrate our 2nd Shop Anniversary!

Join us for our 2nd shop anniversary at the 28th Annual Fishermen's Fall Festival! It's been a great two years, and we're excited to celebrate this milestone with you. Our shop's grand opening was the day of the Fishermen's Fall Festival 2 years ago. To read our recaps of the last two festivals, click here: 2014 and 2015

The Festival provides families with a fun and educational outing on the waterfront as well as an opportunity to learn more about seafood. Hands-on art projects with fishing themes, including wooden boat building, shell art, fish prints, face painting, and more are free for all children and admission to the Festival is free. 

If kid's activities aren't your thing, you might enjoy: 
Free ship canal tours
Salmon BBQ
Alaska scallop, crab and cod booths
Survival suit races
Live music & beer garden
Deadliest Catch Boat-f/v Brenna A with Sean Dwyer, newest Deadliest Catch Captain
Salmon Filet Challenge
Lutefisk Eating Contest

Proceeds from the activities within the Festival are donated to the Seattle Fishermen’s Memorial Foundation to assist families of fishers lost at sea.

 

Saturday, September 24, 2016 from 11 am - 6 pm
Free: No admission fee!

We'll have the shop open 11am to 6pm, stocked full of nautical inspired and locally made goods to browse! We'll also have our historic 1895 iron handpress inked up and ready for letterpress demos. For a donation of your choice to the Seattle Fishermen’s Memorial Foundation, we'll even let you pull prints to take home!

If you only make it out to the terminal once this year, this is the day to pick! In my humble opinion, the scallops alone are worth the trip. See you soon!