Our Letterpress No. 2
4 years ago, Kirk and I moved our first letterpress into our dining room on Sycamore Street in Columbus, Ohio. I already had the name "Sycamore Street Press" picked out, and went right to work on designing, sourcing materials, etc... Although I knew I was starting a letterpress paper goods company, I didn't think it would ever be larger than just me and my press. That all changed, of course. It just sucked me in more and more... and I let it. But that's a good thing.
1) I love it. 2) It's a wonderful & practical way to use my degrees in studio art and printmaking. 3) Kirk ended up loving it, too, and now we are able to work together every day.
So for the past 4 years, our business has grown and our goods are now carried in hundreds of shops all over the world. (Crazy!) We've continued printing every single thing on our trusty Vandercook: our first and only press up until this point. It doesn't have a motor of any sort, and it's probably the slowest way possible of letterpress printing (which is already much slower than more contemporary methods). But it's solid and lovely to work with. And most importantly -- it produces beautifully textured results.
For the past couple of years, though, we've felt the need to get another press. Kirk has stayed up late night after night cranking the press back and forth, and still we've had to turn down more and more requests for custom work. We've simply maxed out the amount of work that can be done on one flatbed letterpress.
But getting a press is a little more complicated than a trip to the mall. They haven't been manufactured since the 1960's or 70's, so there's a finite amount left in the world. Even finding one for sale can be a chore. Especially if you are looking for a very specific kind, want it to be in good working condition, nearby, and reasonably priced. It took us 2 years to find our second press, and I consider that lucky!
We weren't looking for just any letterpress -- we wanted a Heidelberg Windmill. These presses are the true workhorses of the letterpress industry. They're still much slower, hands-on, and deliberate than digital or offset presses, but compared to our Vandercook, the Windmill is a dream of efficiency. And the resulting color and impression are equal to, if not better, than what we can do with the Vandercook. We still love the Vandie and will still use it to print large scale projects such as our 11x14" art prints. But we're hoping the Windmill will take over greeting card duty.
Now, I may be getting ahead of myself with all this talk. We still have to finish cleaning and setting up the press. And learning to print well on it will be a challenge...
In any case, it's here, and we're excited.