Maybe it’s a backlash against our screen addiction, but letterpress has become the uncontested portraitist of indie music in the past two years. Tons of people now seek out the vintage form for advertisements, art collections, and yes, wedding invitations. It’s no wonder that studios are popping up across the country, and we’ve put together 10 where you can inject some old pop glam into your life without exposing your brick or moving to Williamsburg.
Asheville has definitely upped its already high hipster pedigree with its fresh crop of microbreweries, craft hot sauces, and of course, the letterpress postcards in every window telling visitors to shop local. 7 Ton encompasses three letterpress studios and specializes in hand carved linoleum-bloc broadsides, as well as business cards and invitations.
These guys recently designed a poster for Baron Fig’s poster project and produced the rest. A modern twist on the vintage art, The Half and Half uses exposure film to create their stencils. “You didn’t create the art but it’s almost like a second artist hand, that has to see it through their eyes,” said Ben Gunter, production manager. Their intricate designs give letterpress a simplistic, industrial feel.
Nashville is known for its studio Hatch Show Print, endorsed by the Country Music Hall of fame and home to countless tour posters, but if you’re looking for something a little smaller, try Sawtooth Printhouse in low-rent fancy-culture East Nashville. Sawtooth uses bright colors and handbill style fonts to create their down-home folk art. Printmaker Chris Cheney also teaches local DIY classes, and hopes to start teaching on his home turf soon.
Founder Kyle Durrie doesn’t let herself get cooped up in her studio. She also operates the Movable Type Truck, a 1982 Chevy from which the printmaker traveled across the country and collected inspiration for her 50 states project. Fifty cheesy souvenir magnets turned into state pride posters, which she now sells on her site for $20 apiece. Durrie’s also got literal wordplay, as Power and Light’s greeting cards lampoon frequently used fonts, Burt Reynolds and old school art.
Typothecary Press a lesson in branding—blending historical awareness of the craft with savvy buttons to direct visitors to contemporary services like invites, business cards and greetings. Typothecary also breaks the mold (or press, if you will) in terms of its equipment. Founder Megan Zettlemoyer is a self proclaimed sucker for funky historical machines, like her miniature label maker and the pinhole perforator she acquired in Toronto. With her real passion and flair for marketing, Zettlemoyer is what every indie craftsman strives to become.
This small letterpress studio takes the art back to its roots, printing books and broadsides in the same format that originally took us out of the Dark Ages. Through their collaborations with MOCAD, The Detroit Sound Conservancy, and a little R&B songstress by the name of Beyonce, Salt and Cedar have cultivated a reputation for integrating visual and sonic arts. With a 3000 square foot studio that constantly provides workshops, film screenings, and concerts, Salt and Cedar hopes to elevate the cultural atmosphere of Motor City. Looks like art really does inspire life.
Hammerpress may not have appeared in our 20 Indie Band Posters Worthy of Your Walls, but the list of artists bearing its ink is nothing to shake a drumstick at. At Hammerpress, you can nab artsy posters from Beach House, Neko Case, and Tokyo Police Club, among many others. The designs feature multicolored layering and font diversity, almost holographic in style. They also offer unique notebooks, calendars, and cards which make great gifts for any budget, not to mention their classy Father’s Day cards.
The “Best Little Press in Iowa” embraces its Midwestern heritage, creating whimsical art prints about country life, love, and Christianity. Blending quintessential type with newer, cursive and italic styles, the Permanent Collection creates an update on the needlepoint pillow without losing any of the cozy factor. They’re obviously appealing to a wide audience, in addition to the website, you can find their wares in a dozen states and the UK.
This studio focuses on sunny surf and tropics themes, for when the handbill gets too bold (or for your smarty pants friend who’s moving to Silicon Valley). Co-founder Christina Byvik is an award-winning illustrator for the U-T San Diego, and she’s definitely got an eye for composition. With Byvik’s 1890’s Chandler & Price press, the husband and wife team creates swirling, brightly colored stationery and art prints.
Inky Lips designs its own wood type in addition to using vintage metal and linoleum. Established in 2001, Inky Lips comes from the mind of Casey McGarr, former creative director at Fossil, and has accumulated 10 cabinets of such type. Minimalist inspirational-quote posters mingle with historical images and USA pride in the Inky Lips poster shop, which uses three different letterpress machines and has been visited by the likes of Jim Sherraden, manager of Hatch Show Print in Nashville.
Stop by these websites or take a road trip to bolster your hipster pedigree and get your apartment looking like a free trade coffee shop. Or just get Dad a Father’s Day card that isn’t from CVS. Whatever.