Thursday, October 24, 2013

letter press studios crawl - kc

Food brings us together. Eighteen of us start our letterpress excursion with brunch upstairs above the Blue Bird Bistro on Summit (left) At one table a member ponders which future prints he will purchase for the dining room at JUCO. Another member talks about the Photoshop class she is taking. Her art making has been in studio spaces away from her home. Now she wants to combine her art training in one location at home on her computer with her photographs.                  One member tells about her art students squeezing clay with their hands. In the next room new members chat with others who love ink on paper. Our president Justin Rogers tells us the Print Society has grown to a hundred members. The program director lays out the itinerary. We exit to our cars and begin across the river. Our first stop is the Print Factory, 738 Armstrong Avenue, in Kansas City, KANSAS (below, left) Craft & Concept.(double click on images to enlarge) Jan and Karl Marxhausen (above right)

      From the street level, we climb a flight of wooden steps to the large studio level. We listen to Jesse Mc Afee. He believes that the printing press helped build the middle class and made education possible for those who were able to access it. The Print Factory funds itself by building printing presses for artists and print shops, as well as backpack proof presses. (For more on Self Contained Outdoor Printing Equipment, click and (courtesy of Craft and Concept, accessed Oct 13, 2013)

Cast type letters set in tray (BELOW), when rolled with ink, makes impression (ABOVE)
     The Nelson Atkins Museum has paid them come in to do thematic workshops. Last year participants created prints for the Day of the Dead celebration at the Nelson, through the live demos by the Print Factory (next photos of 2013 Nelson day of dead). 

"Recently, we've been making wooden type. You will see some examples on the table, along with artist blocks and plates, to help fund ourselves and make on-site demonstrations possible. (To help people to look at a movable type printing press) and understand that THIS WAS HOW NEWSPAPERS USED TO HAVE TO BE PRINTED EVERY DAY. I think it is something that has been lost. To think about a whole newspaper, every twenty-four hours, being printed in this manner. The way information was been distributed.... When we set up at the Nelson, we tie clothes lines to whatever we can and that kind of became the drying racks. There is wax paper that people can use to make an envelope with to take their print home. On the back of each print there is a stamp that has the artist's name. And they can go to our website, Craft and Concept, and find out more about that artist."    Jesse Mc Afee

I think that what the Print Factory is doing is very exciting, in that their mission includes bringing printing to the people --- whether in the form of building backpack presses, travelling to do on-site printing, or their efforts to get kids excited about printing.  Paul Sokoloff

Print Factory artist, David Grime from South Carolina, discusses the control he has working with zinc when etching. When he engraves he prefers to use copper. Aluminum holds up better for doing a series of prints. Blue and orange stripes on top are done with a mylar transparency, after the etched plate has been inked and wiped, prior to printing. Print Society members look at prints from his flat file. Lithographs done in Tasmania by a friend of his. One is a a large drypoint and an etching. His friend Will Burnip was influenced by Whistler, says Grime. Four minutes video, next.  

We trek from the Kansas side of the river to the Missouri side in Mid town. The caravan parks and we walk a city block to 3121 Gillham Road.  Music greets us as we enter the renovated office space.

     With training from the Kansas City Art Institute and experience from working at Hammarpress, Michelle Dreher began her studio in the West Bottoms in a Warehouse Loft. She had room there to acquire the equipment she needed. Two years ago her sister and her purchased an office building. They stepped away from the Crossroads area to a place that has potential. This area is being revitalized.

    She likes the idea of becoming an anchor to a community. They gutted the entire building and started over. The second floor is being converted to an apartment. Most of their efforts are going towards that. By next fall they are planning a grand opening, a store front space, window displays, a studio, a wood shop. The final goal is to have workshops there. She also teaches part time at the Nelson doing workshops. She want to bring that over to her studio. Four minutes.

Flying saucer abducting cows, four color block print, linocut letterpress, now in Etsy shop

The Dreher sisters in action making linocut designs, click
(courtesy of Blue Coffee Pictures, accessed Oct 25, 2013)

More of their studio history, click

The proof presses used by Two Tone Press are named after 80s rock stars. Such as, Bowie (her favourite), Lennox, Boss, and Lauper. Michelle Dreher explains the role of the machine to members of the Nelson Atkins Print Society  Six minutes.

Michelle likes to convert hand drawn elements into carved blocks. Above,
linocut blocks used for poster for Nelson Atkins museum event.

Cast iron presses are both strong and fragile at the same time, explains Michelle Dreher. She uses her clam-shell platen for die cutting and         scoring. Networks help keep her hundred year old machine in shape.    Two minutes.

Michelle can usually figure out what is going on with her clam-shell platen. Parts are available for her Vandercook proof presses through NA Graphic in Colorado. The clam-shell platen is simple in design and easier to fix. 1 minute.
Follow the sisters at 

It is so wonderful to see and meet these young artists who are taking control of their lives and careers in such meaningful and productive ways. It is a fantastic endorsement for their mentor the KC Art Institute as well.    david n roxie mc gee
      Down Linwood and right on Troost, at 3319 Troost we find Winka Press and the Telephonebooth Gallery, run by Cecilia Bakker (CB) and Tim Brown (TB). We step into an intimate gallery to find walls covered with the huge graphite drawings of Russell Fergason (next image).

Bakker was a graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute, from the printmaking department in 2002, and has worked for Mike Sims at the Lawrence Lithography Workshop for two years.  From that experience the two of them do editions for artists on their letterpress equipment.
Artistic development is a different mind set which Winka Press prides itself in. It sees its contribution as a hybrid one. Something that artists would be drawn to. An advocate for the inked impression both printer and artist seek to achieve.    Tim Brown

Tim Brown and Cecilia Bakker discuss their role when working with artists. Four minutes.
TB:  As a part of building artist careers, it is useful to have the ability to do an edition using our press. 
CB: We mostly do relief printing.
TB: Just a part of working with the gallery, there is development process when an artist does an edition. It is a lot different from doing a commercial job. Professional designers usually are very clear about what they want. And that is a very different kind of conversation than when an artist has an image and they are not really sure how to get to an end to it. Usually there is a lot of proofing, a lot of looking at color, and all of that changes the image. So, realistically that is a much longer development process.

TB: So, it's not about cash and trying to make money quickly. It's more about artistic development, and a different mind set. Part of the press is, we try to carefully, thoughtfully segment our jobs in that regard. You know, there is artistic activity and there is commercial activity, and that is how it generally breaks down.

CB: Around the corner you will see a print from Saskia Lehnert (above image). It was probably a two year project developing the image, working with the artist, and creating an edition. Those are long view projects.

CB: At Winka Press we have design print services, like wedding invitations, custom holiday cards. We also offer print services to other designers in the Kansas City area. Letterpress printing, and we do offer some retail goods, holiday cards and thank you cards, things like that.

TB: Cecilia makes art too.
CB: So I use the same equipment to make a hybrid litho method. And this brings us to our motivation for doing this. We both like ink on paper. We both have hybrid backgrounds, both have commercial art and fine art.

Look at recent work by Cecilia Bakker, above

Both continue to talk about movable type and pin registration used on the letterpress beds. The use of a fine art process that Mike Sims would use. Where the paper is hole punched along the edge of the plate to create precise registration in this process. Whereas in letterpress that does not happen, and you can get pretty good registration if you have a Heidelberg or high end equipment. Typically pin registration is not really possible.  This is a great example of the hybrid process with both of our backgrounds. Five minutes.

Above, metal plate used for Saskia Lehnert (sister to Cecilia) 

CB: The way is used to be made and now how it is made. They are able translate a digital file into an etched plate.
Visitor: Using a laser cutter?
CB: I think they use etching baths.
TB: You know the traditional way of a plate that gets exposed, you print it on a high quality piece of foam, and then it gets exposed photographically, and then it gets etched away chemically.
Visitor: Hmm.
TB: So, you are left with this piece of magnesium, and it is mounted on a very specific piece of probably Russian plywood. So that is the kind of sequence it takes to make it.

CB: But then, just like letterpress we lock it into a shape, put it on the press, and run it through.

Submitted by Karl Marxhausen
Videos shot with Luminx DMC-FZ7 camera
 Additional photos by Robin Gross
Way to go Team !!!!


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