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Mary Mashburn of Typecast Press

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When I met Mary Mashburn of Typecast Press it felt immediately like reuniting with an old friend. After we began talking and kept getting off topic and knowing all of these people and places in common, besides sharing a healthy love and respect for letterpress and a small obsession for good paper—we just kept saying to each other, “How have we not met before now?” She showed me around her wonderful studio space (which has me prepared to sign up to be her assistant) and told me the story about how she found herself as a letterpress printer. She was working as a journalist and wrote a story about letterpress. The topic stayed with her and inspired her and her husband to take a letterpress course at the Center for Book Arts in New York. After that class she spent some time on e-bay checking out old presses and equipment and one night after a couple gin-and-tonics, Mary had bought her first press on e-bay sight unseen. With that she was hooked and she has slowly been acquiring more presses and type ever since! Thank you so much for showing us around your space, Mary!

Visit Mary at Typecast Press and don’t forget her partner in printing crime (and husband) Steve’s blog .

In the words of Mary: we really wanted our studio to reflect not just the craft of letterpress but also PLACE — Baltimore’s a real printers’ town, and also a great place for artists to live and work. I think people here really enjoy supporting each other’s passions and crazy ideas — the sharing and collaboration are really striking. I bought my first press — a Vandercook No. 3 — on ebay at just past midnight — Shop Boy and I were drinking gin and tonics and egging each other on: “Just $20 more and it might be ours!!!) and then we woke up the next morning and realized that our Victorian rowhouse was not really the place to put a 2,500-pound press… So I called my friend Chris Hartlove , thinking mainly of the concrete floors in his studio, and he offered up part of his space. He shoots photos for our web site; we print business cards and camera coasters for him. The space is in the old Noxema building in Hampden — the original offices and factory for Noxema — and our main space is the executive office suite, complete with Dr. Bunting’s old executive washroom.

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Part of the reason I was really drawn to letterpress printing was the paper these great old presses can handle — no more white-coated-paper-only design projects! We love printing on cotton paper and chunky handmade paper and printmaking paper and really thick coverboard — it’s fun figuring out which paper works best for which job. So Shop Boy — my husband Steve St. Angelo — used our paper flat files to build a new work table — very big deal for a journalist whose top skill is definitely not DIY carpentry… His blog about it: http://gwbgt.wordpress.com/2009/05/01/rube-goldberg-that-is/

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On top of the new work table: A shout-out to Baltimore’s past letterpress history: a Baltimorean No. 11 press (made in Baltimore and JUST big enough to handle a calling card!) and a box of lead “sorts” and a type catalog from the Baltimore Type company. I really love that we’re preserving the craft of letterpress in a real printing town. (Ottmar Mergenthaler lived around the corner from our house in Bolton Hill –his contribution of the Linotype machine made possible an extraordinary leap from hand-setting type to fast, production typesetting — like getting a computer at the turn of the century!).

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We really love having people tour the studio and wanted to make sure we had a place for a chat and a glass of wine! I love having long-time printers visit, too — they’ve taught us a lot and have amazing stories, almost always involving smoking, drinking, practical jokes and gasoline used as a press cleaner.

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Our neighbors found this old stationery store piece at our favorite resale shop, the Turnover Shop . We put our little tags and address labels in it.

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A vase from Art Market at MICA. We love to have work by local artists throughout the shop: prints by Katherine Fahey and , Jordan Faye Block , a pen and ink by Jess Pegorsch , a doodle by Andy Snair we rescued, lightbox art by Aaron Prager, handmade books by BethAnne Hoffmann , work by Maryland Institute College of Art students like John Chae from Art Market … and more. It makes us feel happy and grounded. I just taught an introduction to letterpress class at MICA and I can’t wait to hang the broadside project the students did: “Crush: Love Letters to a Vandercook” in honor of the Vandercook proof press’ 100th birthday.

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Greg Houston’s menacingly fun John Waters

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A proof pulled when students in my class at MICA were learning to hand-set type sits atop an old fan belt rack we use for aprons. The rack came from Housewerks , a fantastic architectural salvage place in Baltimore.

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Our 8X12 Chandler & Price platen, our second press, rescued from the basement of a Timonium ranch house! [right] A beautiful old book press plus local Baltimore wild life — I read somewhere that rats and mice don’t live in the same space, so we use him to keep any mice at bay.

We do have a bad habit of being space hogs — presses just take up so much room! — so we moved our automatic presses into a space in the same building occupied by Andy Snair , an amazing illustrator and children’s book author. I think the looming metal hunks kind of scared him out of the space — but we’re still friends and collaborators: He did a sumi ink illustration of one of our presses that we use as our mark and we’re working on some projects for retail together.

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A save the date card, printed on yummy duplex Crane. [right] Some of our wood type collection set up on the Vandercook No. 3, our first press.

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A great wedding assignment: a zombie woodland wedding!

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We used some of our favorite old illustration cuts and wood type for this…

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13 Comments

Cyn

I love seeing glimpses into studios of paper-makers. I’m just starting out and it gives me something to aspire to… thanks for the inspiration.

Mary Leggett

Wonderful story. The next time I’m in Baltimore I will ask for a tour to see this fabulous space. I love Shop Boys blog. Wish we had more letterpress in our part of the country. M L

Jennifer

Thank you for sharing this wonderful peek into your studio and life. So incredibly inspiring!

sandra

this studio is stylin’. where did you get your red leather couch? i love that couch. don’t tell me it’s vintage and unattainable.

today i was at ikea looking at the red leather klippan but the real thing didn’t measure up to the catalogue photo. must replace existing couch sporting huge indentation and torn leather where my butt spends way too much time and vow to respect new couch and spend my time more productively.

Robin

Wow! Hearing you talk about this was one thing, but seeing the photos is icing! I am guessing that a personal tour would make it an a la mode experience. Until then, “keep making art.”*

*Something three-year-old Zach said to Manitou artist (Charles) Rockey — nearly two decades ago.

Mary Mashburn

Thanks for all the nice comments! Holly, I’ve been trying to find the card of the artist who made the squirrel vase all week, and your comment made me look one more time… found it! It’s Yvonne Weng, a Maryland Institute student, and her email is eevonvon@yahoo.com. And Sandra, alas, the fabulous couch IS vintage — you should see the adorable round side legs! Our friends Carl and Wil run American Decades, an antiques and collectibles service where they’ll hunt down the perfect piece — they’ve really got the eye — and they found it for us.

Mr. Peacock

Fantastic posting—thank you!

I love reading about creative people who are so passionate about their craft! Typecast Press oozes passion and personality, and it really shows in their wonderful work…and the studio space has so much flair and exuberance too!

I wish I could take a “field trip” to Typecast right now!

Mr. Peacock

I forgot to mention, how much a joy it is to read Shop Boy’s blog! Besides slavin’ away at the presses, he writes clever stories about what’s on his mind, and that includes the joys and travails of the letter press studio. I always get a good chuckle, and some food for thought!

Shelley

Thanks for sharing this look into your studio. It looks like you have a lot of fun! I love the look of the studio & the work you do.

brooke

this studio is so cool. thanks for sharing…
i love hearing about all these great things in baltimore! i grew up outside of baltimore and eventhough i dont live there now, the city has such a special place in my heart. there is so much to offer but it just never had its place on the map really until now. so its great to hear about all the new things happening, and how its growing! i also cant wait to check out all these fun shops you mentioned like housewerks next time im visiting the fam!

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