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!
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.
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/
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!).
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.
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.
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.
Greg Houston’s menacingly fun John Waters
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.
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.
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.
A great wedding assignment: a zombie woodland wedding!
We used some of our favorite old illustration cuts and wood type for this…