interior designInteriorssneak peeks

sneak peek: tugboat print shop

by anne

husband and wife artist team valerie lueth and paul roden make up tugboat printshop. the couple calls pittsburgh, pa home and their printshop operates out of the first floor of the brick rowhouse (talk about an easy commute!). i love how the space so easily jives to serve both purposes, yet feels so liveable. not only are they surrounded by beautiful natural wood accents in their home, all of their work is carved out of woodblocks which is pretty amazing, so don’t miss “about our printshop” on their site to see their work come to life (and click here for additional images from their space). thanks for the great sneak peek into your home/office, valerie and paul. keep up the good work! –anne

[above: Our narrow hallway entrance. The whole house has 10 ft ceilings, which is nice since the rooms are all pretty narrow.  We’re still working on the staircase…we torment ourselves trying to decide if we should keep the natural wood or paint over.]

One of our printshop cats, Babu, and his favorite spot.

CLICK HERE for the rest of the tugboat sneak peek (and all images on one page) after the jump!


View from the printshop into the dining room, that operates as a workroom most hours of the day. We built the dining room table from an antique slab of bowling alley & found four table legs salvage at CONSTRUCTION JUNCTION (the ultimate young-homebuyers-refurbishing-old-houses hotspot)–the little almond cabinet with the floral glass doors we craigslisted and gussied up with a new coat of paint. Posters above the cabinet are by MAT DALY for the Renegade Craft Fair. Woodblocks leaning against the cabinet are our “America the Beautiful” color separations.


Antique dark oak secretary in our dining room/workroom. Piece above desk is by APAK, water tower porcelain sculpture is by UP IN THE AIR SOMEWHERE, small tugboat sculpture (irresistible!) by KG+AB.


Nice little nook in our dining room/workroom. The piece over the cabinet is a collaboration between Paul and Michael Krueger (artist + professor at the University of Kansas, Lawrence).


Looking into our little “living room” printshop from the main hallway of the house. We print all of our woodblocks on this 36″ x 60″ Conrad etching press. The big animal linocut over the black slate fireplace is by BILL FICK. We also operate online, travel often to fairs (if you want to see us & our prints in person), and schedule studio visits by appointment locally.



Wooden rail tub + sink original to the house. We sanded down the oak rail that had been painted over. Now it’s all shiny, smooth and sealed up. Can’t see in this picture, but we put in little white penny tiles on the floor. So it is a very clean, refreshing room overall. We’re in the process of rearranging all of our other rooms upstairs, so no pictures yet…

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  • great live/work space! and, why shouldn’t there be a press in one’s living room? can’t wait to see your new work at renegade chicago next month!

  • This is so lovely!! On another note, I definitely had to do a double-take in one of the pictures because…I didn’t realize people still use house phones! I guess I’m a bit out of it. ;)

    I am in love with the print shop.

  • Thank you SO much for posting a feature on Tugboat! They do amazing work — I honestly don’t know how they have the time or patience to create such intricate and beautiful prints. They truly are talented. And their space is great!

    What a wonderful post.

  • Keep the natural wood on your staircase railing! It’s so lovely. My other favorite things are the glass-doored wooden cabinet with the teal shelves and the wooden bench Babu is relaxing on.

  • I am drawn to cottage style, but many times that seems to include painting all the wood trim white. So I’m happy to see the unpainted wood trim in this charming old home. My home has a similar look. Lovely pics.

  • I love the tugboat print shop! I stumbled upon their goodness when my band played at the Etsy Craft Market last year in Bellevue, PA. My husband ended up buying me a print that I was drooling over as a surprise! I adore it! This was really great to get a glimpse inside the shop & home!

  • Oh I am just so excited to read about this! I coincidentally found the tugboat printshop website this morning (via the free shipping offer!) and had so much fun looking at the prints. And now your house! I especially like the print made with Michael Kreuger – he came to my printshop as a visiting artist while I was an undergrad a few times and I absolutely adore his work.

    Anyway, wonderful sneak peek and artwork!!

  • I think I’m in love. :-)

    The bowling alley table made my day! What a great idea…it’s the perfect texture for a table top. And very glad to see you stripped the tub’s oak rail…it’s fabulous.

  • What a cozy little abode you’ve got here. It’s just the sort of feel I aim for in my own home.

    I love that picture of Babu. What a great contrast between his fur and the fur of his little nest!

  • Oh my goodness, this is such an inspiring sneak peek! I love your home/printshop and everything in it, including the Mat Daly posters — thank you so much for sharing…

  • Beautiful art work and beautiful home. Thanks. I was wondering if you could share the color of the paint you use in the bathroom – it is so perfect.

  • Thanks for all of the kind words, everyone! Please feel free to write us with any additional questions you might have about our prints, process, or place :)

    Valerie + Paul
    Tugboat Printshop

    PS The color in the bathroom is “Quietude” with “Alabaster” trim by Sherwin Williams.

  • Sorry, but I find so much of contemporary art & prints such as those displayed in these rooms to be childlike and banal. All style and technique, little content. Where is the new art that reflects the complexities of life in 2009? Much of what I see is the willful disregard of subtlety and reflection in favor of studied “innocence.” Forgive the rant, but don’t we deserve art that reflects our complicated times, not just an escapist cutesiness?

    • shahinyc

      i think people deserve whatever type of art makes them happy. it is there home after all, and not a gallery or a public space. for some people, complex times don’t always mean overtly complex art.


  • Hello all!
    We welcome the critique by shashinyc, and are happy to oblige with some counterpoints.

    Our main point is: can art not be both ‘cute’ and ‘reflective’? Our first series, ‘The Woodland Creatures’ was admittedly not difficult to grasp on the surface, but also contained an element of thought when taken as a group: ‘Where are the backgrounds?’ –ideally asking the viewer to think ‘Where is this animal?’ ‘Why is it not at home?’ etc. Personifying these creatures seemed to make them easier to identify with—i.e. ‘Is it really we who are separated from our environment?’

    ‘The Woodland Creatures’ were our first experiment collaborating together, and became, later, a lesson in how to package and sell our prints directly to the general public, extending beyond the reach of galleries.

    In our second series ‘The Deep Blue Sea’ however, we take a much more pointed approach to concept/image making. First started in spring of 2008, the main themes we wanted to explore were mystery, the unknown, discovery, exploration, pioneering, etc. This was how the nation felt, holding back hopelessness as W left the scene (apologies to our friends across the aisle) and a new horizon slowly dawned. Talk of green energy, sustainable industry, and local economies overwhelmed our nation’s psyche. A national presidential campaign based on building oneself up, rather than tearing another guy down emerged.

    We are pretty sure of this feeling, because we sat under tents and spoke directly with people about it for 20+ weekends of the year, from Milwaukee to Brooklyn, and many, many small points in between. We felt the sea to be an apt metaphor for this sentiment. As we worked on the series, our sea became an abstract narrative of the past—superstitious, naïve, buried—that merged with the similarly unexplored depths of outer space and the future—pioneering, risky, hopeful. The past and future stand apart in some prints, but also intertwine, as in ‘Galaxy Map,’ making an enormous spiraling Universe out of the old sailor habit of collaging seashells (‘sailor valentines’).

    But for all of this thought that we were and are putting into our images, we have always felt that visual art bears a responsibility to be accessible to people (both financially and conceptually). We also feel that art’s job is to be reflective–it mustn’t shout, it ought not be obvious or pandering, and it should be something that can be identified with. Art can be bold and subtle, reactionary and progressive, but it should allow viewers to think for themselves. In capitalism, cultural relevance begins with the pocketbook, and it’s a shame the arts don’t use their own tools to participate in this dialogue more often.

    Anyway, we can go on about this all day, but we assure you, if our images are cute, it is not their primary function. And if the comment is towards the work we choose to hang in our own house, then we admire that chutzpah.

    We feel that one of the hardest things for artists to do is to simplify, simplify, simplify (Thoreau). It is very hard for people educated in the arts to make work accessible and appealing to people not educated in the arts.

    We are eager to hear your thoughts,
    Valerie + Paul
    Tugboat Printshop

  • I’m an avid sneak-peeker but have not yet commented. I am familiar with Tugboat Printshop and am excited to see this beautiful space (and Pittsburgh) represented here! Keep up the good work!

  • Thank you, Grace, and Valerie + Paul, for your thoughtful responses to my comment. Discussion is always valuable. I concur that viewers should not be beaten over the head but must be allowed to think for themselves. However, I don’t necessarily agree that art needs to be made “accessible” or “simple” or happy for them. While non-artists may not be able to verbalize why, they can and will be compelled by complexity, and by that I don’t mean self-referential intellectuality. Don’t most people respond to authenticity born of artistic brilliance and passion?

    Thanks for the conversation and best of luck with your art and in your lovely home. I will be sure to visit your website.

  • Well, reading the comments I feel compelled to say I’m not educated in the arts but I’m not exactly a totally plain person (I hope) but what is art after all? See, there are times I totally hate the homes of certain artists shown here, while I really love some others. Art and education and taste… where does one begin or starts the other? Has anyone said the final word about that?

    That said, lovely home, adorable to work in such a warm place, you’re lucky!

  • This was wonderful to see – what a lovely home/workspace! I am a proud owner of a Tugboat print and I only hope I can support them more in the future.

    Good luck Valerie and Paul!
    -Daniel and Leslie’s old neighbor

  • Another proud owner of tugboat prints, which I think are magnificent and affordable (and how much art can claim both?). Art is I feel a classic example of ideas diffusion, each new contribution built on ideas and concepts that have gone before, and I love how tugboat’s prints bring a new, often quirky sensibility to some timeless topics and themes. Similarly, I love how their home reflects both the old and the new, reinterpreted and re-adapted (bowling alley table!).

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