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Press Press Merch/Appalachia Press tour

2 Feb

The folks at Ad2 Roanoke had another great event planned for the masses. A lunch-time tour of two of Roanoke’s finest printers’ shops. Enter Press Press Merch and Appalachia Press. My co-worker Suzanne and I made the trip up from Blacksburg for what they called the “Brown Bag Series: The Fine Art of Printing.” We pulled up to an unassuming warehouse-looking building off of Albemarle Avenue. As we walked through the doors, we were welcomed with open arms, warm smiles, pizza, and desserts by Hired Guns Creative‘s Erica and Patrick, along with Greg Szechenyi from Press Press and John Reburn from Appalachia Press.

Greg walked around their print shop, taking us through the production of a normal screen printing job, showing off their massive 10-station, 8-color automatic press and vacuum exposure unit. Running my own screen printing business out of my home, having a shop anywhere close to what Press Press has would have been incredible. Later, Greg showed off their showroom, highlighting various printing techniques like soft-touch inks, 4-color printing, and discharge inks, which removes the pigment from the shirt in a non-toxic way. The whole time we were there, the Press Press crew was working seamlessly and professionally in the background, like there weren’t any strange people wondering around their shop.

John took over and led us a few feet through a doorway, bringing us into the Appalachia Press shop. There was a distinct smell of “Old Stuff™,” which should be a signature Appalachia Press candle scent. You’re welcome, John. Old presses, wood, steel, and iron. *Deep breath…ahhhhhh. What a lovely smell that is. As he led us through his workshop, John shared a brief history of how he got into letterpress, what he uses each piece of machinery for, and then explained the printing process for various letterpress jobs. There are some different processes that he goes through based on the type of job that comes in. Whether it involves hand-cut stencils, sending art out to be made into a block, or screen printing, every job always includes lots of hands-on work. Getting his hands dirty and lifting heavy equipment is how John stays fit. Having a new retail store in downtown Roanoke, a steady stream of online shoppers, and many resellers all over the country keeps Appalachia’s presses moving. John is working on plans to run a few workshops this summer, so stay in the loop on their Facebook page.

Thanks again to Press Press Merch and Appalachia Press’s hospitality, and to Ad2 for hosting such a wonderful event. And for those who couldn’t make it out, nanny nanny boo boo, stick your head in doo doo. You missed out.

Moveable Type Truck

26 Nov

On Friday, November 18, the Moveable Type Truck rolled into Roanoke, VA to share a lovely evening with the Ad2 Roanoke crew and anyone else who happened to walk by. Kyle Durrie, a letterpress printer from Portland, Oregon and the proprietor of Power and Light Press has been driving her converted 1982 Chevy step van/mobile letterpress print shop around the country sharing her love of letterpress with the masses. She’s been making stops at “libraries, community gardens, galleries, street fairs, farms, universities, back yards, and everywhere in between” since June of this year. Kyle’s plan is to continue the tour until March/April of next year, if not longer. I’m not sure how many miles she’s logged so far, but that’s going to be one hell of a cross country road trip!

As guests stepped into the van, Kyle met them with a smile and a greeting. There was a well-worn guest book next to the air-ride driver’s seat, and loads of printed materials were stuck to the sides of the interior with magnets. Guests came in, got a quick tutorial of how each of the presses (a Showcard sign press from the mid 20th century, and an 1873 Golding Official No. 3 tabletop platen press) worked, then were encouraged to print their own signs and coasters. On-lookers huddled in the van to see the printing in action, while others warmed up in a very cool vintage clothing store and coffee shop called Freckles or a grabbed a stiff drink at Lucky, the bar next door.

I was introduced to Kyle and asked if she would mind me asking some questions. She kindly obliged and I went on to fumble around with some questions.

Designblinks: What got you into letterpress?

Kyle Durrie: I randomly signed up for a class about six years ago. Because I was unemployed, I needed something to do. I had done printmaking and other kinds of printing in college, but never any letterpress. I took this class one winter and fell in love with it, stuck with it, did a few apprenticeships with different printers and started my own thing a few years ago. It was a little bit daunting (starting a new company), being that it was right when the recession hit, but I hadn’t had a business before the recession, so I didn’t have anything to compare it to.

Designblinks: Where has been your favorite stop so far in your travels?

Kyle: I never know how to answer this question. I’ve had a lot of really, really great visits. I’ve had zero terrible visits. I’ve had some that are less good than others, but nothing has been a total wash. I had a really amazing time in this town in Utah called Creek River. It had little to do with printing, but I just met some great people there who were really inspiring. I was Louisville last weekend and that was really fun. Every place is different. Sometimes it’s the people I meet, sometimes it’s the geography of where I’m at. I feel like every place has something really good to offer.

Designblinks: Have you ever felt the urge to abandon your trip and just head home?

Kyle: No, I had the urge to take a week off the other day. I felt that urge pretty strong, but I haven’t wanted to go home, just wanted a little time out. I kind of overbooked things on this trip, and have had very little time off and it’s catching up with me right now. But I don’t feel the need to call it quits. I’m still really excited about everything to come.

Designblinks: The first tour was funded by, correct?

Kyle: Well, this is the first tour. Kickstarter funded the first steps of the tour. It allowed me to buy the truck and to do all of the customization, then by the time I left to go on the tour, all that money was gone. I vastly underestimated all of that. Kickstarter gave me the seed money to get the project going. And now that I’m traveling, I’m basically funding it by selling my work, taking donations, and teaching workshops. It’s kind of just breaking even, but it’s breaking even, so it’s good.

Designblinks: What’s your current favorite artist or album you’ve been listening to, either on the road or while you’re stopped?

Kyle: I just realized that the CD player doesn’t stop, so this has played through about eight times tonight. This used to be a favorite, but I can’t listen to it anymore. I’ve been listening to a lot of old country songs. Those are good for traveling. Willie Nelson.

Designblinks: What do you hope people will come away with from this experience?

Kyle: One thing I’m excited about offering people is a chance to work with their hands and to make something. I think a lot of us get trapped behind our computers a little too much. I love my computer. It’s invaluable to me, but it’s a very different experience to just play with your hands, get a little bit messy, and make something. There’s a feeling of accomplishment or satisfaction. I’ve gotten some good feedback from people that that feels good for them, so I feel good about being able to offer that.

Designblinks: Do you think that’s what drives you, no pun intended, to keep going?

Kyle: Yeah, I think so. It never gets old.

Designblinks: Thanks for talking with me and thank you for coming to Roanoke!

Kyle: Sure! Thank you, my pleasure!

It was a fantastic evening. Designers and non-designers alike had a great time spending some time with Kyle and her awesome letterpress shop on wheels. Thanks again to Kyle for stopping in Roanoke and to Ad2 Roanoke for making it happen! To those of you out there that will be near an upcoming stop, you should really go. It was a great time. Best of luck to Kyle as she makes her way back to the west coast.

Father’s Day gift

23 Jun

I started reading An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers while on vacation last week and got to thinking. My 2-year-old son, Benji, has shown a pretty strong interest in drawing. So much so, he started wanting to draw in my sketchbook. Like any other father who wants his kid to be creative and have a supportive upbringing, I let him draw in my sketchbook, carefully guiding him to draw on the blank pages. I may be partial since Benji is my first-born child, but I was pretty impressed with what he was drawing. Sure some of it looked like your typical 2-year old kid scribbles all over the page, but his happy faces, spiders, and bananas/hot dogs are pretty convincing. I’m fairly certain that his face-drawing skills are strongly influenced by the Mii Channel on the Wii, which he calls “Guys.”

So, a few days before Father’s Day, I decided I wanted to buy Benji a sketchbook of his own. This would be a gift from me to him, which in turn, would be a gift to me. I love watching him learn, grow, and try new things. Why not give him something to help him draw, create, and dream? Plus, I thought it would be great for me and my wife to look back at his drawings and see how much he has changed through his sketches. I hope that he continues to draw and sketch so we can have a little library of his sketchbooks starting at 2 years old. I also wanted to draw with him so it was force me to sketch more often. Now, I have to say, I’m not pushing any of this on him. If that ever changes, I will not force Benji to draw in it, but will always encourage him to keep doing something to challenge himself and keep his mind sharp.

The sketchbook is a standard 8.5″ x 11″ black, hard-bound blank-paged book. I put a label on it with his name so it wouldn’t get mixed up with my completed sketchbooks and told him that this is his special book that he can do whatever he want’s with it. Above are some of his sketches; the top was done before he got the book, and the second one was done today. After I ask him if he’s done with the page, I asked him what he drew so I can note it on the side of the page along with the date.

I plan on keeping a digital record of his sketchbook, to share his progress. I’ll set up a set in flickr and be sure to update this posting with the link.

I wonder if anyone else has done this, and documented it. If you or anyone else has done this, please share!

Are all creative people their own worst enemies?

7 Jun

I was talking with a good friend of mine (Greg Keysar, MD-based photographer) last night over IM and he was considering sending a set of photos he had recently taken (parents-to-be on a sailboat) to a few local sailing and parenting magazines (see full set here). Greg is always looking to try new things and push the boundaries with his photography, and really enjoyed himself on the sailboat, so naturally he’d like to expand his portfolio and score some more photo gigs. He is super talented (pretty much a self-taught photographer, excellent fabricator, and general problem solver), but in this case, it seems that he was doubting his abilities. I told him to go for it. The least they could say would be to tell him no. And that’s what stuck with me. The fear of rejection.



For me, rejection is sometimes devastating, but other times it makes me want to go out and prove to the world (and myself) that I can do it and kick ass at it, too. The “it” in this equation may be a side business or an illustration for your website or a self-initiated project that’s been in your sketchbook for over a year.

Maybe rejection isn’t the right word. It could be fear of doing poorly, or not doing your best work. We are all our worst enemies and critics. To me, I think I hold myself back more than anyone else would or could. Self-loathing and depression comes along with the creative territory. It seems like creative people are somewhat manic. There are times where I feel like I can’t create a single good piece and feel like I am drowning in a sea of suck. Other times, I feel like I’m on a roll and keep hitting it out of the park. It’s a vicious cycle, but we all seem to dig ourselves out of the rut and keep on keepin’ on.

Do you feel like you are your worst enemy? How do you work through it? What keeps you going?

Seth Patrick

28 Apr

Seth Patrick is a Durham, NC-based illustrator, graphic designer, and art director with a texture fetish. He has a thing for pop culture, the 80s, and sports, all sprinkled with some texture. Delicious, vintage-looking texture. Ohhhh, so good. Other subjects that Seth has illustrated include a beer-bonging greek god, Superman’s villain holding a Hokie star, and the Grizwold’s awesome green wagon. Not only is the subject matter great, but the details are oh-so wonderful. The leash on the Grizwold’s wagon and the Michael Scott’s foot on the George Foreman grill are genius.

Lovely work, Seth! Thanks for connecting with me on Facebook (via a mutual friend, thanks Laura!). I hope we can work together in the future.

Aesthetic Apparatus talks process

7 Mar

The guys at Minneapolis, MN-based Aesthetic Apparatus have opened up their sketchbooks and graphic design machines to walk us through a complete identity redesign for the Minneapolis-based green cleaning company, Two Bettys. It’s really interesting to see how other designers work, especially these very talented fellas. Take notes boys and girls.

Introduction (Part 1)

Initial logo sketches & presentation (Part 2)

Logo feedback & progression (Part 3)

Selecting, tweaking, & producing a final identity system (Part 4)

The final identity (Part 5)

(via Aesthetic Apparatus)