Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

The Art and Craft of Printmaking | Studio Is Home to Vintage Equipment, Letterpress Enthusiasts | Studio Is Home to Vintage Equipment, Letterpress Enthusiasts

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

The Art and Craft of Printmaking | Studio Is Home to Vintage Equipment, Letterpress Enthusiasts | Studio Is Home to Vintage Equipment, Letterpress Enthusiasts

Article excerpt

RINGLING COLLEGE OF ART + DESIGN

The building is almost hidden behind the student health center, but its outside lettering is still visible from the right angle. Inside the Letterpress Studio at the Ringling College of Art + Design, artist Kathryn Hunter leads a demonstration Q&A of her artistic livelihood on a machine that is more than 100 years old.

"I use a press just like this," Hunter said, gesturing to the huge iron machine before her. "Mine is from 1904 and doesn't have a motor. So I'm really used to picking my foot up -- if you

see me do that, that's why."

She turns on the machine, the wheel whirring, lifts the blade and then lowers it. Then she holds up her work. A bird and its wings are perfectly sliced out of paper.

About 30 people attended the workshop demonstration earlier this month, asking questions about her process, the letterpress community and its legacy.

Hunter, who has a bachelor's of fine arts in printmaking from Montana State University and a master's of fine arts in printmaking from Louisiana State University, works on her craft whenever she's not busy running her design and printing company, Blackbird Letterpress. At first a side gig, she now leads Blackbird full time with four employees helping handle her five machines.

"Blackbird Letterpress has a novelty, souvenir, nostalgia aspect to a lot of it," Hunter explained. "We do folded cards, spinners, they're quirky and movable, and usually very colorful."

Bridget Elmer, the coordinator of the Ringling letterpress and book arts center, firmly believes there's been a resurgence in interest in letterpress handmade cards and similar products.

"I think it's a reaction to being so often in the virtual and digital realm," she explained. "People still desire a tactile connection and with letterpress, it's really that way. It's hands- on, a translation of something you're doing in the digital realm, or it takes you right out of it."

Elmer said that she's seen a few computer animation students discover letterpress in their senior year and end up spending all their extra time in the studio, looking for a complement.

"It's like how getting a letter in the mail is more special now," Elmer said. …

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