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Š 2013 Puffed Up Productions

• The Cherokee Print League's 6th Annual Holiday Sale presents stationery, posters, and other visual sugar plums shoppers can enjoy with or without batteries. Our city's imaginative printmaking community has resisted the Digital Age shift towards virtual eye candy by keeping its output tangibly real. Soak your eyes in full prisms of color, without the intermediary of an HD display screen. As an extra sensory bonus, run your fingertips over the 3-D textures of the surfaces the artists have loaded. The ink is now dry: St. Louis printmakers boost local color. Printmakers put ink on paper in many different ways. Art printers, like Tom Reed at Island Press and and Danielle Spradley at Dubble Dutch Editions, use large etching presses as their imagetransfer tool of choice. Letterpress printers, like Amy Thompson at Paper Boat Studios and Eric Woods at The Firecracker Press, work on machinery that is 100 years old and weighs two cast-iron tons. Screen printers, like the Paige Brubeck/Evan Sult team at Sleepy Kitty Arts and Jason Potter at Empty City Prints, need a squeegee and framed mesh to bring their designs to life. Lucky us to have such excellent creators decorating walls with their good old-fashioned energy.

• Suzy Rust Puffed Up Productions

Island Press Tom Reed The Washington University Collaborative Printmaking Workshop redubbed itself Island Press in 1997, not only to pose less of a mouthful but also to laud the large scale of the 60" x 120" etching press designed in the early 1990s by Peter Marcus (founder of the Workshop and now Professor Emeritus of Art) with the help of Warren Sauer, a St. Louis machinist. Tom Reed has served as Master Printer at Island Press since 2002, working with visiting artists and students under the academic, hands-on direction of Lisa Bulawsky. He's also an accomplished painter whose rustically twisted work has been exhibited in esteemed venues like CAM in St. Louis. After earning his MFA from the University of Iowa, Reed worked for Chicago's famed "outlaw" printmaker Tony Fitzpatrick, whom he met while carving woodblocks in grad school. After that term ended, Reed stayed in Chicago, honing his craft at Landfall Press, the renowned art publisher. A problemsolving attitude is a must for top-quality printmaking — Reed's was fostered in part by years of after-school work in his family's assisted living facility. "My uncle would say, 'Today you're going to install garage door openers in all of the condos' garages.' Or, 'Today you're going to lay outdoor carpeting on all the condos' porches.' I'd just say, 'Okay!' and figure out how-to on the job." While coating a roller with alizarin crimson in Wash. U.'s Bixby Hall during this fall's week-long creative print-making whirlwind instigated by San Francisco art maestro Shaun O'Dell — a stay made possible by an annual endowment from the Arthur L. and Sheila Prensky Visiting Artist Fund — Reed gave this masterly advice: "If it sounds like bacon frying, there's too much ink on your roller." He then supplied a fun fact about fellow inkers: "Squid have three times more retinal cones in their eyes than humans do. I wonder what they can see that we can't?" One spectrum St. Louisans can see that squid cannot is the work of Reed's former students who now make prints for a living. Amy Thompson of Paper Boat Studios, Lauren Cardenas at The Firecracker Press, and Elysia Mann of All Along Press figured out how-to blot up blotchy messes and roll out bright solutions on the job at Island Press.

Dubble Dutch Editions Danielle Spradley Danielle Spradley's spikily shamanistic woodcut illustrations enhance the Pulitzer Prize-nominated book of poetic narratives, Otherwise, Soft White Ash, by local marvel Kelli Allen; the short story "Devotion," by award-winning Canadian writer Richard Van Camp; and the Chesapeake Bay Fly Fishing Almanac, by fanatical Maryland anglers. Her imprint, Dubble Dutch Editions, has published work by warped greats like San Francisco's skateboard culture visionary Jeremy Fish, as well as the London-based co-founder of the Scrawl Collective, Will Barras. After attending a Swiss boarding school with the infamous North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, Spradley graduated with a degree in printmaking from the Memphis College of Art, whereupon she moved to St. Louis to work at Evil Prints for Tom Huck. When that stint ended, she moved into the high-ceilinged downtown loft she now rents from Joan Hall, the former director of Island Press. In addition to her studio work, Spradley teaches art at south St. Louis's St. Cecilia Academy, home of the renowned Mexican Fish Fry. Propped up against an exposed brick wall, one of Spradley's still unprinted carved block visions (inspired by sources as disparate as Wu-Tang Clan, Black Elk's Lakota Sioux White Buffalo myths, and a local, eye-witnessed armed convenience store robbery) studies visitors, in reverse. A young hood clutches his crotch with gang signing fingers, his wall-eyed bull head cross-hatched with misdirections, while a BANK sign (spelt backwards to print forwards) tilts ominously over the chaos of a crashed dash for freedom. A 4 Hands Brewing Co. woodcut leans against another wall closer to her etching press. Spradley has access to a paper-making studio in the basement of her building (thanks to Joan Hall's specialization in handmade paper) and there she crafts surfaces to complement her art. In the huge "Ghost of the White Deer," she planned the swirls in the two-toned pulp to look like the condensed breath of the portrayed bellowing deer. Another piece features a poisoned Medicine Wheel spoked out in pills and guns and filthy lucre— with John Boehner as the skeletal, gavel-waving hub. This broadside called for a slick, slippery, brittle parchment — customized, as it were, for her subject.

Paper Boat Studios Amy Thompson Amy Thompson moved to St. Louis from Seattle in 2005 to attend graduate school at Washington University's Sam Fox School of Art and Design. While she was still perfecting her printmaking skills at Island Press there, she nabbed a 110-year-old treadle-powered letterpress on eBay for $150. Although she professes not to be a "tag hag," all of the antique apparatuses in the Cherokee Street storefront of Paper Boat Studios are, in fact, made by Chandler & Price, an Ohio company which ceased production in 1964: two large, flywheeled platen presses named Leona and Doll; a guillotine paper cutter listed on Craigslist by the heir to an old print shop in Sikeston, MO; and a table-top sized hand-crank press. "I started with the Chandler & Price letterpresses because they're what I first found when I was starting my business. I'm glad about that: I love working with them." Their cast-iron parts may be old, but they're almost indestructible. "I've only had one breakage, on Leona, and luckily that was on a piece that comes completely off. So I was able to have a welder friend braze it back to health. There are plastic letterpress machines being made today, but I'd never buy one of those," she says, with the doubtfulness an artisan breadmaker reserves for Easy Bake Ovens. Thompson's style is spare but fun, often using polygons to shape white space, and bring color into sharp, mathematically-precise focus. One birthday card shows a phrenological map for the "joy" center of a coiffured lady's brain. "I could not do what I do with standard lead type and dingbats," she avows. Her digital designs are turned into photo-polymer printing plates by a company named Boxcar Press. Most of her custom clients, for business cards and wedding invitations, are local. Her wholesale business, however, is nationwide. Mandolin Brassaw, who works in Seattle on a Vandercook, has been Thompson's partner in the Paper Boat Studios stationery line since 2008. These two Ladies of Letterpress tout their wares at the National Stationery Show in New York City every year. "One thing I love about the letterpress revival going on now is that women are so strongly embracing it. I've met some great gals at the stationery show. Technically, they're our competition, but we've become good friends."

The Firecracker Press Eric Woods While listening to "Marketplace" on NPR during a drive home from his print shop on Cherokee Street last month, The Firecracker Press owner Eric Woods began to pound on the dashboard of his truck and shout "No!" to the program's host — a misinformed fellow who was talking about the "dying" art of letterpress printing. "They were profiling some dusty old place in Los Angeles, which specialized in business envelopes or some other archaic office supplies," he explains. "But letterpress is not a dying art." Indeed, Firecracker's distinctive brand of luridly colorful, artfully eye-popping letterpress printing has never been more popular. On Halloween, the shop completed the hand-crafting of a 30,000-piece order for Ralston-Purina's annual Fancy Feast Holiday Ornament give-away — the first year the catfood brand's tree trimmers haven't been Made in China. Another huge job – 40,000 posters for the recent Selena Gomez show at Chaifetz Auditorium – had to be (regretfully) declined due to lack of adequate turn-around time on the shop's overbooked, venerable machines. The Gomez concert promoters had no doubt caught this fall's amazing retrospective encompassing the six year span Firecracker produced posters for St. Louis University's student-run Billiken Club. The complete oeuvre of these hand-printed artworks are now archived in the Special Collections of SLU's Pius XII Memorial Library. (Catch the "Steal This Poster" show in the second floor gallery there till this New Year's Eve.) For 11 years, The Firecracker Press has been pivotal in St. Louis's creative enterprises, offering poetry readings, print workshops, and of course amazing paper goods. With the help of a mechanically gifted crew of fine artists — Matty Kleinberg, Maggie Filla, and Lauren Cardenas — Woods has created a wide variety of mind-goggling items, from the poetry booklet Inferna by local poet and journalist Stefene Russell (with cover graced by a flaming lovely found in a vintage diet ad cut) to Sasquatch coasters to rainbows made from paper scraps. "Salvage" is The Firecracker Press's battle cry: an 8,000 square foot expansion filled with old letterpress machines, type-casters and lead type will soon open in north St. Louis's new Crown Square development.

Sleepy Kitty Arts Paige Brubeck and Evan Sult

There's no city ordinance stating that you have to be at least half of a ravereviewed nationally touring musical duo to also work as an award-winning screen printer in this town. Try telling that to Sleepy Kitty Arts! Or, for that matter, to their friendly archrival, Empty City Prints. One trait separating artists from the rest of us is this: they're wired to choose the unexpected. In an Old Rock House gigposter for a Scottish band called Frightened Rabbit, for instance, the layman's choice would be to go with a scared bunny in a kilt. But Paige Brubeck chose to portray a harshly lipsticked 50s vamp wearing a brassiere of thick-rimmed nerd glasses instead. Sleepy Kitty Arts excels at these vigorous and strange reinterpretations of MidCentury imagery. A Reverend Horton Heat poster turns up the thermostat with a subliminal background of undulating fishnets, overlaid with sultry orange eyeballs tempting us into the flames of psychobilly redemption. The irreverent, blocky arrangement of images in this collage suggest a stained glass window in the Church of Sin. "For a star like the Reverend," Brubeck explains, "we try to reference some of the iconography associated with him, yet still give it our signature twist." One such signature of this wildly creative couple is their love of half-tone dots. Evan Sult leans over his rubber-topped design table to point out a special kind in a Judge Nothing poster. "We call these 'native' dots: they show up when we blow up old newsprint." Brubeck and Sult moved here in 2007 when their pad in Chicago's Wicker Parker got too cramped to hold all their working stuff — and the only place with enough affordable space for both their art and music was so far deep on the south side of the city that the pair just decided to go completely Southern and move down to St. Louis. Brubeck, who went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is originally from Belleville, and Seattle native Sult had always had good experiences here when visiting with his band Harvey Danger. The spectacular coolness of the City Museum, plus the luck of finding their huge fixer-upper loft on Cherokee, clinched the decision. The original Sleepy Kitty, a grey tomcat named Yul Brynner, is happy with the relocation.

Empty City Prints Jason Potter Of his windowless, sound-proof, pill-pink painted space, Jason Potter claims, "The Zombie Apocolypse could be raging outside and I'd never know till I went out to pick up my egg rolls at Hong Kong Express." The strong-armed graphic artist is also the drummer in the soon-to-be world-famous local "scuzzchunk" duo, Bruiser Queen (along with guitarist Morgan Nusbaum, whose siren's voice can make rivers change course.) During a tour of his creative lair in a warren of former physician's exam rooms on the corner of Jefferson and Cherokee, the Edwardsville native explains that he wanted a pied à terre closer to the scene on this side of the Mississippi. What the Empty City Prints studio lacks in storefront exposure it makes up for in reasonable rent, and sinks. There's a sink in every tiny room, some equipped with hand-washing ghosts under spookily flickering fluorescent tubing, some flanked by brightly lit, PopTart-friendly Hello Kitty toasters. Since the screen-printing production process requires washing away inks and emulsions, all of that sinkage is a real plus. Economics helped dictate the initial direction of Potter's graphic vision: fresh out of school at SIUE, he could afford neither an etching nor a letter press. But a frame, a screen, and a squeegee were within his means, and proved to be a good medium for morphing his own drawings onto strangely proportioned xeroxed conglomerates of vintage magazine clips. The art on these repurposed clinic's walls shows both a brawny mix of collage, and a brainy sense of design. As a musician, Potter is highly attuned to the history of show bills. "If I were playing Depression-era blues, my posters would be more authentic if letter-pressed," he says. "But screen-printing defined concert posters in the 60s." That decade was full of Bruiser Queen inspirations — garage-punk legends like The Seeds, The Troggs, and the 13th Floor Elevators. "I knew I'd arrived as a local designer when this print made it into a frame over at Foam," Potter adds. That coffee and booze bar is not only his catty-corner neighbor and go-to beer joint, it is renowned for its first-rate collection of national poster art. An image of a red-winged blackbird announcing last summer's River City Tanlines and Screaming Females gig at the illustrious Cherokee Street dive El Lenador marks Empty City Print's spot on the St. Louis gigposter Wall of Fame.

Cover Design Š 2013 The Firecracker Press

Press Roll Cherokee Print League Sale

Other Notable Local Printers Air Screen Printing & Design Blake Eastwood & Dan Rayfield

Sandra Ure Griffin Prints Sandra Ure Griffin

All Along Press Elysia Mann

Sensura Studio Kirsten O'Loughlin

Architrave Press Jennifer Tappenden

Sprouted Designs Amanda Gray-Swain

Brie Cella Prints Brie Cella

Two Tone Press Michelle &Angie Dreher (from KC but still in MO!)

Dan Zettwoch Prints Dan Zettwoch Joan Hall Studio Joan Hall Mary Mosblech Prints Mary Mosblech Danielle Keegan Prints Danielle Keegan Pele Prints Amanda Verbeck

Valerie Dratwick Prints Valerie Dratwick Vertigo Press Lisa Bulawsky Wildwood Press Maryanne Ellison Simmons WORK/PLAY Print Shoppe & Brand Danielle & Kevin McCoy Yellow Bear Projects Gina Alvarez & Robert Goetz

Press Roll  

Notable St. Louis Printers

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