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Letterpress Mogul: Genghis Kern of Denver

Written by in Profiles

 
Beauty of the Letterpress Profile Series

Genghis Kern Letterpress of Denver

It started seven years ago when he was an A/D at a Denver design firm. A client needed three initials added to a letterpress business card and Jason Wedekind quickly discovered the only way to do it was to hand feed the cards through a letterpress. “I tracked down this local poet/printer named Tom Parson and I fell in love with his shop and process. Later, I brought him a freelance job and he showed me every step, from making plates to treadling the press while hand feeding.”

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Network With Neenah
“The #networkwithneenah project grew from my long experience of meeting countless creative professionals at the HOW Design Live Conference. To my dismay, many forget to bring their business cards to the event. We decided to address this by offering pre-packaged typographic “blank” connection cards. Well, connect they did, from card-less startups to seasoned pros who did not bring enough of their own, attendees kept returning to us asking for more. Handing out a handwritten business card on CRANE’S LETTRA® from Neenah Paper card is is a fine first impression.

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Two years later he paid $600 for a 10×15 Chandler & Price Press, a composing stone and a type cabinet from a printer going out of business. “I was driving home, the type cases clanging around in the back of my car, saying to myself, ‘What have I done? I don’t even know if I like this.’ That was the beginning of a serious letterpress addiction.” Since then, Jason’s shop, playfully named Genghis Kern, has added an Asbern AD-1 proof press and a 10×15 Heidelberg Windmill, which automatically feeds the paper. Half his time is on the computer and half on the press, “mesmerized by the automation of the Heidelberg” after hand feeding for so long.

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Machine work is in Jason’s blood. His family owns a 90-year-old manufacturing business in Chicago that makes drywall, painting and wall covering tools. “When I was seven, my dad had me on a cast iron foot press making ‘seam rollers’ for the wall covering trade. I’d kick that machine for a week putting a ferule on a wooden handle, then he’d change the machine and I’d put on the U-shaped frame, and then I’d drive the pin holding the wooden wheel into the frame.”  Twenty-five years later, he came across an ad for a small sign press south of Denver. The press was made in Chicago in the 50s and it came some brayers that looked like those he’d made as a kid. He sent photos of them to his dad. “Dad wrote back, ‘I’ll be damned! I made those for the Morgan Sign Company!’ I have two pieces of equipment my father made as a young man in my print shop. The hair still rises on my neck whenever I tell that story.”

The First Mogul
Genghis Khan |ˌge ng gis ˈkän; ˌje ng-|(1162–1227), founder of the Mongol empire; born Temujin. He took the name Genghis Khan (“ruler of all”) in 1206after uniting the nomadic Mongol tribes. When he died, his empire extended from China to the Black Sea. Hisgrandson Kublai Khan completed the conquest of China. (from Wikipedia)

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Jason says Beauty of the Letterpress that Neenah provided is tool he can put to work educating others on the intrinsic value of letterpress, the more printers will benefit. Meanwhile, the enthusiasm of letterpress owners like Jason’s enthusiasm is what Beauty of the Letterpress is all about:  “The feeling you get when you pull your first impression and hold it up to the light. NOTHING prepares you for that. It’s been 7 years, and I still get a rush tilting that sheet to the light. Seeing peoples’ reactions when they grab your business card that has been crafted. The texture of the paper. The shape. How they interact with it. The ask me, ‘Why’d you do that?’ and I say, ‘Because I could.’”

Hey?! What’s the Big Idea!?!
Paper Specs: CRANE’S LETTRA®, 110C, Fluorescent White
Printer: Genghis Kern Letterpress, Denver CO
Website: http://www.genghiskern.com
Contact: Jason Wedekind

CRANE’S LETTRA ® Registered Trademark of Crane & Co., Inc.

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    9:15am

    I love hearing the unique stories of how letterpress printers ended up in the trade. Thank you. Great story.