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Letterpress Is Alive…And Pressing On

Written by in Features, Inspire

 Letterpress People: Hungry for Paper, Ink and Type

What about letterpress captures new generations? It’s like James Brown, the hardest-working tech in print, and it refuses to quit the stage. Like Mark Twain, reports of its demise are…premature. And even after being “buried” for decades—ref the walking dead—letterpress people are all around us, hungry for paper, ink and type.

A not-to-be-denied love for letterpess is what’s behind Erin Beckloff’s movie-in-progress, Pressing On: The Letterpress Film, now crowdfunding at Kickstarter.

“I realized I was seeing this world that other people never knew existed, and it became important to me to be able to preserve the knowledge of these experts.” — Erin Beckloff

Co-produced and -directed by Beckloff and Bayonet Media, Pressing On is a documentary “about the survival of letterpress and the remarkable printers who preserve the history and knowledge of the craft.” It’s a character study and a road trip, with a treasury of printers: Jennifer Farrell from Chicago’s Starshaped Press, Celene Aubry of Hatch Show Print and many others.

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Erin Beckloff, co-director and -producer of
Pressing On:
The Letterpress Film.
Photo by Elizabeth Gilmore.

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Pressing On creative team: (left to right, clockwise)
Joe Vella, Kevin Grazioli, Erin Beckloff, Andrew P. Quinn

Beckloff’s hours in the pressroom led to teaching at Miami University (Ohio), where she got an undergrad degree in Graphic Design. She helped develop the letterpress course and its curriculum. In honor of a former faculty member, it’s called Curmudgeon Press.

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Which doesn’t exactly explain why she’s doing a documentary. That, she says, is about friendships. One led her to another, and eventually to the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum. Then she joined the Amalgamated Printers Association, the APA, sponsors of Wayzgoose, the “printers’ picnic,” where she found more true believers.

“My connections were with the most interesting, kind individuals I had ever met. A lot of them have been involved in printing for 50 or 60 years, and many were not professional printers—some were hobby printers; some were engineers. I got to visit their shops. They let me into their homes to see their equipment. I realized I was seeing this world that other people never knew existed, and it became important to me to be able to preserve the knowledge of these experts.”

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From Pressing On, poster design

 All printers know it gets in your blood—and letterpress can run in the family. In Beckloff’s case it passed from daughter to dad: Her father is pantagraph master Scott Moore of Moore Wood Type, who she says got into cutting type when Beckloff became a printer. He’s in the movie.

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Erin Beckloff’s dad, Scott Moore of Moore Wood Type

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The father-daughter team of Scott Moore and Erin Beckloff
have created a graceful chromatic wood type
ornament out of maple, one of many inducements to support the project.
Check the Kickstarter page—the campaign runs through May 23, 2015.

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Setup from Pressing On

Quick Links to Resources

Pressing On on Kickstarter

• Website: http://www.letterpressfilm.com/about

• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/letterpressfilm

• Instagram & Twitter: @letterpressfilm

  1. 05
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    17
    8:22pm

    So glad to see you talking about Erin Beckloff! Her enthusiasm, hands-on understanding, and– and this is unusual to say about one so young– erudition on the subject of letterpress and its culture make me believe that design history is alive and well and in excellent hands.