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06
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3 Comments

Clear Winner: Jonathan Selikoff, Letterpress Artist

Written by in Inspire, Letterpress, Profiles


Victory Never In Doubt:
Jonathan Selikoff and Vote for the Letterpress

Designer, typographer, and letterpress artist Jonathan Selikoff started his studio Vote for Letterpress in 2010 because he had to.

Selikoff wanted to buy a Vandercook press to add to his weekender print set-up in his garage. “I found one in Ithaca, but there was a catch. It came with a Heidelberg Windmill, a manual paper cutter (old-school guillotine), and a lot of wood and metal type. After checking with the boss (my wife, Lauren), we decided that I’d just buy it all and open up a shop.”

That is the moment when Selikoff’s avocation became his vocation. Today, his letterpress shop includes a Vandercook, a flatbed cylinder press, and a Heidelberg Windmill automated platen press (see this marvel of German engineering here).

Selikoff’s letterpress habit began when he was a 12-year-old boy attending summer camp. “At camp we made stationery using a tabletop press,” he recalls. “I loved it. The seed was planted.” His formal education began at Emory University in Atlanta, where he majored in history. Between his junior and senior years there, he won an internship in the art department of Atlanta Magazine. The experience attracted him to graphic design. After graduating from Emory, he enrolled at Portfolio Center/Atlanta (Miami Ad School and Portfolio Center recently merged). His years there, he says, “were transformative.”

While studying at PC, Selikoff’s fascination with “old school technology” grew. “In art school, a bunch of us loved to visit vintage goods shops around Atlanta. I’d poke through whatever type or printing stuff they had, and ended up buying things I found interesting.” These treasure hunts were the beginning of a fantastic library of objects and letterforms he’d later put to use on the letterpress.

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Macy’s Promotion. Design by Craig Ward. Letterpress by Vote for the Letterpress on CRANE’s LETTRA®. “To lend wood texture to this print, we designed a laser cut-out of wood and mounted it to the type high.”

Selikoff moved to New York in 1996, and landed a senior designer gig at Landor in 1997. He tinkered with letterpress projects on weekends. His first print was made on a Samson 8 x 12 foot treadle press in his garage. “It wasn’t the easiest press to use, but I learned a lot from it.”

Hamilton Is Letterpress Heaven

His true “Oh Jesus!” moment came during a visit to Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, Wis. “If you love wood type, Hamilton is heaven. I was smitten after that workshop and I knew I had to buy a press,” Selikoff says. He would buy many, turning a weekend hobby into a letterpress career.

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2015 New Jersey Pride Festival Poster. Design by Mike Lonardo, Maplewood, N.J. Letterpress by Vote for the Letterpress.

Collaborating with designers and artists is his favorite things about owning a letterpress shop. Designer Felix Sockwell is a regular at the shop. So is typographer Craig Ward. Since their first project together in 2010, Sockwell and Selikoff have collaborated often. “Jon is laid back and his passion for letterpress is infectious,” says Felix. “We work closely on larger projects such at the calendar we created last year for New York Public Radio. Letterpress invites collaboration. That is what makes it so much fun.”

Selikoff and Sockwell collaborated on this calendar poster for NPR last year.

New York Public Radio Calendar. Designed by Sockwell. Letterpress by Vote for the Letterpress.

 

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Loyola Marymount University Poster. Design by Felix Sockwell. Letterpress by Vote for the Letterpress on Neenah CLASSIC CREST®.

“Craig Ward looked me up several years ago while working for on agency project that needed a vintage look for a campaign,” says Selikoff. “Since then, whenever he has a wild hair, he calls and we figure out how to execute it. Whether it’s using laser-cut wood, a photopolymer, or a crazy glyph idea, our collaborations are never boring!”

This Glyph Project began as a collaboration between Jon Selikoff, Craig Ward and Linden Gledhill, a scientist and photographer. They created a series of patterns using ferrofluid (a magnetic ink developed by NASA) and spinning magnets. Gledhill photographed the resulting objects and Ward vectorized them into dingbat typeface.  “I knew it had to be bright to create the graphic, stark look and it needed enough tooth to satisfy the letterpress pornographers who are all about embossing.”  Selikoff recommend CRANE’s LETTRA® to get the job done. What started as small art project grew into a monster of 1,000 unique prints shipped across the world.

“It was a crazy success, but to a fault. The fulfillment became a nightmare,” remembers Ward. “We conceived limited edition art poster project. We ended up creating more than a thousand unique prints and shipping them to 35 countries. I’m still dealing with lost or damaged prints. ”

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The Glyph Project started with forms created using ink developed by NASA. The idea was to use old and new technology and methods to make type and art prints. After raising an unexpectedly successful crowdsourcing, Selikoff and collaborators had to print and ship more than 1,000 posters across the world. Oops.

 

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The Glyph Project: Letterpress by Vote for the Letterpress on CRANE’s LETTRA®, fluorescent white, 110C. Ferrofluid combined with pure Pantone Black ink.

 

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“Anne Elser is an amazing calligrapher in Atlanta—we went to PC together. I’ve done some fun promos for her, including this Imperial Greetings piece, printed on CRANE’S LETTRA®. We’ve also collaborated on some wedding invitations,” Selikoff says. “The last one was featured in Martha Stewart Weddings in March.”

 

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Postcard for Type Directors Club designed by Gail Anderson and Joe Newton of Anderson Newton Design. Says Selikoff, “Nothing went right with this job, but it came out fine and everyone was happy.”

Last year, Selikoff printed a postcard for the Type Directors Club in collaboration with Gail Anderson and Joe Newton of Anderson Newton Design.  “On the first run, the ink was pulling fibers out of the paper which then caused hickeys in subsequent prints. I tried new inks, then noticed in the next run that the plate wasn’t inking properly. I realized there was a tear in one of the sheets and because of the extra thickness from the tear, it had crushed the plate, so I had to stop printing and order new plates. The print order was for 5,000 cards. It was a long job that took about 10 days to complete, but in the end everyone was happy.”

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Design by Graham Clifford; Hand lettering by Wells Collins; Letterpress by Vote for the Letterpress.

Graham Clifford chairman of Type Directors Club, has worked with Selikoff on numerous projects. A slow start to business in  2016 created a new opportunity for collaboration.  “I decided it’d be a good time to send out a physical promotion piece. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we decided that was a good theme to use.” Clifford sketched out some ideas on the back of an envelope and then asked designer Wells Collins to collaborate. Collins sketched out more ideas before arriving at a his solution. Selikoff printed them using CRANE’S LETTRA®. Although Clifford has never visited Selikoff’s print shop, he trusts him completely: “Jon gets it.”

Today Selikoff shares his love of letterpress with his ten-year-old son, Sam. “We’ve made some fun posters together,” he says, “throwing random wood type on press and hand inking them. I led a career day at his school last year, bringing in blocks and type so the students could make their own cards. They loved it.”

There are many reasons people love letterpress. Chief among them: people like Jon Selikoff. “You will not find a more talented and generous letterpress artist,” says Felix Sockwell. “Jon will share his passion with anyone willing to get in the pressroom and get their hands covered in ink. Afterwards, you will never be able to wash away the impression he leaves on your heart. Believe me, I’ve tried.”

  1. 06
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    09
    10:00am
    Matt Porter said:

    This man’s work is filled with ideas, passion, and craft. He leads by example. Tell the world about Jon.

  2. 06
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    09
    12:31pm
    Tom Biederbeck said:

    Fascinating article with deep content on a most impressive artist/craftsman. Thanks for helping us learn more about Jon Selikoff!

  3. 06
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    09
    9:39pm
    Loren said:

    Jon’s talent is incredible. Have loved following his work over the years!