Mary Bruno Lets the End Times Roll

Written by in Events, Inspire, Letterpress

Apocalypse Later.
There’s Work To Be Done.

Why wait for tomorrow? Mary Bruno and her letterpress friends avoid the apocalypse and discover inspiration, joy, and social activism instead.


From the small town of St. Joseph, MN, designer and letterpress artist Mary Bruno organizes a second letterpress broadside exchange to excite social activism. Lucky for us, her prophesy of optimism and engagement prevailed over the apocalypse. The End of Times project was hatched by Mary Bruno in December of 2011 in response to the mythic threat of the apocalypse, which — if you believed the Mayans — would arrive on 12/21/2012.

“It also happened to be my birthday,” says Bruno.  She decided to act before it was too late. “I had four college interns at Bruno Press. They needed a cool project to keep them occupied. I decided a group project focused on the apocalypse would be perfect. I started calling other letterpress printers I knew or wanted to know to see if they were interested.” More than 30 printers signed up to participate. After that, she says, “it was off to the races.”


The first apocalypse show brought forth a limited edition of 35 8″ x 10″ letterpress prints, a “‘one last killer print before we go’ sorta thing,” Bruno adds. That first show culminated in April with an opening at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph near the small Minnesota town where she lives. Many traveled from out of state to participate.

But herding a group of independent artists in one project tested her stamina. “I kept hearing people say that I did a helluva job on the project, and I should plan a sequel. I was not convinced.” Bruno set the idea aside until one day a “looming feeling of apocalyptic threat returned.” In December of 2016 Bruno found herself again with “a bunch of hungry interns” who inspired her to relight “the fire of a giant collaboration to keep me from feeling powerless over the current state of our nation.”

From Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Wise Old Turtle, by Mary Bruno printed on CRANE’S LETTRA®, finished folio of 80+ prints, package cover foiled stamped and spray painted at Bruno Press.


That is when she came up with the title of her second show, The Time is Now. “It’s too easy to put shit off, even important shit. I didn’t care how many people said, ‘Dude, just wait till 2018.’ I was like, ‘hell, no.’”

Heck, yeah!

Bruno marshaled a “bigger and badder group of printer/designer rock-stars” to help her with EOT2. The call went out in late December, with edition prints due at the host college by April 10. Bruno re-signed 20 of her original 30 printmakers, then hit Instagram to recruit from the global force of activist letterpress printers. Forty-one agreed to created prints. Then, many decided to come to the show. “We got all kinds of people to come, it was incredible,” she says. “Printers from Seattle, Denver, Kentucky, Iowa, Minneapolis, and Indiana made the party!”


The Optimist Club of St. Joe: Back row: Adam Winn, Tammy Winn, Jason Wedekind, Morgan Hiscocks, Scott Murphy, Monica Edwards-Larson, Mary Bruno, Rick Love, Nikki Thompson. Front row: Jenni Undis, Rachel Melis, Brad Vetter, Kim Petters, Amy Redmond, Kim Ransdell


Bruno also reached out to Kim Shannon, her Minnesota Neenah paper representative. “Lucky for me, Kim was down with the idea! It was greatest feeling ever! I asked everyone to double their edition from 41 to 82. The artists were over the moon to be printing on CRANE’S LETTRA®, but a few used paper they had on hand at home. It was cool to have teamed up with Neenah, because it made the show much more cohesive.”

Shannon agrees. “This was a nice way for us to put CRANE’S LETTRA® into the hands of a wide variety of letterpress printers, some of whom know and love Lettra. But for others, this their first experience with the sheet. We went to the opening party and met many of the printers, which isn’t always easy because letterpress printers tend to live and work in the nooks and crannies of society.”


Left image: inside Bruno print shop Nick Streine and Tammy Winn. Middle image: Mary and her niece Sam Bruno. Right Image: Mary and mother, Maryann


Mary Bruno’s enthusiasm for the End of Times was rewarded with joy, energy, and passion, not Armageddon. EOT2 produced stunning sets of limited edition prints that gained Bruno’s cause more exposure than she dreamed possible. For her, the project has been far from apocalyptic. “It has been so uplifting and hopeful! Printers and designers that I admire and am inspired by will continue to push me to be better at my craft. Not only that, it brings me great satisfaction to share this force, content, and talent with as many people as I can.”

The End of Times can wait. Lucky for us.

All photography by Madison Holler of Dropp Visual. Go here to see more images from EOT2.


Rob Galler with his daughter Sarah.


Father’s Day Tribute to Mary’s Dad, Don Bruno

Mary Bruno earned a BFA in printmaking from St. Cloud State University and was raised by an “incredibly talented graphic design father,” Don Bruno, professor in the Art Department at both CSB and SCSU, and a “die-hard” letterpress printing equipment collector and user … “before it was cool.” she notes.

“My dad  took all the presses he could for next to nothing and built a studio onto the garage of the house I grew up in. It was an insta-shop; he had everything and taught himself and me all of it. I was as crazy for printing as he was.”

Mary and Don worked together in their garage studio often.  After graduating from college, she moved to Madison, WI, but returned home to print with her father as often as she could. “I really had no plan for adulthood. It was when my father passed away suddenly in 2003 [of an aneurism]” that she decided to move back to “little ‘ol St. Joe” and make a go with Bruno Press in her dad’s print shop.

She began with ribald letterpress greeting cards. She now fights off the apocalypse with letterpress broadsides. Mr. Bruno would be very proud of his girl. Happy Father’s Day to all you great dads out there who take the time to teach your daughters the tricks of the trade.



There’s always hope for a better tomorrow.

  1. 06

    Such an honor to be a part of the EoT2 and if you get the chance to see the show in person, don’t pass that up. The range of letterpress techniques and creativity represented is stunning. May all of our projects be filled with as much passion as Mary Bruno brings to the sheet and to life!

    Shameless plug: If you can’t get enough letterpress (can you ever?), check out our letterpress museum we’re bringing to life in Denver, called the Letterpress Depot. http://www.letterpressdepot.com It’s housed in an old, historic train station and we’re raising funds to fill it with presses and 1000s of cases of type we’ve been collecting, then let the public come in and print!

  2. 06
    Mary C Bruno said:

    This is BEAUTIFUL writing my friend! Great work and way to lay this all out in a clear and wonderful way!
    Thank you so much for the time!!!

  3. 06

    What a treat to wake up and see this article about all the behind-the-scenes work Mary Bruno & her volunteers did to coordinate the End of Times 2 letterpress broadside exchange. It was an honor to be a participating artist, and this article illuminates how beyond our shared love of the letterpress process, printing is also about the wonderful people we get to play on press with. Thank you, Neenah, for the generous paper donation and your continued support of community letterpress projects around the US.

    To see the full portfolio of the End of Times 2 prints:

    • check out the tour schedule (https://endoftimesprints.wordpress.com/exhibition-schedule/)

    • buy the full-color exhibition catalog (http://mcbrunopress.com/order.php#!/End-of-Times-2-Catalog/p/83577269/category=3237792)

    • or even consider purchasing a limited edition portfolio of the 41 prints (http://mcbrunopress.com/order.php#!/End-of-Times-2-Portfolio/p/83577262/category=3237792).