Just got back from the #loflcon in Asheville, NC. What a whirlwind weekend! Hundreds of ladies and a few guys too gathered for 3 days of panel discussions, demos and good times. Asheville is a beautiful place, and has a huge concentration of artists, and more importantly, printers- plus Penland School of Crafts,  just an hour away.

After leaving Baltimore at 4:30, I arrived in Ashville around 1pm and immediately set up my table in the Printer’s Fair alongside some other great displays and some of my favorite suppliers, like Owosso and Legion Paper. Unfortunately I missed most of the first panel about collaborations with the community, but caught the discussion on using social media to expand and support a business and connect with customers. (say hello @bowerbox)

Then we headed over to Asheville Bookworks– a great community studio offering courses and shop time in papermaking, bookbinding, and printing. They have a great collection of presses and type, and tons of other equipment too. A great show of work from Ladies of Letterpress members was up, showing the wide range of art and commercial work coming out of the group- everything from artist’s books to broadsides to wedding invitations.

Asheville Bookworks

Saturday started with a discussion on teaching letterpress, in community shop and school settings. Great information for anyone starting a program or looking to improve an existing one. Then, the business side- successful printers discussed how they work with customers and stores, wholesale or retail- there was a wide variety of businesses, from Blue Barnhouse’s wholesale cards to Logos Graphics, with a letterpress division in a larger offset print shop, to custom stationery and other work from Pistachio Press. They shared insights and tips on not only printing processes but working with clients and sales reps.

One of the Vandercooks at Bookworks, with posters by Hatch Show Print displayed along the wall.

Back at Bookworks, the wood engraving demo was sadly cancelled, but an excellent primer on using a tabletop press (like a Kelsey) was given by Kelly McMahon, and Paul Moxon went over the basics of Vandercook maintenance. A slideshow history of women in printing, put together by Catherine Realce, offered a glimpse into the long tradition of Ladies of Letterpress. Chandler O’Leary and Jessica Spring presented their Dead Feminists project. And keynote speaker Judith Berliner talked about her life as a printer, starting in her dad’s shop and continuing with her business, Full Circle Press, today.

Kelly McMahon demonstrating the setup of a Kelsey press

Sunday wrapped up with a panel on community print shops, and the Baltimore/DC area represented with both Baltimore Print Studios and Pyramid Atlantic Art Center. They discussed the motivation for starting a community shop and the process of getting up and running, or keeping an existing shop up to date and successful. The last panel looked to the future of letterpress- but with an entire room full of dedicated printers and artists, as well as newly-infected letterpress enthusiasts, it’s hard to imagine that it’s going to die out anytime soon. It’s going to be important to keep the history of printing alive, not only for reference and guidance, but to make sure that interested people are learning the correct ways to keep their presses in good repair- since we can’t run down to Best Buy and pick up a new one for fifty bucks. It’s vital to keep passing along the knowledge of proper techniques and care, but to also encourage new expression and experimentation with what these presses can do.

"i want to go to there"

On the way home I stopped by Penland and almost didn’t come home. Hopefully someday I can take or assist with a class- it’s got a great print shop and a great vibe, much like Haystack (same wonderful community, just a lack of letterpresses but don’t let that stop you from going.)

It was an inspiring weekend, and I’m full of new ideas but a little sad I can’t get into my shop until the weekend- so much to print!


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