Workhorse Prints: A Field Report
The DIGM 3350 class visited Workhorse Prints on February 13, 2012. The print shop is located at 1824 Spring Street, Suite 110, right outside of downtown. I knew exactly where it was located because my dad grew up on Spring Street. The area has changed tremendously since he was a kid. So I was not surprised when I pulled up to the address. The former Harris Moving and Storage Building has 80 artist studios (Spring Street Studios). We were introduced to the staff of four but main speaker was John Reynolds.
Workhorse Prints is a letterpress shop. This type of printing is relief printing and uses wood blocks, moveable type or plates to transfer the ink onto the substrate. Process colors are used and they are hand mixed according to job specifications. We were told that they do constant color checks. Due to the fact that only one color can be printed at a time, letterpress output is not consistent. Embossing is also an output of letterpress. These two factors and more make letterpress more of a graphic technique than a printing process. Adobe Illustrator was their main design program. The class was given a demonstration of two types of letterpress: a platen press and a cylinder press.
Our attention was turned to two platen presses on the right. These presses print one form at a time. We were given a demonstration on the platen press that was built in the 1890’s. The platen presses are hand-fed; which adds a danger element and it also slows the run down.
The Cylinder Press was presented next. John told us to think of it as a steam roller. The type is carried on a flat bed under a cylinder that holds paper and rolls over the type. The pressman or presswoman has more control over their output than the platen press.
I think Workhorse Prints does letterpress exceptionally well. I would love to have my business cards and stationary printed on their vintage equipment. I also like the fact that I can have them printed on American recycled substrate and soy based inks. I would not hesitate to pay their prices because their quality is excellent.
Visiting Workhorse Prints and seeing their restoration efforts of letterpress technology, I feel a bit sad. They have pieces that the parts cannot be obtain, anywhere. This technology needs to be preserved for appreciation by the next generation.