Monthly Archives: February 2012

3 Reasons Letterpress Lives On

“Hatch Show Print takes me back to my early performance days. Lots of those great traditions have been lost, but I’m happy to see that Hatch still lives on.” – B.B. King, blues musician

If you need the name of a print shop to identify with letterpress Hatch Show Print (“HSP”), is the place. Established in 1879, it is one of the oldest letterpress shops in the United States and one of the reasons letterpress lives on.

“Advertising without posters is like fishing without worms.” – The Hatch Brothers

Over a hundred years ago this Nashville treasure produced posters for vaudeville, circus, and minstrel shows. Since then they’ve become part of the Country Music Hall of Fame and produced posters for Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Emmylou Harris, and ColdPlay and many more. Check out a book about Hatch Show Print on Amazon.

For more about Hatch Show Print check out The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service’s story on American Letterpress.

The second reason letterpress lives on is its tactile appeal. In this age of slick advertisements printed on glossy stock, letterpress embraces the look and feel of paper with grain and satisfies the human sensitivity to texture.

You can feel the debossing of the paper. Letterpress shops like Boxcar Press in Syracuse, NY embrace these techniques.

The third reason letterpress lives on is the use of the photopolymer plate. A line drawing can be photo-imaged to make it’s reverse image on film which is then burned onto a photopolymer plate. This process is described quite well in the Three Red Hens blog.

In a video under two minutes Matthew Wengerd of A Fine Press and Swan City Press shares a little about photopolymer plates.

Cody Langford of It’s Fancy Letterpress Studio in Missouri, shows the actual step-by-step process in his Youtube video.

It’s not accident that the resurgence vinyl records, slient movies, and letterpress are overlapping. We’re discovering all sorts of ways to take a break from the “high technology intoxication zone” (a term coined by author and social forecaster John Naisbitt), aren’t we?

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Celebrating Cameraless Art

Have you experimented with creating art on your scanner? Wikipedia calls it scanography. I call them scanograms or Gow-o-grams.

It’s fun and an opportunity to play with the elements of composition. In celebration of Valentine’s energy all year long I created the scanogram below. Spread the love. Add to or play with the Light!

Heart Song

"Heart Song," scanogram by Mary Gow

You can see some other examples in this series:
Gow-o-gram No. 2
4 Quotes to Jumpstart Your Dreams
5 People to Have on Your Personal Board of Directors

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For the Love of Letterpress

There’s a letterpress revivial going on! Technology journalist, Glenn Fleishman, covers a brief history of printing and shows how modern technology is assisting in reviving an old art form. This YouTube Video was produced by Boot Strapper Sudios in Seattle.

“It’s real, there’s ink, there’s an impression. . . you have a great experience that’s a physical expression,” said Fleishman.

Letterpress printing is relief printing of text and image using a press with a “type-high bed” printing press and movable type, in which a reversed, raised surface is inked and then pressed into a sheet of paper to obtain a positive right-reading image. (Wikipedia)

If you take a class in letterpress you may find it’s the perfect panacea for an artist’s tendency to lose focus. In fact every drawer of type is rigorously organized in a specific fashion so every upper and lower case character, has its specific place.

Don’t miss the new movie about letterpress, called Linotype: In Search of the Eighth Wonder of the World. It is playing in San Francisco February 21. Check out whether it is showing showing near you.

For the love of letterpress visit Love Letterpress/, Dolce Press, and Peace Love Letterpress

Happy Valentine’s to the printed word.

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3 Ways to See Football as a Creative Practice

Creative Play

"Creative Play," digitized photogram by Mary Gow


I grew up watching football. It was one of those events my family sat together to watch. Did yours?

The outstanding 2011 season of the San Francisco 49ers was hard to ignore. What was it about the creative artistry of Jim Harbaugh (now NFL Coach of the Year) that resulted in such an extreme makeover?

I’ve come to see that football is a creative art form. Instead of brushes and canvas, it is expressed with a ball, two teams, a hundred yards and a goal post at each end. It’s creatively expressive in many ways. Here’s several that come to mind:

1) Coming up with plays is a creative exercise in imagination which is then manifested with a mindful orchestration of finesse and agility on the field. And isn’t art play?

2) The game is a hero’s journey and every play is like a mini hero’s journey with an opportunity for heroic action. Like a story unfolding, football is a live-action show. It has four quarters and the fourth is the climax. Unlike the story formula, the conflict may be irregular or constant.

3) Like practicing any art form, excellence shines through practice, practice, and more practice. A football player is an artist who works consistently at his art. Victory comes through consistent effort.

Does this creativity apply to tennis, soccer, baseball and virtually every sport? Are you captivated by the creativity expressed in sports? Are you watching games instead of creating your art? I’ve imagined myself catching the winning touchdown more times than I care to disclose : – )

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