Frequently Asked Questions
What is Letterpress printing?
Think Gutenberg. OK, my press isn't that old -- Johannes Gutenberg developed his printing press around 1540 -- but the principle of putting ink on raised type and then pressing a piece of paper to it remains the same. Letterpress printing was used for practically all printing from the 1600s through the middle of the 20th century, when offset lithographic printing took over.
What's so special about Letterpress?
Because Letterpress uses raised type -- as opposed to offset which uses a flat plate -- you end up with an actual indention of the paper where the ink is applied. This creates a three-dimensional surface on the card which is unlike anything you can get with modern printing. You can feel it with your fingers, see the impression on the back of the paper, and the subtle shadows add a new dimension to the printed page.
What are pigment prints?
Pigment prints are digital prints made with archival pigment-based inks. Most inkjet printers use dye-based inks that, while they provide vivid colors, will fade quickly when exposed to sunlight. Because our prints, and even our cards, are intended to be framed and hung on the wall, this will not do! Pigment prints, also known as "giclee" prints, are more expensive but give you the quality you expect in an art print.
What kind of paper do you use?
Letterpress cards are printed on "Lettra" paper by Crane. This card stock (300 grams/square meter) is archival, acid-free of 100% cotton fiber and made in the USA. It is thick and soft, made especially for letterpress printing as it takes an impression well and showcases the special depth of Letterpress printing.
Our full-color pigment prints and cards are printed on acid-free cardstock made by French Paper, a small, family-owned paper mill in Niles, Michigan.
Where do you get your maps?
The maps are hand drawn in ink on vellum by Gregory Mitchell -- that's me. The originals are drawn at 11" x 17" by using a light pad and drawing on translucent vellum. The first rendition is done in pencil by tracing a map from the U.S. National Atlas or other paper map. The cartographic design is worked out at this point: decisions are made about what towns and roads and special features are to be included. I spend a lot of time researching interesting features to add, and always contact at least one "local" to help me out. When finished, the pencil drawing is overlaid with more vellum and the final ink drawings are made. Typically I'll made at least three ink layers: rivers, other linework, and text.
What is your production process?
The inked maps are scanned and imported into Paintshop Pro, where color is added and small corrections can be made. Then imported into Adobe Illustrator, title and subtitles are added and they are scaled to fit as required. For Letterpress prints, the Illustrator files are then sent to Boxcar Press, where they are converted into letterpress printing plates and then printed, one-at-a-time, on a vintage platen press. Digital prints are printed by Vintage Press and Design, run by a friend of mine in Fayetteville.
WHERE DO YOU WORK?
I live and work in Fayetteville, Arkansas in the beautiful Ozark Mountains, in the northwest corner of the state. My office is at home and Letterpress printing is done in a print shop owned by Frank Sharp, longtime Fayetteville resident. For forty years Frank ran the print shop as part of his Ozark Mountain Smokehouse business. For about the last twenty years the print shop sat idle, until the summer of 2015 when I approached Frank about using it for my cards. Frank, always known for his generosity, immediately offered me free, unlimited access to the shop, and the story has unfolded from there. Thank you Frank!
What kind of LETTERpress do you use?
I use a "platen" press which was probably made in the late 1800's. It looks like a Peerless press, although I can find no nameplate or manufacturers name on it. It was originally designed to be powered by a foot treadle, so I think late 19th century is likely. It was later converted to be powered by an electric motor, which is how I run it. It can print a maximum area of 8" by 12", which works well for printing cards one up (or one-at-a-time).