Are you familiar with the old-fashioned printing process?

It’s not like what the printing process is now where you click the “Print Command” and “Enter” and the printer starts generating text and images that appear on paper.

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Old-Style Printing Process
The old-fashioned style of printing was where people (in charge of printing) arranged blocks of wooden type (letters) onto the old-fashioned crank presses, and inserted page after page of blank paper manually.

Moran pulls a print to be used in an assignment in one of his classes off a platten press at Hamilton Ink Spot Moran whose family ran a print shop in Green Bay Wis for three generations teaches classes at a local community college Pioneer Press Scott Takushi
Bill Moran decides to revive old-style printing through the Hamilton Ink Spot.

The Hamilton Ink Spot
This is how Hamilton Ink Spot in downtown St. Paul in Minnesota is doing their printing business – the old-fashioned way. The two-manual printing presses can accommodate three to four users daily along with the four screen-printing stations at the Hamilton Ink Spot. Where other printing companies would invest in the latest and updated new printing presses, Hamilton Ink Spot decided to give new life to the old printing equipment which belongs to Bill Moran whose family has been running a print shop for three generations in Green Bay in Wisconsin.

Co-Working Concept
Bill Moran, together with Monica Edwards Larson, the studio manager, operates the business for printers to have co-working space. Each member has to pay a membership fee of $150 per month to have access to the shop’s printing equipment and a gallery space to sell their art.  The members use Google Calendar to reserve time so that they may use a particular piece of equipment.

Manual Printing
Moran explained that many people don’t understand what is involved in manual printmaking which is very different from printing from computers – press a key and words, etc comes out of a box-like piece of equipment. And through Hamilton Ink Spot, they envision making more people aware of the “real” printing process.

Letterpress And Screen-Printing
Screen-printing and letterpresses are the specializations accessed by members of Hamilton Ink Spot. That means anything from:

  • Greeting cards
  • Art prints
  • Gig posters for local bands

Hamilton Ink Spot is already gaining a substantial following much like the crowd driving the handmade and do-it-yourself movements. According to Moran, he sees this as a natural reaction to the “impersonal” behavior of modern mass-produced paper products. And Hamilton Ink Spot is slowly changing that by reviving the old-style of printing.

Intern Natalie Wynnings works on a poster design for a concert Pioneer Press Scott Takushi
An artist at work at Hamilton Ink Spot.

Born Out Of Big Table Studio
The Hamilton Ink Spot started as Big Table Studio in 2011, in a storefront on the east side of the Lawson Commons building. The office of St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman approached a local graphic designer and printmaker Peet Fetsch about installing an arts-related business in the building owned by the city. Fetsch opened Big Table Studio where he adopted CoCo’s co-working concept while the city envisioned Big Table Studio as an art gallery. The members of Big Table Studio who were mainly printmakers and graphic designers rented a seat around an 8’ x 20’ table at the back area of the gallery.  

Hamilton Ink Spot: Continuing Big Table Studio’s Legacy
Moran, on the other hand, with his consultancy and printing business, decided in November 2012 to move to Big Table Studio as he was keen to work alongside printmakers like himself. The set-up at the Big Table Studio – with the workspace and opportunity for collaboration, except that they found it difficult to reach the audience for their work, and most of the time, the seats never got filled. That struggle caused membership numbers to fluctuate. And in March 2014, Fetsch shut down the shop. Moran talked to the city officials and decided to pick up where Fetsch left off with Monica Edwards Larson volunteering to help.

Co-Working, Gallery, And Outreach
And in June 2014, Moran and Edwards Larson opened Hamilton Ink Spot – with the name coming from the shop’s sponsor Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Both Moran and Edwards Larson were determined to adopt the same operational principles as Big Table Studio. In addition to keeping the co-working aspects and the art gallery, Hamilton Ink Studio is also keen on opportunities to reach out to communities through projects and education.   In September 2014 Hamilton Ink Spot was a finalist in the St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge and they were among the winners.

They received an award of $50,000 and their goal is to expand which will include letterpress and screen, printing classes.  Hamilton Ink Spot also wants to establish a drop-in studio for families and individuals, a print cooperative for mid-career artists, paid internships, a mentorship program for high school-age artists, a mobile printmaking program serving K-12 students, and exhibitions of local, regional, and nationally recognized artists.  The grant period is from 9/29/2014 to 9/30/2016.

Does your community have a printing company doing old-style printing?

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1 thought on “Reviving The Old-Fashioned Printing Process In St Paul”

  1. I am somewhat familiar with the original print press process. In fact, it was the first press invention that revolutionized the world. Gutenberg was the first European to use movable type printing, in around 1439. As Thomas Carlyle once wrote: “He who first shortened the labor of copyists by device of movable types was disbanding hired armies, and cashiering most kings and senates, and creating a whole new democratic world: he had invented the art of printing.

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