Maker Market, at its core, strives to showcase not only the creative community and their wares but also local businesses that make Milwaukee a better and more interesting place to live. In our digital age the resurgence of letterpress print shops in Milwaukee just proves that this old school method will stand the test of time. Under new ownership the Bay View Printing Co is ripe with history and aims to inspire and instruct the community in this traditional printing method. New owner Ashley Town took some time to answer some questions about the shop, its past and its bright future.
Maker Market: Give a brief description of Bay View Printing Co and its history?
Ashley Town: Bay View Printing Co will be 100 years old in 2018 and I'm only the 4th owner (first female!). The shop has been run as a commercial print shop in the past, but since I became the owner in October, I've been working to transition it into a community print shop. In addition to making our own art prints to sell and printing custom posters, wedding invitations, business cards and various other jobs for folks, we are also offering letterpress workshops, drink&ink nights and open studio time.
MM: How did you become interested in letterpress?
AT: I was first turned on to letterpress in grad school at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I sought a way to hand print the writing work I was creating and quickly found that letterpress was an inventive, experimental medium to bring life to typographic expressions I'd had rolling around in my head for a while.
MM: What makes letterpress stand out from other printing processes?
AT: To me, letterpress is all about history, typography and the tactile nature of paper and ink. One can feel the impression the type makes on the page and see the ink sitting atop the paper - completely different than say, a digital print.
MM: Do you think that letterpress is making a "comeback?"
AT: I do! Of course - or I wouldn't be doing it! I think we're at a point where digital printing is the "cool new technology" and people are starting to look back and really appreciate the time and effort that goes into letterpress printing. Not to mention the use of beautiful typefaces that were never digitized and can't be replicated on your computer.
MM: What classes are your offering and how would you like to connect to the community?
AT: We're offering a range of letterpress classes. Every Tuesday and Thursday night from 6-9 we offer a casual drink&ink night where folks bring wine and snacks and we teach them a quick and easy method to create a poster on the Vandercook press. On various dates throughout the summer and fall we're also offering more in depth workshops where we focus on carving and printing linoleum block cuts, creating your own sketchbook by letterpress printing a cover and sewing signatures of pages together, or writing and letterpress printing greeting cards. I'd like to use these classes to connect to the community in a way that is fun, social, educational and focused on making.
MM: How do you conceptualize your designs and where does inspiration come from in your own work?
AT: The inspiration for my work comes from everywhere - books, music, people I meet, history, pop culture - but most importantly, it often revolves around language since I consider my medium to be typography. As far as conceptualizing is concerned, sometimes the idea leads the type and sometimes the letterforms themselves lead the design.
MM: What can shoppers expect to see from you at the upcoming Maker Market?
AT: Shoppers can expect to see beautiful, unique hand printed goods inspired by the shop itself and the Milwaukee community as well as ways to engage with the shop as a community member - whether that be signing up for a workshop or utilizing open studio time.
To see the shop in person visit Bay View Printing Co at 2702 S Howell Ave, Milwaukee WI 53207 and at http://www.bayviewprintingco.com/ and to see the print shops beautiful work visit them at July’s Maker Market in the parking lot of Colectivo in Bay View.