Learning A Forgotten Art In Baltimore
By Elizabeth Eadie
If your New Year’s resolution includes learning a new skill or re-learning an old one, look no further than Baltimore Print Studios. Professional printers and designers Kim Bentley and Kyle Van Horn opened their doors to Baltimore in 2010, hoping others would learn to love letterpress printing and screen printing as much as they do. If you already know how to print, you can rent time on a press and hit the ground running. If you’re new to printing, sign up for one (or both) of their classes or seasonal workshops and get your hands dirty. (*Ahem, they actually have a saying, “Clean Hands Make Clean Prints.” So try not to get your hands too dirty!)
In the letterpress class, they start at the very beginning with this history of printing. (Did I mention that they both teach at MICA?) After you learn about the history, you start to learn how prints are made. A lot of contemporary letterpress is done using polymer plates to press the ink into the paper. Kyle & Kim will take you back to pre-polymer plate days and walk you through wood and metal type. This is the part where you really learn to value the time and attention to detail of letterpress printers.
Your expert teachers will help you set up your type using what’s called furniture (or spacing material that comes in specific sizes) to get your leading, kerning and alignment just right. (Kyle is a master at this!) After you have everything set up just the way you want it, Kim, the chief ink mixer, will mix ink for you and teach you how to apply it to the press (it’s a lot less than you think you’ll need, trust me!). Once your press has ink, you’re ready to print!
Imagine the joy of using a vintage printer to print a poster you just typeset, the smell of the ink, the subtle kiss of the press onto the paper – it will take you back to the basics, pre-computers and you will find yourself falling in love with printing.
You will have a new appreciation for every poster you see hanging in their space. “Wow, three colors?” “Screen printing AND letterpress! They’re crazy!” These are the types of thoughts you’ll have once you learn about these forgotten arts at Baltimore Print Studios.
After you’ve printed your heart out (they provide the paper, ink and let you keep your prints, by the way), you learn about clean up. Doesn’t sound so exciting, huh? Well, it’s like any other fine art from painting to cooking, you’ve probably made a mess and you want to keep your tools in tip-top shape. And with a class of six students, it really doesn’t take that long to clean up.
A tip about getting into their always-sold-out-classes: follow Baltimore Print Studios on twitter (@baltimoreprints) and sign up for their mailing list. They really do sell out quickly. If you try a couple of times in a row and still can’t manage to buy a seat in time, try reaching out to them directly via email and they can put you on a waitlist if anyone drops the class.
Baltimore Print Studios
18 W. North Avenue
Hours: By Appointment Only Wednesday- Thursday: 4– 10 p.m.; Friday – Saturday: noon- 6 p.m.
Press Rental: $15/hour