The Art Lab - Printmaking on wheels

I understand that this post may get mixed results and that is probably not the best way to start the post. But I am very excited about the prospects that this project brings.

On the heels of the magnificent adventure that Kyle had in her type Truck I wanted to let you know that I relaunched my mobile letterpress and printmaking studio project on Kickstarter.

If you saw my post before I tried to launch this project last November/December but realized that as excited as people were, it was the holidays and that dampered the ability of people to back the project. I was also caught up in family activities after I launched it and didn’t get the word out to as many people as I could have. So, I put the project on hold and started to focus on other projects.

Then out of the blue, 3 weeks ago, a gentleman up in MI emailed me pictures of the 1954, art deco moving van that his father bought in 1957. It is in perfect running condition road worthy, and up for purchase. So I decided that it must be a sign. It is exactly what I have been looking for for this project from the beginning.

Well, I revamped the project, lowered the goal to just what it would take to get the vehicle here from MI and put the project up on Kickstarter. I even sold my 8 x 10 C&P letterpress to a school in Arkansas to help fund the build out on the inside. Don’t worry, I have other letterpress machines so printing can continue as normal! I also have most of the equipment and supplies to go into the van. So once I get the vehicle, I can get it outfit this winter, and be up and running by spring 2013, giving hands-on demos, and teaching letterpress and other forms of printmaking. Since I live out in the country now, I have had a hard time getting workshops put together so a mobile studio seems like the perfect solution to get letterpress printing into community events.

The van is going to have a couple sign presses, a table top platen press, handset type (mostly wood), screen equipment for shirt and paper prints, and an area for cutting linoleum and setting wood type.

I just need some help getting over the last hurdle which is the vehicle. If you think that this idea is worthy of backing I could use the support and some extra help to get the word out. If you have time I would love for you to check out the link and let me know what you think.

The Art Lab

image: Joplin_Missouri_downtown.jpg


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I say go for it. Car shows, carnivals, Flea markets, Be nice to see some people and activity most of us are stuck in garages and back warehouses most of are day.

Back in the mid- to late 70s I was taking courses from Walter Hamady and one day he announced that a former student was considering taking papermaking to the streets, putting it in a van and visiting the mall parking lots. This may very well have been one of the first attempts at this. It never transpired.

But Walter was outraged. I’m guessing here about his problem with this but I think it went something like this. He considered the printing and bookmaking arts very pure in their craft and art and guided practice was the only way to learn and preserve them—that such shenanigans would just water them down and turn it all into a amateurish side show.

And here we are today.


This is interesting. I have a friend who during the 1950’s or 1960’s worked for Heidleberg giving demonstrations. He had the windmill in the back of a truck that looked similar to the one pictured. He would travel from one printing company to the other and give these demonstrations in the back of the truck. It was fully equipped to operate, at least on a small scale. So, why not, what a good way to spark some interest in letterpress.
Danny Kelly

See: Vandercook italian sales van. (Google it.)

todd - thank you.

enriquevw -Love those pictures! I have looked at them many times over the last 2 years. There are so many little things I have studied in those pictures. Is it weird that I love to look at what they have on the counters and try to figure out what each item is?

Danny - Thanks. I did not know that Heidleberg did it also. That is very cool.

Gerald - I too wondered about the novel aspect of it and if it would just fall into the classification of the “food truck”. But with the letterpress understanding in my current area being nonexistent I find the need to take the art to the people. The big cities around me have a good grasp and that is what will make it fun to travel there.

The same premise can said for many aspects of the “new” letterpress resurgence. And while it will not contain a complete letterpress studio, it will give people who would not normally be able to experience printing by hand a seed of understanding about the art and process of it all. I would rather spend 5 minutes with someone on the street introducing them to letterpress then have them miss the opportunity during their lifetime.

Hi It’s Fancy

I just finished a three hour session with a new batch of students for the Fall semester Introduction to Letterpress class. Sure wish I could figure out a way to do it in five minutes.



Your a lucky man! Glad you have facilities where students can come to you.


Gerald-create an interactive DVD to show students, then just ask if there are any questions afterwards….more seriously, I do have videos of some printmaking processes that go along side my inductions, if students needed a reminder I just say watch again, also basic printmaking processes like monoprint, relief, collograph, drypoint,etc I had video’d and put on universities website student portal so students themselves can access ..later hope to video etching silkscreen litho etc……and will show students selected youtube videos to back up typeset/letterpress printing demonstrations……

It’s Fancy…. i think your project is GREAT!

I do a LOT of printmaking / printing demonstrations, and having a set-up like your Art-Lab would make the job considerably easier since it would eliminate much of the hard work of moving equipment around…. and allow folks who have no access to printmaking equipment to get hands-on experience. I say GO FOR IT!

As far as folks trying to claim it as a novelty, or asserting that it somehow falls into a “food truck” category goes, i say “Who cares what they say?” In every field of endeavor, whether it is Art, Printing, Restoring Vintage Cars, or Collecting Beer Stiens there are always folks who will try to tell you that you are doing it the wrong way…. and try to claim some sort of “authority” or “Priesthood of knowledge”. Folks like that tend to put down anything that challenges their understanding of the status quo… and strive to suppress innovation. If you listen to their negative waves, you’ll never go beyond mediocracy.

I can think back to a friend of mine’s silkscreen workshops in SF back in the 60’s. Almost ALL of the established “art-scene” criticized his limited home-made equipment; the fact that he taught “non-talented” students (one of which was me); and used materials bought from the hardware store instead of the Art Supply House. Now, almost fifty years later…. the art prints, posters, and books that his workshop students produced sell for huge dollars at auction, while the critics are all forgotten.

My point is this: if you have a great idea, you don’t need to worry about any nay-sayers if they pop up. Just follow your own ideas, and be bold! You’ve got a great idea.

Thanks for your insights winking cat press.

I just happened on another thread that had some great points that helped reconfirm my thoughts about the validity of this project.

Funny thing is they all came from you Gearld.

In Minnesota there is a group that sets up an ice fishing house in the winter they set type, print, and it’s all hands on. There are other ice houses with different activities. Literally cool:

Heck, I’ll throw a hundred bucks at just seeing you get your hands on that cool truck. I hope your project works out like you intend it to.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, Ny

It’s Fancy

I was reading a magazine on street modified vehicles, a current interest as I am reverting to the passions of my teenage years in my old age. At any rate I thought of you as an introductory article was titled WHY DIY?

Here are the first couple of paragraphs:

“Contrary to popular belief, the main reason for automotive DIY repair/projects is not (or should not be) about saving money. While DIY projects have become a growing trend within the last few years, there are other, far better reasons to do-it-yourself.

Main reasons are gaining knowledge, new skills, and the enormous feeling of satisfaction that comes from building or repairing your own parts. This is worth far more than any money can offer. As the youth of today look to acquire the basics in automotive repair or custom fabrication, we refer to a common metaphorical phrase that so fittingly suits any rookie do-it-yourselfer. We must learn to walk before we run. Looking for a simple translation? Take baby steps to learn the ins and outs of what you’re planning to build or repair before you drive headfirst. Each and every new skill you pick up along the way enables the learning processes to be “exercised,” making it easier to learn other new things that come your way.”

We all started somewhere. However, I am not a fan of the just do it mentality or the encouragement of letterpress practice without also providing the means to accomplish continued practice. A lot of folks become discouraged because they don’t have the right information and they disappear.

If I appear way too serious about all of this, it is because I am. I know talented folks who have disappeared simply because they needed assistance and were not going to get this in an ephemeral situation, and were likely not serious enough or willing to sacrifice enough to pursue the harder avenues, and no one bothered to advise them, this is a hard road.

Nevertheless, good luck with the truck. 1950s? :—) Buried my share of that vintage. Used to race, sanctioned and otherwise.



Thanks for the advice. Not quite my style though. Too distancing for me, socialization is more my key, teaching moments, all that. Not being critical, just doesn’t work for me.


Thanks Gerald. If this project funds there is no doubt that it will stay roadworthy and take monthly trips to not only local art walks, but events in the surrounding larger cities, and hopefully one national trip each summer.

I agree, there is a great satisfaction that comes with DIY. I am pretty handy with a wrench on both old vehicles and presses. I have restored a handful of C&P’s and I have done work on my Uni-III to bring them all back to print ready condition.

The Universal III needed both sides of the carriage adjusted because of rail wear and the adjustable bed needed to be taken apart, cleaned, oiled and reassembled. You probably cringed when I said I adjusted the carriage. I did consult the vandercook blob and weigh the options before taking on this job. I was able to accomplish both projects by myself in my garage with the tools at hand. The carriage was really out of alignment from adjustments that the previous owner made. Now she sits level and runs nice and smooth. Here is a link to the adjustable bed cleaning. IT only took a couple hours from start to finish.

Now the electrical is where I run for an expert. I still need to have one issue with the Uni-III’s wiring looked at so it will cycle again. But she does work fine if I control her in manual.

Vehicle wise I have had a good run with restoring rotary engines and a couple of inline 6’s along with updating the brake system on my 57 from drum to disk. The 1954 Fageol has a V8 which I have never worked on before but she runs good now and most problems are figuring if the issue is with spark or fuel. I have always been able to figure out the mechanical things for some reason. I have also learned when to call in someone who knows more than I do.

This truck will be a big step into the unknown. And I appreciate your advice. I have taken careful steps to this point. I will still run my letterpress studio from home and the van will be my extension to engage the public and teach again. I taught the occasional letterpress workshop when I lived in Kansas City and I taught graphic design for UMKC as an adjunct faculty for 5 1/2 years outside of my day job clicking a mouse in the design industry. I have to say that teaching is one of the most enjoyable jobs I have had.

It’s Fancy

Adjusting the cylinder on that bear must have been something else. On mine, which was in fairly good condition, first thing, right off the bat, blew a fuse. Found a hardware store (on a weekend) with ancient fuses that matched those in the Uni. That worked but then I thought hell just bring them all to Grainger and get contemporary counterparts. Had an electrician come in to pin all the wiring to make sure it was actually functioning correctly. Man that electrical panel looks like an old Univac, Jesus. I’m a card carrying member of the IBEW but I stay away from that stuff. I quit the work after my third near miss with death, I looked around and suddenly figured out why there were no old guys on the crews (still have the card though). I thought maybe I should go back to school? In graduate studies I discovered letterpress printing (of all places). Talk about your poor career choices!


Ya the electric scares me on the Uni-III. Updating the fuses will be on the list once one blows. I am crossing my fingers that one does not blow for years. I am not electrically aware to even begin to understand the diagram in the manual.

I definitely have the letterpress sickness. I sold a shop full of equipment 3 years ago when I moved south. Less than a year later I had a shop full of equipment again!

Well we hit the 50 hour remaining mark. I am still working hard to entice a few more people hop onboard. In the last 2 weeks I have managed to squirrel away some funds to make sure I can build out the interior of the Art Lab to fit the equipment and supplies I plan on taking with me. I would love you to peek at the project if you have a minute.

The Art Lab

There is printing on wheels in the uk