Printers Ball 2014

Do you know about Printer's Ball? It's a once a year celebration in Chicago of literary culture and the arts that surround it, including writing, performance and printing. We were invited to come and print in the parking lot at the Hubbard Street Lofts this year to give folks something fun to do as they wander into the building to check out the fabulous line up of presenters and installations. 13It was pretty hot and sweaty, but we were up for it! With two presses now, we set up our Chicago flags which I knew would be a popular subject matter.

6We also got to hang out with a number of our friends! Outside with us was Rebecca from Rar Rar Press, who just finished printing this postcard with a quote from her granddad.

10Inside, we found Uncle Brad, a good friend and incredible letterpress printer. Jo is a big fan and has already started her collection of his work.

16Here are a number of happy printers that came by the bike to print.





3This kid was the coolest. He took off his shirt to print the flag right on it. Super punk rock. And it looked amazing.


12Here are Maria and Dan, wonderful Starshaped clients that we had the fortune to work with this Spring on wedding invitations (barely a month in and they're still happy to be married!).

14This cutie was our most excited printer of the day. She really loved making her flag.

18We printed nonstop for about 2 hours until we were out of paper. Much longer than we anticipated, but people were excited! And we got inside just in time for one of the summer flash storms that Chicago is prone to having. The crafty Printer's Ball staff just walked their tent toward the building and back out again when the sun broke. Overall, a great night for printing on the bike!


The Hamilton Benefit at The Book and Paper Arts Center

Given that we're into the cold months, the press bike hasn't had much opportunity to get out and about. So when we found out about the Hamilton Wood Type and Print Museum's need to move from its current location, we jumped on board to co-sponsor a Chicago event to raise much needed funds. The majority of wood type in the Starshaped collection was produced at Hamilton over the last 100+ years, and it's important to us that the museum survives. To gear up for a benefit print sale held December 15th, I put the call out to letterpress printers to create a new piece specifically for the the day. Those who could not participate sent wonderful prints, posters, books and cards they had in stock to help out. We retrofitted the little Sigwalt onto a new base so that we could easily carry it the the Book & Paper Arts Center (our lovely Madsen wasn't about to go up two flights of stairs), and Jo could do press demos and print stickers for the crowd.


Yes, we love Hamilton! These stickers were a hit and Jo collected lots of money in her tube. Here she is standing in front of the new work, waiting for the crowds to arrive.



Over the course of 7 hours, the Chicago benefit raised over $8000 and blew a matching grant out of the water. It was very satisfying for April and Jo to count up the loot at the end of the night.


We'll be driving up to Hamilton again in February to help with their upcoming move. Lend a hand if you can, and we'll keep setting up great prints with fabulous wood type!

Bikes? Letterpress? Yes Please.

You ride through Dreamland on wonderful dream bicycles that change and grow.  ~H.G. Wells, The Wheels of Chance In the fall of 2010, we purchased one of Madsen's sweet cargo bikes, in a lovely warm yellow. It quickly became our main source of transport, riding miles every day between home, school and work. We carried boxes to UPS, groceries from the farmers markets and occasionally other children for short joy rides through the park.

Since 1999, I've run Starshaped Press, a full time, old fashioned letterpress shop in Chicago's Ravenswood neighborhood, focusing on the original craft of printing entirely with antique wood type, metal type and linoleum cuts that are part of the studio's collection. On New Year's Eve, 2006, my daughter, Jo, came into the world with a bang, and hasn't let up since. At 5, she is starting to wholeheartedly participate in the day to day activities of running Starshaped, including cleaning and maintenance, organizing type and yes, a little bit of printing.

At some point in the last year, the idea of turning our beloved bike into a mobile printing unit for kids came to be. We talked about how it would work, what kind of press to use, what to print and where to go. And now it's coming together! I found a small 3x5 Sigwalt press, not too heavy or awkward for children, and enlisted the help of Mr. Starshaped to build a strong 'shelf' that can both showcase and protect the press when not in use. Jo and other children can sit on the seat in the bucket and easily reach the handle of the press to pull prints.

The shelf flips over when the press isn't in use so that it can be stored under the surface.

We'll be printing the banners to wrap around the outside of the bucket this weekend so that everyone knows what our mobile press bike is all about! Can't wait for a summer full of printing adventures and making new friends.