For the Love of Letterpress

Early last year, we shared some tentative good news from the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum in Two Rivers, WI. After discovering that they had to vacate their original location, they managed to find a new space nearby and raise enough money to start the process of moving their massive collection of wood type (1.5 million pieces) and printing equipment.

Now, their future looks even brighter thanks to a partnership with Neenah Paper. Just over a year ago, the paper company resolved to raise money to support the museum when it launched The Beauty of Letterpress, a website devoted to modern letterpress printing.

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Ellen Bliske, brand manager of Neenah, presents a large check to Hamilton Wood Type & Museum Printing Museum. Fifteen thousand dollars were raised by Neenah from the sale of limited edition letterpress prints with a matching $15k grant from Neenah, totaling $30k. Jim Moran, museum director, accepts the check. He says the dollars will be used to protect and display the world’s largest collection of type, which includes 1.5 million pieces of vintage wood type.

“The Beauty of Letterpress was developed following our earlier experience with The Beauty of Engraving, explains Ellen Bliske, Neenah’s brand manager for the Crane’s line of fine papers. “We wanted to celebrate the art and craft of these printing methods and provide a space where craftspeople could share their work, be inspired by others and pass along some of the passion that surrounds the creation of such lovely tactile pieces.”

Besides showcasing the prints that support the museum, The Beauty of Letterpress is a repository of resources for designers, printers and fans. The site includes a gorgeous history of printing that spans 600 years, created by the site’s designers Two Paper Dolls, as well as a directory of more than 200 letterpress printers from around the country, not to mention a gallery of the best examples of modern letterpress work.

“As we were working out the plans for The Beauty of Letterpress we learned about the plight of the Hamilton Wood Type Museum,” Bliske says  “The connection was immediately apparent to us. Tom Wright was instrumental in developing the fund-raising concept along with securing the matching funds from Neenah.”

A great group of talented designers and letterpress shops created limited-edition prints to support Neenah’s efforts and generated $15,000 to help the museum, which Neenah matched for a total donation of $30,000.

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“Letterpress printers, designers and artisans from around the country contributed their time and talents to create the prints,” says Tom Wright, director of advertising and design for Neenah Paper. “We couldn’t have raised the funds for Hamilton Wood Type without their generosity. We are so pleased to have contributed to sustaining this rich resource.” Designers and printers who have donated their talents so far include Rohner Letterpress, Studio on Fire, Mama’s Sauce, Modern Dog, Design Army, Mikey Burton and Marian Bantjes.

“One of the biggest things that [Neenah’s donation] is initially allowing us to do is to dedicate some time and money toward getting the pantographs up to speed and actually paying one of the retired type cutters to come in and teach someone new the craft,” says Jim Moran, the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum’s director.

The Museum’s new space is so much larger and in such better condition than the previous location, that they have already been able to expand their educational offerings and visiting artist programs, as well as getting back into the business of creating wood type.

Neenah plans to continue supporting the museum through the sale of prints, which are priced from $5-20. The latest edition features the design work of Tad Carpenter with printing by Elum Design.

“When I was contacted to create a print for the Hamilton Wood Type Museum I was 100% on board,” Carpenter says. “Not only is it an amazing museum and does a great job maintaining letterpress as an art form, but it provides tons of educational tools for designers.”

In fact, Carpenter takes advantage of the museum to share his love for letterpress with the next generation of designers. “As well as running my design studio, I also teach graphic design and the University of Kansas,” he explains. “Each summer we send a group of students to the museum to participate in a letterpress workshop. It is so inspiring for these young designers. It gets them hooked and shows them the value and joy of letterpress printing first hand. I see them come back with a new knowledge of not just letterpress but typography in general. The value that Hamilton provides is hard to measure.”

The Ultimate Typography Collection for Designers is just as the name says, the ultimate collection for anyone dealing with typography as part of the design process.  Drawing off the expertise of Denise Bosler, a HOW Design Conference Speaker, HOW Design University instructor, and author, this package covers every aspect of typography from the history of type and techniques like kerning, leading and tracking to pairing fonts and designing infographics.