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!


City of Big Shoulders 2014

Winter makes for a slow time for printing opportunities on the bike, and this past one was particularly rough. So it was a pleasure to accept an invitation to set up a press at the City of Broad Shoulders event that corresponded to RailsConf in Chicago this past April. It seemed like a good time to put together another small press so that attendees could make two color prints. That’s right, we’re movin’ on up!

Here’s the original galley proof press we made last year (at bottom), with the new one above it. This one is slightly larger.newpress

Given that the event attracted people from around the country, we went with our Chicago theme again and this time were able to create mini flags. The two colors worked great!


For about 2 hours, Jo showed guests how to print. It was definitely one of the most enthusiastic crowds we’ve ever encountered, proving that adults love printing as much as kids!






cobs4Jo made a friend! She’s often the only kid at print events, so it was a real treat to find a 9 year old in the mix. They had a great time checking out all of the incredible vendors at Maker Night.


cobs9The special treat for Jo was ending the evening with a visit to Jana of Doodlebooth fame. LOVE her illustration of Jo in her apron.


doodleThe weather is finally agreeable, and we’ll be out and about on the bike more often. Next up is a trip to Printers Ball at Spudnik Press. More on that soon…

Stars on parade at Renegade

The Renegade Craft Fair is both our favorite and largest event outside of the studio every year and we were pleased to be invited back to share the Press Bike with shoppers and their little ones. Our convenient spot at Booth No. 1 worked great as we caught the eye of everyone entering the Fair from the west end of the street.

The Friday before Renegade is always a whirlwind of late night preparation and packing and this year was no exception. Luckily, our former intern, Lindsay, came out for the weekend to help. And to everyone’s delight, Jo was able to run the Vandercook herself and put together her own print for the show.



Here’s a shot of our booth this year:


signWe opted for using our little Chicago stars (coined ‘Jo Stars’) that we commissioned from Moore Wood Type, because everyone that loves Chicago loves those stars.

bikeHere’s a little print Jo pinned up to show what we were making for the weekend.

finalprintOur first customer of the day!
demo6We started with a more kid-friendly acrylic ink, which turned out to be a bad idea. As you can see from the brayer, it was very sticky and dried way too fast given the heat of the day. Sunday we brought a rubber based ink that worked great and went on smooth.

demo3Kids were instantly drawn to the prints and loved making them! There was a line most of the day.


And see who’s eyeballing the bike in the corner there? None other than Brad Vetter, printmaker extraordinaire. He’s wishing he could make such great prints!

demo1As always, grown ups were just as geeked about it as the kids. See a theme?


Jo was again asked for autographs on the prints she pulled. “It’s like being a celebrity” she commented.

autographSunday we started out early with Jo meeting her friend Ella to sell their prints to our vendor friends. Next year little Coco will be joining them! Ella has learned her trade of screenprinting from her dad. We’re thinking next year they should all have their own booth.

sellingprintsIf not for selling, prints are great trades! Jo scored one of the killer Matt Daly Renegade posters this way, and two charms for her Lady Faye lava rock necklace.

printswapThen it was back to printing!
demo2Look who came by to check out the action. It’s our favorite kids photographer, Jookie Jill!

jookiejillPrinting was definitely a family affair.

familyprintThis little cutie was without a doubt our most excited printer of the weekend! She was so thrilled to pull this print.

happiestkidThe press bike really took a beating; not more than 20 minutes went by without someone coming up to print, and we ran out of paper by 6 o’clock each day. While out shopping with Jo, Lindsay witnessed folks putting their own clothes on the stars to print them, as well as arms. Wish we had some documentation of that!


Three years ago we bought our Madsen cargo bike with the profits of that year’s summer Renegade Craft Fair, and we’ve had so many great adventures since then. Commuting by day, printing by weekend, it’s been a real workhorse! We hope to keep up the fun at next year’s Fair. Thanks to everyone who made this our best Press Bike event yet.

Renegades again in 2013


Yay, it’s time for the Renegade Craft Fair! This is one of our favorite events of the year, and the Press Bike will be set up all weekend. Jo will be around for a good chunk of it, showing kids and adults how to pull prints on the new press. Come on by and check it out; we’re easy to find this year in Booth Number 1, right at Division and Damen.

Renegade Craft Fair

Saturday and Sunday, September 7th and 8th, 11am – 7pm

on Division between Damen and Paulina

Letterpress for Kids at WNYBAC

Jo and I were asked to run workshops at the annual Western New York Book Arts Center Book Fest, which sure sounded like a lot of fun, given that most of our family is in the Buffalo area. While the grown ups were off making prints with a steamroller (read more about it here), Jo set up her new little press outside and enjoyed a little celebrity.


Many kids came through in the morning and gave the little press a shot. It’s so easy that the prints were successful and fun! And given our location, we found the appropriate type amongst the vast collection at WNYBAC.




Happy customers!



Did we say kids? Because grown ups tried it, too.


Jo’s cousin Adam came down for a while and he had a blast making prints, too.



Jo (and all the kids and grown ups) had a chance to try her hand at making paper as well, which she loved.


Book Fest was a success! If only we could have ridden the bike there… 674 miles is a long way to go. Thanks to WNYBAC for having us!


West Fest with Paperish Mess

We’re thrilled to be back up and running with the press bike this summer! The wonderful Lisa of Paperish Mess asked if we could come be a part of their booth at West Fest. If you live in Chicago and haven’t been by the store, then definitely check it out. Lisa and Sean make a concerted effort to be a part of their community and stock wonderful and fresh work by local artisans, including Starshaped Press.

Our new little homemade press consists of one small metal galley, with a wood frame and slot to add wood type. It has a simple bookboard frisket, on which you can place a sheet of paper. Then the type is inked by hand with a brayer, the frisket is lowered and a small rolling pin is used to create the impression. The benefit of this over the Sigwalt we used last year is that we can now print larger type very easily and clean up is a breeze.

Here’s Jo set up to go with the first prints.



Despite the heat, we had a handful of little printers come through and give it a shot. Switching to a water based block printing ink was a great idea for clean up and getting tiny hands ink-free, but the heat really threw us for a curve with how fast it dried! The press bike is definitely happier on more mild days. Here’s a great shot of Jo with Lisa in their booth.


On our way out we stopped to watch some talented street artists and Jo got a lesson in spray paint.


We’ve got a really exciting date coming up with the little press and will have more on that soon!

We’re Back…

It’s been a while, but we’ve got a great new press for our bike and are heading down to West Fest to be a part of the booth at Paperish Mess today!

More on the new press and our first event soon… in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek:



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