by Charlie Harmon
at 12:03 PM | Permalink
Q&A with Steam Whistle Letterpress' Brian Stuparyk
Brian Stuparyk is the owner
of Steam Whistle Letterpress, a shop located in historic Over-The-Rhine that’s
been pumping out hand-pressed cards, posters, flyers and more since opening in
2011. The shop uses vintage letterpress machines, a medium widely used to print
for hundreds of years up until around the mid-20th century.
Steam Whistle is now selling their
main card line nationally after receiving great reception at New York’s
National Stationery Show, and Stuparyk also was a runner-up in ArtWorks’ Big
CityBeat: How did
you originally become interested in letterpress?
Brian Stuparyk: I was originally a photographer, and as I saw
everything becoming digital I became less interested in that and wanted to do
something more authentic. I studied print media in graduate school, and I was
interested in things like letterpress because it’s actually a print, rather
than a print-out. I bought my first letterpress about 15 years ago.
CB: Do you
remember the first print you made?
BS: I remember being at the supermarket right around the time I had
bought that letterpress and I overheard these two older ladies talking about
dissecting bull’s eyeballs in high school. One of them was sort of obsessed
with the shiny blue stuff on the inside of the eyeball and said she had always
just wanted a bathing suit like that. It was in my head when I got back home
and so I made a print about it.
CB: So you
can only print one card at once?
BS: Not only that, but I can
only print one color on one card at once, and most of my cards have at least
three colors. It’s a pretty labor-intensive process. That’s why it costs more
than a Hallmark card printed in China.
repetitive — how does it feel to go through the process? Is it meditative at
BS: Yeah, it can be meditative in a lot of ways. It’s run by foot, so
standing on one leg like a flamingo all day is a little hard on the hips. But
I’m only printing a couple hundred cards at a time right now, so it goes pretty
quick. At maximum speed I can print about 600 in an hour, but that’s
told ArtWorks that you love letterpress for the imperfections. Why is that and
how does that relate to artistic value?
BS: Oh, I don’t know that it adds any artistic merit, but the flaws
give it character that doesn’t come out of a machine. Being handmade, each card
is unique. It definitely adds a certain authenticity to it because, you know,
the color can even shift a little between prints.
medium is simply paper, ink and a press. How would you compare this to other
forms of media like painting?
BS: It is very different. You might spend months working on a
painting and then you only have one and it’s so precious, whereas with a print
I make hundreds at a time. Maybe all together they’d be worth the same as a
painting, but individually they’re that much more accessible. Not only one
person can own it and it isn’t so precious that it needs to have this high
price tag on it.
CB: Why did
you choose Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati to open shop?
BS: If I’d moved to Seattle, Portland, Ore., or New York, I would
just be another letterpress guy doing more letterpress. But here in Cincinnati
I’m the letterpress guy, and there’s a lot going on here.
people say Warhol killed art by revolutionizing mass produced art via prints. Do
you agree with that criticism?
BS: In terms of art, I don’t think so. Print has always been the
democratic medium, something people should be able to afford. The reason
etchings were made was to make reproductions of paintings people couldn’t
afford, so it was always like that. I don’t know that he ruined something that
wasn’t already stinking at the time.
you were originally a photographer, do you think you might ever get into doing
prints of your photography?
BS: Everyone’s a photographer now — everyone in the world has a cell phone.
The world doesn’t need any more photographers. I think what’s charming about
what I do is it’s authentic from the source. I’m not trying to take modern
technology and shoehorn it into a letterpress the way a lot of people do now.
CB: Do you
have a particular interest in vintage things beyond just letterpress?
BS: I definitely have an appreciation for well-made things, things
that were built to last. When I get something, even in the modern age, I have a
hard time not wanting it to last forever. The oldest press I’ve had was built
in 1891, and if it’s well cared for it will literally last forever, and I think
that’s what interests me.
For more information about STEAM
WHISTLE LETTERPRESS, visit steamwhistlepress.com.
Artists Mark Patsfall and Brian Stuparyk mess with elements of perception
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 2, 2011
The cardboard 3-D glasses supplied for
Brian Stuparyk’s work will make the comparison clearer. Put them on and feel
like a kid, knowing that this art show is fun and different. A visit
feels like an afternoon at the movies. Though
there are just three small rooms to see, remember that the artists’
themes are perception and time. It’s possible to get lost awhile.