WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
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steam whistle letterpress

Pressing Imperfections

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 Pitch competition. 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. CB: Sounds repetitive — how does it feel to go through the process? Is it meditative at times? 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 exhausting. CB: You 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. CB: The 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. CB: Many 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. CB: Since 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.
 
 

Motion and Emotion

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.  

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