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ASenseof Print

by Kimberly Sherman Leon Founder and President

As I am led into the area of mass production, my sense of smell reaches an area of passion I have for print, an area that reminds me of the many years I spent working--in a shop, ink. For me, the smell of ink and paper is just a bonus to the finished printed piece. But the ink is not the only thing that grabbed my attention; the printing equipment was something you would see in a museum or in a history book. I was amazed!

While feeling like a kid in a candy store, I’m introduced to the leading man of the shop, Dan Wood of Dan Wood Rhode Island Letterpress (DWRI), by one of his two other employees. My question to all business owners is, “Why did you get involved in this line of business, what inspired you, what is your story?” This always gives me a clear picture of who they are and what drives them. “I’ve always been interested in multiples and began working as a press operator in commercial offset lithographic printing for ten years after art school,” Dan explains. “I was also printing my own work on letterpress presses at the same time and founded Garbaszawa Press in 1994 to print a mix of letterpress and offset books and print for myself and other artists. I reestablished the business in 2002 as DWRI Letterpress focusing solely on commercial letterpress printing.” What inspired Dan to be get involved in this profession? “There are so many printers and printmakers who have inspired me along the way, but particularly artists like Saul Steinberg who worked on that line between fine art and world and the world off mass production.”

As Dan shows me around the shop, I witness one of his employee’s hand-stitching some books that they just produced. He hands me some samples of the latest projects they have just printed while explaining to me the type of paper and process it entailed to produce. I can sense when someone is proud of what they have produced and the quality they provide. I take the samples from him and start to explore the texture of paper and print. It’s nothing like you get off your digital printer, that’s for sure!

Letterpress printing is one of the main printing types DWRI provides. What is Letterpress printing you wonder? “It is a mechanized version of relief printing (printing from a raised surface). Established by Johannes Gutenberg in 1455 using moveable type and a converted wine or olive press, it was THE commercial printing medium for the next 500 years,” Dan replies. It lost much of its popularity sometime

8 | Rhode Island Creative Magazine

back in the 1970’s when letterpress was widely replaced by offset printing. “With digital communication now being the norm, clients today are seeking out the unique tactility and elegance of letterpress printing over straightforward offset or digital inkjet printing.”

Dan demonstrates how each of his machines works. As I said earlier, the printing equipment was something you would see in a museum or in a history book. I actually was able to see them first hand and working! What type of equipment does he have you wonder? “We have a mix of commercial letterpress equipment with presses from the 1920’s to 1950’s, cylinder and platen press. We have hot foil stamping machines and what Thomas Edison called the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Linotype typecasting machine, which was invented in the 1890’s. We also have a Ludlow typecasting machine for large type as well as in-house polymer plate making for digital files.” Impressive or what?

At the end of my visit, Dan showed me how he creates content on his Linotype typecasting machine. He has multiple uses with this machine but one of them is for foil stamping. This is where he created the stamp for my souvenir from DWRI, a RI Creative Magazine gold foil stamped pencil! A new service they provide.

DWRI provides a variety of printed pieces from invitations and announcements, business cards and stationery, fine art “editioning,” posters and music packaging. The techniques they employ include letterpress printing, foil stamping, die cutting, scoring and perforating, small runs, book production and binding, hot metal typesetting, design services, envelope addressing and mail prep for invitations. And now, they also have the capacity to do foil stamping on three-dimensional items like pencils!

As a print designer myself, I encourage all artists to visit DWRI (, explore your senses, witness the quality of simplicity and elegance, get inspiration and learn how the type of print and the paper you choose can make a world of difference in your design.

Layout Design by Kimberly Sherman Leon

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