Partners in Print brings people together by using old printing presses to amplify new voices, share knowledge, and spark creativity.
Lo-fi in a high tech city
Seattle’s School of Visual Concepts (SVC) spawned a thriving letterpress program and a beloved community of printers. The secret to their success? Community engagement, a respect for craft, and a focus on collaboration. The legacy of that program lives on in Partners in Print today.
SVC has always been a school for professional development, mostly in marketing, graphic design, and related fields. Somewhat surprisingly, they thought it would be a good idea to start a letterpress program in 2001, when the rest of the world was abandoning print for pixels. The city of Seattle saw incredible growth and cultural change in the intervening years and is now an epicenter of technology. But instead of just surviving this cultural change, the letterpress program thrived.
Being behind the times is what the times need
SVC’s annual Wayzgoose celebration, featuring a marketplace, equipment swap, and hands-on demonstrations, proved that letterpress printing is still alive and strong and all around us. SVC’s Steamroller Smackdown took community engagement a step further. The premise: printing linoleum cuts so big, we’d need to use an asphalt roller as a printing press. SVC invited design agencies from all over Seattle to compete to print the best steamroller poster on a given theme, assigned and judged by a local partner organization.
In a world dominated by tech, there is a human yearning to do things by hand. For students of the digital revolution feeling the urge to get their hands dirty, the letterpress curriculum at SVC really delivered. In addition to fabulous classes, SVC’s letterpress family partnered with local nonprofits and established programs that continue to this day.
We lose our space, but not our community
The Covid-19 pandemic forced Seattle into lockdown in March of 2020. While it was frustrating not to be able to teach in person, the advent of Long-Distance Letterpress classes over Zoom opened up new and unanticipated possibilities for learning and community-building. It was suddenly possible to learn from respected printers no matter where in the world they lived, watch them demonstrate live from their incredible letterpress studios, ask plenty of questions, and meet members of the global printing community all at the same time.
When SVC decided to commit to online learning indefinitely, SVC’s letterpress shop needed to find a new home, fast. The community pooled their print shop expertise to take inventory and plan for the massive equipment move. Presses and type went to foster homes. The teaching shop, which was put together by the letterpress community, is now in the care of the community.
PiP PiP, hooray!
Before the dust settled from the move, SVC’s letterpress program reformed as Partners in Print, now powered by Shunpike, a 501(c)(3) that provides umbrella non-profit status to small arts organizations in Washington state. SVC generously donated all of its letterpress equipment to PiP, and continues to partner with us. When it is safe to do so from a public health and financial standpoint, Partners in Print will open a letterpress teaching shop in Seattle again. By furthering the 19-year legacy of the SVC Letterpress Program, Partners in Print continues to wield the power of print for the greater good.
Building PiP’s future, together
We’re in an exciting period of growth, embracing hope as action — with intent. We’re taking the time and putting in the energy to understand what inclusivity can look like at PiP. The power of the press belongs to those who have one, and we strive to share that power with more people.
Letterpress printing has had, in its 500+ years of existence, several barriers to access — cost, space, and discrimination being just the tip of the iceberg. To achieve the vision of a truly welcoming and inclusive creative community, we need to reduce these barriers. We invite you to join us in this process, and we’ll continue to share what we learn along the way as well as our evolving commitments in the months to come.
Improved access to arts education
PiP now offers a self-selected scholarship rate for classes, including our popular Long-Distance Letterpress series. No special permission or application is needed; we encourage each participant to evaluate their income and privilege status, and choose accordingly when registering.
Free events, open to all
We’re committed to offering free public events, and encourage curious types of all ages to participate! Topics vary greatly — from poetry to illustration to civic engagement — and are connected by the common thread of letterpress printing.
PiP’s online Shop Talks series is an opportunity for comparing notes on letterpress equipment and techniques, finding sources for supplies, or sharing opportunities and talents. Gather around the virtual composing stone for uncensored, unrecorded, weekly roundtables hosted by genial moderators. There are no stupid questions, and mansplainers will be digitally escorted to a solo breakout room. You don’t have to have a letterpress shop to talk shop.
Launched in the fall of 2021, Print Futures is a free, virtual presentation series created to support new voices in letterpress and build bridges between the emerging printers doing great work in educational institutions, community centers, and professional shops. The series takes place quarterly and features presentations from new voices working in print. It is co-created and produced with Letterpress Educators of Art & Design (LEAD).
Many of PiP’s partners and peer organizations also offer free printing-related events. Look for them on our events page, and tell them PiP sent you!