Prairie Printing is a Wyoming-based non-profit focused on preserving the art of letterpress printing, block printing, typesetting and related skills, such as book binding. We don’t reject the value and benefit of modern digital-to-print technologies and even - gasp - the inkjet printer. We just feel, strongly, that the skill, art and equipment of letterpress printing has a place in the modern print world. Letterpress printing can produce timeless works that are both text and art in a way that no other technology can. Our work on preserving letterpress printing focuses on the following 3 main areas.
First, we buy, acquire, rescue and restore, and then use, presses and printing-related equipment.
Too often, beautiful pieces of letterpress equipment are abandoned, scrapped or otherwise lost. This includes everything from printing presses to typefaces to even cabinets. As resources, time and space make it possible, we rescue, preserve and then use equipment that might otherwise be lost.
Second, we teach letterpress printing.
A vibrant, dynamic, community of printers is the key to the survival of the art of letterpress printing. Letterpress printing is unique - one can learn how to print in an afternoon and spend a lifetime mastering the craft. Related technologies, like block making and book binding, take more time to learn, but, as with printing, the key to the survival of these skills is also a vibrant community of artists who know how to do the craft. So we actively teach the art of printing and, as we can, bring in experts to teach other, related skills. And in so doing, hopefully, ensure the survival of this art.
Third, we make our equipment, as we can, available for anyone to use without cost.
Easily the most significant obstacle to someone who wants to learn how to print is access to letterpress printing equipment. In business-speak, this is the barrier to entry. Equipment is hard to find. If it is available for sale, it can be expensive, but too often, it is just not available. To address this specific issue, we make as much of our equipment, supplies and time available, as we can, free of charge. I started doing this in in 2017, even before I started Prairie Printing, when I placed at Art 321, Casper Wyoming’s artist guild, an 1895 Reliance hand iron press. There, the press, with basic instructions, supplies and other resources, is available for anyone to use (almost) free of charge. I put almost in parenthesis because the fee is simply one copy of what is printed for an exhibit wall showing what can be done with a press like this.
And this is how we work to preserve this beautiful art. If you are interested in learning more, please feel free to contact us. If you are in, or are going to be in Casper, Wyoming, and you want to do some printing, let us know. We would love nothing more than to meet with you and put some ink to paper.