Nic Fest

What a Weekend

This past weekend, Prairie Printing participated in Nic Fest, a major arts event held in Casper that draws exhibitors and visitors from across the west. This was also our first major - get to know us, this is who we are - event. Needless to say, we were a bit nervous. There were a lot of things to bring together. Not only was this our first event, meaning it was all new, we also had to move and set up our Reliance press, a Hamilton type cabinet (with trays of type), a desk to work at, and bookcase for displaying our work. But, to our relief, everything came together beautifully. We want to extend a special thanks to Magic City Stoves, who made available a forklift and operator to transport our press to and from the event. Most heartening, though, was that the response of the guests to our booth, and our mission to preserve letterpress equipment and teach the next generation letterpress printing. It was beyond encouraging - beyond what we could expect.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Printers

I started Prairie Printing as my way of keeping the art of, and enthusiasm for, letterpress printing alive. My goal in participating in Nic Fest was to, in some way, create an enthusiasm for printing. I got my first press when I was nine and, as soon as I pulled my first impression, I was in love with printing. I wanted to recreate this experience for the guests to our booth, so I first set a simple business card with our name, city and web address, in the chase of a 3 x 2 Sigwalt press. I calibrated the Reliance to print this card - making sure the backing was appropriate and the chase was centered on the Reliance bed, ensuring a good, crisp print. But everything else was done by the guests to our booth.

When a guest came to our booth, I would, of course, talk to them about printing. I love talking about printing. I would tell them about what we do, how we rescue presses, tell them the history of our press, show them the prints we make and sell, and answer any questions. Typically, their first question was about the press itself. As a piece of equipment, it is eye catching, and a bit imposing. With its gold lettering and polished wood handle, it is as much a piece of equipment as it is a work of art. Sometimes, a guest would ask for a card. My response was - I do have a card, or you can print one. Almost everyone said they wanted to print their own. Because the type was set and the chase set up for printing, it only took about 2 minutes. I would instruct them on how to ink the brayer, how to use the brayer to ink the type, set the paper and then pull the impression. And the reaction was amazing. Kids beamed a smile when they saw the impression. Parents took videos. A few older guests, whose fathers or grandfathers were printers, thanked me because they got to do what their fathers or grandfathers did. One guest was so excited, he gave me high five. Just proves what I knew before - everyone loves printing, most people just don’t know it yet.


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A guest to Prairie Printing’s booth gets ready to ink the type in preparation to pull an impression of our card. I am explaining why we ink on a bias, and why we ink in two directions.


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Must of worked. He seems happy.


Training a new generation of printers!


Final Thoughts

All in all, Nic Fest was an amazing event! First and foremost, it was fantastic just to be able demonstrate printing. We so often work in our workshops so to take printing out into the world, so to speak, was a unique opportunity. With the press there, doing live printing, we could show guests not only what we print, which is good, but also how we print. The smiles we got, and the comments we received, meant that, in our goal of getting people interested in printing, we were successful. It’s been almost a week, and I am still grinning (and putting stuff away) but grinning.