Tonight, Fab puts the spotlight on the Midwest in The Heartland Shop. One of the featured sales is the beautiful and witty letterpress prints from Hammerpress in Missouri. I grew up near Kansas City, and Hammerpress was always my favorite stop during the city’s First Friday art events. I always get a twinge of home pride when I see one of their amazing designs in a boutique or hung up on someone’s walls. Below, Hammerpress owner Brady Vest provides some background information on the history of his studio and its design influences.
Tell us a little bit about the story of Hammerpress. How did it get its start?
I started Hammerpress in 1994 as a printing project with friends. We mostly worked on small independent record packaging and posters, as well as some small edition art books and things like that. Once I graduated from school I began buying and salvaging old letterpress equipment, and it just kind of evolved from there. Our first shop space was about 500 square feet with one light.
Hammerpress now operates in the Crossroads District of Kansas City, where we have always been, in a beautiful large studio space with a great team of people and more than one light.
Why do you think there has been renewed interest in letterpress arts recently?
There’s a lot of reasons I suppose: The prevalence of temporary and cheaply made goods in our world has made things that are not cheap or temporary seem that much more appealing. I also think that the Internet has made something that seemed like a lost art way more accessible.
What are some of the things that inspires your team?
I think we all look at very different things that inspire and excite us. I’ve been looking at a lot of textiles lately and trying to figure out how to filter some of those ideas. We all look at a lot of vintage ephemera, lettering, signage, record covers, etc.
What music do you listen to while you work in the print shop?
Music not stop. That’s a Kraftwerk reference, but really, there is music on constantly. Lately, a lot of older reggae—Desmond Dekker this morning. It’s happy music and in the winter sometimes you just got to have it. Right now Gang of Four is playing, the other night, it was AC/DC really really loud. Honestly, it’s always a lot of many different things throughout the day.