Score one for letterpress

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Opps. Hit the wrong button before I even made the initial comment.

Earlier this year, a daughter e-mailed me a site to check out. I opened it up and it turned out to be a call for entries from the Des Moines Art Center for an upcoming show titled Iowa Artists 2012: Print. After reading everything I think the one thing that struck me was the fact that there was no entry fee. The basics were that the prints had to be produced in Iowa within the last four years and an artist could submit up to ten works for judging. They also wanted a resume and an “artist’s statement” along with digital images of the pieces.

Never having submitted anything to a judged art show, I decided to give it a shot. I figured they would probably laugh themselves silly with my “artist’s statement.” It would not be until months later that they would contact people. I figured I’d never hear from them again.

I eventually received an e-mail from them. Of 98 artists submitting things, only 27 artists had been accepted and a total of 40 pieces would be shown in the exhibit. All ten of my pieces were accepted and are on display at the DMAC now through January 13!!!!!!!

One of my pieces was used for the postcard to announce the opening party and another of my pieces makes up the catalog cover.

To say I am just a bit overwhelmed by all of this is an understatement. Over half of the pieces I did were farm or gardening related so the theme of the opening party was a “locavore” party. I had to ask about that word myself - a locavore is someone who eats locally produced food.

Tomorrow evening I am scheduled to give a gallery talk about my work. I’m still a little stunned that all of this is happening.

I am extremely proud that letterpress apparently can stand toe-to-toe with the other print mediums at the art museum.

Wish me luck tomorrow. They probably won’t be able to shut me up.


Rick, that’s great!

I studied printmaking at U of I back when Mauricio Lasansky was running the department, and so there is a long, strong history of good printmaking there. Glad to know your letterpress work is represented!

Any chance we can see some of the items - a show catalog, or your photos?

Went searching the Desmoines Art Center website…here is the link

No luck needed….your love for printing and seeing the art continue has not gone unnoticed.
Tom & Terri Kartes
T & T Press Restoration

Very nice! Your lovely work should be seen by more people.


Great! Way to Go! You will do just fine. Wish you all the best.

Congratulations! :) your work is great!

Great work, Rick! It seems the topic of the show fits perfectly with the focus of your craft. Soon you’ll be doing commissioned work…but I guess you can’t really be a starving artist if you live on a farm! Fantastic job.

Hey that’s great Rick…I have been known to put your work in a frame and hang on the wall…so, no surprise here.


Congratulations, Rick — but I knew all along that your poster work is outstanding and deserves more recognition. Looks like you got it!



That is really stunning work. On the “Dirt” poster, how did you get the two-color border? Is it composed from matched border elements that are designed to produce a two-color border? Or are the red dots from a completely separate border?


So happy for you, Rick! Your artist’s statement rings true for many of us. Thanks for spreading the word about traditional letterpress.

Do you have a blog or Flickr page? If not, I guess now’s about the time to get one. :-)


Congratulations, Rick! It’s always great to see letterpress included in these exhibitions and catalogues. You should definitely be proud.


Congratulations. You needn’t be shocked. They made the right decision in including your work. I’m sure the audience will really enjoy your gallery talk.


Your work is always well done, interesting and surprising—so no surprise that you would be a key part of this show.

I, too, have more than one of your pieces on the wall of my shop—one in a pretty fancy frame! Have fun in the spotlight—you deserve it. —Barbara (aka Randy Lane sale helper)

not only does the boy know his type but he can print too. nice stuff.

Thanks for all the great comments. The talk went very well last night. I started with the simple statement “My name is Rick and I am a typoholic!”

jdh - The border on the Dirt piece is a Hamilton wood border on the inside. The outside are little 12 pt. foundry border of a leaf pattern. And yes, there is just a little bit of insanity to set and space them to line-up with the wood border. When I do stunts like that I simply keep proofing until I get it right. I almost always use carbon paper when pulling proofs, which saves a lot of the trouble of inking up and washing up just for a proof. The “killer” is that I actually had another little border design already set-up but when I started to print it, but I didn’t like the weight of their appearence so I started all over again with the little border pieces that you now see.

Barbara - No blog or flickr page! Pretty much a Luddite here other than going on Briar Press and a few other letterpress sites to read and add comments occasionally. Way tooooooooo busy most of the time to get sucked into spending hours on the computer. If I have spare time I would rather be in the shop playing with my toys. Still have piles of stuff to clean and catalog from acquisitions this year. Winter is my favorite time of year because I am pretty much forced indoors and can get things done in the shop (in the basement). I have been retired from being a print production manager, but have been working pretty much full-time for the past five years teaching people with mental dissabilities how to farm - raise vegetables, chickens, eggs, etc. Also have my own acreage and large 100-year-old house and all the time and maintenance that goes along with that.

Thanks again to everyone for your comments and encouragement.


You have a disease or an addiction -or both.
There is no cure. The only treatment is to continue what you are doing.
Your generous contribution to the identification of type faces and your teaching of people on your farm are the type (no pun) of things we need more of to make the world a better place. Thank you.
Well done good and faithful servant.
With great respect,


I think the word addiction probably best describes Rick’s collecting habits. It is a wonderful disease when not controlled. His collection is a joy to behold.

John H.


Your work’s been an influence and inspiration to me for nearly 25 years now, since you first walked up the boardwalk to greet me at the 1875 newspaper office at Living History Farms with samples of your printing in hand. I thought of you, in part, when I composed the following for a former post on Briar Press:

…Of greatest concern, however, is the dreaded disease of typohaulism. Everyone likes to carry home a font of type now and then, but if left unchecked this habit can evolve into full-blown typohaulism. The classic symptoms are spending more time with type than with your family, being unable to account for time and money spent on type and, with an ever-increasing consumption of type, having blackouts where you can’t remember where your type came from.

At first, a mild consumption of type can be socially acceptable. Discussing type at a party or wayzgoose is a time-honored ice-breaker. In later stages, however, the typohaulic will shun the public and will spend more and more time with type in private, sometimes in dark and dingy basements or cluttered garages. If left unchecked, the typohaulic will alienate all others and may become a monomaniacal miserly hermit.

Do you sometimes wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, thinking of the font that got away? Have you named your children after nineteeth-century type founders and designers? It may be time to get some help.

As a former Iowan and past resident of Des Moines, I can envision your work displayed at the Art Center. Congratulations!

All the Best,

—David Smith.

Hi David,
May I set this in type and print it?
Danny Kelly

Hello Danny:

Yes, certainly, and thanks for asking. I’m humbled!

Rick and the late Guy Botterill of the House of Type remain the two greatest hell-bent-for-leather type fanatics I’ve ever met. What’s great about them both is that they’ve shared their enthusiasm for type, typography and printing with the rest of us with an almost evangelical zeal.

Rick, Guy and other typographic “missionaries” add a third and fourth dimension to the knowledge and work produced by the ivory-tower practitioners of the Black Art, and I’ll be forever grateful to them that I’ve also caught the contagion.


Rick - I love that you made it into this show! After finally meeting you in Mt. Pleasant this year at the Print Fair - it doesn’t surprise me that you’re representing letterpress! You’ve earned it and your work shows it. I can’t wait to make my stop at the art center to see the rest of the show. I’m so glad we finally got to touch base at the fair this year. Congrats on your success!

-Tammy (@The Red Door Press)