by Scott Hudson, Director of Corporate Communications, Worth Higgins & Associates
A couple months ago, I was honored to be invited to the world premier of Pressing On: The Letterpress Film. If you attended Worth Higgins & Associates’ Richmond ‘Celebrating the Craftsmen’ event, you will remember Kevin Grazioli and Joe Vella from Bayonet Media. The Emmy Award winning filmmakers from Indianapolis, IN offered our attendees a sneak peek of the film and were excited to share stories of their travels to letterpress shops around the country as they filmed the documentary.
The Nashville film premier was hosted by The Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum and Hatch Show Print. The last time I visited Hatch Show Print was in 2007 when the famed shop was located on lower Broadway in Nashville’s downtown. Back then, the small plain building had a hand-written sign on the screen door that stated, “If you let the shop cat out, you have to catch her and bring her back”. The day I visited in 2007, several people retrieved that cat. The sense of nostalgia I felt walking into that shop is something I will never forget, the sound of the presses, the smell of the inks, the beauty of the hand carved wood blocks and the amazing rock-n-roll concert posters from some of my favorite bands cemented my instant love of letterpress. I had spent years of my career in commercial print shops but had never experienced anything like Hatch.
In conjunction with the films premier, several letterpress shops in Nashville opened their doors on Saturday morning to film goers and print enthusiasts. Our first stop was Sawtooth Press, immediately upon walking into their super cool artisan filled co-working space, I spied a hand carved block of a limited-edition album poster from my favorite band. I own a hand-signed copy of the final print which is framed and hanging in my den – what a great way to start the day!
Next we visited Isle of Printing located in the Pietown neighborhood of Nashville. I was so impressed with the shop owner Bryce McCloud who in addition to producing amazing letterpress prints, uses the art form to bring diverse groups of people together and improve the local and global community through print. The combination was inspiring to hear and witness first hand. In the middle of our tour, Bryce asked for a brief pause to help a person in need who wandered in to seek shelter from a fast moving thunderstorm, the compassion I witnessed spoke volumes to Bryce’s greater mission. It was amazing to see.
Our final stop before the premier was Hatch Show Print, since my visit in 2007, I knew the shop had moved to The Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, I don’t know exactly what I expected, but I didn’t expect what I saw. As we pulled up to The Country Music Hall of Fame, I was reminded of one of the high-end Las Vegas hotels. The exterior of the building is only one-upped by the beautiful interior; everything is shiny and new, and so very clean. Even with thousands of visitors making their way through the halls each day, you are hard pressed to find a single hair out of place. Initially, seeing Hatch Show Print tucked into a corner of this shiny mecca seemed out of place, too sterile, too new.
My opinion soon changed. I attended a presentation chronicling the 138-year history of Hatch, the session presented the challenges the company endured over the decades. Many of the same challenges us printers face today, especially how quickly technology affects our business. Hatch made a vow to stay true to their handcrafted letterpress roots, to this day not a bit of technology is used to produce their work, their blocks are hand carved, their dockets are hand-written, they don’t email proofs, no technology at all. By becoming part of The Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, Hatch Show Print ensures the longevity of their collection and the preservation of their craft. Once I got past the hustle and bustle of the busy museum hallways and past the shiny gift shop, making my way back to their pressroom floor, it was the same old Hatch, just with a really nice coat of new paint.
After a quick bite to eat, it was time to grab some popcorn and a beverage and head to the premier. I have to say this right off the bat, the feature-length documentary is simply amazing! As the film rolled, we were introduced to the amazing printers and letterpress collectors in the cast, we learned their stories and laughed as they shared their experiences. I was filled with a sense of pride for the industry I have built my entire career upon. Sure I haven’t always been a letterpress printer but the film captures more than that, it captures the pride and hard work it takes to produce a printed page, no matter the medium. As the credits rolled, I was proud of the ink in my veins.
Worth Higgins & Associates is hard at work to bring the film to Richmond. Stay tuned in the coming weeks.