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What You Make of It: Vintage Pocket Valentine by Susan Duane

Art Stories: Fran Shea of Zeichen Press

Art Stories

Vintage Indie would like to welcome Fran of Zeichen Press  as our featured artist and creator this week. Get to know Fran and her world of letterpress from my recent interview with her.

Fran working
Fran working in her studio.

Hi Fran, thanks so much for giving us an inside look at what you do. Can you tell us what is your preferred medium?

Letterpress - setting type by hand or printing from vintage plates OR files that I designed on the computer and turned into plates.


How did you get started?

I worked as a graphic designer for several years but took some years off to raise babies...  I had been trained as a designer on the computer but was always fascinated by the old design and printing methods. When our babies seemed somewhat self-reliant (aka: no diapers) I acquired a tabletop press, some old type and a printer's manual (The Practice of Printing, 1926).

 Madge soiree layout  Madge-soiree-angles-color

Who or what inspires you?

 I am attracted to any vintage advertising, packaging, trademarks and technology. My studio is a a working print shop, full of objects like printers blocks*, ink, type wash, cases of lead type, brayers, paper -- I feel inspired just by walking in there - just by surrounding myself with these objects that have a history and have so much potential.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into this medium?

 If you want to get into letterpress you need a fair amount of space and it's nice to have contact with a network of seasoned printers. 

Does vintage play a role in your art or life? If so, how?

 Heavily. I am very drawn to vintage imagery and design - I love that there was a time when nothing was too insignificant to look attractive - if it was going to be printed, it should also be designed... matchbooks, air-sickness bags, fruit crates...

Zeichen Press.variety product shot.web

What is important for your customer to know about your work?

Our customer should know that we kiss and hold each and every card and print that leaves our studio. They should know that we use recycled or tree free paper and that we can and do print using actual vintage and antique type. They should also know that we are not happy unless they are happy - and that is not some dippy slogan. We actually have a pathological disorder that is dependent upon the happiness of others. I think I'm kidding.


Thank you so much Fran for sharing your passion with us. Zeichen Press art prints can be found at their shop Zeichen, you can also visit them on their blog, Is that funny?

Zeichen Press, a design & letterpress studio located in Minneapolis, offers a product line of letterpressed cards and gifts as well as custom design. Products are hand-made on antique printing presses using antique wood & metal type and salvaged vintage printers blocks.



Love the equipment!It's so awesome to see old techniques kept alive. The finished products are amazing.

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