Hatch Show Print

A fascinating eight-minute look at Hatch Show Print, a 130 year-old working letterpress shop (established 1879) in Nashville, Tennessee.

Hatch Show Print
Photo via Marshall Sokoloff’s stunning photo collection

For those reading via email, watch the video on YouTube.

More info about Hatch Show Print on UPPERCASE.

Hatch Show Print
Photo via Marshall Sokoloff

Whilst on the topic of letterpress, and letterpress wood blocks in particular, here’s a gorgeous office wall-hanging that made me look.

letterpress wood blocks

letterpress wood blocks

letterpress wood blocks

letterpress wood blocks

Perhaps more interesting than the wall-hanging is the comment thread on Design*Sponge. Quite a few letterpress artists express their sadness at this use of wood blocks, and say it encourages people to break up block collections to make more of a profit.

Beautiful installation? Bad practice?

19 responses

  1. Hi David,

    The Hatch Show Print video is very interesting.
    I’m always very captivated when I see these old letterpress still working.

    Thanks for sharing, really!

  2. The Experience Music Project in Seattle staged a Hatch Show Print show last year which I had the chance to see. There must have been about 100 posters ranging from early Country & Western artists all the way up to The Tragically Hip. It was very inspiring to see the amount of detail and artistry and just very strong design sense that can go into posters essentially assembled from “found” type, ornaments and shapes. I think it’s a good reminder for modern designers to step away from the bells and whistles of modern technology (ooooh… I can make it glow!) and focus on what makes great design: shape, spatial relationships, contrast, balance, depth, rhythm, experiments with scale… and great type!

  3. At least the wood is being used. My old man worked at a type house back in the 80’s and remembers the day they shipped out all their lead type wwith shovels into a skip for melting down. That was when photo composition took over.

  4. I bought a selection of wood block type pieces some years ago at a market in south london to put in a frame, they were pretty expensive at the time and hard to get hold of. I’d imagine that as time goes on these will be highly collectable and that a very small niche will appear for printing using these old techniques.

    We used to do a small amount of this type of printing at art college, you can’t beat the final effect, beautiful and hard hard to replicate with new techniques.

  5. Hello David,

    I realy enjoyed your article. I have a few items of letterpress one of which is a hand carved block from Switzerland of a musical scene. My brother-in-law gave it to me. He is a printer who came to England in the 70’s to help start up a printing firm here. The Swiss were highly regarded in the industry.

    I could send you a photo of it if you would like.

    Best wishes

  6. Thanks for the comments, folks. Gareth, I did some letterpress printing back in my university days, too. You’re spot on about the result. Graeme, why not? It’d be nice to see. Michelle, hear, hear.

  7. Thanks for this. Just sent this on to a friend who has his own letterpress business in East London: http://www.atwopipeproblem.com/

    Its good to see this work still going on. Perhaps its an indication that there is a wider backlash to digitally generated design. People and clients want a more individual design experience.

  8. I live in Nashville, TN and Hatch Show Print still does their demos. I took a few letterpress classes when I was in college, here. We used all types of fonts and many of them on wood blocks, along with some metal ones. The whole process ,etc was done on press beds from that era.

  9. I live down the road from Hatch Show Print and it is always an inspiration to go in there. I also went to a Hatch workshop like Andrew (see above) and it was really great to get your hands dirty. Be sure to stop in if you’re ever in Nashville!

  10. Amazing to see a letterpress still in the works. I think it’s great for designers to go back and appreciate the history that has got us where we are today. Enjoy your post, and love the wall art!


  11. I am senior in Visual Communications about to graduate!! Anyways, started taking a course in Letterpress. Talk about a moment when what I love to do starts coming full circle. There is nothing like bringing something to life by hand setting all of the type yourself and then being able to hold the tactile result of a letterpress. Love it and gives me a great appreciation for the history of typography and design.

    * sidenote* Initially, when seeing the woodblocks as decoration I thought wow! I want to do that I love the letterpress. Then, about a second later I got a very low feeling because there is something very sad about breaking up a job case :( So, neat in theory but definitely go and have them laser cut from scratch instead of breaking up a case. Wood type is so gorgeous because of the way it gains more character (no pun intended) the older and more use it gets. So, don’t do it!

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