‘New’ Presses at UNT

Four old letterpresses are newly renovated, thanks to the work of four graduate students and Lari R. Gibbons, associate professor of visual arts. The group overhauled a 60-year-old Craftsmen tabletop press, rebuilt a 140-year-old Gordon clamshell press and worked on two hand iron presses from the late 1820s and the 1830s or '40s, making them compatible with cutting-edge printing technology such as vector-based software and photopolymer plates.

Three of the presses are owned by the Print Research Institute of North Texas, P.R.I.N.T. Press, at UNT. Gibbons acquired the fourth, the unique Gordon press, for the printmaking program after spotting it in a Denton driveway and finding the owner. Because it was impossible to get replacement parts, the group consulted with sculpting students and learned to recast brass to make a piece that had fallen off. A metalsmithing student soldered a broken spring, and instrument toolmakers in the Department of Physics made a chase, which holds the letters of the press in place. An iron works company in Idaho made a treadle for the press.

The graduate students involved in the restoration were M.F.A. printmaking candidates Cat Snapp, Laura Drapac, Linda Santana and Christopher Wallace. An exhibit of their letterpress-inspired fine art prints, titled Second Edition, is being featured through Sept. 30 at the Museum of Printing History in Houston. View a catalog of the works online. Eventually, the Craftsmen and hand iron presses will be available for use at P.R.I.N.T. Press workshops for students and the public.