Printing letterpress in 21st century. . . what does it really mean?
Being part of the printing industry (which has been notorious for its irresponsible practice), for the last twenty years we’ve been very enthused about finding alternative ways to produce our prints ecologically. We do our best to seek out environmentally sustainable materials and ways for our printing.
Recycle: We recycle all of our paper waste and metal scraps from polymer plates we use for printing. All the recyclable plastic materials are recycled. We also reuse our shop rags that are commercially cleaned. We started an informal letterpress rag share group locally to encourage more small-time printers to use rags this way, rather than throwing them away. We reuse paper scraps to make note books and note pads. We donate our scrap paper materials to local school district for their art projects.
Ink & Solvents: We use soy-based inks and low-VOC inks, working with Gan’s ink in Seattle. We also try to use vegetable oil for cleaning up presses when possible and use the best-available nearly non-VOC solvents called ECOLO Wash 401. Some of these are costly but why not taking our part in using and supporting great products? Our motto: We want a studio where a pregnant woman need not to worry about her and her baby’s health. :-)
Paper: 90% of the paper used here is called Mohawk Superfine. It is acid-free, archival, FSC certified, made with wind power. For the rest, we use tree-free paper (100% paper called Rives BFK, archival, acid-free). It’s made in an old-fashioned way (mold-made) in France, free from lignin, acid and chlorine, made to last for centuries.
Polymer plates & linoleum blocks: We use photopolymer plates and linoleum blocks for printing blocks. We decided to use photopolymer as a new material, compared to the traditional magnesium plates. For making photopolymer plates, we use water for washing away the polymer material, which I hear is safe enough to pour down the drains and ecologically sound. Compared to that, conventional etched magnesium plates use acids. . . obviously not the best material for sustainability. And whenever possible, we carve linoleum blocks for our printing blocks. Linoleum blocks are made from linseed oil, saw dust, cork, and powdered minerals like calcium carbonate, with a burlap backing. The ones we use are made for art production and different from the flooring material. They’re greener material to use than magnesium or polymer plates. We’ll be exploring CNC routers to replace or decrease the use of polymer plate use.
Biodegradable Plastic: This year we're introducing eco-friendly biodegradable plastic sleeves (made from vegetables!) for most of our note card packaging. We're also switching to a biodegradable plastic gloves to use in our shop. Again these materials are a littler more costly than regular plastic, but by supporting green products, we're creating a bigger demand for innovative products.
We print, because we care and love our friends, family, and environs.
So why not take it one step further and print kinder to ourselves and our earth?