January 29, 2014

To the point of collaboration: Tricia Treacy, Founder, Letterpress Designer and Printer of Pointed Press

I discovered Tricia Treacy via Twitter. She established Pointed Press, a letterpress design studio in North Carolina, by way of Philadelphia. Her collaborations with selected artists and designers in making printed works particularly piqued my curiosity. Here, she shares her thoughts on collaborative practice and the enduring medium of letterpress.

There is a visible renaissance of print, particularly letterpress, 
and particularly seized by women. Why do you think this is?
I really had no idea how things would emerge in the letterpress world. One reason why it has taken off at the same time as the rise in technology and social media, in my opinion, is probably due to one’s need to have a physical experience as we spend more time “on-screen.”

What are your your printing presses?
And how did you find them?
I have two presses. The one I use most is a Vandercook Universal One. When I got my press in 1999 in a jam-packed warehouse in Camden, NJ, my father thought I was kind-of-crazy. It was pretty beaten up. I also have a 10’ x 15’ Chandler and Price, with a variable speed motor, that I obtained at a print shop, in the China-town section of Philadelphia, when they were going out of business.

Pointed Press room, North Carolina (2014)

Who are your influences related to design and craft?
I was introduced to design and typography in the 1990s by John D. Berry while working with him in Seattle. Working with Peter Kruty in Brooklyn was formative to my letterpress experience. I am pretty obsessed with typography, in general, and I follow the work of Irma Boom, Erik Spiekermann, Karel Martens, Anne Hamilton, Ernesto Neto, and Emily McVarish. I really love Irma Boom’s book design work and her recent mini red book, The Architecture of the Book, sits on my computer monitor.

Irma Boom book (2013)

How important is it for you to follow your instincts?
Very much so. I often work intuitively in the studio when working out ideas and experimenting.

I’m captivated by your multidisciplinary collaborations.
How are these collaborations sought and initiated?
And is there a personal criteria you follow in seeking
a collaboration and committing to realizing it?
Collaboration is fundamental to my studio practice. Seeking out a collaborator is easy as it is: either someone that I know and respect, or someone whose work I have been following. I often try to work with others who have different skills, so we can both bring something unique to the table. That all being said, it is extremely difficult to collaborate with others, and the “push” and “pull” required has helped me to grow as an artist and designer.

I have been collaborating with Ashley John Pigford for about five years now on a variety of projects. Together, we have been fortunate to work with great designers including David Wolske, Dafi Kühne, Rose Gridneff, and Alex Cooper, to name a few of the many, through the Vista Sans Wood Type Project and are currently working on a new project. When you find a good collaborator, you keep working with them.

This year, I also started an on-going collaboration with four letterpress, print, and book artists: Katie Baldwin, Denise Bookwalter, Sarah Bryant, and Macy Chadwick, collectively called shift-lab. We are in the midst of working on a social media-inspired printed word project [in code]. It will take place again this March in San Francisco. Skype has been helpful for us to communicate between projects since we live in four different time zones.

Vista Sans Wood Type book cover—Project with Ashley John Pigford (2013)

Vista Sans Wood Type book spread—Project with David Wolske (2013)

[shift-lab] [in code] postcard—Project with shift-lab, Salt Lake City (2014)

[in code] print-in-process—Project with shift-lab, Salt Lake City (2014)

How do you get the word out about what you do?
I try to remain active through conferences and projects that require travel. These opportunities allow my work to reach a greater audience. And, then, there is social media which I am not very good at, but I try.

What is your workspace like? How does it contribute
to doing the quality of work you want to do?
In 2005, I converted a garage into an open studio (below). I had a talented architect/contractor, Daedalus Design Build in Philadelphia, who envisioned the small space to be efficient and functional. They lined the back walls with shelving up to the point of the ceiling. It had great light, and I truly miss the space, which is now a very fancy storage unit for the equipment that didn’t make the journey south.

Pointed Press studio in Pennsylvania (2013)

My relocation to the mountains of North Carolina, this summer (2014), created a challenge to obtain a new studio. Luckily, we found a contemporary house outside town with concrete floors. It is a true live/work space, and the owners were very flexible with allowing the equipment. It is a different set-up, than what I had in Pennsylvania, with two separate work rooms: one for printing, and the other for binding and computer work. So far, the new set-up has faired well, and the mountain views through every window are a real bonus.

What tools do you use and recommend to work on ideas
and make them grow, to collaborate and get things done?
The most basic tools that I often use are pencils, pens, scissors, and colored tape, before I go to the computer or press. I experiment with analog materials as much as possible. Having multiple things going at one time allows me to explore many ideas simultaneously.

I am currently learning how to collaborate (at a distance) with fellow artists. It can be more complicated at times, but the internet keeps the conversations alive.

How do you stay creative?
What are some of your sources of motivation/inspiration?
I drink a lot of coffee.

Seriously, though, I constantly have multiple projects in the works—which means I never have a lull or “in-between” time in the studio. Often, I am distracted by the options of things I could be working on.

I try to work daily on something “fun” outside of client or required projects. Staying off the computer, as much as possible, is also helpful.

Inspiration comes from the obvious places, like books, music, and conversations with people. I am often on the road at least three (as much as six) times a year. Visiting exhibitions, studios, and interactions with others, while traveling, keeps me inspired in between intense work and teaching time.

“Fun” projects of type and letterpress experiments (2014).

How did Philadelphia contribute to your work? And what
makes it special for startups/business/creativity-at-large?
I grew up in the Philadelphia area, left for most of the 1990s to live in West Virginia, Japan, and the Pacific Northwest. I came back again in 1998 for graduate school at The University of the Arts and decided to stick around.

Philadelphia has been good to me and has a lot of talented young designers. Working there for fifteen years as a designer/artist/educator has been influential to who I am as a person and designer. The community is rich in the arts in many ways. Teaching at PennDesign was wonderful and introduced me to a range of interesting artists, diverse students, and resources.

AIGA Philadelphia is a vibrant chapter, and I really enjoyed being part of their local design community. It is tight-knit, but once you are in, people are loyal. It was difficult to leave Philly, however, I will return often.

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Photographs courtesy of Tricia Treacy.

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Typeface of quote is Univers designed by Adrian Frutiger in 1954.

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Read more from Design Feast Series of Interviews
with people who love making things.

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