North Bay Letterpress Arts in Sebastopol
For those who are fascinated by the graphic display of words, formed and printed by hand, North Bay Letterpress Arts in Sebastopol hosts workshops, classes, tours, exhibits, poetry readings, book launches, and other events to enjoy.
Sure, you can write a quick text message or select a special font for an email — we use letters every day to send thoughts or share our feelings. But to really appreciate those individual letters, their shapes and varieties of form, and how they come together to create words, take a closer look at the letterpress arts.
Launched in the spring of 2015, North Bay Letterpress Arts is a nonprofit center for learning and practicing letterpress printing — a natural expansion of Eric Johnson’s Iota Press, which has been operating in Sebastopol since 2009.
Johnson is a lifelong writer and craftsman who discovered letterpress after retiring from carpentry. He began Iota Press with the idea of teaching the craft of old-style printing, and exploring its range for making books and artistic prints. Johnson says “Most of my work conjures words and graphics into something new.”
Within a few years it became apparent that changes were needed to accommodate a fast growing interest in letterpress. A group of enthusiasts formed to organize shared use of the shop, and mutual inspiration about what exactly to use it for — and North Bay Letterpress Arts was born.
Soon, the need for more space and more presses to accommodate more printers led to a move to the present print shop of 1,600 square feet, housing eight presses and 200 cases of type, with a dozen active printers.
“In the past four years”, Johnson says, “the printers associated with NBLA have made a significant impact on the literary and artistic scene of Sonoma County.”
Over 160 books and book art pieces have been printed to date, and many have been shown in galleries and book fairs. The print shop has conducted tours and demonstrations for local college and high school students, as well as other groups, and more than 200 people have participated in workshops in printing and book arts.
There is growing interest in letterpress nationally. The NBLA wants to encourage new practitioners to see the importance and pleasure of the art of setting type by hand, and manual-powered presses. The founders want to share their dedication to the intimate experience of shaping letterforms and words.
For a list of upcoming classes, workshops, and events check the NBLA website.