What We Do
Turnrow Letterpress is a letterpress print shop and design studio. We make cards, posters, stationery, and other items here in our studio in the historic South Main Area of downtown Memphis, Tennessee.
Here in our shop and studio we design and print all of our letterpress items. We print on restored antique printing presses using vintage wood and metal type faces along with antique printing plates, hand-cut blocks and modern photopolymer plates to produce our images. Each item we produce is done by hand using archival printing inks on high-quality, acid-free, sustainably-sourced paper that we buy locally.
We produce a line of high-quality cards, posters and the like that changes often. We also do custom work for design firms, architects, bands, events, and other like-minded individuals. We don’t do ‘wedding suites’ however. Nothing against those who do – we just don’t.
What is Letterpress Printing?
Traditional letterpress printing produces items that have a textural quality (the process typically makes an impression into the paper) and are unique due to the hand-made process. Our ink colors are all mixed by hand and are typically used up during a print run which makes each run very unique. Traditional letterpress work is robust, funky, sometimes a bit smudgy, and hand-crafted in every way.
No disrespect to those who make laser printed things that ‘look’ like letterpress, but they don’t look or feel like letterpress. And no disrespect to those who design cards or posters on a computer using relatively low cost fonts and artwork and then print them commercially. They are all good but not the same.
The shop currently runs with three production presses. They are:
A mid-century (1950-60) 14″ by 22″ Line-O-Scribe flatbed ‘proof/poster’ press named ‘Morgan’. Large linoleum cut blocks and wood type are used on this press that requires hand inking for every sheet. Several artistic effects can be achieved with this press unlike the others.
An early-century (1915-20) Kelsey Star 7″ by 11″ ‘job’ press named ‘Tucker’. ‘Tucker’ was purchased from a church in Tuckerman, Arkansas where it was used for years printing Sunday bulletins and letterhead. ‘Job’ presses were designed to handle more work than ‘amateur’ presses of the time and filled the market between small table-top models and large commercial printing presses. Originally, this press was operated with a foot treadle. Wood and metal type along with photopolymer plates can be run on this press which can produce cards, sheets, and a variety of other items.
And an early model Kelsey Excelsior 5″ by 8″ table-top press named ‘Louis’. Cards and small items are run on this press which is quicker to setup for a production run and which is also used for demonstrations and workshops.
We’re not sure why presses get named but they do.
Our Ink and Paper
The shop runs with archival quality Van Son Rubber and Oil Based Inks depending on the printed item. These inks produce a depth of color, quality, and light-fastness that is incomparable in the market.
We print on FSC certified, recycled content cover-stock in bright white, natural, and desert for many of our posters and most of our cards. We also use a 100% cotton heavier stock for our monogram cards, writing papers and other specialty items. Envelopes are typically white, cream or kraft, which we use a lot of. We also print on customer provided paper stock and materials such as hand-laid paper, commercial wove-paper, coasters, kraft paper shop bags, coffee bags, labels and tags.
All of our items are finished by hand including folding, gluing, labeling and bagging. Our art prints are finished with an acid-free backing board (that can be used right in your own frame) and come in a clear sleeve for protection. Our cards are finished with a matching or contrasting envelope, tag and also come in a clear sleeve. Our Subscriptions arrive in a rigid mailer after packing by hand for protection.
Reach out to us via our contact page if you have any questions, comments or other inquiries. Thanks!