Notes from the Field: Firecracker Press in St. Louis, MO.
Posted on September 14, 2011
St. Louis has a nice tradition of bringing several art shows to town around the end of summer, usually on the same or consecutive weekends in September taking place in different parts of town. Having grown up in the area, I went to the main Art Fair in Clayton every year but had avoided most others by my parent’s decision. This year I decided to head over to the Schlafly Art Outside event at their brewery in Maplewood, MO. which is mainly for local artists. Firecracker Press was by far my favorite of the event, showcasing many hand carved letterpress items which had me drooling. I swung by their shop to take some photos (with the iPhone as my DSLR is in transit back to Philadelphia) and spoke with Eric Woods, the proprietor, along with his shop manager, Matty. Click below to read the article and see the entire photo collection.
If you’ve been reading fairly regularly, you probably know that letterpress is something that has really yanked at some heartstrings for me lately. I had the opportunity to work with a vintage Chandler & Price press in Los Angeles fairly extensively so my appreciation for just how tedious and difficult creating these beautiful works has gone through the roof. Eric and his crew over at Firecracker do much of their custom work by carving it into wooden boards which, in my short and metal-focused experience with the letterpress, is something I have never seen before. All of their posters, custom typesets, graphics, etc. are carved into a wooden board then loaded onto a flat press or letterpress for production depending upon the size of the project. Pictured below is their largest press which is used to print their bigger posters.
While I was visiting them, Matty was using this beast of a machine with the metallic green ink pictured above to print off posters for St. Louis University’s Billiken Club, a very legendary yet very underrated room on the University’s campus in St. Louis which has hosted many incredible acts over the years (and has one of my favorites, The Felice Brothers, coming this fall). Eric explained that the Billiken Club partnered with Firecrackser Press a few years ago to start doing their year’s worth of concerts in a very cool poster series which, when put together, forms one large image (pictured below). Most of these posters were hand carved before printing which, Matty mentions, only takes about 45 minutes to do a regular poster size print.
I noticed a print from 2008’s “One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur” hanging from one of the many clothes lines strung across the room. After the movie came out, the soundtrack featuring Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar was so popular that they decided to do a small tour in support of it. The Gibbard/Farrar camp got in touch with the gents at Firecracker Press to make them a tour poster which is pictured below. I’d seen this poster around before, never knowing that it started from this little print shop in St. Louis.
The flat press above is mainly used for stationary and wedding invitations. It’s older and has a smaller format than the larger one that was printing posters for the Billiken Club. The Chandler & Price below is now set up as a die-cutter for coasters. Firecracker buys the stock, removes the rollers, then loads their dies into the letterpress to chop up the paper before printing them.
If you’re in the St. Louis area, I highly recommend stopping by Firecracker Press to check things out. They’re a storefront as well as a working studio and are open from 10am-6pm M-F and 10am-5pm on Saturdays. You can find them at 2838 Cherokee St. STL, MO. 63118.
Check out their website here for further investigation of their ridiculous talents at this fascinating art.