Apologies for the long silence … in the last few months we have been busy at work printing and relocating our presses to a beautiful corner of New England. The shop move physically took only a weekend, but the decision to uproot from more than a decade in New York to the woods of Northwest Connecticut took a bit longer.
Back in 2002, which seems like a lifetime or two ago to me, I braved generations of cobwebs and dust and descended into the basement of the building that has housed my family’s printing business since 1926, searching for a small, table-top letterpress to try my hand at a new hobby. Over the next few years, as my interest in printing grew, I periodically returned to the basement, rescuing neglected equipment and type to put to use in my Brooklyn studio space.
Once I had assembled a small but fully functional print shop, I began to grow a little printing business, first selling greeting cards at street fairs and open-studio tours and then expanding into custom work such as personal stationery, business cards and wedding invitations, selling on my web site and through Etsy.com.
In late 2010, it became clear that it was time to expand. Personally, the timing was perfect as well. My wife and I had been married for about a year and we were ready to move out of the city. So, that December, with the help of a handful of friends and a little bit of muscle-for-hire, I loaded a rental truck with about 3,000 pounds of cast iron, lead, and steel and made the return trip; bringing everything from Brooklyn back to the very building it had come from. Incidentally, most of this equipment had only been moved once before, when it was shipped, at my great-grandfather’s purchase, from the factory to this building in Connecticut.
I certainly miss my little 300-square-foot-studio in Brooklyn. I miss my studio-mates — two very talented painters, and my studio neighbors — a sculptor and, interestingly, a paper-goods design firm. The dynamic energy of Brooklyn cannot be matched, but we were ready for a change to the quiet, and the community, of life in a small town; the opportunity to jump from a 300-square-foot print shop to one that is somewhere around 2,000 was also impossible to pass up. If that wasn’t incentive enough, there still remain many other machines in the basement that were too large, heavy, or in need of repair to be moved to Brooklyn. One of the most exciting prospects of the move is the potential to vastly expand my printing capabilities.
The shop building, located on a main street in Winsted, Conn., is a three-story timber-framed, brick-veneered industrial building built around 1905 in a style typical of its time. Originally a warehouse for the neighboring New England Pin Company, it was strategically situated across the street from the now demolished railroad station. In 1926, my great-grandfather Howard Deming, had been in business for 25 years and was ready to expand his printing business. He purchased the building and spent the next few months and a good deal of money adding a heating system, running water, and a freight elevator to upgrade the warehouse into a proper home for his business, The Sterling Name Tape Company. (I’ve written a little about Howard’s business here). Sterling remains in the building and is still run by my family, although it no longer uses letterpress and only requires one half of the first floor rather than all three as in Howard’s day.
“The Shop” (as it has always been known in my family) has been a fixture in my life for as long as I can remember. As a child, I would poke around every nook and cranny searching for treasures with my brother. I guess not much has changed.
As I discover more treasures, large and small, and put them into service (if possible), I will keep you updated. Thanks for reading.