My story is about preserving the craft of printing in Manhattan, especially Downtown where the industry was most successful and has an unparalleled historical significance. I’m a native City kid, born and raised on Thompson and Grand Streets with family that has roots tracing back to Printing-House Square.
My grandfather worked as a binder for many years and always loved and appreciated a well-printed product. Whether it was personal stationery or a cereal box and he would always break down the process that was involved to create the effect of raised paper, raised ink, shiny letters, etc.
I remember many Sunday afternoons walking down to Park Row with my grandfather to go and see the statue of Benjamin Franklin, which was dedicated to all of the New York City printers. He was extremely proud that a man of such success and achievement was proud to be a lifelong printer.
He passed his passion for printing on to me and I have been obsessed ever since. Starting my own company in 2004, we had immediate success with a Nike project being the first thing we ever produced under the name Fine Print.
Landing Nike as our first client was a sign to me, since then I have dedicated my time to educating myself with everything related to printing, even creating a Web site, www.fineprintschool.com, which explains in detail the craft of printing and graphic design.
Regardless of how much technological progress we have in the industry today, nothing can or ever will replace the feeling of holding a printed piece with the effect of letterpress, embossing or foil stamping. Seeing how a CMYK or Pantone printed project uses color and design in a way that is purely artistic.
When I was growing up, Hudson and Varick Sts. became the new “Printing-House Square” and many creative agencies soon followed. Printing was such an integral part of the neighborhood; Chelsea Vocational, the local public high school started teaching and training the next generation of printers.
My uncle being one of the students at the time, he eventually went on to have a great career as a pressman and working for over 20 years in 250 Hudson. I remember many day him bringing home fancy paper for all the kids to color and draw on.
Nowadays things are a bit different — 90% of all printing companies have been pushed out of neighborhoods and commercial buildings that they occupied for many decades, either because landlords did not offer lease renewals or they raised the rent too high for the company to stay in business.
I embrace digital technology, but work tirelessly to preserve traditional offset and specialty printing. And while the printing industry is definitely in a transitional process that will continue to change, the true print craftsman will always have their place in the creative printing process. If you think about it, pretty much everything we use in our daily lives has some type some type of unique printing application.
The above article was also printed in Printing News and Downtown Express
Written by Joseph@FinePrintNYC