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SHIBUI Issue - - CONTENTS - CU­RA­TOR KA­RINA EAST­WAY THE MAKER BRITT ROHR PHOTOS CON­TRIB­UTED BY BRITT ROHR COUN­TRY USA

One of the world’s old­est forms of printing still look­ing swell.

TELL US A LIT­TLE BIT ABOUT YOU – WHERE ARE YOU BASED AND WHERE ARE YOU FROM ORIG­I­NALLY?

I’m based in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia – my stu­dio is in Hawthorne, I live in Man­hat­tan Beach.

I’m orig­i­nally from At­lanta, Ge­or­gia. I moved to LA quickly af­ter col­lege – promised my­self I’d make it at least two years – and it’s been 10. I’m so over the moon in love with Cal­i­for­nia.

CAN YOU DE­SCRIBE THE TRA­DI­TIONAL ART OF LETTERPRESS FOR OUR READ­ERS?

Letterpress is one of the old­est types of printing. It’s where type or a plate is inked by rollers and the de­sign is lit­er­ally pressed into the pa­per. Each piece of pa­per is in­di­vid­u­ally fed into the press, and only one color can be pro­cessed at a time. It’s a painstak­ingly la­bo­ri­ous but beau­ti­ful process.

WAS LETTERPRESS SOME­THING YOU’D AL­WAYS WANTED TO DO OR DID YOU FALL INTO IT BY AC­CI­DENT?

I never specif­i­cally wanted to do letterpress, but I did al­ways find it ful­fill­ing to make pretty things. I found a piece of letterpress sta­tionery once and had no idea what it was – it was just so tac­tile and beau­ti­ful. Once I iden­ti­fied that it was letterpress, I set out to find a stu­dio with classes. I didn’t in­tend to start a ca­reer by tak­ing that les­son – but I im­me­di­ately fell in love with it… and here I am.

BRITT ROHR’S IN LOVE WITH CAL­I­FOR­NIA: THE COLOURS OF THE OCEAN, THE VI­BRANT SUN­SETS AND A VERY OLD TRA­DI­TION CALLED LETTERPRESS. WE UN­COVER THE PAS­SION BE­HIND HER PA­PER OB­SES­SION, AS WELL AS TOP TIPS FOR VIS­IT­ING LA.

WHERE DID THE NAME SWELL PRESS COME FROM – KEEN SURFER BY ANY CHANCE?

I wish I could surf, and take credit for the name, but nei­ther are true. Four years ago I was hav­ing a hard time pick­ing a name for my lit­tle hobby, and at the time I was run­ning my busi­ness out of our garage in Man­hat­tan Beach. Man­hat­tan Beach is an adorable surf­ing town – so my hus­band thought to name it Swell Press, as in an ocean swell. I spend a lot of time ex­plain­ing to peo­ple

that no, it’s not swell like ‘Gee, that’s swell’. It’s swell be­cause I’m so in­spired by the ocean we’re lucky enough to live next to.

THE LETTERPRESS PROCESS IN­VOLVES A LOT OF DIF­FER­ENT SKILLS FROM CRE­AT­ING THE INI­TIAL DE­SIGN THOUGH TO MIX­ING INKS, PRINTING AND CUT­TING… WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PART?

Oh boy. I love the de­sign phase – my fa­vorite is when a client lets me go wild with­out a ton of in­struc­tion – I find that’s when I do my best work. But still un­til this day, very few things beat feel­ing the pa­per get that deep im­pres­sion from the press.

WHAT IN­SPIRES YOUR DE­SIGNS AND VERY REC­OG­NIZ­ABLE STYLE?

My mind is al­ways buzzing at ca­pac­ity be­cause I find in­spi­ra­tion ev­ery­where. Most ob­vi­ous would be the beach – the blues and the greens of the oceans, the vi­brancy of the sun­sets.

DO YOU OF­TEN COL­LAB­O­RATE WITH PHO­TOG­RA­PHERS AND CAL­LIG­RA­PHERS OR DO YOU LOOK AF­TER THAT SIDE OF THINGS YOUR­SELF?

I col­lab­o­rate with a bunch of su­per tal­ented cal­lig­ra­phers, most I’m still pinch­ing my­self that I get to work with. When I work with cal­lig­ra­phers, typ­i­cally I’ll send them the words I need writ­ten, with a rough idea of

style and lay­out, and let them do their magic. I then take their beau­ti­ful work and im­port it into my de­signs.

DO YOU HAVE AN­OTHER MEDIUM YOU’D LIKE TO EX­PER­I­MENT WITH IN THE FU­TURE, OR IS PA­PER ‘IT’ FOR YOU?

I want to ex­per­i­ment with ev­ery­thing, it’s ex­haust­ing. I have printed on leather be­fore, and I loved it. It takes a very par­tic­u­lar type of leather to ac­cept the im­pres­sion from the press. I’ll try to print on any­thing I can… I re­cently played around with du­pli­cat­ing a mar­ble tex­ture and that was a ton of fun.

I’ve also ex­per­i­mented with vinyl and screen printing on acrylic, which was a ton of fun. I’ve also de­signed for laser cut acrylic, which was awe­some.

TELL US A LIT­TLE ABOUT YOUR STU­DIO AND CRE­ATIVE WORK­SHOPS?

The stu­dio is an open space in both lay­out and po­ten­tial. There’s a de­cent amount of room to play around with medi­ums or projects. Square footage is hard to come by in this part of town, so I feel so lucky that I get to have enough space for al­most any­thing I want to do. We’ve got three vin­tage printing presses, two gi­ant pa­per cut­ters, and a va­ri­ety of non-letterpress art ma­te­ri­als as well – dif­fer­ent kinds of paints, craft ma­te­ri­als… and we’re still grow­ing more. We might add an­other press and a screen prin­ter soon.

WHAT’S YOUR ‘MUST DO’ FOR ANY­ONE VIS­IT­ING LA AND TOP TRAVEL TIP?

Oh my gosh – there is SO much to do in LA, it’s over­whelm­ing!

Here’s my idea of a per­fect day in SoCal. Have break­fast at Man­hat­tan Beach Post in down­town Man­hat­tan Beach (the ba­con ched­dar bis­cuits are a must). Drive up the Pa­cific Coast High­way to Mal­ibu to­wards the beau­ti­ful Temescal Canyon hike. Af­ter the hike, drink a well de­served beer and eat de­li­cious fish tacos at Dukes in Mal­ibu. Grab some straw­ber­ries from the truck parked off PCH and watch the surfers off the beach. Maybe rent a pad­dle­baord and give SUPing a shot. Right be­fore sun­set, head to Main Street in Venice, walk­ing along the string light lined streets, pop­ping in at bou­tiques and maybe a restau­rant for a cock­tail… now that’s a day I’d love to have.

A travel tip would be to ask lo­cals for ad­vice, and don’t fo­cus too much on the Hollywood / Walk of Stars tourist traps. The ge­og­ra­phy of Cal­i­for­nia is so beau­ti­ful, the oceans, the hills, the sun­sets – that’s where this state will cap­ti­vate your heart.

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