In the latter half of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th, when printing was a trade, there was enough work to support anyone with the skills and a union card almost anywhere in the United States. United – and some printers with a taste for travel found their work on the road. The traveling life of these wanderer printers, as they were known, is the inspiration for the artist-funded traveling printer project Chris Fritton. The campaign will take her to more than 100 letterpress shops across the country, creating postcards and prints to send her backers along the way. (So ​​far, he has visited 67.)

“I was really fascinated by the idea of ​​being that carrier of information,” says Fritton, 39, who has collaborated with artists like Richard Tuttle and poet Carl Dennis, and designed posters for dozens of bands , including Deerhoof and the Wu-Tang. Clan. Fritton, who quit his job last winter as studio director of the Western New York Book Arts Center in Buffalo, NY, had an accident with a friend in Brooklyn where he is finishing a stint at the Arm Letterpress in Williamsburg. His work there, a series of abstract neon-hued prints, will be featured in a pop-up shop Jan. 29 at Drive By Press in Bed-Stuy, along with a sample of the other print ephemera he’s done during his tenure. travel.

Credit…Chris Friton

“When Chris told me what he was doing, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s awesome, bring it back to the 21st century,'” says Greg Nanney, owner of Drive By Press, a commercial studio that has started as a traveling and educational enterprise. operating from a van. “I told him, ‘Come to Brooklyn’.”

In total, Fritton estimates he will travel over 30,000 miles and complete over 30,000 prints over the course of the project, using an assortment of vintage equipment, including antique wood types, metal types, cutters , ornaments and photopolymer plates. “Each store has its own idiosyncratic collection,” he says. “I never know what I’ll find.”

One certainty has emerged: even in the age of the Internet, typography is far from dead. Fritton discovered thousands of stores in the United States alone, producing everything from stationery to fine art prints. “There’s definitely an aspect of the pendulum coming back from the digital realm,” he says. “Now people want to have a physical index of their work.”