Text and photos by Stacie Joy

I can’t wait to meet Archie Archambault, the mind behind Archie’s Press, a new print art and card shop at 219 E. 10th St between First Avenue and Second Avenue.

Also an East Village resident, Archie greets me at the shop before office hours, shows me the prints, cards and pressed artwork, and patiently answers my questions about the machine and the letterpress process, its conception and design methods, and what it is. been like opening a retail space during the pandemic.

Can you provide a brief introduction to typography – including the part about the risk of crushing every bone in your hand?

Between 1492 and 1980, anything printed for mass consumption was produced using letterpress technology. Every size of every font was molded into small metallic letters that were chained together and printed in advertisements, newspapers, books…everything. For the dissemination of information, this was the most important technological development until the Internet. EV Grieve would be hand-composed if it existed in the 1970s. [Ed note: YES!]

Digital typesetting made it mostly obsolete and many presses were left to rot or destroyed. In the late 1990s, people started rehabilitating presses to make beautiful stationery and art books. The typography actually presses the design into the paper, leaving a strong indentation. That’s up to 600 pounds of pressure, which can easily crush every bone in your hand – watch out!

How did your interest in typography come about?

I took a typography class in college and was hooked. I don’t know exactly why. It is a very “liberal art” profession. It’s made up of words, so you become a poet. The type must be laid out for you to become a designer. The colors must be mixed, so you become an artist. The press will break, so you become a mechanic.

There are so many different parts of the brain at work when running a project. I’m impatient, so it forces me to slow down, think carefully, and stay cool when things aren’t going well. When I started selling my work, it became my full-time job, and I haven’t looked back.

Tell us a bit about the Vandercook SP-15 you use in the shop.

This model is the lightest flatbed press available at approximately 700 pounds. It was designed to make a perfect copy of something like a sheet of newspaper using hand type. This perfect copy would be made into a film for offset printing, which spins very fast (this is the machine you see in old movies when editing newspapers).

Remember, there were no computers, so this was the only way to get that perfect copy. Vandercooks are the most common flatbed presses for making larger letterpress prints, as they are reliable and bulletproof. My press works without a motor, so it can be used during the apocalypse, which is exciting.

What is the concept behind your city/state maps?

New research indicates that we are underutilizing the navigational parts of our brains because of GPS. Turns out that’s a problem. It is an extremely powerful part of our brain. When was the last time you felt so lost that you thought, “oh oh? Google Maps constantly comes to the rescue.

I try to explain the city in the main gestural terms on a map that taps into the “mind map”. There is an excellent book called “Image of the City” by Kevin Lynch which describes the vision that our mind has of our urban spaces. We don’t think as the crow flies. We create our mind map with pathways, boundaries, landmarks, nodes and neighborhoods.
I’m trying to draw a map that brings all of these things together and omits everything else. I want the viewer to interact with the map and feel the city as they explore it. Keeping it simple avoids a “dazzling” effect. Making it look good encourages more engagement.
To arrive at this sharp gesture drawing, I work with people from the city to arrange it as in their head. States are much larger areas, which are more difficult to understand, but there are nevertheless important roads and landmarks within the States that keep our minds constantly oriented.

What vision of design guides your work?

I have no formal training in graphic design, but typography is basically the basis of graphic design. All the physical rules of typography have created the visual language we take for granted on our screens. There’s a reason we keep the lines evenly spaced. The personality of each font is much stronger when cast in metal.

Everything I know about design I learned through typesetting and printing. I do most of my design on the computer now because it’s so much more efficient, but the vision comes from typography. I developed many other ideas, all based on organizing information in a simple and beautiful way.

Why decide to open a storefront for your products instead of relying solely on an online operation?

I opened the store for several reasons: I wanted to start creating new works and get people’s reactions right away. Now I can get something from idea to shelf in a week instead of months.

After 18 months of isolation due to COVID, I really wanted to see more people and join the community. I live nearby and have never felt more at home. And I wanted to collaborate with artists and designers, and having a showcase gives me the place to produce and celebrate their work.

What has been the reaction to the store so far?

Everyone who enters is united and delighted. Most people who come immediately walk over to the print stands, flip through each print and then stare at the walls for a while. It’s a feast and everything in the shop is special for one reason or another. I love it when people ask, “Did you do everything here? If I did, I would be a wizard.

Why choose the East Village for your store?

I’ve lived in the neighborhood for five years and love our strong ecosystem of unique small businesses. For some reason, I felt like the East Village would “get it” and appreciate it. I was right! I can’t imagine this shop anywhere else.

Any future projects you want to share?

We’re just starting to accept custom print jobs, so if you have a wedding invitation or business cards to print in letterpress, we’re the place for you! We are also starting to collaborate with artists and designers, so we will have a new show every month or two starting in the spring.

You can keep an eye on the presses here.

Business hours:

Monday 1pm-6pm

Tuesday Closed

Wednesday Closed

Thursday-Friday 1pm-6pm

Saturday-Sunday noon-6 p.m.