Lindsay Schmittle believes in doing things the old-fashioned way, and that includes using a Chandler & Price typography built in 1915.
The 3-ton craft and other vintage gear are housed at Ice House Artist Studios in Lawrenceville, where the young redhead runs Gingerly Press. Inside the historic building, she painstakingly creates everything from art prints, bags of fabric products, hand-bound journals and recipe cards. The products are not only beautiful, but also durable and educational. And while high-tech gadgets die out in a year or two, Schmittle’s tools improve as they are put to use.
“By using it, we preserve it,” she says, watching the machine’s gears spin as they did 106 years ago.
The pressing process
Schmittle grew up in eastern Pennsylvania with a love of antiques and art. She attended the University of Delaware for visual communication, but the days spent in front of a computer were not suitable for her old soul. She continues to draw inspiration from elbow grease and the great outdoors.
Fortunately, the university is home to Raven Press, an experimental letterpress printing company. There she learned how to operate old machinery and how to set by hand the types of metal and wood that are used to transfer rubber or oil-based paint to paper rolls. A five-week internship at Starshape Press in Chicago – another one-man business – reinforced her decision to buy her own equipment.
She bought the Chandler & Price (she called it Sullivan) typography from an 87-year-old man who was retiring from the company. (Thanks to a renewed interest in the age-old craft, there are many more typography operators than you might think, but Schmittle says she probably knows them all.)
Schmittle set up a makeshift studio in her parents’ garage until she found the Ice House space, a cavernous workshop with concrete floors, exposed brick and beamed ceilings and a black cat.
His work is truly a labor of love.
From the outside to the paper
“Most prints are four or five colors and the press prints only one color at a time,” she says. “It will take a good, solid week of production to print. “
The artist spends as much time in the studio as outside. In 2017, the avid adventurer soloed the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail for six months. She detailed her experience from Georgia to Maine in journals, photographs and drawings and by collecting samples of different natural textures, including bark, to incorporate into her typographic prints.
The Printed Walk, the Kickstarter-funded project that followed, consisted of a printed poster for 100 miles of its trip. On the back of each large piece of abstract art, it has included the location, dates, elevation profile, and a story about the area.
After the project was completed, she took another field trip, showing The Printed Walk in galleries from Alabama and Georgia to Seattle and Wisconsin, where the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum is located.
In January 2022, she goes off the beaten track: the tropical forests of Peru. His former academic advisor, a photographer for National Geographic, asked him to be part of a pilot program that draws attention to deforestation and the plight of the region’s indigenous peoples, the Maijuna tribe, whose ancestral lands are threatened by modernization.
Schmittle and a group of other artists, activists, documentary filmmakers and researchers will spend 20 days in the jungle.
“We’re here to defend the tribe while creating artwork on the experience,” she says.
She packs a lot of notebooks and colored pencils, as well as plates of jelly and acrylic paint, which will allow her to make impressions of the textures she encounters.
Upon her return, she will get to work on another series of fine art prints and products such as postcards. Using old Sullivan to tackle modern problems is a job she takes seriously. She made Black Lives Matter posters to distribute at protests (online sales of the posters were directed to social justice organizations).
Every Gingerly Press product is printed on 100% recycled paper. Through a partnership with small businesses, Schmittle donates one dollar to the National Forest Foundation for every full-priced item purchased from its online store. The campaign has planted 1,634 native trees so far.
“I have a voice. I have a platform. I have a printing house, ”she says. “I have the tools to make a positive change. ”
All photos from LeAnn K Photography