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First Collaborative print shop in Northeast opens in Lynn

Kelly Jay of Lynn gets to work putting together her personal letterpress design during the Intro to Letterpress class at the Brickyard Collaborative Book Arts studio. (Spenser R. Hasak)

By BELLA DIGRAZIA, AP
LYNN, Mass.

Brickyard Collaborative, a makerspace in Lynn, has brought it back to the 15th century with an original letterpress.

The city’s makerspace is the first collaborative print shop in the Northeast. Members can now take advantage of the only letterpress, intaglio, and silkscreen print studio in the area.

“This is offering something no one else in the Northeast has,” said Ted Dillard, founder of Brickyard Collaborative.

Lynn resident Mitchel Ahern has held a passion for letterpress for more than four decades and he is sharing his knowledge with members of the Linden Street makerspace. The shop steward for the book arts studio, and Brickyard board chairman, is taking what was once old and making it new again.

“In the 1940s and 1950s offset printing came in and the letterpress industry was really declining,” said Ahern. “In the 1980s, Martha Stewart came out with her book “Entertaining” and she had a chapter on wedding invitations and their most desirable forms and letterpress printing was on her list. Instantly the industry’s decline stopped. To this day, the biggest letterpress clients are those in the wedding industry.”

Stewart, 60, essentially saved the letterpress industry, according to Ahern, but she’s not who gave him his passion for the print form. He grew up with a mother who was an art character in her own way, he said.

She tried her hand at a number of art forms, such as pastels, plaster carving, and ended up with a deep love for fabric arts. His mother had several leftover cutting tools for linoleum carving and Ahern said he grabbed them before he left for college. He started making t-shirts with the tools and his freshman year neighbor noticed his skills.

The neighbor told Ahern his dad was getting rid of an old letterpress and asked him if he wanted it. Ahern said yes and never looked back. He used the vintage equipment to make t-shirts all throughout college and continued on even after school.

When Stewart went to jail in 2004 for securities fraud, and obstruction of justice, Ahern even used his vintage equipment to make t-shirts with “Free Martha” printed on the front.

Ahern stretched his letterpress skills even further and tried his hand at printing on scrolls, even using one to perform the Gettysburg Address last July at High Rock Tower in Lynn. His love for the art hobby continued to grow over the years and he is now the proud owner of eight letterpresses, some of which he finds during his volunteer work at The Museum of Printing in Haverhill.

His day job is in marketing consulting, his side job is restoring old letterpresses and selling them, and his hobby is teaching Brickyard members how to create with letterpress.

“The impact of letterpress is so much more visceral,” said Ahern. “It means something when you see the finished product.”

In a makerspace filled with 21st century technology such as 3D printers, along with 15th century letterpress printers, Ahern said there is a little something for everyone at the Linden Street makerspace. Collaborating members and mixed equipment has made for some innovative creations he said, such as using the 3D printer to make working parts for the letterpress.

“I’m excited to be in this space because there are so many people doing cool things,” he said. “Lynn has such a great tradition of making stuff. It’s a maker city.”

Online: https://bit.ly/2X35xvZ

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Books | Reviews, News, Excerpts, and Author Interviews: First Collaborative print shop in Northeast opens in Lynn
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