Hold the presses

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A new Minnesota Sounds and Voices story today on All Things Considered introduces letterpress veteran Jon Drew, above, to a wider world.

In the photo taken recently by MPR’s Jeff Thompson at the Leg Up Studio in Minneapolis, Jon is at a 126-year-old restored letterpress.

Jon owns a commercial printing company in Minneapolis and he’s a letterpress machine sleuth, restorer and teacher. He says there are plenty of old machines out there, in garages, basements and barns, discarded over the years as new printing technology pushed the venerable machines aside. However the antique type, the little blocks of lead with letters, are not as common and very expensive to replace.

The printing bug bit Jon when he was a student at Minneapolis’ Southwest High School where his graphic arts teacher introduced him to the world of pressing inked type onto paper.

Leg Up Studio in northeast Minneapolis has given Jon space, and in return, Jon has brought in some of his letterpress machines and other equipment, and he helps people learn the craft.

Sixty-year-old Jon Drew’s experience learning graphic arts as a high school student is something fewer Minnesota schools offer students.

A Minnesota Department of Education spokeswoman says the number of public school districts offering a complete array of industrial arts including graphic arts training to students is declining as budgets tighten.

That makes the letterpress knowledge inside Jon Drew’s head all the more valuable for people who want to discover the possibilities the craft offers for human expression.

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