In a digital world, two mid-century typographic machines and their operators are still running and paying their way.
The small facility is part of the large commercial printing company ArborOakland Group, which invites guests to visit the print shop at 4237 Normandy Court during an open house from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on September 22.
“People will be able to see equipment 50 to 60 years old making their personal cards,” said Don Kirkland, president of ArborOakland, headquartered in Royal Oak. “They can select an image and they will come away with their own notes and letters.”
Employees will talk about the historic printing process and guest John Benson will carve linoleum blocks and discuss the process of making graphics by hand.
“Graphic design professionals appreciate the craftsmanship” of old printing presses, Kirkland said. “When you get special embossed or debossed invitations, those are all signs of a quality and, frankly, an experience.”
ArborOakland acquired the old-fashioned typography studio about four years ago when it acquired Utley Brothers, a specialty printing house in Troy.
The typography studio has been relocated next to ArborOakland’s 27,000 square foot building.
“We rebuilt it with wood and brick,” Kirkland said, “and it looks like you are stepping back in time.”
Three people work in the typography workshop. Kirkland considers them to be craftsmen.
Each week, ArborOakland places orders for projects on letterpress printing presses, which include working with silver or bronze sheets that are pressed into paper to create an image or letter.
According to ArborOakland website, the demand for unique or high quality printing products has increased in recent years.
The small press shop has different presses for embossing or gilding and uses special plates or old wood. The oldest press is a 1955 Heidelberg windmill.
“If you’re hosting a major event, you want your invitations to represent the importance and significance of the event itself,” Kirkland said, “whether it’s a wedding, a bar- mitzvah or fundraising event. Other people love the old world charm.
“A typographic invitation or poster has a tactile feel – it is not digitally printed and is not computer based.”
He compares customer demand for letterpress orders to buyers who buy a range of handmade work from Esty, even though they might purchase a mass-produced item online or at a mall.
“It’s something that still shows craftsmanship,” Kirkland said.
One of the people who will be speaking to visitors at the upcoming September 22 event is Ralph Rinaldi, a printer at the Detroit Historical Museum Printing House‘s 1840 exhibit, which he helped get operational in 1981. .
“At the end of the day, we’re trying to continue the story of print when the story has taken us in a different direction,” Kirkland said. “This is our role in continuing the legacy of the profession. “
The open house is the first since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. The event will be smaller than usual, but another open house is expected to be held for some time in December, Kirkland said.