Letterpress Font and Beauty
It’s been a long and archaic journey.
For 15 years Kevin Bradley lived in Knoxville, Tennessee, as co-founder of the design studio and letterpress giant Yee-Haw Industries, churning out fine-art prints, commemorative and promotional concert posters, album art and even wedding invitations, using 200-year old equipment in the same tradition as Guttenberg and the original printing press.
Kevin has covered the globe with a range of ephemera and custom typographic fine art prints for a litany of clients. His new company, the Church of Type in Santa Monica, California, represents his newest venture. In 2013 he moved 30 tons of letterpress equipment across the country to bring his own vision and style to the epicenter of American Culture.
“I am using the old stuff, but I’m making a contemporary print with it,” Bradley says. His slogan is “Art for the People, Since 1987.”
“I’ve rescued 200 years of beautiful type as well as plates …I always wanted to make a new print with the old stuff.”
He showcases a set of plates with images on metal.
“In these drawers, I have the entire history of pro wrestling and boxing. They would develop the photograph on the metal, put a line screen on it, match it with acid, and then they would mount it on wood for printing. That’s how the newspapers were printed back in the day,” he says with pride.
For 25 years, Bradley has been scouring old barns and basements east of the Mississippi for these rare fonts and types from the 1800s and 1900s. His business houses one of the most extensive wood and metal type collections in use today: multiple letters and sizes comprising over 1,000 fonts of moveable type and in-house, hand-carved woodblocks, all printed on a 4’x10’ Takach press.
He wants to bring to life the way the world communicated hundreds of years ago, only in a modern way — much like how modern folk musicians keep old songs alive, bringing them to contemporary listeners in new forms and textures.
He considers himself a graphic designer, an illustrator, a painter, print maker, editor, copywriter– even a janitor. But at the most basic level, he’s a typographer — a last craftsman in a dying profession.
“I’ve got all this type, and I’ve got to figure out how to use it and get people to see it,” Bradley said.
Church of Type is much more than just a printing shop for Bradley; it’s a means of communication that steps into the mythology of man, to the campfire, to that archetypal yearning for the power of the word mixed with the smell of the ink and the wood and the dust.
Across the walls he has a series of original images — robots, dinosaurs, Godzilla. Each of them is made with letters, which you can see when you look up close.
He’s constantly experimenting every day with the form.
“It’s a repository of the real stuff,” says Bradley. “It’s my Church of Type. The word on the page is a powerful thing. When the power goes out, I will be king.”
~Via Kevin Bradley, LA Weekly, and Vimeo
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