Reggie Asplund recently moved his business out of his basement and into a new studio. But it’s not like moving any business, he’s working with hundred-year-old printing presses. He’s one of a handful of people in town bringing the huge heavy manual presses back to life and making unique art with them.
R.A.: Middle school was most likely the first time I worked with printmaking, somehow a traced woodpecker comes to mind, but that was about it for a good six years. While I found art interesting and an occasional hobby, my interests and education lead me to end up as an undergraduate studying civil engineering. While a sophomore in undergrad I was approached by an old friend to apply as an intern to her aunt’s letterpress studio in Minneapolis. Desperate for a break from thermodynamics and load-bearing structures, I hastily applied and was offered a position. It didn’t take long to realize how much more I enjoyed the process of printmaking and as a blend of art, mechanical troubleshooting, and hands-on labor, it kept all sides of my brain content. After moving to Duluth to finish up my degree I acquired my first printing press and under the guidance of the stellar Kenspeckle Letterpress crew began the plunge into the addiction to ink, metal and paper.
As a relatively young printer my work is ever changing, something I don’t anticipate to end, as I enjoy experimentation most of all. My first line of cards was a test of ability with lino-cutting and recently I’ve been playing around with some newly acquired type and playing with Legos as a method of relief printing. I aim to be somewhat centered on the surrounding environment, drawing inspiration from Lake Superior, the Superior Hiking Trail and travels through our wonderful state and national parks.
Having studied engineering I initially found working with drafting tools and digital design software quite satisfying. As I dove into the process of printing I found more of a challenge with hand-set type and linoleum cut print. There’s a certain satisfaction that hits after spending a week cutting a block or setting type and finally getting to see the result come to fruition, so I’ve spent more time staring at small blocks and tiny type. You’ll see a bit more of these experiments coming soon.
Printing is easy and nothing ever goes wrong.
Half of the struggle of running nearly century-old presses is that each have their own nuances and quirks, the joy is overcoming, mastering, and using them to your advantage. Working with linoleum has an inherent risk as well: one small mistake and the block is ruined, a slip and you’re bleeding over everything. I’m inherently klutzy and uncoordinated so the latter is inevitable; the reward is only having to use two bandages! In all seriousness though, I absolutely love the process and hurdles that come with it.
My work is sold at Duluth Pack, Siiviis Gallery, Vikre Distillery, Duluth Coffee Company and the Snooty Fox, as well as online at pressdunord.etsy.com. My studio is also open by appointment or coincidental run-ins as well.
Recently my studio moved to a commercial space and I acquired some new presses that need refurbishing. I launched a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to aide in this process but there’s remarkable amount of work to be done. Coming soon I’ll be at the Duluth Made pop-up at Evolve on Oct. 13, a Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25, as well as Duluth Winter Village on Dec. 2 and 3, meaning there’s a mountain of new art to be made. Expect to see some work featuring Legos as movable type, actual movable type, and perhaps some actual artwork.
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