Baton Rouge, LA:

Blackbird Letterpress

We were exhausted by the time we got to Baton Rouge Wednesday evening.15+ hours sitting while watching the landscapes change over three days puts you in a traveler's trance. When we planned this road trip, we assumed our driving days would afford us substantial breaks, but we fooled ourselves. Pulling up to Blackbird letterpress, we felt a little lost at first. Dave, Kathryn's husband, called from the balcony above as we got out, “are y’all with the radio station?” Rosemary and I both looked at each other confused, and then to the music themed mural on the brick wall adjacent. We both said, “uh, no we are the printers!” Dave nodded with a smile, “Ah, Kathryn’s inside!” 

We connected with Kathryn through Molly at Ice Pond Press, the print shop I work at in Bozeman The printers met previously through a collaborative portfolio, Inspiring Women - an all women printed portfolio of inspiring women through history. I received assurance by many printers, along with Molly, that we must print with Kathryn. One thing when planning the trip, that Chris had pointed out, was how meaningful it was that we were printing with women. While making all of the extensive arrangements, we learned that Rosemary and I,, and our other women identifying printer peers, are the first generation of women printers to be taught by women mentors. We really embraced the importance of that as aspiring creatives, and made it a point to print with women throughout the trip. This is not to devalue our other learning experiences but what can I say, inspiring women inspire women.

We met Kathryn inside and I felt immediately recharged. Her kindness and personal energy compelled you to share in her energy. Oh and not to mention their cute dogs, Ava and Muddy (who still has puppy energy) greeted us – which animated  introductions even more.

Kathryn promptly dove into a tour of the shop. Their back studio/press area is connected to the front by a corridor used for storage, counter and work space, and type cabinets. She eagerly showed us the cabinets with type we could print with. We learned this later on, but Kathryn used the colors from the cafe, Bar Luce designed by the film director Wes Anderson, in the Fondazione Prada museum in Milan to inspire the accent colors. Rosemary and I visited that cafe in 2019 when on exchange together in Italy. We made the niche connection during dinner on the second night – small world. Kathryn graciously allowed us to stay in their guest room, right next to the print shop. Her and her husband live upstairs from the shop in a beautifully curated space that they explained over dinner, took years to get just how they like it. It was reassuring to hear the slow, but steady progress it took to get to where they are today. It was nice hearing every creative must start somewhere, even if that somewhere is a small letterpress studio out the back of a compact car.

We did not know it yet, but the meal we had that evening was to be the literal main course of our time in Baton Rouge. Dave and Kathryn made us a warm, home cooked meal that Rosemary and I both did not know we needed until we ate it. Pecan trout with meunière sauce, potatoes, and a kale salad; figs for dessert and a nice glass of red wine. We felt spoiled. We talked for the rest of the evening about printing and Kathryn's connections to Bozeman, as she attended the same college as Rosemary and I, Montana State University - again, small world. 

The next morning as Rosemary and I made our way just 10 steps across the hall to the shop where we met Becca and Elaise, Kathryn's two employees in the shop. A women operated print shop. I thought, I can vibe with this. We started looking through the blocks Kathryn had in her collection, and an image of a fish prompted me to remember that we wanted to print a recipe on one of our postcards. I rushed upstairs to ask Kathryn to have Dave write up the recipe. The afternoon consisted of me type setting the condensed recipe, and Rosemary arranging the geometric and fishy background. It was hot, hot, hot in Baton Rouge, so we decided to stay in the shop for the day. We set up Kathryn's oldest press, a 10x12 C & P, for both layers. At one point in the day, all five gals were in the press area, Elaise on the paper cutter trimming notebooks, I was typesetting on the table, Rosemary on one C & P, Kathryn on the other, and Becca on the vandercook printing a custom job. It was a very cool experience, to say the least, working around these amazing women. And one of the most prominent highlights of the trip for me.

It was a long day, expending all my energy towards proofing the 8 pt type for the recipe, but finally wrapped up around 6:30 and left for dinner, with our mess to clean afterwards. That was Kathryn's suggestion, and I enjoyed her style. While out, we enjoyed some amazing Louisiana cooking with good company, good cocktails and even better dessert. When we got back, Kathryn wanted to pull some overprints of the recipe still in the chase. “Overprints”, she taught us, is the term for prints that aren’t printed with the paper or orientation intended, but are last runs just for fun and memorabilia. We pulled some prints over some other interesting patterned prints the shop had laying around. Kathryn then sewed, and trimmed notebooks for us with the overprints as covers. A special keepsake that I will remember the day by every time I use it!

As a tropical storm brewed in the gulf, we left for New Orleans the next morning. With our only back to back print planned for the trip we made our way straight to Lionheart Prints to print our sixth postcard with Friedrich – stomachs and hearts full.