In September we went on an American road trip around New England and it wouldn’t have been complete without a letterpress hunt. I’d done my research beforehand and came across John Barrett’s ‘Letterpress Things’. It looked like the warehouse of my dreams, I couldn’t believe it existed! Saturday was open day but we were passing on a Sunday, so I emailed John and he kindly offered to open up for us at noon.
We were making our way there after a scorching few days in New York and a night in beautiful Newport, Rhode Island. It was a two hour journey from there to a town called Chicopee in Massachusetts.
We arrived at the address and followed an old dusty track near the railway line, which lead us to a big warehouse. We followed the store signs up the stairwell to the third floor to find pieces of paper with my name on to follow. Around the corner we met John moving type cabinets. After a welcome chat we proceeded into an elevator shaft with wire caging. The type I’ve only ever seen in the movies, so this was an experience in itself! The elevator stopped, the doors opened and he opened the shutters. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was amazing! The closest to letterpress heaven you can get.
Everything a printer could possibly want... it was HUGE! I was overwhelmed at the amount of equipment that lay before me. John gave us an in-depth tour of the floor. His voice constantly filled with so much passion for the craft, knowledge, and extensive stories. All from a life long obsession that began when he taught himself the art of letterpress back in the sixties. He explained how it was a labour of love and that he spends long hours there organizing all the type and equipment that has been rescued from disused print factories. He saved so much from going into landfill when letterpress printing had gone out of fashion. I was blown away with all the information and I was like a kid in a candy shop. Everything has it’s place, which you must appreciate with the handling of thousands of bits of type, lead and furniture.
I eyed up pieces as we went around and I made a little stack in the corner of type and sundries to take home in my hand luggage, including a couple of items that John said I couldn’t live without. We talked for hours and it was 4pm by the time we left. John is such an interesting, honest, and genuine guy, it was a pleasure to meet him and his wonderful world of letterpress. I couldn’t recommend his store enough. As we were leaving with heavy lead under my arm and a big smile on my face, I felt so lucky to have stumbled upon such an incredible place.