The DownStairs Press
DownStairs Press is both a studio and an idea, a physical space and a virtual place.
Both places begin with words. In that time, before I could read, I noticed when Grandma Hemenway read my favorite stories to me at night, she wouldn’t even look at the book, sometimes read with her eyes closed. I understood something magic was occurring. She said the same story every time, until I could say it along with her. Those little squiggly objects at the bottom of the page fascinated me, drew my attention and my curiosity, were perhaps the key to this mystery. There was something distant, something hidden but powerful inside those…words…and I wanted to be part of that.
When I was five I received a toy typewriter for Christmas. It had a disk with the letters of the alphabet stamped around the edge. By turning the disk to the selected letter and then pressing down on the print lever, the letter was transferred to the paper. This seemed magical to me. It took several days to type my three sentence thank you notes to relatives. The meditative pace, the solitude, the alchemy of words appearing on blank paper all entered my subconscious mind and took up residence there. That place inside me is one of the spaces DownStairs Press inhabits. Sixty years on, I own a few somewhat fancier presses, and an actual, physical studio, but I am still devoted to that original magic, that slow dance of moving ideas onto paper, into books.
This interest has lead to rubber stamps, typewriters and then Selectric typewriters, printing presses, handmade paper, drawing, computers, poetry, artists books. Where and how words are placed on a page, what the paper looks and feels like, what weight and flow is given to the words, what images could accompany the words - are all questions swirling around that primary love, finding the right words and giving them a physical home.
DownStairs Press is a “whole book” studio dedicated to the ancient book arts of papermaking, letterpress printing and hand book binding. The act of making a book—from that first vision of what might be possible, to presenting the printed and bound final version to the intended audience—contains so many decisions, so many problems to solve, so many design elements, so many unexpected discoveries, spending a year on completing an edition of ten copies of a single book is not unusual.
And as with any practice, the path always leads outward to more and more discoveries. For me, the need to learn to draw, to study about color, to become familiar with the intricacies of font design, to use linoleum blocks, to listen to what a piece of art I am making is telling me, have all created the complexity of this work I continue to relish.
While the pathways of learning to be an artist arc sometimes toward unexpected destinations, everything is informed by words, by language. The sections listed in the menu to the right will carry you through some of those inviting pathways.
Some of the work from DownStairs press is reasonably accessible on line, and for these pieces, a BUY NOW button is associated with each. For others, such as large prints or altered books, more information or a personal visit to the studio might be desirable before making a purchase decision. For those works, a price is indicated without a BUY NOW button. For further information or for requests to purchase of those items, please send an e-mail to George Roberts.
Sales tax of 7.25% will be added to each purchase. Delivery fees will be computed based on purchaser’s zip code. All deliveries will be by USPS Priority Mail unless otherwise requested.
The DownStairs Press
LETTERPRESS – BOOKS & BROADSIDES