Exhibitor Spotlight: Val Lucas

Val Lucas of Bowerbox Press recently took time away from her busy studio practice to talk about her passion for woodcuts, letterpress printing, and the history of book arts. A graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art and the current Vice President of the American Printing History Association’s Chesapeake chapter, Val prints on a 1901 Colt’s Armory printing press, which she rescued from a Baltimore basement.


TB: How did you come to letterpress printing?

Val: I came from the fine arts side- during my last semester at MICA, I took a letterpress course. The instant I walked into the shop, full of old machinery and tiny organized cases of type, I knew I was in the right place.  I adapted my printmaking techniques to woodcuts, and started on the path I’m on today- printing with traditional methods (hand-set type and woodcut imagery) and newer ideas (polymer plates), and integrating the fine art side of woodcut prints with more accessible greeting cards and small prints.
TB: Handset or polymer?
Val: There’s a use for both! I love the history and the restriction of working with hand-set type, and the immediacy of pulling type out of the case to print a quick job; while polymer is wonderful for designs not suited to lead type or woodcuts.
TB: What is it about woodcuts that attracts you?
Val: I love the process, of carving away a new block to find the image, and the uniqueness of each type of wood- some prints are enhanced by the natural wood grain that shows through from a rough pine plank, while more detailed work benefits from a hard cherry block. There’s such a variety of work that can come out of a simple piece of wood.
TB: How do you respond to people that say that book arts is antiquated and a dead or dying art?
Val: I’m pretty sure there will always be people who are attracted to the printed page. It may become more of a specialized niche, as books meant to be quick access turn to digital, but someone will always want to see an important piece of writing in a physical format. It may become antiquated but that doesn’t mean it will die away completely- look at letterpress as a whole: pushed out of the commercial printing spotlight by offset and now digital printing, it’s enjoying a huge resurgence by a smaller group of people who are interested in the process, the machinery and the history as well as the final product. I think the same thing applies to book arts- there are always people  interested in the history of books and book arts, there are things you just can’t do book-wise with a digital copy, and there will always be someone to appreciate the book as a work of art.
Thanks, Val. Excited to see the new woodcuts and flipbook!

Val printing away