Have you ever dreamed of riding across the countryside, with the wind in your hair and… a press on your bike (just in case you got the urge to print along the way)? The Tired Press is a print shop like no other, because it’s a print shop on wheels… two wheels! It’s a modified bike, printmaking studio and educational tool with everything needed to be in production.
The Tired Press is owned and operated by printmaking expert Pilar Nadal, who is a recent graduate of the Maine College of Art Graduate Program. Her fascination with printmaking started when she was a child and was rekindled when she took a letterpress class in 2006. Her initial inspiration for her print shop like no other came to her during an “Artists at Work” class as part of her graduate degree. The class project was to propose an idea for a business plan art project, and what was meant to be a quick assignment has now spanned several years. As Nadal explains: “I thought, ‘Oh my god! I’ve got to do this!’ And I did.”
The Tired Press started to take shape in August 2011 when Nadal began collaborating with a number of people, including David Stetson, a furniture maker who made the panniers for the bike’s gallery top. She was also in consultation with David Twiss, who is a printmaker and press builder. He helped her construct a press for the bike, mimicking the design of a showcard sign press. It’s made of wood and metal and the main roller is actually a rolling pin! It’s a simple design, but one that Nadal says is effective for her needs. The Tired Press’ first public event took place only nine months later in May 2012.
The bike is designed to hold everything needed to print. The bike’s panniers are cabinets that fold up to act as a work space. This creates storage on both sides of the back wheels including space for paper, ink, ink knives, gloves, mineral spirits, an apron and a trash bin. The front of the bike contains moveable type in a drawer, which Nadal uses to educate the public on the history of type. The bike also includes a retractable drying line with two poles to hold up each side.
The press itself is capable of printing a maximum sheet size of 6″ x 9″, but most of the work printed is 4″ x 6″ postcard size. Many of the products Nadal produces are 2-colour designs, however she is capable of printing more colours with additional passes through the press. (She has also experimented with web-fed printing.) For an event where she is educating organizations, schools or galleries, Nadal will preprint the first pass of a set of postcards and then makeready the press for the second pass, which she encourages the participants to print themselves.
So what if you wanted to create your own press on two wheels just like Nadal has? Well, she says you will need to start by learning how to haul a heavy load. The retrofitted bike weighs almost 75 pounds and you need to make sure you can park it on steady ground!
And what’s the next step for The Tired Press? Nadal’s dream is to take the bike on a long-distance trip with a team of people. Her vision is to hit the road with two other staff and continue community engagement at various events. “This is a really adaptable and flexible project. As artists, there is a neat opportunity to connect and exchange with each other.”