Step back from our digital world and appreciate the centuries-old process still alive in our humble village.

Although Bay View Printing Co. (2702 S. Howell Ave.) is nearly a century old – and houses a museum’s worth of printing presses and one linotype – its current designs and ambitions are very much modern. In its small gallery space in a former church, cards and prints with cutesy quips in funky type styles line the walls. The company offers offset printing, custom invitations, and ready-made greeting cards and printed posters.

Standing in that gallery space, it’s easy to underestimate the careful labor that goes into making each character and line of letterpress text. Luckily for Milwaukeeans, Bay View Printing’s new owner, former instructor at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, has a solution for that. After buying the building  and all of its presses in 2014, Ashley Town launched a series of classes dubbed Drink & Ink, at which folks with no printing experience can bring their own beverages and learn how to create a print using wood type letters. (What you want the print to say is totally up to you.) Those letters are arranged on a tray, which is reinforced with blocks called “furniture,” and then locked into a press and covered with ink. With your muscle powering it, the press then works its magic.

The heavy presses and seemingly endless font styles can seem intimidating, but Town’s gentle style of explaining the machines’ inner workings can put even the most awkward printers at ease. And the $30 fee for a Drink & Ink class seems like a small price for the surprising sense of accomplishment you feel while holding a printed poster of your own creation.

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‘The Power of Print’ appears in the June 2015 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
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