How it works: A real throwback
Downtown Marietta print shop creates designs with ‘old-school’ techniques
It’s in the details.
Pencil sketches become hand-carved wood blocks.
Type is set with dental instruments.
Teaspoons of ink mix to create custom colors and every letter, number, animal and embellishment sits on the press backward.
Then each print is hand-signed and numbered as a limited edition.
“If I were to do the same thing over and over again I’d get bored,” explained Bobby Rosenstock, co-owner of Just A Jar Design Press in the 200 block of Front Street in Marietta. “My work, while often commissioned, is all very personal as well so I’m trying to be influenced and inspired by that business or band but also add textures and push myself.”
Rosenstock works in a medium that has stood the test of time, dating back to Johannes Gutenberg in the 1400s.
“The concept of movable type continued into the 19th and 20th centuries, that’s how posters, catalogs, yearbooks, newspapers were made,” said the classically trained artist.
He’s had clients ranging from the summer farmers market on Front Street to Jack Daniels, Willie Nelson and Soundgarden, making posters, coasters, T-shirts and greeting cards all with a nod to a time long ago.
“Basically what I’m doing is creating posters the same way they would have been doing it 200 years ago and with the same equipment,” said Rosenstock. “I’m trying to merge the worlds of fine art with commercial printing.”
And that concept of hand-made has caught the eye of collectors, bands and institutions across the world, with shipments sent to Australia, New Zealand and Europe as well as nationwide.
From concept to press
Rosenstock explained that when he takes on a commission, like this week’s focus on Yellow Springs Brewery’s fifth-anniversary party, he’ll begin with emails with the client to grasp what information needs to be included on the print and gather any design elements they prefer.
“It was harder when I was starting out to get people to trust that I’ll come up with something cool,” said Rosenstock. “Now, though, I’ll send them a rough sketch or two and then move pretty quickly through the carving process.”
Quick by hand means he will complete a hand/foot pedaled press run of 100 to 200 posters from concept to carve to dried ink on the page in about 40 hours.
Building a niche market
The business began in Rosenstock’s garage in 2009 before moving to a loft studio above Union Street and then expanding to Front Street in 2015.
And the apparatuses he works with?
“They’re solid cast iron,” he said, noting their immense weight and durability.
He carves wood blocks by hand before setting them on either his Vandercook Proof Press, circa 1950, or his Chandler & Price foot pedal press from the 1880s.
He even cuts his own paper on an iron Challenge paper cutter from the 1880s and he’s a collector of antique wood block and metal type which are integrated into his designs.
“There’s probably around 80 cases of metal type and 50 cases of wood. Each case is a font and the smallest is 8-point type and the largest is six inches,” Rosenstock explained. “Sometimes when I’m laying out a poster I can say, run out of ‘Es’ so I have to scrap what I’m doing and start over to make things fit properly.”
Though a sketch of the product is done in pencil, it’s still a fluid depiction of how the final product will turn out.
“I’m always trying new things and learning to be better at my craft,” Rosenstock said noting different carving marks he makes in the wood blocks to highlight the wood grain and create a textured or patterned background. “And on a press, everything is solid colors so you have to use different tricks to create shading or blending. Overall the process is more of a graphic one, you’re creating a series of stamps.”
He explained that the presses work through a series of rubber and metal rollers controlled either through a motorized drum or by a foot pedal.
Ink goes on the metal rollers in minuscule amounts, just enough for a paper-thin layer to get spread evenly across the roller to transfer without smudging on the print.
But between the roller and the paper, comes what’s locked in.
“When locking type you can’t have any letter wiggling so I have a variety of wood and metal spaces, called furniture, that lock the form into the press bed,” said Rosenstock. “And the wood blocks I have to raise to the height where the roller will deposit the ink.”
Then he places each individual sheet of poster paper by hand and moves the drum holding the paper across what’s locked in.
This week’s poster had layers of yellow, blue, green, brown and black, all with individually carved blocks.
“Traditionally posters of this style would be two to three colors, but I typically use four to seven,” he said.
And while the avenues of painting and sketching are additive in nature, he has to construct his prints based on the negative space left by his carvings
“It’s a reductive process and it’s backwards, all of the words, your wood block, it will come out on the page the exact opposite of how you see it locked in,” he added.
Themes and motivations
Rosenstock said common themes one would see in his posters, whether in visiting the Marietta Brewing Company, Stuart Opera House’s Nelsonville Music Festival, Jack Daniel’s annual barbecue competition or the Rivers, Trails and Ales festival are what he takes pride in.
“I like carving animals a lot, especially giving beauty to something that would otherwise be seen as creepy or just road kill but also ones that can be majestic,” he noted. “Anything where I can create a cool pattern in the scales, or fur or wings and I have been told I have a distinctive color palette.”
Tony Styer, owner of the Marietta Brewing Company, said he was drawn to the style of Rosenstock’s work, and that a business relationship developed from one poster for a beer to an entire rebranding.
“I liked the way the wood cut made a simple but yet still complicated design,” said Styer. “It fit well with what we have going on here and I was taking Putnam’s Paw Paw Ale to the Paw Paw Festival every year so thought it would be good to have merchandise to go with it.”
But more than just posters for each beer made at the downtown brewery, Styer has appreciated that with Bobby’s handcrafted creations comes the design and digital prowess of co-owner Sara Rosenstock.
“She’s able to take what he’s come up with and have that translate to digital so we can have T-shirts and other merchandise,” explained Styer. “Then when it came time to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of the business we thought why not have the brand reflect the style of our beers so she brought that together.”
Rosenstock said he likes the visitors, scout groups and even birthday parties that ask to utilize his art form and learn his craft.
“I want to share the process of this with folks, especially the next generation so that this form can live on,” he said.
And as for the name?
“A jar is this classic industrial, utilitarian object but has been used for thousands of years,” explained Rosenstock. “It serves as a good symbol for what I’m doing.”
Rosenstock’s studio is open every Friday for shoppers to browse the monoprint, greeting card, T-shirt and coaster collection.
For more photos of Rosenstock’s work click here.
About Just A Jar
¯ Founded by Bobby and Sara Rosenstock in their garage in 2009.
¯ Known for creating consumer-friendly fine art prints for a variety of clients including:
– Marietta Brewing Company.
– Marietta College.
– Stuart’s Opera House.
– Marietta Main Street.
– Willie Nelson.
– Jack Daniels.
¯ The studio, 208 Front St. is open for shoppers on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.