Running a letterpress studio isn’t for everybody.
The machinery is hard to find, expensive, takes up loads of space and weighs as much as a small car. You spend your time sourcing cases of type, constantly learning new skills and techniques and hours setting up a single print.
You can’t be just a little bit into letterpress and Dave Darcy of One Strong Arm is one of the rare breed who has dedicated himself to it.
We asked Dave how he found himself at the helm of a letterpress print studio
Dave Darcy in the One Strong Arm studio
Tell us a bit about One Strong Arm.
One Strong Arm is a letterpress print studio based in Dublin 1. It’s a little over two years old. The work I make is usually typographic, and a combination of antique moveable type, as well as woodcuts, linocuts and occasionally metal plates. I work on a mixture of personal projects, exhibition work, collaborations and commissions as well as production projects for clients and other designers.
Why did you set it up?
OSA was initially set up as a outlet for personal projects. I’d been working as a graphic designer for a little over ten years, so print has always been on my radar. It all really started when I had the opportunity to spend some time in our National Print Museum. While I was there I got a taste for letterpress printing and I quite quickly realised that it had the potential to be much more than a hobby.
What challenges did you face getting the project off the ground?
When I set up OSA I wasn’t a letterpress printer, I had a small amount of experience, but the tiny bit I had (mainly through the National Print Museum and Distiller’s Press in NCAD) was enough to get me hooked. Thankfully, it happened to be a very helpful and supportive community. Getting up to speed was a steep learning curve. As well as that; letterpress material (presses, cases of type and tools etc) can be tricky enough to find. Once I got my hands on a press there was still a long way to go before I had a a functioning studio… probably way more than I’d anticipated! It’s pretty much there now – but I think the collection will never quite stop growing. It’s a very addictive passion. The older printers have a saying the once you get printer’s ink into your blood it’s impossible to get out – that seems to be the case! Although it’s been a lot of hard work it’s never felt like to much of a challenge… it may but a bit on the sentimental side but I feel very lucky to do what I do with One Strong Arm.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’ve recently moved into a new workshop and I plan to start work on a new collection of OSA prints soon enough… it’ll also give me an excuse to make a bit of a racket about the new space and invite people along to have a look around. I’ll be trying to get through a fair few projects over the next few months too. I’ll be printing some album covers for a couple of Irish artists, working on a series of prints for a clothing label, and hopefully making a start on OSA’s first book; a collaboration with an Irish illustrator on a children’s book.
Recommend 3 printers, at home or abroad, we should check out.
The National Print Museum in Beggers Bush (although not technically a printer!) is a place everybody should visit, it’s an wonderful resource for the city, and it’s run by some incredible people – well informed, passionate and super helpful.
Irish letterpress printer Jamie Murphy’s work under the imprint The Salvage Press is a constant source of inspiration, he also runs The Distillers Press letterpress studio in NCAD.
And slightly further afield, if you haven’t come across the work of The Counter Press, a printing duo working out of their studio in London, you should really look them up too.
This article has been produced in association with The Locals