Letterpress printing is everywhere these days, and Alabama artist Jessica Peterson is determined it stays that way. The Southern, her new studio space in downtown Northport, Alabama is now open to the public, housing her mid-century printing press as well as a small retail space where visitors can buy her work along with prints and cards from other Southeastern printers (like Bridget Elmer out of St. Petersburg, FL; Glenn House, Sr. of Gordo, AL; and Erin Morris out of Tuscaloosa, AL).
"We’re right on the cusp of everyone knowing about letterpress now," she says, "but even a couple of years ago it was rare and random.” Six years ago, Jessica migrated south to get an MFA in book arts at the University of Alabama. When she rescued and reconstructed an antique Vandercook printing press that hadn’t been used for 20 years, she knew she’d stay put for long enough to get it up and running. Its parts were rusted stuck, and it took quite a bit of time and elbow grease to get it printing and producing new work.
Her studio was even named after her first space in Columbus, MS, housed over top of the old newspaper office. As of late this summer, The Southern has been operating out of a space in downtown Northport, Alabama. Part retail, part private-studio, and part public workspace, the studio is still a work-in-progress. In addition, the studio will open up every first Thursday of the Month for local Art Nights for free hands-on printing. Jessica will create a unique broadside (or poster) for each event, with the hopes that visitors can amass a year’s worth of letterpress prints. “I don’t want to make money with the demonstrations. I just want people to be introduced to the process,” she says.
She also plans to open up the studio to rent time on the press to burgeoning printmakers. The Southern is open Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m, and on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2-5 p.m. Stop by the Grand Opening event on Thursday, September 6 from 5-9 p.m.