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Wolverine Farms breathes new life into letter-pressing

a drawer full of letters used for letter pressing.
Crouch explains all the different types of blocks and set types used to create embossed images on paper. Many of these cutouts are antique. (Sarah Ehrlich | Collegian)

A local business thrives in the modern world by using an outdated form of creative expression, letter-pressing. 

In addition to publishing literature and renting their creative space,Wolverine Farm Letterpress and Publick House  provides letter pressing, a niche offering for the community, according to letterpress printer Jessica Crouch.

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“The people I work with and the Wolverine Farm space here makes it fun to create new projects,” Crouch said. “I also love being able to breathe life back into these old letter press machines.”

Crouch studied printmaking and drawing at Bradley University, wanting to make her art degree community-based. It was during graduate school at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville when she was introduced to letter pressing, where she collaborated and interned with like-minded artists.

“I think this space allows people to lead more creative lives in opposition to the mind-numbing blandness of the modern world. Plus we get to hang out with some of the coolest people in Fort Collins.” Todd Simmons, director

Crouch was hired at Wolverine Farms at its opening in 2015. The demand for letter pressing was high from the beginning, and the retail space has found steady success. Local artists and even businesses like Odell Brewing have reached out to Crouch for several design projects.

“I have more of a fine art background instead of a design background,” Crouch said. “So with that, I am definitely more of a fan of minimalism and conceptualism. Any idea with a little cleverness to it, I can really sink my teeth into.”

a woman poses with a letter press machine
Jessica Crouch is the letter presser for Wolverine Farms. She has a fine arts background and has lived in the Eastern part of the U.S. before moving here and helping Wolverine Farms grow. (Sarah Ehrlich | Collegian)

Crouches’ typical creative process depends on the project. She has drawers full of design blocks and set types, which are made when a design is carved and then set on wooden or lead blocks. Crouch has found herself carving a lot of designs herself on linoleum, wood or plastic.

In the digital age, letter press machines have become a little hard to come by, Crouch said. In the ‘90s, these machines were either being scrapped or hiding in basements, and the price would be much lower. Today, with some maintenance, a machine could cost $4,000-$5,000.

Wolverine Farm has two letterpresses in-house, one being retired from the CSU English department and the other bought at an auction in Aurora, Colorado. 

While letter-pressing draws most people into the business, it’s not the only activity Wolverine FarmsLetterpress and Publick House offers. 

“People come to the Letterpress and Publick House for it’s warm, inviting atmosphere and all of the events we offer,” said operations manager Beth Kopp. “Everything from spelling bees to chicken contests (and) craft markets to tarot clubs. Or you can just drink coffee or beer and hang out.”

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More information can be found at www.wolverinefarm.org.

Crouch and Todd Simmons, director of Wolverine Farm Letterpress and Publick House, have discussed expansion by creating a mix-use community studio that would include a wood shop, letter pressing and screen printing. But for now, anyone is able to come into the space and create projects with some help from employees. 

“I think this space allows people to lead more creative lives in opposition to the mind-numbing blandness of the modern world,” Simmons said. “Plus, we get to hang out with some of the coolest people in Fort Collins.”

Collegian reporter Sarah Ehrlich can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @sarahehrlich96. 

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