Meet the Press

Sure, the advent of e-mail has been a wondrous thing. But does anyone else miss the romance of good, old-fashioned letter writing? Or the thrill of finding a card — or anything that’s not a bill — in the mailbox? And has anyone else’s handwriting gone to hell since we’ve been clackety-clacking away on our keyboards all the time?

Fortunately, Brady Vest is doing his part to combat the decline of letter writing with Hammerpress, the letterpress and design studio that he’s just moved to a new home in the Crossroads Arts District. “It’s a lot more lively, and the amount of visibility is a lot better,” Vest says of the new location at 19th and Wyandotte streets. (Just look for the turquoise building and Lola, Vest’s lovely black Lab mix, standing guard.) The new space is primarily a workshop and printing studio. At the front, though, Vest will sell postcards, blank cards and books, bookmarks, posters and other “abundant ephemera for paper junkies.”

The distinct Hammerpress style, as it appears on band posters around town or on CD covers, usually consists of layers upon layers of lush, shimmery color and eclectic graphics and typefaces embossed onto cardboard. Inspired, Vest says, by “any printed materials” — matchbook covers, postage stamps, old signs painted on the sides of buildings and long since faded — the result is an old-timey look.

Vest’s postcards include the “Hat Series” (oversized cards with characters who wear quirky head gear, including a fez and a tam-o’-shanter) and the “Burlesque Series,” in which KC dancers from the ’20s through the ’50s lounge about seductively, looking as glamorous as Marlene Dietrich.

He’s even planning to sell rectangular scraps of cardboard, which can be used as gift tags or impromptu business cards. “They’re all one-of-a-kind,” Vest says of the scraps. “I didn’t want to just throw them away. They’re just really pretty.”

In the end, though, it’s the posters that really catch the eye: rows of signs advertising appearances by David Sedaris, Eleni Mandell, Cat Power, Ira Glass and others. Depending on what’s in stock, these will be for sale as well. Prices on all items will range from $1 to $100.

Vest, a Kansas City Art Institute graduate, has been operating Hammerpress for ten years, six of them full time. He stumbled upon this method of printing in school, after he discovered some printing equipment that wasn’t being used much anymore. Eventually, he fell in love with the machinery. “Essentially, everything we have here is obsolete,” he says of his presses. “The newest machine is about 65 years old.”

Hammerpress also works on custom orders such as wedding invitations, business cards and letterhead — “the whole range of printed materials,” Vest says. He wants to collaborate with area artists on art prints and more postcards. “I also want to do T-shirts,” he says. “I just need to figure out how.”

To help celebrate the Hammerpress grand opening, Vest will serve popcorn in specially printed bags on Friday. “I thought it’d be cool to have PBR and popcorn,” he says, but because of the city’s liquor laws, there will be no beer.

Got a problem with that? Revive your letter-writing career by sending word to City Hall — on a Hammerpress card.