A visit to The Arm NYC

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This summer we took our holiday in and around New York City. We stayed a few days in Manhattan, then road-tripped all the way up to Lake Placid, before heading back to the city for a final couple of days in Brooklyn. I was posting some images on twitter of our trip and got in touch with Nick Sherman who was out of town but lives in Brooklyn. He recommended two things for our stay… Firstly, eat at Paulie Gee’s Pizza in Greenpoint (The best pizza I’ve ever had) and secondly, drop in on The Arm Letterpress in Williamsburg. A couple of tweets later, a visit was arranged.

Walking around Brooklyn is a visual delight, it’s like Shoreditch without the try-hard feel. So, on a sunny Thursday morning we wandered from our hotel down to the studio. The Arm is a public access letterpress studio, teaching facility & commercial print shop sited in an old red-brick warehouse and was set up by Dan Morris in 2005.

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We were greeted first at the door by an excitable Henry (the shop dalmatian) and then Dan who told us the story of how The Arm came to be…

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Dan comes from a long line of printers, with the family line of printers going back four generations. Ink has to be in the blood! Dan has created a wonderful space full of printing treasures from the iron hand presses, to several Vandercook’s and a load of Kelseys dotted around the place. There is also an extensive historical wood type collection with some extremely rare founts being held. We were told of how Dan’s grandfather still finds it amusing to regale stories of how all the wood type was burned as their original print shop ‘upgraded’ their shop’s technology…

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Looking around The Arm there are treasures everywhere – from old presses to amazing artwork – each with an interesting story. Dan explained how he spends a lot of his time rescuing and rebuilding presses for printers all over the US, offering lessons on the machines to the new owners once completed. There is, apparently, always a restoration of some sort going on and during our visit there was a a huge proofing press in pieces being completely rebuilt. I wouldn’t know where to start. There are often presses available to buy fully-refurbished on his website.

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I absolutely loved the collage of measuring rules on the wall, and the new hand-painted hex by Eric Claypoole.

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The studio offers membership to the public that allows open-access printing and workshops. During our visit we got talking to a lovely woman who was using the equipment to print her own wedding invitations. In a city like New York where it’s impossible to have space for such machines, this is an amazing resource. There are often exhibitions and workshops – it seems lik there is always something going on – Just this week there was a workshop held by the legendary Hatch Show Print, which looked incredible.

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It was great to see old and new catchwords in use – I especially loved these new dirty ones by Rick Griffiths & VWT

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My wife was explaining how she followed @The__Arm on Instagram and absolutely loved their print of Blaze Foley’s lyrics and wanted to buy one of there were any in stock. We were amazed when Dan kindly gave us a print – so very kind – thank you!

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We carried it home as if it were a priceless vase and it now has pride of place in our flat as a great memory of our visit to my new favourite place in NYC. Can’t wait to drop by again soon and spend more time in the amazing space. Thanks for showing us around Dan!

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After that we did some casual tourism, and came across Ludlow street. No hot metal to be found anywhere, though.

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As it was our last day, we treated ourselves to some pricey cocktails at our hotel bar, with possibly the best view I’ve ever had a drink in front of, a great way to end the day. Needless to say, we were sad to leave this great city.