The title may be a little misleading, but not to Design Press owner, Bobby Rosenstock. The Woodcraft catalog & social media team visit the local establishment of JustAJar Design Press in Marietta, OH. This time to capture Bobby Rosenstock's carved artwork, letterpress/ design printing and other talents for the Woodcraft December 2021 holiday catalog cover creation. Bobby shows and tells his carving craft using 15th century technology to create an art form that is still viable today!
When we think about the various types of wood carvings, what comes to mind are projects that are fashioned with hand or power tools, where the final item produced is a wood artifact in a 3D form, sculpture, or perhaps a piece of furniture with a unique design. Artistic items include chip carvings, caricatures, ornaments, bowls, cutlery, gun stocks, walking sticks and also chain saw carvings. Inspirations can come from the mind through the heart to the hands for endless possibilities. Even fruit, vegetables and ice carvings can be carved for culinary delights for events and holidays.
Speaking of the holidays; for the upcoming December 2021 catalog cover, our Woodcraft media team decided to revisit the JustAJar Design Press studio, for a woodworking Santa (but not Santa) flair! Previously, we had our Japan Woodworker, October 2015 catalog produced with a non-digital print format using woodcut or relief carved printing style created at this Marietta Ohio business, local to our corporate office.
Upon entering JustAJar’s family operated letterpress design studio and art gallery, owned by Sara & Bobby Rosenstock, we were warmly greeted by the family dog Lucy, who plays an integral role in the design process! JustAJar’s name came from a poem that Bobby’s brother wrote. Bobby liked the sound and word play in the poem of holding true to symbolizing simplicity and potential in his life and work. Bobby said, “It inspired me to use it as a press name, when the business started in my garage. When the hobby turned into my career, the name just stuck.”
Our holiday piece begins with Bobby creating a small hand concept sketch, followed by some color ideas on his mobile tablet, and then a final full scale tracing to be used with carbon ink paper to transfer the image onto the plywood for relief carving and inspection throughout the print process.
Rarely do we think about a carving being used as a tool or “jig” for the final product. In this case, Bobby uses a carving reduction method, he calls “suicide or “waste block” printing. After each color is printed, he carves areas from the block, eliminating the previous color and level from being reprinted. This creates the next detailed color level until the last color is applied, and the block is eventually “destroyed”. One hundred prints were rolled through the press using three relief carved blocks for five printed colors, where the red and yellow blocks were carved separately. The three shades of brown were done as a reduction.
Bobby’s precise examination using the initial tracing with each run becomes the final artwork. With each reduction cut, he cannot go back to undo any mistakes. Each carved slice is scrutinized with the utmost precision for the final prints. This ensures that each of his projects are truly a one of a kind detailed work of art, and impossible to replicate.
Bobby explained, “I print woodcut posters on a Vandercook SP20 proof press from the 1960’s.” Additional Vandercook press history from 1909-1976 can be found at vandercookpress.info/timeline/. He continued, “The carved woodblocks or set types are laid out and locked up in the press bed. I use Hanco Litho Ink, which is distributed across the rubber rollers with a motorized steel drum. One color is printed at a time. Paper is clamped to the cylinder which is hand cranked across the bed, inking the wood block or letter type and printed on to the paper in the process. I also print on a Cleveland Ohio manufactured, Chandler & Price platen press from the 1890’s, that is hand fed and powered by a foot treadle.”
The final step was to layout and lock into position on the press for the handset type slogan at the bottom of the design, and roll prints. From design start to finished prints, Bobby completed this project in about 50 hours.
Bobby’s talents don’t stop at creating letterpress artwork. Enjoy this quick video, showcasing each print rolled item and other custom products available at JustAJar & Etsy, accompanied by his musical talents. Bobby’s side hobby is strumming old time banjo with his band OYO, playing Americana contemporary music. The band was named from the Iroquois, who referred to the Ohio as OYO (OH-yo), meaning beautiful river! And, yes…..Bobby designed and printed the band logo too!