Above: Associate Professor of English Thom Caraway
When people walk into Millwood Print Works for the first time, Thom Caraway watches their eyes light up as they recognize a strong, nearly forgotten aroma: freshly pressed ink.
Founded in 2016, Millwood Print Works is, in many ways, an old-fashioned print shop. Beyond evoking nostalgia, though, it's a blossoming community where people are reclaiming an art form, finding new ways to use old equipment. "It's a very production-oriented process and very satisfying," says Caraway, associate professor of English at Whitworth and co-founder of the shop. "This keeps the designers' hands on the process the entire way through. You see the hours represented in the work."
On its busiest days, the shop is loud and chaotic as artists dig through boxes of print blocks, layer ink on rollers, and claim space on the drying racks for their completed works. Four platen presses from the late 1800s line one wall; cabinets filled with type take up the adjacent walls. Another room holds screenprinting tables, and a third room is used for finishing prints – cutting, folding, binding.
Millwood Print Works owes its existence to overwhelming community support – cash from a successful Kickstarter campaign organized by alumnus Danny Parker, '15; a grant from Spokane Arts; and equipment, like the platen presses, from people who kept them in their basements, left untouched for decades. Millwood Presbyterian Church provided the building.
Since the Kickstarter campaign, Caraway and his partners, Spokane printmakers Bethany Taylor and Derek Landers, have been holding classes and workshops in letterpress and screenprinting, and they're involving students from Whitworth, Gonzaga University and Eastern Washington University.
Meghan Foulk, '19, is an intern for Caraway's publishing class at Whitworth and works at the shop cleaning and organizing type, and labeling print blocks. She is also involved with Whitworth's literary magazine, Rock & Sling, and is interested in one day being an editor or running her own magazine.
Foulk's work at Millwood is giving her a newfound love of the art. "Letterpress combines two of the greatest art forms – the written word and visual art," she says. "I love creating things digitally, but there is something to be said when you are able to go back to an old form of art and maintain its spirit."