Letterpress & Book Arts at UAFS\
Where learning is strictly Hands-On!
Founded in 2009, Underground Ink Press is artistic printing and bookmaking facility at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith. Its mission is to enable designers, artists and scholars to create artistic printed matter as well as books that push the boundaries and traditions of book arts.
Under the auspices of the Department of Art, Underground Ink maintains a fully functional letterpress and book arts studio/classroom. Its name comes from its location in the Gardner Building basement on the UAFS campus, but it is now housed above ground in the Chauncey A. Lick Studio, a 3600-square-foot space in the Windgate Building of Art & Design. It is currently equipped with
- two Vandercook SP-15 proofing presses;
- a Vandercook Universal III large bed press;
- a Chandler and Price platen press
- 14 cabinets of metal and wood type.
- a Challenge hydraulic paper cutter;
- a Polymer Platemaker
- 12 individual workstations with storage;
- facilities for storage and cutting/handling of paper and binding materials;
Letterpress, which was once considered outmoded technology, has now become a premiere educational tool among some of the top graphic design programs in the world. It is unparalleled for hands-on teaching about typography, paper, book arts and the craftsmanship of fine printed matter.
Book Art (or Book Arts or Artists’ Books, as the genre is sometimes called) is different from book design or book illustration. Book art is actually a term for the exploration of books, not just as vehicles for information, but as an expressive art form. In Book Arts, every aspect of a book—size, format, materials, shape, weight, even how it opens (or not) and is read—all these elements are intentionally chosen to help convey the content. Usually the printed edition is small (most are hand printed and bound), but book art works may also include one-of-a-kind or sculptural pieces.
In addition, letterpress and book arts are an important part of combining the development of critical hand skills and cognitive development with literacy, history, and alternative art-making. Students who get letterpress and book arts experience are not just working with their hands; they are using their hands and their art in the service of communication with words, sentences, poems, stories, and sequential narratives.
This letterpress and book arts studio is used for regular classes in the Art and Graphic Design programs, but is open to all students enrolled at UAFS. It is also used by other classes, such as those in history and language. In addition to regular credit letterpress and book arts courses, Underground Ink Letterpress and Book Arts also hosts several public letterpress and book art workshops each year.
Our roster of visiting artists includes noted practitioners such as John Horn; Steve Miller, Amos Kennedy, Lesha Shaver, Karen Hanmer, and Merve Pakaste.