Today we speak with Rich Tough, a Redding printer and artist who’s competing in Martha Stewart’s annual American Made contest. Readers may also recognize his wife, Gwen Tough, who has a blog about her chickens here on anewscafe.com.
Welcome to A News Café, Rich. Before we start talking about the contest, can you first please tell us a bit about yourself?
Our family moved to Redding in 1999 from the San Francisco Bay Area, to enjoy the uncrowded lifestyle here and the ability to own a home with some land. I moved the company, Montague Spragens, up here in 2005. We have the same name but are now in a 1,000 square foot building compared to 11,000 square feet in Oakland.
Here I do everything; in Oakland I employed 14 people. Montague Spragens has a four-color Heidelberg Lithographic printer that does modern four-color process printing, as well as several old letterpress printing machines.
That’s an amazing story of how Montague Spragens came to Redding. I had no idea a set-up like yours was in that Parkview area.
Now, about the contest, how did you happen to enter?
My wife, Gwen, is a Martha Stewart fan and read about this contest in Martha Stewart Living Magazine. All the contestants submit that their work is made in the USA, as well as original to their business. (Click here to see Richard’s link on the Martha Stewart page. To nominate Tough, click on the “vote” button.)
The contest categories are Craft, Technology, Design, Garden, Style and Food. Each contestant was asked to submit information about their work-what makes it unique, as well as photos and or videos or their work. After the deadline for submission (Aug. 26) the public has until Sept. 22 to vote for their favorite nominee.
You are allowed to vote up to six times each day, by going on the Martha Stewart American Made website. After the voting is finished, the category winners will be announced and there will be a second round of voting for the finalists. One Grand finalist wins $10,000 to further their business as well as a trip to NYC for a big American Made Market in Grand Central Station on October 16 and 17.
I’ve seen your webpage and photos of your creations. Very impressive. Can you tell us about your art?
Thank you for recognizing that printing is an art! One of the most common misconceptions about printing is that it is a lowly, dirty trade with ink splattered all over everything. That might describe the worst shops, but not mine!! Yes, ink is required for printing, but so is creativity and attention to the smallest detail.
In my shop on Favretto Avenue, I do a variety of printing. I use three letterpress printers to make the old fashioned egg cartons which I feature in the Martha Stewart American Made Competition. One of them, a 1914 National Die Cutter, weighs almost two and a half tons! It cuts out the various pieces of the cartons.
My Kluge Press foil stamps the cartons, and the Heidelberg Windmill press prints, foil stamps, blind embosses. The Germans made it so it can do just about anything. The letterpress makes an impression in the paper that can be felt as well as seen. It is beautiful as well as useful, as all printing should be. Printing is a science as well as an art-machines do break, inks sometimes refuse to dry, and the printer must sort it all out. So it looks flawless-like it didn’t take any work at all!
Another misconception about printing is that it is about the same as what comes out of your computer printer. Four-color process printing is not a push-of-the-button thing. It is extremely complex, from making the pre-press plates that position where the colors will go on the plates to mixing inks to produce the exact colors required. How many shades of blue are there in the PMS color book? Countless.
I have looked at some of the other printers in this contest. Most of them are just getting started and doing things on a very small scale. But I admire their work and find it rewarding that young folks are still discovering letterpress printing. In terms of a contest, it appears that whoever gets out on the vote using their social media has the best chance of winning. I’m not sure I will be a finalist using this criteria. But I am proud of my work and stand by its quality.
You’ve taught us so much about your craft, Rich. Thank you for taking the time to share your art with us. Anything else you’d like us to know?
The story of how the egg cartons got started! I was searching for something to get for my wife for Christmas one year. I found an old 1930’s style egg carton on Ebay and bought it. I took it apart and used my letterpress printers to make Gwen’s Christmas gift: egg carton’s customized with “Gwen’s Old Fashioned Eggs” foil stamped in gold.
Thanks so much, Rich. Good luck!
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.