Kate Askew met Lamarie Rutelonis about 10 years ago when they apprenticed together at the same shop where they learned how to set type and take care of presses and other equipment.
About six years ago, Rutelonis suggested they combine their equipment and, with a third, silent partner, open a shop, High Cotton Letterpress Co-op. The location at 3721 Cantrell is the third shop incarnation.
“We think we finally got it right this time,” Askew said, noting they are starting their third year at the current location.
The shop, more of an art studio than a store, is a 99 percent, hand-set operation.
Askew, an admitted wood type fanatic, has been collecting type for about 15 years, mostly from antique stores across the country.
Several years ago, she and her husband were traveling through Virginia and stopped at an antique store. When Askew, as per her habit, asked the owner if he had any letterpress equipment, he said “Did God send you?”
The owner had just bought an entire printshop the day before and it was all still sitting in his parking lot. Askew bought as much as the couple’s car would hold and it sagged under the weight all the way back to Little Rock.
Askew is also in the habit of scouring the classifieds for any listing that has a printing ring to it. Some of her best typefaces have come from answering the classifieds.
Rutelonis and Askew have also gotten a lot of support from their printing teacher. It takes a lot of knowledge and power to move such equipment, she said, and without his help they would likely be stuck in their first, water leak-plagued location downtown.
The name of the co-op, which represents all three owners, is High Cotton Letterpress Co-op. Askew isn’t sure how they came up with the name, but all had to agree and she said the first 87 proposed domain names had been taken.
To The Letter
Terms and sayings that have their origins in the printing trade:
“Uppercase” and “lowercase” come from where the letters were originally held in type cabinets — the majuscule (uppercase) letters being in the case above the minuscule (or lowercase) letters.
“Out of sorts” — we all know what it means to feel “out of sorts.” Sorts are the individual letters that make up a font of type. If a printer is setting a long paragraph or a page in a book or newspaper and runs out of a letter, he or she can’t finish the job and is “out of sorts.”
“Mind your Ps and Qs” — letters (or sorts) in a case of type are backwards, and Ps and Qs can often get mixed up in the case, causing errors to show up on the printed page.