Advertisement
  1. Arts & Entertainment
  2. /
  3. Arts

You see ‘All are welcome here’ prints around St. Pete. Meet the women spreading the message.

“There was just so much hate going around and uncertainty. People didn’t feel safe," Kaitlin Crockett said.
Print St. Pete founders Bridget Elmer, 42, (left) and Kaitlin Crockett, 31, (right) pose with a 1930's era Vandercook #3 flatbed proof press. It is the dream press for Elmer. "It does not require power at all. I love the idea of post-apocalyptic printing, Elmer joked. On the press is the "All Are Welcome" poster they printed and made available free of charge after the 2016 election. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Print St. Pete founders Bridget Elmer, 42, (left) and Kaitlin Crockett, 31, (right) pose with a 1930's era Vandercook #3 flatbed proof press. It is the dream press for Elmer. "It does not require power at all. I love the idea of post-apocalyptic printing, Elmer joked. On the press is the "All Are Welcome" poster they printed and made available free of charge after the 2016 election. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Jan. 28
Updated Jan. 29

In the cozy white brick studio, they print.

Wedding invitations. Business cards. Posters. They pull the copies from antique presses by hand after arranging each letter carefully.

If you’ve spent time visiting local shops or cafes in St. Petersburg, there’s a chance you’ve seen something made at Print St. Pete Community Letterpress. The most prominent is a white poster with black words: All are welcome here.

For local printers Bridget Elmer and Kaitlin Crockett, letterpress is as much about the craft as it is spreading messages like this. At their Gulfport studio, the pair are putting that power into the hands of anyone and everyone.

Posters from handset type decorate the shop of Print St. Pete founders Bridget Elmer, 42, and Kaitlin Crockett, 31. Photographed Thursday, January 23, 2020 in Gulfport, FL. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]

A bookmaker and artist, Elmer is the letterpress and book arts coordinator at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota. One self-publishing class in 2002 led her to learn the craft, and she soon bought her own tabletop platten press.

For writer and librarian Crockett, letterpress was a way of connecting to her family’s past. Her grandmother was a newspaper proofreader, her grandfather a newspaper typesetter. She took a bookbinding class taught by Elmer while getting a creative writing degree at Florida State University so she could create a chapbook of her poetry.

“I always was kind of crafty. And I was always a writer," Crockett said. "So finding something that combined the two was really magical.”

Vintage wood type, pictured in the shop of Print St. Pete founders Bridget Elmer, 42, and Kaitlin Crockett, 31. "I would say that's one of our favorite fonts," says Crockett. Photographed Thursday, January 23, 2020 in Gulfport, FL. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]

Crockett went on to launch her own print business, Oma Darlin’ Press. Elmer, meanwhile, co-founded The Southern Letterpress. Both ended up in the St. Petersburg area and decided to combine resources, moving into a shared studio in 2013.

They sold their paper goods in local shops and hosted Paper + Pints events, welcoming the community in to share drinks and print messages on coasters.

Then Elmer and Crockett took their operation to local markets. They hooked a printing press up to “Fancy White,” a ‘66 flatbed GMC pick-up truck so shoppers could try making their own prints.

The more they were out in the community, the more people started to request custom print jobs.

“They’d be like, can you print this for me?'" Elmer said. "And we’re like, ‘No, but you could.’”

Print St. Pete started offering hands-on classes in 2016, some beginner and some more intensive. A four-hour letterpress workshop teaches the basics. Students return later to work on their own projects, from creating handmade business cards to designing their own wedding suites. Print St. Pete also hosts visiting and local artists in calligraphy, collage and bookbinding.

Elmer and Crockett launched the first St. Printersburg festival in March 2019 with Calusa Press, bringing together dozens of printmakers selling art and teaching hands-on demos. The free event is coming back to Calusa Commons in the Grand Central District on Sunday, March 8.

Crockett and Elmer often meet people who took letterpress as a school elective or remember grandparents owning presses. For newcomers, Elmer said, the appeal is the tactility.

“That direct engagement is something that people really seem to be feeling very satisfied by,” she said.

A composing stick gets type set by hand in the shop of Print St. Pete founders Bridget Elmer, 42, and Kaitlin Crockett, 31. Photographed Thursday, January 23, 2020 in Gulfport, FL. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]

Letterpress, like other forms of art from the past, is having a resurgence. Similar to the slow food movement emerging as a response to fast food, there’s now a slow craft movement, too, Elmer said. It makes a lot of sense in St. Pete, a community that values all things local and self-made.

Which leads back to All Are Welcome Here, a sign you’ll see at a lot of local shops. Crockett made a stack of prints the week after Donald Trump was elected. After a polarizing election season that left many feeling uneasy, she decided to give them away.

“There was just so much hate going around and uncertainty. People didn’t feel safe," she said. “There was a need for that message."

In the four years since, she’s made hundreds more, in different colors and even now on T-shirts.

“I can never seem to print enough," Crockett said.

By putting the message out, they’ve also drawn people in, including two interns who helped make more posters.

Karli Schneider, the interdisciplinary artist who runs local zine shop Take Bread Press, is one. She started helping around the studio to learn more, and came away inspired.

“We started doing these posters because we’re in here talking and fired up about things that are happening in the country and the world,” Crockett said.

Schneider has made prints with phrases including “Migration is beautiful,” “Support the right to choose," and “We’re here we’re queer.”

“It’s speaks to what is going on right now in our political climate,” Schneider said.

The proceeds were donated to organizations like Planned Parenthood and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. The pieces also act as conversation starters.

“Nine times out of ten, (customers) tell me their opinion or their experiences,” she said. “I think that it’s a way for people to appreciate it because it’s art, but then also kind of go the extra mile and have a conversation with who’s next to you who is also experiencing it.”

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

  1. Danielle Wade, Megan Masako Haley, Mariah Rose Faith and Jonalyn Saxer in the nationally touring company of the musical "Mean Girls." The role of Regina George was played by English Bernhardt, not Faith, for the Feb. 18 performance.
  2. Yesterday• Visual Arts
    Graciela Iturbide's 1986 photograph, "Fiesta de las Velas, Juchitan,Oaxaca," is on display in the Tampa Museum of Art's "Modern Women: Modern Vision" exhibition, opening Feb. 20, 2020.
  3. "Brahms: The Boy II" stars Katie Holmes.
  4. Jeff Foxworthy will perform at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa on Feb. 20.
  5. John C. Turner played saxophone and oboe for the Florida A&M University "Marching 100," and later became marching band director for the high-stepping Plant High School band in the '70s and early '80s. For a while, he also performed in a band during Tampa Bay Buccaneers games. He died on Feb. 9, 2020.
  6. Danielle Wade, Megan Masako Haley, Mariah Rose Faith and Jonalyn Saxer in the nationally touring company of Mean Girls the Musical, coming to the Straz Center Feb. 18-23.
  7. Titus Welliver, left, plays Los Angeles detective Harry Bosch in the Amazon series "Bosch," based on the series of books by Michael Connelly, right.
  8. Members of the Legislative Investigation Committee, also known as the Johns Committee, in 1963.
  9. Brian and Mika Kleinschmidt are a Riverview real estate duo that star in HGTv's 100 Day Dream Home.
  10. Linda Jablonski, 61, of South Pasadena, visits the "Let Me Be Myself: The Life Story of Anne Frank" exhibit at the Florida Holocaust Museum and tries out the virtual reality experience of Anne Frank's "Secret Annex."
  11. Randy Wayne White, author of the new novel "Salt River."
  12. "Black Figure Skyphos (Drinking Cup)," part of the Tampa Museum of Art's permanent collection, is on display in the exhibition "The Making of a Museum: 100 Years, 100 Works."
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement