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Phil Hassett: Pinney Studio Artist-in-Residence

Jul 2, 2024
Phil Hasset at Work

Please welcome the newest Pinney Studio Artist-in-Residence Phil Hassett! Phil is a local letterpress printer living in Madison, WI, where he maintains a small collection of historic printing presses and a growing collection of historic and modern printing type. He owns his own print studio called Washboard Press, and as a lifelong musician, he plans to bring some of what he's learned in the musical world into his residency.

From May-November, Phil will take inspiration from jazz and improvisational musical practices and use letterpress printmaking to explore the interplay between text and layout, words and images, letters and ornamentation, color and form. The residency is titled Call & Response, and Phil will invite visitors to experiment with the use of letters to create images and the use of ornaments to create letterforms, while thinking about how communities shape words and stories and how words and stories shape communities.

Over the next few months, there will be several opportunities for you to come meet Phil, learn more about his exploratory process, and make your own creative prints buttons, posters, etc. Phil will host open studio hours in the Pinney Studio space on Tuesdays from 4:30-6:30pm, and specialty workshops will be announced  throughout his residency, as well.

Check back regularly for updates and info!

Open Studio Hours:


[FULL] Letterpress Design with Metal Ornaments: Bookmarks

In this workshop, participants will work with type ornaments and spacing to hand-set decorative designs and print them on a set of bookmarks. Learn about printer’s measurements, spacing material, basic printer’s math, and ornamental design. No previous experience with typesetting or printmaking is needed. This 2 hour workshop is for adults and older teens at least 14+. 

Registration is currently full - reach out to Pinney Library via phone (608-224-7100) or email pinney@madisonpubliclibrary.org to inquire about joining the waitlist.

More workshop themes and dates coming soon! 

Other Projects: 

Letter Press Kits

During his residency, Phil has been working on making "print kits" for library staff to take with them on outreach efforts and when attending community events. The Bubbler already had two "provisional presses", which are mobile and could be used to form the basis of the kits. The first thing Phil had to do was create an alphabet of wooden letters to accompany the kit. Only about three people in the U.S. make type for letterpress printing, and Phil happened to know Ben Davidson, the talented artisan behind Columbia Gorge Book Arts, who also got excited about creating a set of letters for Madison Public Library. 

Next we wanted to ensure that the kits would be more accessible in more languages so we asked for accented letters to make the kit bilingual in both English and Spanish. Then we went one step further and decided we also wanted the kit to be available in Hmong. Phil worked closely with Multisite Library Assistant Mai T., who offered insights into what additional letters would be needed to help make the kits more suitable for writing in Hmong. 

Once we figured out all of the details, Ben got to work creating the type for us in the font Amplify, and he used bamboo, which is a less traditional, but more sustainable option than the rock maple you'd typically see letter made from. In late June 2024, we got word that the type had arrived, and Ben let us know that he got so excited about the project that he made some additional ornaments to go along with the type.

Ornaments are decorative flourishes that go beyond just the alphabet, and what Ben sent turned out to be truly special! The ornaments included an elephant foot pattern, that is seen repeatedly in Hmong designs, Hmong snails, hearts, and triangles that Mai thought might represent the mountains, as the word Hmong translates to "People of the Mountains." 

We are currently in the process of finalizing the print kits so we can start using them in outreach and at community events. Keep an eye out for an opportunity to interact with them soon! 

Inspiration for the letter press kits comes from Partners in Print, a group of printers in Seattle who developed their own portable "Print Kits" to share with organizations in their city. The kits aim to make letter pressing and printmaking easier and more accessible to people all around the city. 

This unique residency is made possible with a gift from Madison Public Library Foundation, the Friends of Pinney Library, and funding from the Pinney Library Capital Campaign.