Silas Helm


Letterpress with Hannah Swanson

I'm currently creating a publication called Urban Collective. The goal of the magazine is to encourage people to interact with their city's culture and local creativity. The following is an interview with Hannah Swanson which will be featured in the first edition.

Hannah Swanson is a 2016 graduate of Wheaton College. Right now Hannah splits her time between photography and branding.

What about letterpress is appealing to you? The process. It is not something that can be done necessarily “efficiently.” You have to take the time to place and layout each letter individually. You have to take the time to ink the press. It’s a sort of meditation of the words that you’re pressing. And because our culture is very immediate and convenient, I feel like I am counteracting our frantic way of operating when I take the time to note words of significance in order to create something and make art out of them. In this process I feel as though I’m sharing a little bit of myself too.

How do you see letterpress fitting into our digital age? As I mentioned before, letterpress takes time. It takes space. Thankfully, for me it is therapeutic. The final product of a piece that was run on the press is about more than just what it says or depicts, there is an impression left on the paper, the texture of an imprint, something that can’t be reproduced digitally. I believe people see great value in this way of making art (of course, maybe it’s only paper geeks like me) because it’s not immediate and there’s something beautiful about the idea that someone saw something, read something, or heard a phrase significant enough to want to recreate it with little pieces of metal and run it through the press. I think the digital age needs a little more letterpress.

What does it mean to be an artist? I think the first part of being an artist is thinking like an artist. It’s in part a perspective, in part a responsibility, and in part a passion. To perceive things as an artist is to think critically about what’s in front of you. To pay attention to the little things and chose to live a little more slowly while at the same time following trends, watching what others are doing and not getting to much into your own world. To be a responsible artist is to make the time and space to create, to not grow content in your work or become bored of the world around us. I’m preaching to myself, but there is always beauty to lean into and experience richly, and to create out of that experience. To be a passionate artist is to have fun, take risks, and continue to learn. There are a lot of artists in the world, which means there is a lot of art being made, which means there is always more to learn and try. When you are passionate about something you don’t give up, and I think art deserves people who won’t just quit.

What inspires you to create? Well here’s a list for you. People and more people. Words. Conversations.  Colors. Black and white. Light. Lines. Experiences. Images. Paper. Letters. Challenges. Collaboration. Traveling. Reading. That feeling of satisfaction after the first print of the letterpress. Did I mention people? Choosing to see people as inspiration and a point of collaboration rather than competition was really important for me. Other artists push me and are a source of encouragement for me and I’m super thankful for that.

Silas Helm