The Queue: Kent Aldrich

The Queue: Kent Aldrich

Discover what individuals from our craft community are into right now.

Published on Monday, November 9, 2020.
Cover graphic for The Queue featuring Kent Aldrich

Exploring Legacy through The Queue

With the October/November issue of American Craft celebrating the legacies of our 2020 award winners, we’re inviting them – as well as the people who help make the American Craft Council Awards possible – to share personal reflections from their careers and talk about the projects that are inspiring them today.

For the maker of the ACC Awards, letterpress is a way to honor others

Kent Aldrich is the owner and master printer behind The Nomadic Press in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the creator of the physical ACC Awards presented to our honorees every other year. As a letterpress jobbing shop, The Nomadic Press specializes in handbinding limited-edition books and constructing presentation cases and portfolios.

Tell us a little bit about your background in 50 words or less.
I am a Minnesota boy, and most of what I know I learned from Al Schwerdt of Duluth and from Allan Kornblum while working for him at Coffee House Press in Minneapolis. Those men knew how to sweat the details so that the finished piece looked effortless.

Portrait of Kent Aldrich with moped

↑ Kent Aldrich pictured with his scooter, a 2003 Stella that he tricked out himself in the Mod style of the 50s and 60s. Kent is active with the Twin Cities Scooter Collective.
Photo: Roland Small

ACC Awards created by Kent Aldrich of The Nomadic Press
ACC Awards created by Kent Aldrich of The Nomadic Press
ACC Awards created by Kent Aldrich of The Nomadic Press

↑ ACC Awards created by Kent Aldrich of The Nomadic Press.

Nomadic Press has produced beautiful, bound, letterpress awards certificates for each of our recipients in this biennial award program since 2014. How do you think about your work as it relates to honoring others who make?
As a letterpress printer, much of what I do is in support of others. Whether I am working on an awards piece like the work that I have done for the American Craft Council, a set of invitations for a special event, or a limited-edition artist’s book, the finished piece needs to point away from me and toward the honoree.

Exterior of The Nomadic Press

↑ Exterior of The Nomadic Press in St. Paul, Minnesota, where Kent Aldrich creates the physical ACC Awards.
Photo: Courtesy of Kent Aldrich

The interior of The Nomadic Press The Interior of The Nomadic Press

↑ Started in 1989, The Nomadic Press offers a range of letterpress services while specializing in handmade books, presentation cases, and portfolios.
Photos: Courtesy of Kent Aldrich

What does the idea of “legacy” mean to you and what you do?
One cannot be a letterpress printer and not be nearly drowning in legacy. Three of my printing presses were built in the 1890s, and while the work that I produce today is of this time and of this place, my process and the craft of what I do would be instantly familiar to the printers who first took delivery of those presses when they were brand new.

What's one of your favorite, go-to tools in your workshop or studio?
The Perfect Register Gauges that I use are my favorite tool. They are each a very small shelf that clamps onto the presses tympan sheet. Always used in a set of three, they together keep the paper and the printing form in perfect relation to one another. Couldn’t do without.

What’s an exhibition or art project you think the world should know about, and why?
Here in Minneapolis and St. Paul, the street art memorials to George Floyd are amazing. Who knew that there were so many talented and expressive portrait artists here in the Twin Cities just waiting for anger and sadness to set them off?

What book should we be reading or paying attention to right now?
The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair is the book that I need right now because there is only so much inhumanity one can expose oneself to before running off into the histories of shades dyes and hues to find comfort in a full spectrum of color.

Whether I am working on an awards piece like the work that I have done for the American Craft Council, a set of invitations for a special event, or a limited-edition artist’s book, the finished piece needs to point away from me and toward the honoree.
Cover of The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St Clair

Help make American Craft Council programming possible

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