Where should we start talking about The Southern Letterpress? Should we talk about the equipment? The prints? We could, but it would be better to talk about the people, because they’re amazing. The Southern Letterpress is co-owned by Bridget Elmer (my gracious spirit guide at Ringling LBAC) and Jessica Peterson, two indomitable spirits with a resumé & story to match.
Bridget tells it best: “Jessica started the first location of The Southern Letterpress in Columbus, Mississippi on Labor Day of 2011. The first shop was located in the front office of one of the last locally-printed newspapers in the country, The Columbus Dispatch. In 1840, a newspaper called The Southern published at [that] very location, and we chose to align ourselves with the storied history of the printing in the south by naming our press The Southern Letterpress.
Jessica and I joined forces in 2013, when I opened the second location of The Southern Letterpress in St. Petersburg, FL, first operating out of my home studio, and eventually moving with Oma Darlin’ Press to a shared studio space in Gulfport, FL. Jessica moved her studio from Columbus to Northport, AL, and then on to New Orleans, LA in 2015. [We] met in 2007 in Tuscaloosa, AL while studying at the Master of Fine Arts in the Book Arts Program at The University of Alabama, where we had both enrolled to expand our individual backgrounds in graphic design and book studies. We both have over 20 years experience in letterpress printing, design, and book arts craft, and each of us also print limited editions under our own small press imprints, Flatbed Splendor and Paper Souvenir.”
The half of the bifurcated Southern that I visited after Ringling LBAC is the space in Gulfport, FL. It’s shared with Oma Darlin’ Press and a few other artists. The studio is cozy, but holds a Challenge MP15, a Vandercook 3, a Craftsmen Superior 8 x 12 platen press, and a C & P Pilot platen press. There are over 100 cases of type, border, and ornament, most of which came from Arledge Printers in Tryon, NC – Bridget tells me that she purchased it all from Hub Arledge, the son of the original founder of the press.
I was really excited to find some amazing cuts there and put them to use – and the postcards that I made at The Southern were the very first to sell out – check out the moths and the diving girl. I followed up with the other half of The Southern in Birmingham, AL, but that story is yet to come! Until then, check out the great pics. If you’re ever in the region visit Treasure Island – white sand beaches that are over 500′ wide, crystal clear water, and some fantastic old hotels & signage – see the Thunderbird below.