North Texas Daily

Former university printmaking professor creates letterpress business

Former university printmaking professor creates letterpress business

Former university printmaking professor creates letterpress business
April 29
14:14 2022

Within the walls of 4 Acre Press in Argyle, former university professor Syd Webb, 33,  sits at her desk surrounded by a collection of machinery, artwork and letterpress type which signify more than a decade of hard work and cultivation. A printing press, purchased during her final year of undergrad, rests just in front of her. The machine has followed her from Indiana to Texas and around the metroplex and is part of a tradition that started in the 15th century with the invention of the first printing press.

A letterpress printing sign hangs in 4 Acre Press on April 14, 2022. Lillian Vest

She founded the printmaking studio when she moved to a four-acre property in Kaufman County after graduating with an Master’s in Fine Arts in intermedia from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2014. She has since moved to Denton, but the name is a remnant of “time and place,” she said.

Initially, the studio was confined to a shed on the property, but in 2019 she moved to a space in Argyle with more room. The larger space allowed Webb to start teaching private workshops in addition to her classes at the university. 

“Teaching is one of my favorite work joys,” Webb said. “To have people come in this space and teach them in this environment versus the university has been really rewarding.” 

Webb specializes in printmaking and letterpress which utilize the printing press to transfer images or type from one surface to another. She also practices bookbinding. 

After teaching screenprinting for six years, Webb left the university last spring to pursue her art as a full-time career. Now, she spends most days in the studio working on commercial projects, like wedding invitations, or pieces to sell at markets around Denton and the DFW area. 

The decision to commit herself fully to the business came as a surprise to 20-year-old graphic design student Jalon Isabell who interned with Webb over the summer of 2021. 

Syd Webb’s art sits on a table in her studio on April 14, 2022. Lillian Vest

“She wants to make her living the way she wants to, so that was very inspiring,” Isabell said. “As a student, I was looking forward to seeing her in the fall [2021], but whatever way I can support her, I have been.” 

In addition to inspiring students, she is also setting an example for other aspiring artists in the printmaking community, former university printmaking professor Kazuko Goto, 52, said.

“We come from an educational background, so it is great to give students hope,” Goto said. “Sometimes it is hard to imagine the future with printmaking and what you can do with it, but she is fully using it.”

As a child, Webb was introduced to the printing press by her parents who owned a commercial printing business. She considered a similar career path for the first time after being exposed to printmaking as an art form in her first year of college, she said. 

At 4 Acre Press, Webb mainly deals with poster making, which she became familiar with during graduate school. In 2012, she interned at renowned Nashville design shop Hatch Show Print where she began working with the larger format. 

“When I got in grad school and did that internship, I was like, ‘OK, this is my niche,’” Webb said. “A poster is a finite thing. You’ve got to get your message across and it has to be attractive and direct.”

During the course of the internship, she also dealt with impending parenthood as the birth of her daughter Willow approached. 

“I was pregnant when I went to Hatch, so it was a really life-changing part of the experience,” Webb said. “I had to grow up a little bit.” 

Early in her career, the artist was focused on making a name for herself and getting work into galleries. Eventually, Webb said she realized she could make art and sell it in other ways. 

A letterpress sits on a workbench inside 4 Acre Press on April 14, 2022. Lillian Vest

“It is a different experience when someone buys a poster and takes it home versus someone going to see art in a gallery,” Webb said. “I like the idea that someone is going to buy my poster and actually live with it.”

Ten years on, she is focused on growing her business and creating a community resource for other artists who may not have access to their own equipment, Webb said. The move to Argyle allowed for a larger population of people to access her studio. 

“My dream would be to have some regular students who take a class and want to come back and make their own work,” Webb said. “It has taken me ten years to get all of this stuff and everyone can’t have space to put a giant press in their home.”

Featured Image: Syd Webb poses in her studio on April 14, 2022. Photo by Lillian Vest

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Connor Patterson

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