Ghost in the Machine

Design firm KeeganMeegan & Co. operate 19th-century letterpress machines for the 21st-century print revival.

By Kate Goodling January 5, 2015 Published in the January 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

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Image: Michael Novak

Behind a nondescript red door on a brick building on SE Third Avenue, there be monsters. The black-iron hulks could easily be mistaken for medieval siege engines.

They are heavy artillery, so to speak, from another era: 19th-century letterpress equipment put back into service, in this case by design firm KeeganMeegan & Co. Part of traditional printing’s revival in a time of near-instant digital design, Katy Meegan and Keegan Wenkman’s metal giants offer a return to process and physicality, lending letterpress’s distinctive tactile qualities to local clients such as Bitch magazine and the Multnomah Whiskey Library. “These are machines you can’t just pick up,” Wenkman says. “It takes a lifetime to learn.”

“Each machine has character,” Meegan adds, “a soul.”

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