Caitlyn Cooney (BA ’14) realizes the perfect combination of her passion for both the history and the craft of printmaking through community arts activities in Pensacola, FL, and her thriving letterpress business, Charlotte Mason Printing Company.
Fascinated with the variety of printmaking processes she first learned in a performing-arts high school, Caitlyn followed this interest through her studies in Art History and Studio Art at FSU. Originally her particular focus was stone lithography, but studio opportunities in this medium were limited, so she pursued a career as a curator of prints and drawings: “I figured if I couldn’t save a disappearing art by making it, at least I could make sure it was well represented in a major museum collection.” Several museum internships later, she realized she was frustrated with administration and missed the physical life of the studio: “Letterpress is a very tactile process, definitely a craft. It takes a lot of work and love. I get lost in the repetitive motion…I get into a creative zen.”
Caitlyn landed a job with the oldest letterpress in the country, Hatch Show Print in Nashville, TN, where she gained professional graphic design experience, as well as a deeper understanding of the history of letterpress and its impact on commercialization and industrial development – a history she had first begun to investigate in her Art History studies at FSU.
In 2016, Caitlyn was drawn to Pensacola by personal connections and the recognition of a growing artistic entrepreneurial community in the coastal Florida city. She saw a niche for letterpress design there, and opened Charlotte Mason Printing, bringing together historical craftsmanship and contemporary design. Spreading the spirit of artistic enterprise, she is also starting a collaborative maker space for Pensacola woodworkers, graphic designers, installation artists, painters, and draftsmen. And finally, she has discovered a museum venue for sharing Art History background and love of printmaking: The University of West Florida’s Museum of Commerce had a collection of unused letterpress machinery and materials, which she helped to rejuvenate and animate. Now Caitlyn leads monthly historic tours at the Museum, Exploring the Letterpress, as featured in a video produced by Pensacola community publication InWeekly: