Ryan Tempro is the Florida native behind the beautifully designed letterpress paper goods line, M.C. Pressure. Gorgeous typography, bight color palettes, a good dose of wit and plenty of swears make for a great selection of cards, notepads and coasters. You may recognize his designs from Buzzfeed, where both his coasters and wrapping paper (a collab with actor/producer Michael Rapaport) have been featured.
Your brilliant name M.C. Pressure is a play on words, a tip of the hat to M.C. Escher and to the process of letterpress. What do you admire about Escher’s work? Any other artistic influences?
Escher most certainly influenced me while I was in college. A lot of what I was drawn to was the repetition of pattern in his tessellation work and his dedication to process. Several pieces of work that I made in school were focused around process. While there were some alternative and more accurate tools I could have used, such as a pencil, I chose to use a pallet knife and thick paint to work in a grid of squares. While he would work a lot in pencil and printmaking, I always admired his detail and dedication. Other artistic influences are people like Debbie Millman and Chuck Close. The Italian Memphis Group is always a fun source of inspiration as well. Sometimes, I am even inspired by the things people say while around me, often so much so, that I even include their words into my products that I sell. People are funny!
You studied fine art and graphic design at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. What was your introduction to letterpress? What about the process appeals to you?
I first learned of letterpress as a process in one of my design classes as I went through the art program. I thought it was really interesting and the things I could see online were incredibly cool! It is such a goofy idea when you think about it. Letterpress is so different when compared to the finished product of offset or screen printing. With letterpress, the design is physically pressed into the paper instead of the ink sitting on top of the paper. Oddly enough, while I was working at a clog shop downtown, I visited the factory where they were made. They had a small hot foil press that they weren’t using anymore. I knew enough about the process to see that it was similar enough and could mimic some of the same techniques you use while letterpress printing. The owners of the clog shop were kind enough to let me borrow it! From there, I began working on a mustache-themed Christmas card, which I try and create every year, which reads “Staching through the Snow”. It has a mustache on it, and you’re meant to hold it up under your nose and share a photo of you doing so. It has become a fun tradition that my friends and family look forward to each holiday season.
From there, I was hired to work at a small letterpress shop here in town. I began working as their pressman and learned a lot of the basics about how to formally print. It was a great opportunity! From there, I graduated college and moved to New York for an internship program. Once that was completed, I returned to St. Augustine, finished out my BFA in Fine Art, and worked at a local screen printing shop. My boss there knew a guy in St. Augustine who used to be a letterpress printer as well. I met with him and he had a small table top press for sale. I picked it up, resorted it, and got to printing! Ever since then, I have been growing from a small business that could offer only small formatted prints to now, where I have a full fledged production print shop. I am loving every day that I am able to print on them!
I love your style, your use of expletives and your color choices. What made you decide to create a line of paper goods?
Thank you so much! It always makes me smile to hear that people love what we make! We started making our own line of goods to help transition between times when we were not working on custom orders such as wedding invitations and business cards. The next thing I know, Buzzfeed is posting about the Don’t Fuck Up The Table Coasters! The more we work on our own line though, the more fun we have. It’s a way to involve others as well. M.C. Pressure shares space with a graphic design company called Spacecamp Co. Each semester, we offer an internship program with the surrounding schools. Students that are chosen get to work on a variety of tasks including helping design some of the products we move into production at M.C. Pressure!
Where do you draw inspiration for your clever designs?
Some of my inspiration comes from ideas that sit in my head for so long that I just feel as though I absolutely have to make them. A few designs are collaborations with other designers, public figures, and I have even been fortunate enough to work with a few celebrities. Dani Simmons was one of our interns and has recently turned into a new employee. I can often give her some mess of jumbled thoughts for what I think would be a new and fun idea and we basically go back and forth on making it the most ridiculous it could possibly be and finally, we then work backwards from there! Whenever I receive a new set of samples or papers, I think, what cool thing can we make with this? I love working on collaborations and enjoy doing so whenever I can.
What was the last piece of snail mail you sent?
The last piece of snail mail I sent was actually something that we designed here and it did not make it into product. It was a play on the ‘you are the ____________ to my ___________’ type of card. I sent it to my girlfriend. I have a terrible diet and a true love for junk food. She loves sauces, more than most people I have ever met. It read, “You’re the sauce to my Zaxby’s.” Not particularly romantic, but we both got a good laugh out of it, and in the end, that’s all that I wanted! I love making things that make people laugh, most of them do!
In addition to your own line of products – you do custom work. What are some of your favorite kinds of projects to work on?
We do work on custom designs! Some of my favorites in the past have been a baby announcement that was simple and different. It was a Chinese New Year theme. The design was simple and looked really unique. It was done in gold foil on red paper and I think that color combo really excites me! Another custom order was for coasters for a restaurant out in Austin that I have been wanting to go visit! Red Ash Italia had Spacecamp Co. design some really beautiful two color letterpress coasters, which we printed. Again, I love food so things that relate to that particular subject are always enjoyable in my book.
Any dream projects?
I have been having a lot of fun working on these little matchboxes and I’d like to work on some more of them! I have also been working on a letterpress air freshener! Just some fun interesting things that I feel aren’t often letterpresses items. Some of my friends joke with me here that maybe, one day, I will be a printer to the stars and I do have to agree that think that would be a lot of fun!