December 2019

My name is Shelley Thorstensen and I moved and set up a 1966 mint condition Okuma flatbed lithography offset proof press from Whately, Massachusetts to my shop, Printmakers Open Forum in Oxford Pennsylvania. This press is a beauty. It can print lithographs – both stones and plates – as well as relief woodcuts, linocuts and monoprints about 24 x 36 inches and larger. To the best of my knowledge I will be the only female owner/operator in the US of a press like this.

In the 1970s I was one of a select few who developed what was then referred to as “mylar lithography”. I created hand-drawn separations of existing artwork which were then printed one plate at a time on flatbed offset proof presses. For example, working under the aegis of Marina Picasso, I created 36 hand-drawn separations of a work by Picasso. My hand and brain became better than photoshop before it even existed. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to run those presses. It was the 1970s and 80s. This was a man’s world. Since that time, I’ve had opportunity to run flatbed presses. I’ve spent pretty much my entire life learning and thinking about printmaking. I feel I have a great wealth of knowledge and history to share about all facets of print.

This Okuma press has come to Printmakers Open Forum not only for my own use but also to teach others, especially women, how to make plates and operate it. Printmakers Open Forum has a history of providing multiple medium hybrid workshop/residencies. I see this new press as becoming part of this milieu.  

This press weighs over 10,000 pounds and is 13.5 feet long and six feet wide. Riggers need to prepped the press, disconnecting the electrical components, securing all the movable parts, wrapping it and jacking it up and getting it on skates to be eased out of the building. A trucking company winched the press onto their truck, then made the 321.7 mile trek to Oxford Pennsylvania. Before it arrived, walls in the shop had to be removed to allow its passage. A volunteer crew was there to meet her. The press was jacked up, set on skates and pushed to the back end of the shop where she will permanently reside. The press was precisely leveled to be able to operate. The electrical system on the press uses 3 phase with a 2 phase converter. While the electrical system is fully functional and state-of-the-art for the 1960s, we're converting this electrical system to a more current system that eliminates the idiosyncrasies of these type of presses. In addition there are lots of shop modifications underway to to accomodate the new to PMOF Okuma!

Andrew Mullally's spectacular "Big Bear"
hand-printed t-shirt is a Reward! "Okuma" (the manufacturer of the press means "Big Bear"in Japanese)

Artists donating their time to developing the inaugural LITHOSPHERE editions:

Jeffery Mitchel, Katie Baldwin, Todd Norsten, and Shelley Thorstensen