Local artist brings new life to an old form

SIANA EMERY

Arts Editor

seemery@goshen.edu

 

Amy Worsham is bringing the oldest form of graphic design into the modern era. Tympanum Press, located in an alley in downtown Goshen, specializes in the art of the letterpress. Amidst shelves of loose type and nine presses, Worsham has carved a space for her unique business while also expanding to take on the role as arts director of the city of Goshen.

Recently, I had the privilege of working alongside Worsham during a workshop at her studio. As I fumbled through the process of setting and pressing type, Worsham guided me through it with expertise. Her well-trained eyes could easily distinguish an “n” from an “u” in their upside-down and backward state, and she hardly blinked an eye while measuring out correct spacing in the chase. In her element, Worsham has no problem taking command.

Worsham began letterpressing 10 years ago with a dusty and rusted tabletop press, dinged-up letters and a lot of intrigue. That press still sits in the organized clutter of her studio on the same rickety wooden apparatus it came with.

In the attic of her husband Richard Worsham’s family home, Worsham was introduced to the art of letterpress after she found herself disenchanted with the world of graphic design.

“I just wanted to open up fresh art supplies and nerd out over fresh pencils,” said Worsham, gesturing to the supplies scattered throughout the studio. “He said he had this thing I’d like: a letterpress. He told me just to trust him. He’s always saying that.”

Worsham’s husband said that upon showing her the press, “she initially saw it more as a novelty than an art form.” Worsham recalls setting “Calico Pie” by Edward Lear with 12-point Garamond, a classic font. After locking it in the chaise, the pair inked it up.

The smell of oil paints coupled with the sounds of the press and the pride in a handmade design is intoxicating.

“It’s a bell and a tink and a roll; it’s this rhythm. It’s this music that the press is making. Meanwhile, the smells are permeating into the air. Then the ink hits the paper from the type and it’s magic,” said Worsham.

Worsham loved the tactile nature of the art form, the way indents were left on the page after it went through the press.

Determined to take her new passion back with her to Indiana, Worsham loaded up her trunk with all the equipment she could. She ended up breaking the shocks of the car with a 100-lb press and numerous loose trays of lead type.

Worsham started a studio in her kitchen with the press from her husband’s home and soon took over a bedroom. In the years that followed, that studio overflowed to another bedroom, then a garage. It was all driven by Worsham’s sense of wonder.

“Amy quickly outgrew my knowledge of printing and began the process of transforming a hobby built around a single heirloom press into an art form with a global reach,” said Richard.

As the country was still recovering from the Great Recession, Worsham and her husband both were trying to find steady income while avoiding traditional jobs. Two creatives were not cut out for that kind of a life. After a brief stint in Virginia, the couple returned to Goshen with their family. Worsham launched her Etsy business the summer of 2015, right after moving back.

“It was a stupid hot summer. We moved back on an awful, disgusting weekend. And it was First Friday, so there was bumper to bumper traffic,” said Worsham.

The move proved to be a strong decision. By November, Worsham had consistent enough sales to pull an income. Just in time, too, because savings had just run out.

As a student at IUSB, she never even took a business class, as being an entrepreneur was not on her radar. She certainly didn’t intend on also becoming arts coordinator for an entire city.

As she applied for the position overseeing the Mayor’s Arts Council in 2017, she never expected to actually get the job, believing there had to have been someone more qualified.

“I actually committed to this studio five days before they contacted me saying I had the position [for the Mayor’s Arts council],” said Worsham, referring to the garage Tympanum Press is based out of. “I can juggle, but it was a lot.”

One year later, Worsham’s success continues to grow. With plans to continue expanding Tympanum Press, Worsham has also thrived as resident “artist wrangler,” in her words.

Worsham works to organize artist meetups and workshops for locals and has launched phase one of the council’s website to track assets.

Worsham speaks from personal experience when she says that artists not from this generation are at a disadvantage. It never used to be a freelance culture.

A highlight of Amy’s work is providing resources to amp up the social media of established artists.

“We started with an art studio tour on Instagram in July. We celebrated and highlighted over 30 artists,” said Worsham. “It was as a lot of fun. It was intense, it was exhausting and I actually can’t wait to do it again.”

As Worsham spoke, it was impossible not to get just as fired up about future possibilities as she was.

Animated and energized in her words, Worsham dove headfirst into both of her roles and is fully prepared to keep swimming.

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