Straw Hat Press, established in 2012 by Laura Cleary, Shaun McCallum, and Ashley Schick, will be closing up shop at the end of August and leaving Atlanta. But instead of completely shuttering, the press, which has been housed at the Goat Farm Arts Center, is actually broadening its reach and its programming, and plans to maintain connections with the Atlanta art community.
McCallum and Cleary are dividing the shop between Chattanooga, where Cleary will oversee a shop and residency program, and San Diego, where the contract printing and publishing services will be run by McCallum. (Schick is no longer involved and is now the studio program director at One Love Generation, a teen mentoring program.) The first call for applications will go out in September for weeklong residencies beginning, most likely, in November 2015. There will be four per year—two open call and two by invitation.
“It was a hard decision,” said Cleary, but they each had opportunities they felt they couldn’t turn down. “We realized that it would be better if we divided the shop and kept it going.” She’s returning to her native Chattanooga, where she is already in the process of converting an old garage into a print shop. McCallum is from South Carolina. They will still be collaborating and traveling back and forth.
“A lot of our work is done online,” said Cleary, “and we realized we have the ability to be in other places.” Artists typically will come in for a couple of days to work with them on projects that average 10 to 14 days in total.
Cleary said that, more than the contract printing business, they want to focus on collaborating with artists to publish prints. Among the local artists they have worked with are Nikita Gale, Jason Kofke, Paul Light, Brian Dettmer (now in New York), and Curtis Bartone (Savannah).
Straw Hat’s closure leaves the city without an independent professional publishing print shop—the type that has master printers who collaborate with artists, and that represents and sells artists’ works on paper. But the city will not be bereft of printmaking talent and opportunities. SCAD-Atlanta, for example, has a publishing wing, the Southeastern Center for Printmaking, which is where Cleary and McCallum met in the MFA program. And the nonprofit, nine-year-old Atlanta Printmakers Studio has an educational mission and provides services and equipment for artists and the community.
Cleary said that, while Atlanta had had print shops in the past—Nexus, Rolling Stone—there weren’t any in recent years, so they saw an opportunity—an opportunity that is presenting itself again. She said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if someone wants to open a print shop.”