Open Press Project
We are Martin Schneider and Dominik Schmitz, two designers from Cologne, Germany. Martin designed the initial version of the Open Press in 2018 as part of an exam at his University KISD Köln International School of Design. His idea was to come up with a functional printing press that can be manufactured with a regular 3D printer. He published the files for it as open source in order to make it easy for people to get access to techniques like etching, engraving, drypoint, and other intaglio printmaking techniques. Before the Open Press Project these techniques were usually only possible with a regular big etching press, but these are very expensive, difficult to transport, and can be quite intimidating. A tiny version of this made from corn-starch-based plastic would lower the hurdle to print etchings & co, Martin thought. And he was met with overwhelming feedback, people from all over the world started to print their own presses in various colours. We share presses and prints from other people on our Instagram account @openpressproject
After about a year, more and more people without access to a 3D printer had approached us and asked for a version they could order from us, so we launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in 2019 to make these tiny presses accessible to people without a 3D printer. It was a real challenge to manufacture them cost-effectively in high quality, but we eventually shipped all presses to our backers and continued to sell them using a choose-what-you-pay strategy where we offer presses at our own cost to make them available to people without a lot of money. However, lots of people decided to put something on top to enable us to pay ourselves a small salary and even work on follow-up projects, like this print exchange! We were able to subsidize part of the exchange in order to lower the hurdle to participate.
Learn more about how to get your own tiny press on the official Open Press Project website.
Back in 2019 we hosted our first open call, where we invited the Open Press community to send us prints printed with a tiny 3D printed press. More than 100 artists from around the world participated and we were able to show more than 250 tiny prints in our print studio Kölner Graphikwerkstatt in Cologne!
At this point we had been opening up letters and small packages for weeks and every time the entire workshop was in awe of what people sent in. For us it was even more fascinating because the Open Press Project had been online for about a year and it was stunning to see what people were able to create with the presses we've designed. It felt like Christmas for weeks.
It was clear to us that this would not be the last open call and exhibition of tiny prints, and after finally manufacturing all presses of our Kickstarter last year, more people than ever before had a tiny press and we looked into how we'd organise the next open call. In the meantime, some people have started to mark their presses on this map, and it really shows the immense reach of the project, which we totally didn't expect in the beginning!
Letting people send in prints again was an easy plan, but we especially wanted to give everyone else the same experience we had when we opened your letters. A print exchange was the obvious choice and there have been great initiatives for swapping prints with people in the past. We want to use a similar concept to show the world what can be done with a tiny 3D printed press and help make printmaking more accessible.
More than 300 editions of prints arrived at our doorstep in the beginning of 2022, were carefully opened by us, 9 of each edition were matched with their new owner and one was kept for digitization and framed for upcoming exhibitions. That's more than 3000 prints in total. Thanks to everyone who submitted them, it was so much fun seeing all the fantastic prints in person.