Hatch Show Print carries on its art and tradition
Larry McCormack, [email protected]
The workroom of Hatch Show Print buzzes with the kind of energy you’d expect to be generated by a roomful of people working their dream jobs.
Pleasant indie rock music plays over the speakers as artists who create the iconic letterpress art do their work. On the other side of a partition, visitors to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which owns and houses Hatch, flip through racks full of posters and other merchandise.
From behind a glass wall along the hallway that connects the Hall of Fame to the Omni hotel, tourists stop to watch the artists do their work on equipment that dates back to the 19th century. The work unfolds at a steady but not frenetic pace, and the room maintains a calm, upbeat mood.
Letterpress printmakers search through thousands of metal letters to make the perfect poster July 23, 2019, at Hatch Show Print, located inside the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. (Photo: Larry McCormack / The Tennessean)
With each poster they create, shop manager Celene Aubry describes, Hatch’s artists are archiving music history and continuing the proud, uniquely Nashville tradition of the 140-year-old company.
Aubry says working at Hatch is her dream job. Before starting at Hatch in 2012, Aubry considered herself a storyteller, whose work included handling marketing for a boutique resort in the British Virgin Islands and for an American wood-type history museum in Wisconsin. She also did letterpress art on the side, including teaching the craft.
“The great thing about Hatch is that every time we tell somebody else’s story we’re just adding to our own story,” Aubry said. “One of the examples I like to use is Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin.
“We did posters for them the first time they came to Nashville (to perform at Municipal Auditorium) in 1970. Then when he moved here in the 1990s to make music with Alison Krauss, we made posters when they went on tour. So through his career and through many people’s careers, we’re a continual touchpoint in their history.”
Jennifer Bronstein, Hatch’s production manager who has worked for the company since 2007, said she’s in her dream job, too.
Bronstein said the designers use woodblock components dating back decades, in some cases all the way back to the 1880s. Some artists collaborate with designers and have specific requests for what they’d like their posters to look like, Bronstein said.
For instance, Hatch is designing the album art for an upcoming project by Old Crow Medicine Show. Ketch Secor and Critter Fuqua recently visited the shop to discuss the design for the art, Aubry said.
But others give the designers total freedom. Bronstein said one of her personal favorite posters that she designed was for a Nine Inch Nails concert in Washington many years ago.
Amber Richards and Devin Goebel inspect a poster produced by intern Rosa Jeffiers at Hatch Show Print on July 23, 2019. (Photo: Larry McCormack / The Tennessean)
The Nine Inch Nails poster featured layered cross sections of lines that produced the same dramatic, atmospheric vibe as the rock band’s music.
“We always talk to the client first to get a feel for what they have in mind, if they have any expectations for the look and overall feel of the poster,” Bronstein said. “That’s the starting point.
“Our letterpress process is very different than digital design, and a client might have something in mind that we just can’t make happen.”
Live entertainment connection
Hatch’s letterpress art has been tied to live entertainment since the company’s early days when art was done for carnivals, religious revivals, variety shows and minstrel shows, Aubry said.
When the genre that became country music was born in the 1920s, Hatch produced posters for artists such as Uncle Dave Macon and DeFord Bailey.
Following Hatch prints can show an artist advancing from small clubs to massive stadium shows, and there may be no better example of this than the revered country music Class of 1989.
Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Alan Jackson and Travis Tritt revolutionized and revitalized the genre. The artists also played a hand in boosting Hatch, Aubry said.
The shop saw a dip in popularity in the 1970s and ’80s, Aubry said. When that group of artists came on the scene, they utilized Hatch prints. As the genre exploded into the mainstream, Hatch became more popular, too.
It’s only fitting that the Class of ’89 and Hatch are celebrating landmark anniversaries in the same year.
“Our history is country music history,” Aubry said.
Reach Nate Rau at [email protected] or 615-259-8094 and on Twitter @tnnaterau.
Letterpress printmakers manually insert metal type onto the press to make a poster July 23, 2019, at Hatch Show Print. (Photo: Larry McCormack / The Tennessean)
About Hatch Show Print
• Founded in 1889
• Employs eight designers and seven members of its education and outreach team
• Produces between 600 and 700 orders per year, creating approximately 250,000 posters
• Purchased by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 1992
• Located inside the museum at 224 Fifth Ave. S., Nashville
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