Printshop Tour: Pele Prints

Pele Prints in St. Louis has a rich history that began years before the press was founded in 2006. Amanda Verbeck, owner and master printer, took a printmaking class at Washington University–an experience that shifted the course of her life. She changed her major to art, began an apprenticeship with Maryanne Simmons (master printer at what was then the Washington University Collaborative Printmaking Workshop, now called Island Press), and eventually founded Pele Prints.

The press publishes two to four artists each year and focuses on creating a new body of print-based work that embraces experimentation. These usually take the form of unique prints as opposed to editions, and are often mixed-media.

Prints by John Wahlers titled Path to Enlightenment, 2011.

Print by Alicia LaChance.

Pele Prints is located in the front of a large warehouse shared by several businesses, a site Amanda selected for its affordability and convertibility. Her DIY-oriented approach to problem-solving has served her well: she sectioned off a corner creating an entirely new space, and the many re-purposed work tables were originally found discarded. The shop is equipped with two Island presses plus a shiny Takach press in back.

The Island etching presses were designed by Peter Marcus and built by the L.E. Sauer Machine Company. That’s one of them in the back.

Here’s the second Island press designed by Peter Marcus.

3′ x 6′ Takach litho press

In 2009, the press began to feel the economy’s strain. No one was buying prints. Rather than close shop, Amanda re-thought what Pele could be. She cites support and advice from her mother, also a small business owner, in brainstorming ways to keep the doors open. Pele Projects was born out of that brainstorming in order to appeal to a broader audience. Amanda printed on linens, cards, and clothing. Once sales of artists’ prints resumed, Amanda decided to continue Pele Projects. This past March, they expanded their programs even further. They now offer printmaking workshops, thanks in large part to Gina Alvarez, who spearheaded the program and remains in an advisory role.

As Pele Prints moves gracefully into its sixth year, there’s a lot to look back on: a shop expansion, many beautifully published prints, a diverse and growing audience, and support from friends, family, and the St. Louis art community at large. I hope that Pele’s creativity, success, and unwillingness to shut its doors inspires others also feeling the economic strain, as well as anyone dreaming about opening a press of their own.

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3 Responses to “Printshop Tour: Pele Prints”

  1. Amanda is such a joy to work with. I just finished a project with her, and look forward to many successful years of Pele Prints!

  2. Thank you so much, Sage…love it! And ditto, Jessie ;)

  3. Maria says:

    Amanda makes beautiful music out of the expression of art…an inspiration to me for her entire life. Being able to collaborate with her has been one of the best gifts of my life.

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