Way to Wayzgoose! | An Interview with Brad Vetter
By: Reid Frick
Brad Vetter is an independent letterpress printer, artist and designer based out of Louisville, KY, where he operates as Brad Vetter Design. An alumnus of the famous Hatch Show Print, Vetter has worked with actual rock star clientele, such as Chris Stapleton and Mumford & Sons, and huge companies including Nike and Chili’s.
But to Vetter, the idea of working with big names has meant less and less over time, as he realized there were people like himself behind the scenes. “I started to realize that there were people behind these big bands and companies, people that genuinely cared about good design, the process of letterpress and most importantly—other people,” said Vetter.
“One of my favorite things about letterpress is not the equipment or the beautiful old type, it’s the people. It’s sharing ideas and images and files of old specimen books!” said Vetter. “We don’t learn how to print from textbooks, you learn from getting your hands dirty and talking to the people that have been doing it longer (or differently) than you have,” Vetter said.
Vetter’s presentation will reflect his own journey on “finding out what it means to be a contemporary letterpress printer,” and it is the people gathered and stories like Vetter’s shared that may just make the biggest mark at Interrobang.
Genuinely caring about and having a passion for one’s craft is something that is a common theme with Vetter. Many of his most recognizable posters feature a variety of renowned musicians and bands, and that is not just a coincidence. Vetter’s love for printing stemmed from his love for music, and for Vetter, that was his way of contributing to something he loved.
“The second I learned how to print I was making posters for my friends’ bands. I was never any good at playing, so this was my way to be a part of a culture that I loved,” said Vetter. “It’s not as much about “who they are”, to me it is much more about what they stand for, how much they love making the music they play, that they are writing the songs they want to hear, or speaking out for those whose voices are not as loud,” Vetter said.
Vetter’s work is a world of passion, preservation and innovation, as he looks for ways to keep the history of letterpress relevant in a world of modern technology. Keeping the history of the craft alive is important, but Vetter doesn’t want his work to rely only on the novelty of the outdated process to carry his projects.
“It is very important for me to not rely on the history of letterpress printing for my work to speak. I want my images and processes to be fresh and relevant and as progressive as possible,” said Vetter. “The computer and laser cutter have become just as important a tool as my antique type and presses. I will never rely 100% on the computer though; I want to celebrate my type collection… there is something beautiful about that history that I will never let go uncelebrated in my work,” Vetter said.
On April 13, Vetter will be a featured speaker at Interrobang Wayzgoose 2019. Vetter plans to speak about ‘Laser Engraving and Other Antiquated Technologies’, but the event means more to him than just discussing print work.
This piece was written by a Ball State University student and member of the Book Arts Collaborative in Muncie, Indiana. The Book Arts Collaborative is dedicated to preserving and promoting the apprentice-taught skills of letterpress printing and book binding through community interaction. It's not just what we make that matters, but how we learn from one another to make it happen.