The Hippo


Jun 6, 2020








Hannah Phelps printmaking at the D.M. Penny Press. Kelly Sennott photo.

D.M. Penny Press

Where: 250 Commercial St., Suite 3005-D, Manchester; the studio will soon move to 2005-D in the same building
Contact:, 930-7608
On the trolley tour: It’s a stop on the Open Doors Trolley Tour in Manchester Thursday, April 21, from 5 to 8 p.m.,
Membership: $85 a month is paid for three or more months (unlimited); $110 paid monthly (unlimited); $80 for five days normal business hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.); $60 for two days normal business hours; $35 for one day normal business hours

Printmaker’s paradise
New studio opens in Waumbec Mill

By Kelly Sennott

 Dave Gray created the D.M. Penny Press open printmaking studio on a leap of faith. 

“I think of the movie Field of Dreams. ‘If you build it, they will come.’ This is my little field of dreams,” Gray said during an interview at the new open printmaking studio located in the Waumbec Mill in Manchester, which he established in December.
The sunny, 500-square-foot green studio contains a large assortment of printmaking tools and materials, especially considering its young life. In addition to two etching presses — a Conrad E-15 and Conrad E-24 — the space offers a small oven for heating plates, a UV light box for solar plates, small and large etching tanks and an airbrush and spray booth for aquatinting. Hanging on one wall is a collection of smaller tools — rollers, putty knives, scissors, measuring cups — and alongside that stands a gigantic drying rack holding Gray’s copper etching and Hannah Phelps’s woodblock prints. Everything’s nontoxic.
Gray discovered New Hampshire’s printmaker studio void soon after taking his first printmaking class with the New Hampshire Institute of Art’s Continuing Education program.
“There are other studios in the state run by very established artists who will open up their studios for other established artists to work on a project, but whatever you’re working on, that quality of work has to meet their standards,” Gray said. “You can’t just be a newbie who wants to go in and learn stuff.”
A year ago, Gray became even more acutely aware of this void when he began looking to downsize to a smaller home and find a place for the printing press in his basement. He shared his problem with NHIA printmaking teacher Erin Sweeney, whose letterpressing class he was taking, and other teachers and artists through the school. They worked with the idea of creating a co-op but lost momentum when interested artists married, moved or changed their minds. Finally, he just did it anyway.
“I just bit the bullet, bought [another] press and said, I’ll just open my own studio, make it open and invite other artists to come in. Really, over the last year, it’s been about acquiring the equipment, building the equipment and looking for deals,” Gray said.
He settled in the Waumbec Mill because of its cleanliness, bright light from two large windows, and the fact that his day job, Thunderhead, is just up the stairs.
Membership prices vary from $60 to $110 a month, with unlimited to normal work hour (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) availability. Gray said he’d eventually love to incorporate classes, but for right now, the only requirement is that you know what you’re doing. At the time, the only other member was Hannah Phelps, whom Gray met during that first printmaking class. 
Phelps is a full-time printmaker and member of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, and she travels thrice weekly from New Boston to Manchester to work there. The day of the interview, she was applying layer seven to her 60-edition oil ink woodblock print depicting Peaks Island, Maine.
“That’s one thing that’s awesome about printmaking,” Phelps said between applications. “With painting, you sell that one painting and it’s gone forever. … With printmaking, you can make multiples.”
Phelps turned to printmaking later in life. She took her first printmaking class in 2009, admiring the graphic quality and clean edges. Before Gray opened shop, she considered joining a group in North Hampton, Massachusetts, or White River Junction, Vermont. With woodblock printing, there’s a lot you can do at home, but it’s more efficient and she prefers working in a studio with a press, particularly since she has to increase inventory enormously for her first League fair in Sunapee this August. She has faith others will join her soon.
“A lot of people, like the BFA people from NHIA, they maybe loved printmaking in college or some other time in their life, but then they had to give it up because they didn’t have access to it,” Phelps said. “NHIA does have a minor in their bachelor’s program. They’re creating all these printmakers … and then letting these poor children loose in the streets with all this printmaking knowledge and nowhere to do it.”
Gray’s not a full-time printmaker, but it runs through his blood. The studio name comes from his grandfather, a letterpress printmaker who was president and owner of the Brown and Morrison Publishing Co. in Lynchburg, Virginia. As a result, Gray had always been interested in printmaking; he just never knew, until a few years ago, where to learn it.
“I have a curious background,” said Gray, who has degrees in both mechanical engineering and computer science. “I’ve played all kinds of musical instruments growing up as a kid. I was terrible at all of them. I painted, did some photography. Did some ceramics classes. … But I like that there are so many different avenues of printmaking.”
At the time of the interview, he was working on a piece using the mezzotint printmaking method, which he described with enthusiasm.
“This is just something new I’m trying, the mezzotinting. It’s not something you can learn by taking a class. Nobody offers it,” Gray said.
Gray’s hope is that D.M. Penny Press becomes a printmaking community, especially as he’s already upsizing; because neighboring offices wanted to buy the space, the printmaking studio would be moving downstairs to a 1,000-square-foot place later in the month. His goal is to replicate that supportive environment he found while working to earn his printmaking certificate at NHIA.
“I really like the camaraderie, where you can just work with other printmakers … You can learn a lot from each other,” Gray said.  

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