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From a shop that seems lost in time, a Maine printer creates works of uncommon beauty

Almost four decades of “just loving to go to work.”

PORTLAND, Maine — In a studio packed with machines anywhere from 50 to 170 years old, David Wolfe turns out posters, prints, and books, all of them designed and made with the deft touch of a printer and the keen eye of an artist. He is fully capable of making—and has made—an exquisitely crafted book for which a collector might pay thousands of dollars. But that’s not where his heart lies.

“I’m not thrilled with making things that only a few people can experience,” Wolfe says. “I’m much more interested in making a poster that’s stapled up on a telephone pole.”

His studio seems more like a working museum than a business. You’ll look in vain for anything contemporary, and his most modern machine was built well over a half-century ago. But the beauty of it is that everything works—and more important, turns out books and prints with a look that is clean, elegant, timeless.

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“It’s a lot of technology that’s been thrown away and people haven’t seen it,” Wolfe says. “That’s where I get most of this equipment—shops closing and there’s no place to take it, and somebody calls me up and says any of this you want to come get, if you can move it, it’s yours.”

Business is good, and Wolfe, who’s essentially a one-man operation, doesn’t have to worry about competition. His guess is that no more than ten businesses in the entire country do what he does. In any case, he didn’t get into printmaking for money. He does it because it’s deeply fulfilling.

“There’s not a lot of people out there that love what they do and just get up and want to go to work,” he says. “And I’ve been doing that almost forty years. Just loving to go to work.”

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