Hancock County

Craftsman chooses letterpress printing over tech career

BAY ST. LOUIS -- Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. left behind his job as a computer programmer with AT&T to pursue his true passion, the art of letterpress printing. He became a master of his craft and left the hustle and bustle of Akron, Ohio, to run Kennedy Prints in the small town of Gordo, Ala., which is a few miles east of Columbus, Miss. He has since left his haven in Gordo for Detroit.

Kennedy on Saturday brought his passion for letterpress printing to the Arts Alive festival in downtown Bay St. Louis by doing demonstrations on the patio of Smith & Lens.

"I do primarily posters, but I call them oversized greeting cards," he said of his colorful artwork that had printed phrases such as "Always choose art." The artwork was displayed on a clothesline on the patio.

He said he has been mastering his craft for about 20 years.

"I was trying to print other things, stationery and things of that nature, but I didn't have fun doing it so I started doing this," he said.

'Proceed and Be Bold'

Ann Madden, the "Lens" in Smith & Lens said Saturday was the third time they have hosted Kennedy.

"Amos is just amazing," she said. "We love when he comes to Bay St. Louis. He has such a great story."

Kennedy's story of leaving his career for his passion was the subject of the 2012 documentary "Proceed and Be Bold." It can found in its entirety on YouTube.

"If you watch the documentary, you'll fall in love with Amos," Madden said. "You'll be rooting for him."

A renewed interest

Letterpress printing was the main source of printing for several years until offset printing became the norm for most newspapers and publications. The typography used on letterpress printing was used by Hatch Show Print in Nashville to create many of its iconic concert posters.

During a demonstration Saturday, Kennedy showed how to make one of his "greeting cards" by placing ink on the letters and pressing them on a piece of paper. His finished product was a small card that said "Arts Alive."

"This is a form of relief printing," he said. "This is what I enjoy doing."

He said the art of letterpress printing is making a comeback.

"If you go to Hatch Show Print, you'll see that it's definitely not dying," Kennedy said. "It's become more popular in the last few years, especially among the young people who wanted to do something besides on computers."

The increased interest in the ancient printing method has created a certain level of chagrin for Kennedy.

"I would say 'yes,' that I'm glad to see it coming back, but the more people that go back to this old way, the more competition I have," he said.