By Karen Frantz
Astorian Gabriella Miyares was always interested in art printing.
She comes from a line of artists — her great-aunt was a graphic designer and her mother is a painter — and she herself took a print-making class while pursuing an English degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the late aughts.
After moving to New York City and landing a job as an editor for a publishing company, she knew she wanted to get back into it.
So one day she decided to make her own printing press after finding a YouTube video demonstrating how to fit several two-by-fours, a particle board and a hydraulic jack together to make the machine.
“My dad was calling me Guttenberg for a while,” she said in her Astoria apartment recently while demonstrating the handmade device, which sits on a tabletop in her bedroom.
Her project has morphed into a side business, Moxie Press, which Miyares calls her cottage industry. From her apartment in the evenings and on the weekends she creates her own stationery and print designs that are available for purchase on etsy.com, an online marketplace that helps small sellers of handmade and vintage goods connect to a wide audience.
She said she initially started to sell her artwork as simply a way to make back the $200 she spent making the press.
“I thought if I can make back what it cost to build it, then that would be fine with me. Anything else is just a bonus,” she said. “Thankfully, it has paid for itself several times over.”
As Moxie Press has grown, Miyares’ work caught the eye of the Queens Museum of Art, which asked permission to sell her prints in its store and more recently has used some of her work in mailers. And she said she is increasingly contacted by people requesting custom designs, including a couple who asked her to design a logo for them.
Miyares said the work has not only helped bring in extra cash, it has helped her realize a new path.
“Through it I realized I had a stronger interest in graphic design than I realized beforehand,” she said.
She ended up pursuing a certificate degree in graphic design at the Shillington School and now works as a junior graphic designer at Galison, a fine art stationery company.
But she says she loves the hands-on aspect of her printing press.
“For me it’s kind of a therapeutic thing and it keeps me creative and the medium is very tactile,” she said.
She added that it is her way of designing something that is not on a computer, pointing out that electricity is not needed to run a press.
“When Hurricane Sandy came through, I was like okay, I’m set. I’ve got my candles, my printing press and my ink and paper. So that’s all I need,” she said.
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.