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July 12, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
As a kid, Philip Gresham hated that markers and colored pencils wouldn’t give him flat tones and shades. In his early teens, he was introduced to printmaking and knew he had found his calling.
After the 24-year-old graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute, he was searching for a way to sell his prints that didn’t require them to be high art. Now, his handmade cards, which cost $3 each, are selling out at Get Lost Bookshop and Clover’s Natural Market. He also sells his cards on Etsy.com under the name P. Gresham Prints.
His cards feature images such as bikes, sandwiches, birds and snails. His prints act as a canvas for his interpretations of the world.
“A lot of it is just from what I see in my life,” Gresham says. “I sit in the backyard and watch the birds every morning and drink a cup of coffee.”
Although Gresham works at Café Berlin as the bar manager, he still finds time to create his art in his printmaking shop behind his house for at least five or six hours a week. The process from idea to card can take anywhere from two hours to several weeks, depending on the picture.
“Sometimes I’ll have the image just pop into my head, and I absolutely know where every single carving mark needs to be,” he says. “I’ll just sit down and chop it out as fast as I can.” Other times, he will go back after inking, cut the illustration down and change it several times before he is satisfied.
Gresham draws each idea on a wood block. When he’s satisfied with the drawing, he begins to carve the image. From there, he inks the block and presses it onto the paper. His favorite part of printmaking is “the pure bliss of taking the sheet of paper off the block and seeing the first print come up good or bad,” Gresham says.
Although Gresham has only produced 20 designs since he started making cards two years ago, each of the 1,500 cards he’s made were individually hand-registered and showed slight variance.
Get Lost owner Amy Stephenson started selling Gresham’s cards in the store in May. “I was in the parking lot at Clover’s and saw them in the window,” Stephenson says. “I didn’t know what they were, but I knew I wanted them.”
The handmade look and local tie draw people to the cards, Get Lost employee Tim Pilcher says.
However, it is not just the idea of community art that motivates people to buy Gresham’s cards. Danielle Hampton, who works at Clover’s, says she believes many people just think they are high-caliber art and love their “head scratcher” designs.
Hampton and her husband decided to use one of Gresham’s designs for their wedding invitations. The cards, featuring two snails, were not traditional, but the Hamptons say they thought they were perfect.
Even though he did not make a custom design for the Hamptons’ invitations, he pulled the rest of the cards out of circulation, so the design is now theirs. Gresham loves the intimacy of making personal designs for people. Wedding invitations and mass production are definitely in Gresham’s plan for the future, but his current focus is on art shows and invitations for his own wedding later this year.