How I Made This: Addie Best on Her Folksy Designs And Vandercook Press

Since graduating from college last spring, she has taken her whimsical printmaking full-time.

Printmaker Addie Best at her 1946 Vandercook press
As told to Caleb Jagoda
Photographed by Tara Rice
From our December 2022 issue

A few years ago, while I was studying printmaking at Rhode Island School of Design, I fell in love with Vandercook printing presses. They’re these big, old-fashioned presses that stamp designs onto paper using rollers that are operated by hand. I first used one my freshman year, and I finally bought my own last spring, which I now use to make the majority of my prints at my barn studio, in Brooks. It’s a little smaller than the press I learned on, but it’s perfect for my work, and although it was made in 1946, it runs like a dream. I make my prints by carving into linoleum with a small gouge to create a linocut relief print, which then gets inked and printed onto paper with the Vandercook. I ink the rollers on the Vandercook, clip my paper in, and roll it across the linocut to make my paper prints.

Printmaker Addie Best

I make paper prints of folklore figures, tchotchkes, animals, and weird, cute designs. The idea and feeling of home is a really big inspiration for me and something I try to convey through my work — I like designs that make people feel happy and cozy, like they’re sitting with a cat in their lap. I’m inspired by the folk art of early New England or everything in the genre of slightly off-kilter illustrations. What I’m really known for are block-printed, hand-pressed linen patches that people use for their own sewing projects and decorations. I print my designs of acorns, toads, and vegetables on scraps of fabric I get from businesses like Fiddlehead Artisan Supply, in Belfast. I love when people use my patches on clothing or quilts. It’s magical to see my work being incorporated into other people’s projects.

Addie Best pulling a print off of her Vandercook press
Addie Best’s Vandercook press sometimes cameos on her TikTok, where upwards of 23,000 followers appreciate her print reveals, daily outfit updates, and fine musical taste.

People seem to love my yearly calendars, which I print on both tea towels and paper. I sketch and carve all the symbols backwards onto the block, because they’re mirrored during the printing process, and decorate them with designs that I’ve made throughout the year. This year, the design includes pictures of geese, unicorns, and Harpies from Greek mythology, printed in a rust-orange hue. People have told me that their grandparents had similar calendar tea towels. It means a lot to me when my calendars make people nostalgic. There’s something special about a craft that’s made so slowly and that you can reproduce infinitely. I love the idea of accessible art, and printmaking is that.

Addie Best prints new designs on paper and patches monthly and sells her collections online. Patches go for $7 each, and paper prints, including her 2023 calendar, start at $25.