John Runner is an artist with an affinity for art that is made the old fashioned way. No computer screens. No electronic printers.
Runner savors the process of creating with his hands and imagination. And he wants to share that artsy awestruck feeling with as many people as he can. He found a location in Hilton Village where people can do just that.
Runner and his wife Kyoko opened Print, a community-based print-making business on Main Street. Runner’s passion is printmaking. He teaches it at Hampton University and has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Old Dominion University. But his idea of printmaking is a throwback to simpler times, when artisans used all sorts of different kinds of printing presses to create newspapers, stationary and artwork.
Print, at 1,400 square feet, is fully loaded with equipment. Runner, 38, has scoured the country for the machines. Print is equipped with a letterpress, an etching press, a lithograph, screen printing equipment and a darkroom stocked with all the equipment and chemicals one needs to print pictures like the world did before digital cameras came on the scene. They are large presses that are bulky and require a lot of space.
“I really like printmaking,” Runner says. “Painters can always find a place to paint. People who draw can draw anywhere. Printmakers need printing presses and drying racks and access to a lot more equipment. Printmakers are always looking for a place to use.
“You can’t move a 10,000-pound printing press into your living room,” he says.
Enter Print. Runner is hopeful the business will attract printmakers from throughout the region and also amateurs who simply want to learn the art of printmaking.
Print opened in April and holds classes and workshops for all ages. It also offers memberships to printmakers who want to use Print to create their art. Those with memberships have access to the equipment 24 hours a day. There are very few places where people can use printmaking equipment, and Runner thinks Print will draw artists from throughout the area.
“I feel like people are really jazzed to have a shop like this,” he says. “I feel like we haven’t reached the broader community at large yet.
“I see a lot of potential,” he says. “It adds value to the community. I love that people can walk in and be able to interface with it.”
People can create all sorts of artwork at Print. Want homemade wedding invitations or cards made with a letterpress? It’s possible at Print. How about T-shirts or tote bags with a specific design created on the screen print equipment. It’s also very doable.
Runner says people are coming full-circle and are beginning to embrace and appreciate items that are thoughtfully homemade. “Millenials don’t want name-brand cards,” he says. “They want to see them hand printed. They may buy less, but they are willing to spend more on it. They appreciate it.”
Print has a work area and a retail shop. Runner and his wife sell an array of interesting items, from baskets to soaps to cards. Items created in the work area can also be sold in the retail shop, he says.
Runner was born in Newport News, but moved when he was a child. He and wife lived in Japan, but were forced to leave because of a tsunami. When they returned to the United States, they moved to West Virginia. Kyoko was having a difficult time adapting there, and they opted to return to Hampton Roads.
Hilton Village felt like the perfect spot for Runner’s business idea. Print, he says, will bring something new to the area, and the community has been supportive so far. He and Kyoko live near the shop, which is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
“Hilton seems like a place with a high concentration of artsy people,” he says. “It seems like a good fit. It has a great community feel.”
Runner is excited to have found the ideal home for the studio. His passion for printing is contagious. He is enthusiastic about having a studio to support his love of printing and grow his artistic ambition.
“I am happy to have a place to do this,” he says. “I would love to make art all day, and then teach people to make art all day.”
TO THE POINT:
Address: 97 Main St., Ste. 103,
Newport News, VA 23601
Owner: John Runner