By Grant Joy
I am slowly driving east atop the ridge on Ohio State Route 550. A quilted-patchwork of sun-soaked hill country farms to my right and yellow-orange colored woodlands to my left keep me company. The hilly roadway mirrors the distinct landscape of the region. The rugged landscape is alive with fall color and the sun bathes the land in a yellow glow; clear-blue skies are overhead as they look over the Appalachian foothills. I am set to meet with Bobby Rosenstock, a woodcut print artist, who co-owns and operates Just A Jar Design Press with his wife Sara, located in the historic river town of Marietta.
I am meeting with Rosenstock as part of my AmeriCorps service with The Winding Road. The Winding Road is a grassroots collaborative network that seeks to build an experience-based economy. We do so through connecting, supporting, and promoting regional businesses, producers, and organizations that help to create an authentic sense of place through southeast Ohio.
I soon learn that Bobby Rosenstock’s passion for woodcut printmaking started on a study abroad trip to Tasmania. “I remember seeing a one-colored woodcut portrait of a face,” recalled Rosenstock. “It was a pretty rustic looking wood print that had a strong wood grain and was kind of rough looking. That really inspired me.” It was that moment that led Bobby to convince the professor to let him take an open studio course to delve deeper into woodcutting.
After graduating from college, Sara and Bobby moved out West to Portland, then back East to Philadelphia. While studying printmaking and book arts, Rosenstock heard about the now-defunct YeeHaw Industries, a Knoxville based print shop that specializes in producing band posters. “I called them up and asked if I could come work for them,” recalled Rosenstock. “I saw what they were doing and [knew] that’s what I’d been looking for.” It was his aha moment. He spent that summer working for YeeHaw. More importantly, the dream of running his own print shop slowly started to take hold.
After that summer, Sara had gotten a job at Marietta College in 2009 and the coupled moved to town. It was here in Marietta that Just A Jar Design Press started to take root and grow. Bobby had found an old 1960s Vandercook proofing press, outside of Cincinnati. Next, he started printmaking in his garage.
The creative arts scene along The Winding Road would give Rosenstock the boost he needed. “Slowly, I got connected with the folks at Stuart’s Opera House,” Rosenstock remembers. Though they were hesitant at first, with a little persistence, Rosenstock convinced the staff at Stuart’s to produce band and event posters for them. “They had a fundraiser coming up and I said I’ll make you [Stuart’s] free posters for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band show. So, I made that poster in 2010 and people liked them. Then Stuart’s hired me to make a poster for Dr. John. That stuff got out there [and] then we got other businesses from the area, and it grew from there.”
More than just creating a tangible keepsake for music lovers and concertgoers, the relationship between Just A Jar and Stuart’s represents the symbiotic nature that exists in many Winding Road communities. Both entities benefit from one another’s creativity and skill sets. Their working relationship is emblematic of an interconnected ecosystem that many locally-owned businesses and experience producers rely upon to grow throughout the Winding Road region.
“The arts play such a big role in revitalizing neighborhoods and towns,” Rosenstock states. “Whether that’s public art, art galleries, art walks, or retail shops in a small town like this. All of the local eateries, business, and music venues support each other.”
Bobby and Sara’s artistic abilities can be felt regionally and nationally, but it is the sense of community and the significant role that a print shop has played, historically, that resonates with Bobby. “The community aspect of things is pretty important to me,” Rosenstock explains. “There’s a history of the print shop spreading the news, sharing information, and creating the design esthetic for the town. I’ve done posters for national bands and organizations, but I’ve always wanted to be a community print shop. We’ve done pro bono posters for the (River Cities) farmers market [and] art walk. We’ve done posters for keeping fracking out of the Wayne National Forest and for the local roller derby team.”
Both Sara and Bobby are continuing the role print shops have played in the past as they continue to work with their local community to craft unique identities for local businesses and organizations. Through their branding design collaborations with local businesses, such as Marietta Adventure Company and Athens based Little Fish Brewery, they work with others to facilitate new identities and stories for businesses and organizations along Ohio’s Winding Road region.
Bobby shows me the old, worn out, 1800s wood type he uses in crafting his posters. I quickly learn that much of the wood type in the shop was purchased from two local sources, Marietta’s own Richardson’s Printing Company and a local printer from Cambridge. I notice the nicked and dented type lends itself to the interconnected community that makes southeast Ohio unique. Rosenstock glowingly speaks of the Cambridge printer: “He had found me through my website,” Rosenstock continues. “He had owned a printing business that had been in his family since the early 1900s. He was so excited to know that I would be using the type and that I was working with kids. He [started] tearing up. He was so happy that it was going to be used. And he thought all this technology was going obsolete.” The type was given a “rebirth” as Rosenstock calls it. He’s right. The lineage of local printmakers continues to live on through the wooden type apparent on Rosenstock’s posters that adorn his shop. The old type speaks to Rosenstock’s love of story and how the print shop itself connects people generationally.
As our conversation continues, it is evident that Rosenstock is committed to sharing his love of printmaking generationally to those who are interested. He has given tours to elementary-aged students, adults, and community groups on numerous occasions. He even informs me that his two daughters, ages four and seven now, both started printing in the shop at the age of three. He has even hosted high school and college interns as a way to further the art form and ensure its longevity. Rosenstock harbors the same enthusiasm and passion as the Cambridge printer, whose type still lives on in the shop. Rosenstock’s willingness to let people have tangible experiences when visiting the shop illustrates the young printer’s belief in the power of printmaking.
As the conversation nears its conclusion, Rosenstock’s strong belief that art can be used as an avenue to help grow and enrich the fabric of a community is palpable. “The arts play such a big role in revitalizing neighborhoods and towns,” Rosenstock states. “Whether that’s public art, art galleries, art walks, or retail shops in a small town like this. All of the local eateries, business, and music venues support each other.” This ecosystem of support among local businesses has helped Marietta grow into a vibrant quaint town. In parting, Rosenstock mentions that he sees a “unique charm to these towns.”
He’s right, there is a unique charm to these towns. He’s also right that it’s a combination of things; one of those things being Just A Jar Design Press.
To learn more about Just A Jar Design Press check out there website: http://www.justajar.com/. Better yet, go on your own Winding Road experience and stop by their shop located at 208 Front Street in historic downtown Marietta.
About the author: Grant Joy is the new AmeriCorps member serving this year (2019-20) for The Winding Road. This is his third AmeriCorps service year. He spent the past two years serving in Colorado and Vermont before deciding to come back closer to home in southern Ohio. He is looking forward to sharing stories of the people and places that make Ohio’s Rising Appalachia a unique and vibrant region.