Norman Clayton

Norman Clayton

Fine Press Printer

Norman Clayton was more interested at an early age in drawing endless variations of letterforms than in much of what his early schooling offered. Later his creative drive and talent would allow him, in 1986, to enter the Rhode Island School of Design where he focused on typography and photography. While there Clayton discovered he could put his artistic interests to use in one fulfilling form: a letterpress printed book. Typography, hand-made paper, letterpress printing and hand book- binding were brought together in one heavenly place, the type shop. 

After graduating from RISD in 1990 with a suitcase full of books he had designed, printed, and bound by hand, Norman was hired as a graphic designer at Michael Osborne Design in San Francisco. During the summer of 1991 Norman fortuitously asked Osborne if he was interested in putting a letterpress shop together, which was an idea they had spoken about the day they first met. Michael said “yes,” and then suggested Norman find the equipment. 

With great serendipity they met Wesley Tanner of Arif Press, who was moving from Berkeley and wanting to sell most of the equipment in his shop. Osborne made the purchase and Norman was hired to run the shop, which they named One Heart Press because the two shared the same love of letterpress. For twelve years he worked as the manager and printer of the Press in Berkeley, and later San Francisco, printing myriad com- mercial letterpress projects and fine press books.

Following One Heart Press Clayton began working more closely with his mentor, master letterpress printer Jim Wehlage. Upon Jim’s retirement a few years later he sold his print shop, Classic Letterpress, to Norman. In the purchase of the shop he acquired Adrian Wilson’s Heidelberg Cylinder press, a Heidelberg Platen (Windmill) press, a platemaker, and paper cutter as well as the small library of Adrian’s ephemera, papers and books. Norman subsequently moved the shop to his home in Oakland where he worked for 4 years before moving to his current home and expanded shop in Ojai, north of Los Angeles.

Norman continues to work as a book designer, letterpress printer, and teacher, maintaining internship and apprenticeship programs as well. His work includes a number of projects for the Book Club of California, most recently a limited edition poetry book, designed by Carolee Campbell titled Poetry at the Edge: Five Contemporary California Poets.