Shawn HibmaCronan and his creation, The Freedom Press (photo source: Craftzine)

“Heavy metal” is the printing industry’s affectionate term for presses. It also denotes the material that accounts for 95% of what a conventional printing machine is made of. Now, a sculptor has unconventionally added bamboo, cork, oak, and rope to the equation—and the result serves equally well as an art object and as a functioning example of the thing it represents.

The work, called “The Freedom Press,” recently went on display at Compass Books in Terminal 2 of San Francisco International Airport. It’s the creation of Shawn HibmaCronan, an Alameda, CA, artist who was commissioned by Compass Books to build the press in honor of the terminal’s reopening. The story is told in detail by Katie Wilson, a contributor to the Craftzine blog.

A 7' x 8' x 9' installation, The Freedom Press is built on a welded steel frame with a 68" wooden ring that gives the operator leverage to make the impression on a steel image carrier bearing the work's namesake word. In Wilson’s post, HibmaCronan speaks of its construction in terms that design engineers at Heidelberg, KBA, etc., probably can relate to:

“One of the toughest things was keeping all of the components aligned, greased, and square with all of the welding I was doing. Welding and heat makes steel move and do weird things. There are so many tight tolerances and chunky pieces of steel that had to be spot on. It made for lots of fun moments with a big mallet.”

(We trust that the conventional press makers will disavow the “fun moments with a big mallet” part.)

Last year, other examples of HibmaCronan’s work—including a “getaway” school desk, a flexible LED caterpillar light, a motorized chair, and a moveable tank chair—were shown at the Oakland Museum of California. His most recent exhibition (April 15 – May 6) took place at the Basement Gallery in Oakland.

HibmaCronan described his approach to art and design in this profile by California College of the Arts, of which he is a 2009 graduate:

“My work is meant to be picked up, poked at, sat on, and rolled around. My furniture is sculptural, and my sculpture is functional. I want people to ponder its use intellectually and practically. Physical interaction is absolutely necessary.”

How gratifying—and how appropriate—that this gifted young artist should have found one of his inspirations in the mechanics of a printing press.