Tortilla Printing Press at KitLAB

This weekend we helped our friends at KitLAB celebrate the opening of their new makerspace, store, and art gallery in Oakland. At the event, several makers and tinkerers set up workshops for participants to engage with drop-in activities. We thought it would be the perfect chance for us to share our prototype tortilla printing press and test out some new environmental elements.

We set up a table for the workshop with three tortilla press stations, printmaking supplies, and a collection of found materials that people could use to create unique prints. This was the first chance to test out Nicole's new bucket stools. And we hung up a few sample prints on the back wall to provide some inspiration and start the collaborative collection.

At the beginning of the workshop, there were lots of families, and young kids in particular were interested in experimenting with making prints by pressing familiar objects into a piece of foam to make the impression of funny faces or scenes.

It was a good activity for a wide range of ages to participate in and after a little bit of initial facilitation, people were mostly able to work on their own or ask for help from others around the table.

Pretty soon we had an awesome collection of prints hanging to dry in the window. We alternated their direction and it turned out to be a nice invitation for those walking past the storefront to check out what was going on inside the space.

Some of the coolest prints combined images from real objects with drawings carved in the foam with the blunt end of a toothpick. Once people were happy with their plate, they often went through lots of iteration and experimentation to perfect their designs. There was something really nice about the fact that people could make multiple copies of each design to keep, trade, and leave for others to admire.


Later in the evening, more adults joined the workshop and it took on a tinkering social club vibe. I really liked how a participant mentioned that this felt like art for people who aren't good at drawing. I think that there's a really important aspect of tinkering activities that makes art and science more approachable and interesting for those who don't have the initial confidence in their own abilities.

And of course in these turbulent times that we're living through, it only made sense that the tortilla printing press could be use to make political signs. I think we may have to set up a pop-up tinkering station at the next big march to print out a bunch of creative protest art.

At the end of the evening, we invited people into our corner for a tiny art opening made by all the participants over the course of the day. It was amazing to see the variety and creativity of the artwork.

And of course a tiny art opening wouldn't be complete without some tiny drinks and snacks, si Nicole set up a station with thimbles of whiskey and wine alongside mini saltines and sliced slimjims.

We had a lot of fun at the event and learned a lot about both printmaking and how to set up a pop-up workshop. It will also be exciting to see the progress of the KitLAB over the next couple of months as they set up their store front makerspace. We're psyched to be a part of this growing group of makers and tinkerers in the East Bay and are looking forward to more chances to collaborate.