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Firecracker Press Finds Use For Legos Beyond Stacking

Printing press from 1927 at Firecracker Press's Old North location
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

Legos aren’t just for building anymore. 

Local letter press Firecracker Press is developing an unusual way to use the children’s building blocks as raw material to create patterns for stationary, cards, and wall art like posters. The company runs the plastic blocks through a press that was built in the 1920s.

“You hear Legos and you think maybe childish toys or something like but I think we’re able to come up with some pretty sophisticated stuff,” said press founder Eric Woods.

Firecracker began exploring ways to use the blocks as printing materials over the past year. The project is part of a concerted effort at Firecracker to develop new lines of product. The new merchandise will be grouped by style and theme and walk the line between contemporary and antique, according to Woods.

“We’re using Legos that were made last week and we’re printing them on presses that are a hundred years old so that’s a pretty cool combo of old and new,” he said.

The Legos are used as relief surface, stacked together and placed on their side to form geometric patterns printed in multiple striking colors.

Woods chuckled. "I won't give you all our secrets that we've discovered, because I think they're pretty cool and they're something that we've stumbled upon uniquely," he said.

Firecracker Press's Lego prints in process
Credit Courtesy of Firecracker Press
Lego prints in process

Woods said he personally hasn't broken any of the toys in the process but some have been destroyed during experimentation.

"Some have been broken through the process, but we're pretty careful with the machinery. Even though it's a Lego and is fairly basic, I guess, we still try to treat them with some respect," said Woods.

These new products are part of the press’s push to attract major retailers in the coming year. The press has already expanded from its Cherokee Street storefront to include an Old North location where much of the printing is done. This spring Firecracker representatives, will attend the National Stationary Show in New York City. Business Manager Missy Knight thinks they’ll be able to capture retailers’ interest through Firecracker’s designs and employee’s passion, dedication and unusual approach. 

“All those things come together and it’s the perfect storm of creativity where we can produce something that’s just a little bit different than everybody else,” said Knight.

Woods agreed. He said the press’ approach will allow it to strike a balance between quality and marketability. 

“We feel like we can deliver a quantity that is enough to satisfy lots of retailers across the nation but is also something very much that we can keep handmade and high quality,” said Woods. 

The National Stationary Show will be an opportunity for the press to meet national retailers and try to push their brand into the larger retail market. Although Knight and Woods hope the trip will land a partnership leading to wider distribution of their work, Knight’s perspective remains realistic.

“A win for me would be walking away with enough orders to pay for our attendance as well as getting to meet and have appointments with some major retailers,” she said.