Hatch + The Ryman: A Historic Partnership on Display
By Hannah Grubbs
Nashville icons Ryman Auditorium and Hatch Show Print have become so ingrained in the city’s culture, that they help define it. After nearly 150 years of creating Music City’s most recognizable show posters, part of the Hatch Show Print legacy is on display in the Ryman's Hatch Show Print Gallery: a full hallway lined with autographed posters from Ryman shows and events over the years.
How It All Started
Hatch Show Print is one of the oldest working letterpress print shops in America, opening in 1879.
“All of the work that is done in this letterpress print and design shop has the same foundation – created onsite, by our own designers, who are also the craftspeople producing, by hand, brilliant and eye-catching posters and other items using the letterpress printing process,” Director of Hatch Show Print Celene Aubry said. “Even the ink is mixed by hand, so that we can guarantee colorful results.”
While both the Ryman and Hatch Show Print have their own distinct and transformative histories, they intertwine often.
“They opened around the same time, the Ryman in 1892 and Hatch in 1879. They are a part of the fabric of Nashville and the music industry as a whole,” Ryman Marketing Manager Misty Swann said.
A Timeless Tradition
From 1924 to 1992, the print shop was located directly behind Ryman Auditorium. In the 1940’s, Hatch began making posters for the Grand Ole Opry (hosted at the Ryman at the time) and when the auditorium was renovated and reopened in the mid-1990s, a new tradition began as Hatch created a poster for almost every show at the venue. This tradition continues today and has further secured the brands historic link.
“Many of our most popular posters are from our artist residencies when Hatch designs a different poster for each night,” Swann said. “Fans will line up early every night to get the full poster series. A great example is the Jason Isbell series from 2015 with a train running across all four posters. Many Hatch posters will go for hundreds of dollars on eBay. The most valuable posters are generally from rock acts like REM, Foo Fighters, and Wilco, along with country artists like Merle Haggard, Sturgill Simpson, and Chris Stapleton.”
"They are a part of the fabric of Nashville and the music industry as a whole."
Today, Hatch creates approximately 600 designs a year and around one-third of those are for Ryman Auditorium posters. Ryman regulars know that they need to get to the venue early to secure a Hatch poster, since limited quantities are made for each show.
A Master Craft
What makes Hatch Show Print so unique is their time-tested process. Letterpress printing is done by pressing letters and images into paper with ink in between. The process involves selecting and carving images into wood or linoleum; setting the wood and/or metal type letter by letter; assembling the design – both the imagery and the words – layer by layer; and finally inking and pressing these elements onto paper to form a poster or print.
“The print is made one color and one piece of paper at a time. It is basically the very same process that Johannes Gutenberg used to produce the first printed Bibles in the mid-1400s,” Aubry said.
Hatch creates new work using the contents of the historic shop that include wood and metal older than the shop itself – alongside imagery and graphic elements that have been hand-carved into wood or linoleum printing blocks, either last week or in the last century.
"You can’t launch a rubber band in this town without hitting someone who has ordered a poster from the shop."
“As one of nearest and dearest clients, the Ryman knows well the handmade nature of the posters – the textures, the edge-to-edge color, sometimes even the smell. As we design each project, we consider the poster’s purpose – is it celebrating or commemorating an experience, a show, or a special event? We know it’s just a poster, but we also know we’ve done our work well if it conjures memories of something that was so much more fun than that. Plus, it’s important that it looks good on the wall, or course,” Aubry said.
A Nashville Legacy
Hatch Show Print is a mainstay in Music City, drawing in everyone from local Nashvillians to touring country music artists with their bright and unmistakable designs.
“You can’t launch a rubber band in this town without hitting someone who has ordered a poster from the shop,” Aubry said. “Looking back, if a town was large enough to have a daily paper, it probably also had at least one print shop that printed everything from business cards and stationery to ‘For Rent’ and ‘For Sale’ signs. Hatch Show Print did all of that, as well as the work that really put the shop on the map: advertisements. These ads could be as small as your hand or as big as the side of your barn, telling you who was performing where, when, and how much money you would need to save to buy a ticket.”
Today, Hatch creates approximately 600 designs a year and around one-third of those are Ryman Auditorium designs.
The print shop has since expanded to include national and international clients. In 1992, it became a historic part of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which means that while it continues to operate as a letterpress print and design business, the entirety of the contents of the shop, its archive, history, and legacy are preserved for the foreseeable future.
You can take a tour and learn about the shop's history, see how the sausage gets made, and print the final color of a commemorative poster you can take home with you.
“While we work with ridiculously outmoded technology and use materials that are over 150 years old on a daily basis, carrying on the traditions of this 144-year-old print shop, we don’t think of it as being tethered to what’s conventional or dusty. Everyone on our staff can use the latest and greatest design technology,” Aubry said. “We’re able to leverage 19th century technology to make work that reflects the sensibilities of the era in which we are living, while ensuring our products are easily attributed to the shop. That’s why we design everything we print and only print the work we design. We really couldn’t do it any other way.”
See It For Yourself
Celebrate both icons when you tour the Ryman or come for a show. Our upper-level vestibule is dubbed the Hatch Show Print Gallery and features some of our favorite prints from shows at the Ryman, many of which are signed by artists themselves.
This friendship is one for the ages and holds so much history and tradition. Become a part of the tradition and take home a Hatch Show Print with your Ford Lounge ticket upgrade or the VIP Tour. Visitors can also check out a variety of Hatch Prints in the Ryman Shop.
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