Students use tiny printing press to make big impact with traveling art kits

Students in an art education methods class at North Dakota State University are working on a traveling art project centered around a tiny printing press created with a 3-D printer.

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NDSU art education student Tamika Ratzak breaks down the materials in each kit on camera as part of the class’s comprehensive curriculum using the miniature printing press. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

Spread out around a large table inside the printmaking studio at North Dakota State University’s Renaissance Hall, one tiny idea has a group of students thinking big.

Using a tiny printing press created using a 3-D printer - a hyper futuristic edition of the craft rooted in history - the class is developing their own project using designs from Open Press Project, an initiative that got its start on the crowdsourcing website Kickstarter.

The lightweight and inexpensive printing press is at the center of this semester for the art education methods class, where students are creating an entire kit, from lesson plan to instructional videos.

“We’re exploring approaches to art education that are multidisciplinary, not because it is novel, but because it is practical and necessary,” says Eric Syvertson, assistant professor of art education and studio practice.


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Eric Syverston is an assistant professor of art education and studio practice at North Dakota State University. Special to The Forum.

To help his students bring the collaborative project to life, Syvertson recruited other faculty from the School of Design, Architecture and Art at NDSU to help with branding, designing and eventually filming a video produced by the students to go along with the kit.

The class worked with Jeff Knight, assistant professor of art, to create a cohesive look and feel around the experience.

At the start, the group narrowed down a name for the project, with options like "Honey, I shrunk the press" and "wandering press." The class eventually settled on "tiny press kit."

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The semester of work included a multidisciplinary approach to art education, from developing a lesson plan to designing branding materials like this logo created by NDSU art professor, Jeff Knight. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

Next came developing the programming behind the press. As the instructor for printmaking at NDSU and print studio manager at Hannaher’s Inc. at the Plains Art Museum, Amanda Heidt provided valuable insights on the craft.

“I don’t think we would be in the state we are today without printmaking when you think about what it’s done for the world in spreading information” says Heidt.


The tiny press kit is designed to create monotype prints, a more painterly approach to printmaking suitable for beginners.

“The beautiful thing about printmaking is you can be as technically advanced as you want, but it is still like magic when you pull up that print each time,” says Heidt.

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Art professor Eric Syvertson lines up the next shot during the filming of an instructional video to accompany the “Tiny Press Kit,” a traveling art outreach project put together by students at North Dakota State University. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

As a last step in the framework of creating the kit, Syvertson worked with his students to create an instructional video that also highlights each future educator’s unique personality.

“It’s that human component that really transforms students into professionals,” says Syvertson.

In front of the camera, the NDSU students work on their presence as educators, envisioning a hypothetical class in front of them.

Nearing the end of their time as students, each of the art educators will soon be stepping into their own roles as teachers at a time when traditional schooling has experienced a shift to virtual instruction.


Creating a dynamic lesson plan for the art students was important to Syvertson as a professor, reflecting on the school as a whole.

“The School of Design, Architecture and Art has leveraged a lot of resources in very exciting ways and it has unlocked valuable ways of engaging with emerging technologies and teaching strategies,” Syvertson concludes.

Here’s what the students had to say about why they are passionate about art education:

"I’m passionate about it because people can explore their creative side and their personalities through making things. It’s important that kids understand they can do that and I think it’s fun to guide them as a teacher." - Tamika Ratzak

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Tamika Ratzak. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

“I love art and I want students to be able to experience that same joy. If I can show them how fun and exciting it can be, then I can help mold them into future artists.” - Jaden Strand


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Jaden Strand. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

“I’ve always loved teaching kids new things and seeing how they explore them and make it their own. Art is always great for that.’ - Emily Wangler

Emily Wangler. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

“In high school I had a really good art teacher, and so I want to be that in the future and show kids that art can be fun and a great way to express yourself.” - Brooke Rubke

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Brooke Rubke. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit

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