Born in 1946 in Portland, Oregon, Brian Donnell was raised in Northeast Portland. He attended Harvey Scott Elementary and then Benson High School, where he focused on architectural drawing. After attending the University of Oregon from 1964-1968 with a concentration in English, he eventually completed his Bachelors Degree at Portland State University.
Brian’s interest in photography garnered work at local camera shops, but it wasn’t stable employment. A visit to the State Unemployment Office resulted in an apprenticeship at Paul O. Giesey, then located in the Graphic Arts Center; so at age 27, Brian began a four year apprenticeship under the Local 43 of the International Union of the Printing Pressman, supervised by Ron Curths. Starting in 1974 at $4.65 an hour and gradually moving up the pay scale to the Journeyman level, Brian continued to work at Paul Giesey for 7 years. He learned the ins-and-outs of operating the automated 36” Kelly, Miehle Vertical, Heidelberg and Kluge machines, running advertising and design work.
When Paul O. Giesey was sold to new owners in the early 1980’s, Brian transitioned to a position at Dempsey & Campbell Printing. Jack Dempsey was a 2nd generation printer, sole proprietor, and close to 70 years of age when Brian began to work for him. The two of them tackled all the work that came into the shop, Jack as compositor and Brian as pressman. There he learned about running a small business and maintaining a craft standard for work done on the presses there (10×15 C&P, Kluge, and a locomotive-sized C Kelly). Dempsey was an Allied Printing Trades Council shop, printing work for local unions, including oversized strike banners. A few years later, when Jack Dempsey retired and sold the shop, Brian left to run his own one-person shop.
In 1992, Brian purchased Craftsman Printers in Tigard from the former proprietor, Joe Cranford. Now the owner of a Heidelberg Windmill, a Miehle Vertical, a Linotype 14, and all the customer accounts, Brian was a trained pressman with no real experience in composition, so Joe stayed on for a month to train him in Linotype composition and lock up. The main work was for a trucking company, imprinting their bills of lading and time cards, and crash imprinting on various forms.
After many years running a successful enterprise, Brian saw much of his printing business being lost to on-line systems; so he scaled back operations, eventually selling the bulk of his equipment to Advanced Letterpress. He was also hired to operate that same equipment—printing, die cutting, and running numbering jobs—albeit now at the Advanced Letterpress headquarters.
In October 2016, Brian Donnell retired after more than 40 years in the industry. When asked about his accomplishments, Brian answers that he is most proud of his skills as a commercial job printer who is skilled at composing and imprinting forms for industrial use.