Rachael is a loving dog owner, wife, and fine art professor at nearby University of Rochester. If that right there doesn’t stop you from believing this girl is legit, she also single handedly runs Pistachio Press. From printing stationery, social invitations to limited edition prints, her work has been featured in Brides Magazine, Lucky Magazine, on the popular design blog design*sponge and more. Luckily for us, Rachel was able to squeeze in some time for a Boxcar Talk:
How did you first get into letterpress?
My undergraduate degree is in printmaking and bookmaking, but our department was small and we didn’t have a letterpress. I felt like I had been missing out on something big, so the summer before I headed to grad school for printmaking I drove to Ohio and picked up my first press. I had never even seen how a press worked, but I started reading online and slowly started to figure things out. When I got to grad school, we had a Vandercook No. 4 that I began using for my artist books. After grad school I started to get serious about printing stationery and wedding invitations and the rest is history!
What was your very first press (and are you using it still)?
My very first press was a Sigwalt tabletop with missing rollers. I hand inked everything until I saved up enough money to buy rollers for it. My next press was an 8×12 C&P (which is still in the process of being restored), then a Vandercook SP-15 and finally my baby, a Vandercook No. 4. I still have all of the presses, but I primarily use the Vandercooks.
What medium do you usually print (lead/wood type, photopolymer, lino, etc.)?
Although I started by using lead type that I had accumulated on my quest for a press, I now primarily use photopolymer plates. I love them!
What’s your process from sketch to press?
I usually start by drawing on paper, even if it’s just a rough sketch. Then I scan the sketch into the computer and either use elements from that directly or draw over it in Illustrator. When I have a finished design I send the files to Boxcar and plates appear on my doorstep a few days later. Then it’s just a matter of mixing ink, registering the plate and pulling prints. I still love pulling the first print of a design and watching multiple runs turn into the piece I had imagined.
What other print shops do you admire?
I’m a total letterpress junky and there are a ton of shops I really admire, so these are just a few. Maginating by Brad Woods (for his playful designs and impeccable printing), Albertine Press by Shelley Barandes (for her amazing letterpress library), and Studio On Fire consistently blows me away.
Who or what inspires you the most?
I’m inspired by my grandmother’s stories, old photos, vintage china, my dogs and husband, simple lines.
What are your favorite things/items from Boxcar Press?
My favorite thing about Boxcar is that I’m able to work with people who love letterpress and are passionate about the craft. I also love my Boxcar 13×19″ base and plates.
Any neat tricks you can share?
I don’t know if this is so much a trick as it is one of my favorite studio must-haves…Eco House Citrus Thinner. After years in a print shop I can’t stand the smell of mineral spirits, even the odorless kind. I haven’t been in love with any soy-based alternatives because they tend to leave my press greasy. The Citrus Thinner is completely amazing, degreases and doesn’t ever give me a headache.
What are you looking forward to?
I help organize Second Storie Indie Market in Rochester and we’re in the midst of planning for our November show. I’m also excited to be participating in the Salt City Urban Craft Market in Syracuse in mid-October. I just started exhibiting at trade shows and I’m looking forward to the next gift show in January. There is a totally different vibe between indie shows and trade shows, but both are really exciting!
What was the experience like for you at NSS this year?
I had such an awesome experience at the National Stationery Show. It was my first time exhibiting at a trade show and I was fortunate to share a booth with several other talented printers in the Ladies of Letterpress booth. The entire show was a great way to connect with buyers and to meet other exhibitors that I’ve admired over the years. I felt lucky to share a booth because it cut down on the amount of overall work since everyone took on a role (like ordering walls, flooring, furniture, etc). I also made a great group of friends during the show.
Do you have any suggestions for people hoping to exhibit next year or how to promote their new product lines?
Having a clean booth and well displayed product is a must for trade shows. I would suggest talking to other people who have done the shows and see if they have some advice. After doing this at several shows, I now have a better idea of what suppliers are better or cheaper and how to navigate the intimidating world of trade show union labor. I would suggest reaching out to stores you want to meet before the show and following up afterward with everyone you meet afterward. And start planning early!
How was NYIGF for your first time?
The Gift Show was a completely different experience from the Stationery Show. At the Gift Show there were many more diverse products, which meant that some buyers had no interest in stationery. This also meant that it was easier to stand out as a stationer. I found that there were many different kinds of shops coming through – florists, book stores, interior decorators, etc. Overall, we picked up quite a few new stores, made some great connections and are planning to go back again in January!
For more from Rachael, her work can be found in numerous retail shops nationwide and on Etsy. Thanks for sharing, Rachael!