Printing Details At Clove St. Press

One of the first few things you notice when you step inside Clove St. Press is the gentle whirring of the Heidelberg Windmill and the trio of smiles beaming from Daniel Heffernan’s family. This letterpress mecca is a culmination of Daniel’s passion for detail, the love of a good pulled print, and the joy of bringing more letterpress into the world. We caught Daniel between ink runs to catch up on how he maintains perfect registration between life and love.

Daniel Heffernan of Clove St. Press adjusts his Heidelberg Windmill.
Letterpress printed playing cards printed exquisitiely via Clove St. Press and Daniel Heffernan.(Top Notch box designed by Ben Johnston and printed by Clove St. Press)

BRAIDING THE PAST WITH THE PRESENT I’m Daniel Heffernan, a husband, dad, and owner/printer of Clove St. Press in San Diego, California. To me, letterpress printing isn’t a romantic or vintage way to make antique looking prints. It’s a completely viable process for printing contemporary work that has a physical significance today.

A young "printer-in-training" watches Daniel Heffernan print at Clove St. Press.

PRINTING MENTORS Bill Kelly, founder of Brighton Press, was the one who first introduced me to printmaking and steered me towards letterpress. The conceptual environment of that printmaking class was much different than the production one I’m in now, but it was a very important time for me to learn the rituals of printmaking and get some ink in my blood.

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT Bill, upon observing my art and design work, saw how I was combining typography into my drypoint etchings and wood cuts and suggested that I check out letterpress printing. I’d never even heard of it, but with his recommendation and my limited amount of research I was convinced I would love letterpress.

Beautifully printed details of business cards by Daniel Heffernan of Clove St. Press.

PRESS HISTORY I’m aware that not many people get to say this, but the very first press I ever touched was the press I bought. I knew I wanted a proof press and after about 9 months scouring Briar Press classifieds, craigslist, and ebay, I finally came across this press and pulled the trigger immediately. It was a 1954 Challenge 15MP (Vandercook SP-15 ripoff) that I had shipped to San Diego from Oklahoma City. Now that it’s been cleaned up and is in San Diego, it’s probably worth 2-3x what I paid for it, but I don’t think I could ever sell it.

CALIFORNIA COOL If the shop were a typeface, it might be Akzidenz-Grotesk. Built from tradition, but with all the fluff stripped away. We’re going for more like an operating room and less like a rustic barn. We’re located in the Linda Vista area of San Diego, just below the University of San Diego & the San Diego Mission. We are surrounded by other businesses who are doing rad things, so anytime one of us finishes a client meeting we’re likely to walk them over to our neighbors to check out their hardwood slabs or custom wood eyewear.

Family letterpress love runs abound at Clove St. Press!Critical printing pressroom tools such as quins, roller setting guages, brayers and ink knifes are all apart of a letterpress print shop.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I am a designer who’s currently a printer. I studied graphic design at PLNU and worked as a designer for the year following my graduation while printing nights and weekends. This design background is extremely valuable in communicating with designers and knowing exactly how to print a job based on their expectations.

FULL TIME FUN Yes indeed, running Clove St has been my full time gig for 3 years now.

PRINTING FEATS Awesome projects have snowballed for me lately – it seems like every time we do a rad print, someone sees it and has a better, bigger project to share with us. A recent project that comes to mind is boxes for playing cards for Dan & Dave Buck. Maintaining perfect register between offset, letterpress, foil, embossing, and die cutting is always a nice challenge!

Finely printed metallic gold ink business cards from Daniel Heffernan of Clove St. Press.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar was, and still is, one of the few resources available online where you can not only buy supplies, but learn some of the basic functions of letterpress equipment. And they make that gridded piece of aluminum that we all need. We have one for each press.

Immpecable detail and craftsmanship of printed letterpress navy and white packaging via Clove St. Press.(Aristocrat box designed by Dan & Dave Buck and printed by Clove St. Press).

SHOP TIPS Nail the registration. Nail the color. Slice your crop marks in half. Do the simple things really well.

WHAT’S NEXT Take less rush orders!

Huge round of applause out to Daniel of Clove St. Press for letting us take a sneak peak around his wonderful printing world!

Letterpress City Tour: Seattle Style

Over the years, we have often enjoyed taking note of the cities and states and even countries that our customers hail from. There used to be certain areas where letterpress printers were known to be located in large numbers, such as Brooklyn, Chicago, and San Francisco. Now, it’s safe to say that letterpress printers pop up everywhere and anywhere and sometimes, in places that seem to be at the end of no where.

Because we want to know about your turf and how your special place on earth supports your letterpress printing obsession, we’re starting a new Letterpress City Series. We’ll bring you an intimate view of a neighborhood written by a letterpress printer. We want to know what you printers love about your communities, and the must-see spots for other letterpress printers visiting your hometown.

Sara McNally of Constellation & Co. is starting us off with an introduction to Seattle, Washington, where the mountains are visible on the horizon, everyone jokes about the rain, and the place lots of Fortune 500 companies (including Amazon and Starbucks) call home. Sara loves it for many more reasons – today we’ll show you why.

Sara and Brad McNally of Contesellation Press share Seattle trip secrets.

JUST DRIVE My husband Brad and I moved to Seattle in the summer of 2009, two weeks after college graduation. We didn’€™t know anyone, we were totally broke and we were on the job hunt. We’€™d visited Seattle twice before, and didn’€™t have a plan but knew we loved the city. We drove our car from Florida to Seattle with all our earthly belongings. We didn’€™t own any furniture but we brought my first printing press, a 5×8 Kelsey tabletop I’€™d picked up for $100 (all the money I had) at an antique store in college. We’€™ve been in Seattle for 6 years now, and a lot has changed – but we’€™re still spending our money on cast iron and making decisions for love and not logic.

HOMEPORT We live and work in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle. It’s north of downtown, and one of the few neighborhoods that isn’€™t a pass-through to another place. It’€™s quiet, surrounded by the Puget Sound, and very beautiful. Magnolia is home to Discovery Park, a 534 acre natural area park. It is the largest city park in Seattle, and includes two miles of protected tidal beaches as well as open meadow lands, dramatic sea cliffs, forest groves, active sand dunes, thickets and streams. (It’s the best place ever.) Magnolia also boasts the Fishermen’€™s Terminal, which is home to the Northwest fishing fleet – giant fishing vessels that spend fall through spring in Seattle and head to Alaska for the summer.

Walking through Discovery Park in Seattle, Washington with Sara McNally.Fisherman's Terminal and boat festival in Seattle, Washington.

Our letterpress shop is in the Fishermen’€™s Terminal, which means several things: I eat a lot of fresh fish. I sell letterpress cards to salty fishermen. When I’€™m having a rough day, I walk away from the shop and go visit the boats.

NOSTALGIC + FUNCTIONAL Seattle is all about supporting local businesses, handmade products, and organic materials. We’€™re also a city that romanticizes history. We cling to the days of the Seattle underground, the gold rush, go West young man. Cast iron fits in well here. There is a decent amount of letterpress here in Seattle, and we are gaining on Portland for being known as a place that embraces and supports letterpress. Seattle has an industrial soul.

Industrial soul of Seattle, Washington with printing presses.

LETTERPRESS SHINES AT THE SEATTLE WAYZGOOSE The letterpress event of the year in Seattle is always the Wayzgoose at the School of Visual Concepts. We’€™ve been involved since 2010, and it’€™s been fun no matter how we’€™ve participated. Steamroller printing, selling our wares in the letterpress marketplace, volunteering at the equipment swap — it’€™s all awesome.

Using a steamroller to print letterpress at Seattle Wayzgoose. Fun!

FAVORITE LOCAL COLLABORATION Located in a forest beside the Raging River in Issaquah, Washington, just outside of Seattle, is Treehouse Point, a rustic bed and breakfast, featuring six hand crafted treehouses that you can spend the night in. It’s a magical place. They contacted us a few years ago to inquire about producing a line of stationery products featuring their treehouses. I did original vector illustrations of each one, and then ordered a mountain of plates from Boxcar to print each of the 6 three color cards and 6 three color notebook covers!

Treehouse craftsman Pete Nelson and his wife, Judy, share a vision of connecting people through personal encounters with trees and nature. The Nelson family owns and operates Treehouse Point, as well as Nelson Treehouse and Supply, where they offer consulting, design, and building of custom treehouses. Their Animal Planet TV show, Treehouse Masters, has become quite popular!

Treehouse Point letterpress cards and treehouse inspiration.

SIGNATURE LOOKS IN SEATTLE Seattle is all about individuality and independence. Our letterpress printers are no exception! The work that comes out of Seattle is pretty diverse. Everyone gets to letterpress on a different path and focuses on different styles, methods, etc. when they get there. I love seeing how different printers infuse their personality into this historic craft.

Fog and Seattle skyline.    Letterpress cards featuring "boats are awesome" and shipyard of Seattle, Washington.

BUSINESS SUPPORT, SEATTLE STYLE I am grateful to have many boutiques in town that carry our cards and prints. I also have many people to call on if something goes wrong, or if I need to bounce ideas off someone, or if I need someone to tell me to just go ahead and buy that new press! My go-to is always Carl Montford. He’s my mentor, my wood engraving teacher, and truly a good friend to my family.

Mt. Rainer illustration via letterpress card by Constellation & Co.

OUT AND ABOUT IN SEATTLE Before moving to Magnolia and the Fishermen’s Terminal, our studio spent several years in Pioneer Square, Seattle’s oldest neighborhood. I loved being surrounded by so much history! Pioneer Square is a pretty unique place with it’s own challenges – but so many amazing small businesses have made it their home. I go back and visit often. I also love Ballard. It’s like Magnolia’s cool older brother. A night with friends in Ballard gave me my first tattoo, something I’ll always be glad I did.

Sara McNally and former Constellation & Co. studio in Pioneer Square.

SEATTLE VIBE Pioneer Square and Ballard are both neighborhoods with industrial pasts that have become very, dare I say, hipster. They are filled with young entrepreneur types who love a good boutique, a strong cocktail, and a flair for the historic.

LOCAL PLEASURES While I’d love to tell you I’m very fancy and know all the five star places, we pretty much just go out for burgers and pizza. Favorite burger places: Uneeda Burger in Fremont (Ballard and Magnolia’s hippy sister), Red Mill Burger in Magnolia, Giddy Up Burgers in Ballard. Favorite pizza places: Queen Margarita or Pagliacci Pizza in Magnolia, Ballard Pizza Co., etc. I also adore the rockfish taco at Little Chinook’s and the cold beer and french fries from the Highliner in the Fishermen’s Terminal.

SHOPPING ON MY STREET Constellation & Co. has great letterpress stationery and gifts! (Self promotion is always in style). I also really love the summer farmer’s market.

Beautiful letterpress shop of Constellation & Co. of Seattle, Washingtion.

NOT TO BE MISSED We love visiting the Science Fiction museum within the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle Center. It’s nerd paradise. We love getting craft cocktails for date night at E. Smith Mercantile. Picnicking in Discovery Park is perfection. Kerry Park in Queen Anne and Alki Beach have the best views of the city. For a quick getaway with a beautiful view, we hop on a ferry to Bainbridge Island or Bremerton.

Shipping boat with anchor in Seattle, Washington.

INSIDER INSIGHTS  It doesn’t rain here as much as you think. Summertime in Seattle is the best thing ever. Everywhere you look you see mountains. Really! Seattle is our favorite big small city – we always run into people we know like it’s a small town.

We’re a super casual city, so you can leave your suits and high heels at home. It only snows here about once a year, and the whole city shuts down to enjoy it. We have too many steep hills to get around! And we really do have the best coffee.

Seattle, Washington letterpress cards and press shop.

Pike Street Press – Seattle and Kirkland, WA
Evolution Press – Ballard, WA
Dahlia Press – Seattle, WA
The Windowpane Press – Seattle, WA
InkFancy Letterpress – Seattle, WA
Farewell Paperie – Seattle, WA
Bremolo Press – Seattle, WA
Myrtle Alley Press – West Seattle, WA
Paper Hammer Bindery and Letterpress – Tieton, WA
Ilee Paper Goods Letterpress – Seattle, WA
Arts and Crafts Press – Tacoma, WA
Hoban Press – – Centralia, WA
Pope Press Olympia – Olympia, PA
Bremerton Letterpress Shop – Bremerton, WA
Expedition Press  – Kingston, WA
Goldfinch Press – Seattle, WA
The Sherwood Press – Olympia, WA

Letterpress Distilling – a letter-perfect distillery currently specializing in vodka and limoncello.
Paper Passionista – a paper boutique offering custom invitations and fine stationery.
Two Bells Bar and Grill – one of Seattle’s best burger places.
Cafe Flora – a great vegetarian option; featured in Food Network On the Road.
Bumbershoot – Labor Day Spectacular; voted one of Rolling Stone Magazine’s 5 best festivals in the US.
Ballard Locks – enjoy a parade of boats and watch the salmon navigate the fish locks
Macrina Bakery – nationally recognized for their pastries with three locations in Seattle.

We hope you enjoyed our first letterpress city guide! Interested in shining the spotlight on your city? Contact us today! And if you’re planning a letterpress-centric trip, be sure to check out the print trip map on Letterpress Commons!

The Creative Muscle Behind Able Bodied Press

John Bethell of Able Bodied Press has transitioned fluidly from one endeavor to another. The translator turned chaplain turned printer has an engaging personality that speaks volumes (and so does he – John is fluent in four languages!). From working with the FDNY as a chaplain to translating Arabic in service of the U.S. Navy, John found the wonders of printing on his Kelsey his true calling. We stopped in with the ever-humorous printer to get the ins and outs of his printing world.

John Bethell of Able Bodied Press

TRANSLATION INTO PRINT My name is John Bethell and I was born and raised in New York City. I’m an Episcopal priest by trade who is spending some time away from regular church work. I was an FDNY chaplain for a few years and now work with the Clemson Fire Department in North Carolina. I’m the uncle to a beautiful set of twin boys who just turned one: Roman and Jude.

Behind the scenes at Able Bodied Press

I spent five years in the Navy as an Arabic translator and I miss it a lot. I’m looking at going back.  I’m also fluent in four languages: English, Spanish, Arabic, and American Sign Language. I’m prevented from getting too boast-y about it by reminding myself that I can’t pass a math test or spiral a football. But I do love language.

LAUNCH INTO LETTERPRESS I went to I.S. 72 on Staten Island (we number our junior high schools there) and Mr. Sprague taught graphic arts. We set and printed our own business cards and notepads and it was amazing. I printed for a bit in high school and then stopped for years. When my sister got engaged, I realized it would be a cool time to relearn the craft and bought a rusted out Kelsey Excelsior on eBay. It’s been a great way to feed my latent introvert.

PRINTING IN THE PALMETTO STATE My dining room has been converted into a print shop – I had to once I picked up the Rear Admiral (on account of his one star). I live in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina. Clemson is a great town where football reigns in the fall, if you’re into that sort of thing. Otherwise, we’re not far from the Appalachian Trail.

The at-home studio of Able Bodied Press

Work samples and a peek at the studio of Able Bodied Press

DESIGN FOR PRINT I mostly just print! I’ve been printing full time since February 2015. It had been a hobby for a while. To be honest yet diplomatic, I was working in a place that wasn’t the healthiest fit for a number of reasons. I left my full time job and have a pretty decently-stocked print shop in my house. It’s been great.

SHOP TIPS I’m most productive cranking Wu Tang while I work. 36 Chambers has gone triple platinum in my shop. Try it. Oh – if you include trivia in the comments on your Boxcar order, you might get a reply on your plate when it arrives. Might.

Letterpress Business cards by  Able Bodied Press

THE CREATIVE PROCESS  It’s real tough to get momentum without getting distracted and my least favorite part of printing is cleaning the press even though it only takes a few minutes. Once the press is clean, I can go for hours. It all hinges on having a clean press for me. And there’s the Wu Tang part of it, too.

Letterpressed + edge painted business cards by Able Bodied Press

PRINTING FEATS  It’s simple, but I bought a run down Kelsey Star and the runners were in pretty rough shape. Getting my roller gauge right where it needed to be was cause for celebration. The other would be when I finished my sister’s wedding invitation set. It was pretty basic and didn’t turn out exactly how I wanted it to in my head, but I was pretty proud of it.

FAVORITE INK COLOR + TYPEFACE What a question!  It’s like asking me my favorite Veep or Arrested Development episode — tough to narrow down. My favorite typefaces are Caslon and Porter Sans Block. Caslon’s the first typeface made for English and the Declaration of Independence was set in it. I think it’s got a neat pedigree and it’s pretty solid and classy. Porter Sans Block by Finck is just great fun to work with and look at. My favorite ink colors are Marian Blue (285U) and this yellow green over by 382. The former is the color used in art to represent Mary and the yellow green is my best friend’s favorite color.

Letterpress print samples at Able Bodied Press

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar has helped in a ton of ways – from the free videos to the gauges and guides to the phenomenal (and fast!) customer service, they’re the reason I’m able to work as much as I do.

PRESS HISTORY A 5×7 Kelsey Excelsior named Swabbie. A few months ago, I found a decent Kelsey Star on Briar Press.

The 5x7 Kelsey Excelsior at Able Bodied Press

WHAT’S NEXT I just saw the Indigo Girls in Asheville in concert for the first time two weeks ago, so I can basically close the books on 2015. Who knows what’s going on next year.

Huge round of applause and thanks out to John for letting us get a sneak peek at his wonderful printing abode & world at Able Bodied Press!

Quick Take At The Baddeley Brothers Press

Located north east of London proper and near the wondrous London Fields in the borough of Hackney sits one of England’s best kept printing treasures: The Baddeley Brothers press shop. Cultivating and drawing from a over a hundred years of rich craftsmanship history that had its beginnings in clockmaking, engraving, and die-makers, the company transitioned to engraving and printing. Charles Pertwee was able to let us take a quick look at some of the printing riches that bloom within their walls.

PRINTING HISTORY Essentially we are specialist printers and envelope makers. Techniques covering engraving, die stamping, letterpress, blind embossing, foiling, gilt edging, machine and hand machine envelopes plus other types of paper conversion. Typically our output involves: business cards, invitations, letterheads, folders, envelopes, tissue lined envelopes, labels, and color edged cards.

Letterpress printing samples from Baddeley Brother print shop in England
(photography courtesy of The Baddeley Brothers)

(Gold ink in a die-stamping press courtesy of Glithero and Paper Planes video/project)
(Gold ink in a die-stamping press courtesy of Glithero and Paper Planes video/project)

IN THE BEGINNING In the 1850’s this [type of printing, letterpress printing] was the staple method of commercial print and Baddeley Brothers are a trade house. I was first introduced by being given a lino cut print set at the age of seven.

Baddeley Bros. Embossing Press in a printing book by Herrick circa 1900s. Scan courtesy of the St. Brides Library, London
(Baddeley Bros. Embossing Press in a printing book by Herrick circa 1900s. Scan courtesy of the St. Brides Library, London)

Work samples from The Baddeley Brothers print shop
(photography courtesy of The Baddeley Brothers)

THE BEST PART IN PRINTING I am a Specialist Printer and Envelope Maker. Watching an envelope machine convert paper into high quality envelopes is hypnotizing.

Wallpaper Magazine feature on the Baddeley Brothers print shop
(Photo courtesy of Josh at Wallpaper Magazine)

PRINTING FEATS Working with Wallpaper Magazine and international designers Glithero on the collaboration “Paper Planes” which exhibited in Milan, Harrods and Miami.

PRESS HISTORY Due to our history as engravers and die sinkers, our first press is more likely to be a burin, engraving glass and pad. My favorite is the envelope cutting press and the automatic die-stamping press.

Heidelberg press
(Heidelberg Press – letterpress courtesy of Glithero and Paper Planes video/project printing No3 Spirograph (Black layer litho, Blue layer letterpress, Red layer letterpress, Silver layer diestamped on Zen 120gsm))

PRINTING ACROSS THE POND In the area, there’s lots in the London’s East End, from artisan bakers, breweries to fish smokers. Lots of designers and hipsters!

Printing samples from the Baddeley Brothers in London
(photography courtesy of The Baddeley Brothers)

SHOP ADVICE Always blind emboss on an uncoated material to enable the light to catch shadow of the image, this is not nearly as effective on a coated or gloss material.

Printing samples by The Baddeley Brothers
(photography courtesy of The Baddeley Brothers)

WHAT’S NEXT In the process of writing a book that seeks to tell a compelling story about the company, its locations, and characters up to the present day.

A huge gracious round of thanks and appreciation out to Charles Pertwee of Baddeley Brothers press for letting take a quick peek at their wonderful letterpress printing world!

El Calotipo: Slinging Ink In Spain

If you meander past the Roman Ruins, the craftsmen workshops, and the musical festivals in the San Pablo District of Zaragoza, Spain, you’ll find the hidden gem that is El Calotipo Printing Studio. Carla Nicolas started her letterpress print shop in 2011, and recently took the time to sit down with us to talk shop. She shared her story about starting up a modern letterpress print shop amongst the hustle of the ancient Spanish city.

El Calotipo Printing Studio Calotipo-IMG10

THE GAME IN SPAIN I’m Carla Nicolas. My background is a Bachelor of Arts in printing and printmaking techniques and I completed my artistic training at Massana School of Barcelona, Spain. It was at this Arts and Crafts school where I learned experimental and creative paper editions techniques (Artist’s Books) and first got involved with the manual printing. I’ve scoured some printmaking workshops both in Spain and foreign countries (Betanzos CIEC Foundation, Edinburgh Printmakers, or Pyramid Atlantic Art Center of Maryland, USA). After an artistic residence at Pyramid Atlantic where I taught workshop classes and also took part in some graphic art exhibitions, my passion for letterpress printing began.

In 2011, I started to build and shape my studio “El Calotipo Printing Studio” where we combine the most commercial version of handmade printing (business cards, wedding invitations, posters, restaurant menus etc), graphic design, and my own hand edited personal work.

El Calotipo Printing Studio

ALL ABOUT PRINTING El Calotipo is a printshop and design studio in Zaragoza, Spain and we also carry out some little bookbinding jobs. The printing techniques we work with are: screen printing, printmaking, hot foiling, and letterpress printing.

What I most like of my job/studio is not tangible or physical (in that case I would say “any of my presses”) but the uninterrupted search of new materials and ways to work them. We learn much from our mistakes (and the time spent finding reasons for those mistakes) as well as how to succeed creating products that nowadays are really difficult to find on the market. That entire process produces a constant and highly satisfying learning rhythm.

Since the beginning in the studio, we always looked for the link between graphic design and the most pure manual type of printing in order to manage optimal results regarding product quality.

El Calotipo Printing Studio

SPANISH BEAUTY Our studio is located at San Pablo District, one of the most ancient ones in the city of Zaragoza. Just around 200 meters from us are some Roman ruins that were built between the first and third century A.D. and are popular for visitors. This district’s history was formerly occupied by craftsmen workshops and that´s why streets are named after the former workshops there, such as Armas or Street of Weapons. With our downtown city location, we are surrounded by museums and tourist attractions. At Las Armas, we share spaces with other workshops. In addition, our neighbor is a culturally active musical center. Although we are established here, we hope to soon find a bigger studio where we can keep growing and enjoy our machines.

El Calotipo Printing Studio

PRINTING MENTORS From my time as a student, there was a person who especially believed in my possibilities as a printmaker, the artist Silvia Pagliano. She was my teacher in the beginning and my mentor from that moment on. She introduced and recommended me to the finest studios in Spain so I could keep learning. I applied my etching knowledge to letterpress, where I had no mentors. I adapted to the machines and techniques that we work with.


PRINTER THROUGH AND THROUGH I am printer and printmaker and I have no design notions per se. My co-worker, Nelson Moya, is our graphic designer, and he is the one dedicated to that part of our enterprise. We offer design, design + print, or just printing jobs for others’ designs. I am a full-time printmaker and that’s been my only job since 2011. As any craftsman, I have printed a lot of hours, as you can imagine. I also print my own artwork on my free time.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS For our design process, first we have to know the client, find out their needs and preferences. We have an in-depth meeting in order to understand and define the clients’ ideas the best we can. Very often, we always reach that necessary client-designer connection, although sometimes the task becomes complicated when the client or ourselves haven’t been able to convey our ideas fully. You just keep working and making changes until the client is satisfied.

When a job requires design + printing services, we have to educate the client: the final result will never be exactly the same as the computer screen as there are all the factors that influence a handcrafted outcome (the paper selection, the printing technique, the ink drying, etc.). We try to realistically portray the final results are as exact as a handcrafted job permits. We are proud of our finishing quality and we have a customer base that is increasingly knowledgeable and demanding of our best efforts. Customers often start with something they saw in our portfolio or RSS and the final design can mean different material and technique selections.


PRINTING FEATS I´m proud to have started El Calotipo Printing Studio, although the beginning was tough. At the time, Spain was in the midst of an economical crisis, so I had a lot of doubts and fears knowing it would be a really difficult path. Two years ago, Nelson Moya joined me due to the amount of work already existing, and I needed more assistance. We just recently hired our first worker, Laía (which was unthinkable for me two years ago).

Watching how a highly-beloved project grows, something you built with so much dedication and effort, that is what I am most proud of. I remember the first international incoming jobs and how happy I felt. From that point it became something usual and now we receive daily design and printing assignments from other countries. Another achievement I can point out is the fact that I never let myself get negatively influenced by those people who didn’t share any faith in my future when El Calotipo was just an idea. You have to be brave to start such a kind of project, and if we realized we were already living in a deep economical crisis….well, it is natural that they called me crazy! I’m proud to be a stubborn person and after much sacrifice, four years later, I can already look back and feel satisfied with what I have already done. That is my pride, my braveness and stamina that made me able to work in a field I studied in, pursuing my vocation and I am so happy for that.


PRESS HISTORY My first printing press was a little bookbinding and relief press. The first proof press press was the FAG Control 405 SwissProof Press.


WHAT’S NEXT  La Calocleta (“The Calocycle”), a printing workshop on wheels built by our neighbor, Alfredo, an industrial designer at Undo Studio. We´ll send some pictures. I would like to fly back to the United States next year and apply for a residence at Hatch Show Print in Nashville. It is a place I would have loved to visit a lot of years ago…


An immensely huge round of appreciation and thanks out to Carla of El Calotipo Printing Studio for taking the time to let us get a glimpse of her beautiful printing world!

Entrepreneurial Spirit At Ruff House Art

From day one back in 2009, Jill Shepherd of Ruff House Art had an entrepreneurial gleam in her eye as she started her business out of the basement of her home in southwest Kansas. Fast forward six years later, and you’ll find that Jill has expanded her letterpress company into a solid brick and mortar retail shop featuring the whirl of a 1915 Chandler & Price, the laughter of her daughter as she skirts through the shop, a full custom-invitation & wholesale everyday line, and of course, the warmth of Jill’s smiling face as she greets you when you come into the shop. We caught up with Jill between press runs to learn about her inspiration, how she got started, and what made taking the plunge worth it at the end of the day.

Ruff House Art shop

ROOTED DEEP IN THE MIDWEST I grew up in a small, rural farm town in southwest Kansas and went on to graduate from the University of Kansas with a BFA in Graphic Design in 2004. I spent several years working in marketing & branding as a designer. Coming from a family of farming entrepreneurs, I had always daydreamed about owning my own business someday.

Due to the struggling economy, I got the opportunity to pursue that dream when I was let go at my corporate job due to downsizing in early 2009. Initially, I envisioned doing what I had been doing, marketing, but on a freelance basis. During this time, I was asked by several friends to design wedding invitations and I quickly realized that was way more fun than corporate marketing! So, I said goodbye to the corporate world and went all in to the stationery world. I grew my wedding line, eventually added a wholesale/everyday line, and most recently expanded again with a brick & mortar retail shop!

Jill Shepherd of Ruff House Art

TRY, TRY AGAIN (AND REPEAT AS NECESSARY) At the start of Ruff House Art, I didn’t envision it turning into a letterpress company. I had taken a letterpress class as an elective in college, so I was familiar with the printing process, but I didn’t start Ruff House Art with a press from day one. About a year into it, I was gifted my first press by a friend’s family. It had been sitting in a warehouse for 30 years and they weren’t even sure what it was or if it worked. They asked if I wanted it and of course I jumped at the opportunity. It had been a while since my college class and I wasn’t familiar with this type of press (platen). I restored it and taught myself how to use it. It was a lot of trial and error, a lot of frustrations, a lot of asking other printers for advice and doing research, but eventually I found my stride and felt confident enough in my printing ability to add letterpress to my wedding line. Shortly after, I decided to add a retail line, focused primarily around letterpress.

Letterpress coasters by Ruff House Art

Letterpress coasters & cards by Ruff House Art

WINDOWS TO THE WORLD Up until this year, our shop as located in the basement of our home. In November of 2014 we moved our presses to downtown Lawrence and opened up a retail brick & mortar shop with a print/production studio in the back. We have big windows that look from the shop into the studio so customers can see the presses in action. It has been so fun to watch the community get involved and to hear how many people actually have some connection to letterpress. Whether they have taken a class, their fathers/grandfathers were printers, or they used to own a press. We also get asked on a regular basis if we actually use the presses or if they are “just for show” which always makes me giggle. When we are pressing, people gather around and watch which is so fun (and a little nerve-wracking!). My very first press is still the press that we use the most – a 1915 10″ x 15″ Chandler & Price.

Letterpress wedding stationery suite by Ruff House Art

A STUDIO WITH MANY PREVIOUS LIVES Lawrence is full of history and Mass Street (downtown) is the heart of the city. Our shop/studio is located in one of the oldest buildings in the city, built in 1858. The building was built by the Miller family who were print makers (how cool is that!) and it briefly housed the first post office in town. in 1862 it was taken over by the House Family and ran as a clothing store. It went on to house a Furniture Store, Daylight Donuts, and a brewery. It amazes me to sit here and hear about the people & stories that have passed through the door and it is so fun to now be a part of that history.

Ruff House Art print shop & paperie

FAMILY AND LETTERPRESS COMMUNITY INSPIRED I am mostly inspired by my everyday life. My husband and our friendship, my daughter and her laughter and all the wonderful people I have met in the stationery industry. There are so many truly wonderful people in this industry and I love how it is more of a community that supports each other rather than a competition. I am driven everyday to make a positive impression on my daughter so that she will learn the value of hard work and determination, just as I did from my parents.

Ruff House Art work samples

FULL TIME AND THEN SOME I feel like I wear nearly every hat that could be worn. I am the designer & printer for Ruff House Art. I am also customer service, sales, shipping, buyer, retail associate & mopper. When you own a small business you tend to learn how to do everything and be able to juggle that work load.

In my dream world, I would have way more time to design, and my line would be constantly evolving and full of wonderful things. But the truth is, I have to pencil in design time and sometimes that gets pushed to next week!

Ruff House Art is my full-time career. It has been my full-time job since day 1 in 2009, and I have been fortunate to have grown it over the years to be able to support myself & my family. It’s tough, demanding and at times all consuming. This business (or any self-owned business I would presume) is not for the weak of heart. It takes dedication, hard work and lots of coffee. But at the end of the day, as I shut the lights off and lock the doors, it is all worth it – so worth it.

Ruff House Art shop

WHERE IDEAS ARE SPARKED As I said, I am inspired everyday by normal life. And often the start of a card or product is a seed that gets planted by something my daughter says or an experience I have had. Such as our “Eat Cake For Breakfast Card” – growing up, my mom would occasionally let us indulge a little at breakfast with a cookie or piece of cake or brownie.

I in turn do this with my daughter without even thinking, even though my husband about dies each time he sees me sneak a cookie to her at breakfast! So I thought, everyone should be able to eat cake for breakfast on occasion! A card was born. From the spark of an idea, I wrap up the design on the computer and send it off for the plates to be made and turned into a letterpress card.

THE COMPANY WE KEEP I am proud of so many things that Ruff House Art has accomplished over the years. We have been featured in some really great magazines alongside other great artists. And our garden cards were featured on the Today Show for Earth Day! I have also had the privilege and honor of working with some great national retailers such as Paper Source, World Market, Nordstrom & West Elm.

In addition, I have been nominated 2 times for the Louie Awards (once for our garden cards & once for classically printed wedding invitations). We took home the Louie in 2014 for Classically Printed Wedding Invitations. That award was even more special as it was won for the invitations for my husband and I!

Ruff House Art samples

BLAZING A TRAIL It’s funny, in my mind, I feel like I am always just kind of “winging it” in my own way. Since I was self taught, I feel like I likely don’t do things the same way other printers do. But who says there is a right and wrong way as long as it works! Since opening our public space, I do feel I have gained confidence in my skills & techniques, offering advice to others who are just getting started in the printing business.

A BIG TO-DO LIST The opening of the brick & mortar put a pretty big stall in the growth of my own wholesale line. It has been all consuming and demanding learning how to balance another facet of my business. But I do think things are smoothing out into a well oiled machine and I am really looking forward to getting back into the growth and marketing of my own line. Being in the shop everyday has also given me great insight into what the consumer is drawn to and really looking for. I am going to take that knowledge and grow my own line accordingly. I am really looking forward to a release of new cards and coming back to my own product line with fresh vision.

Huge round of thanks out to Jill for letting us take a fresh look into the wonderful world of Ruff House Art (and then some)!

Letterpress Blooms at Maude Press in Creative South Pasadena

Dee Cutrona of Maude Press is sustained daily by the artistic flavor of her community and the people she considers mentors. She recently welcomed us in for a peek at her studio and shared how she got her start in letterpress — as well as the path she’s set herself on for the future.


BY ANY OTHER NAME Well, I suppose the first thing you should know about me is that my birth name is Christen and I can thank my sister for calling me “Christie Dee” the first time that she saw me. This, of course was shortened to Dee and here I am!

NECESSITY DEMANDS ACTION I first got involved in letterpress when I met a gal, Mable, in a design workshop. She was operating a letterpress studio and we thought, hey, let’s start a greeting card line! And so we did, and we called it Dee&Lala. In a funny way, I learned letterpress out of necessity–we were selling cards all across the U.S. and abroad and printing all day to keep up!


LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION I print in a studio right in my neighborhood of South Pasadena. What’s so great about the space is that I share it with a cake company, so the smell of baking cakes fills the air and it’s a team of girls, so we have this nice camaraderie. My favorite thing about my studio is that it’s nestled among traditional craftsman homes and tree lined streets, so my commute, whether by bike or car, is idyllic.


WALKABLE AND WONDERFUL SOUTH PASADENA is a hidden gem. It’s like this magical little pocket of Arts and Crafts architecture, cafes, family friendly neighborhoods, lots of art, music, festivals, parrots — yes parrots — and small independent shops…including Annika Buxman’s De Milo Design Studio & Letterpress [check out the profile we did on Annika’s studio a while back]. It’s an 8 minute metro ride away from downtown Los Angeles, so, in my opinion, it’s the best of both worlds. We actually have a small museum up my street — Meridian Iron Works — wouldn’t that be a great place to print!

SAGE ADVICE I considered Mable as my first printing mentor, and since that I’ve learned so much more. I do have a friend in town, who has a beautiful, very traditional, letterpress studio. I assist him with his printing as much as I can and consider him not just a letterpress mentor, but a life mentor. I also had design and style mentors in my Gramie and Grandad. They lived life to the fullest, did it with style and I am influenced by that philosophy daily.


INSPIRATION + THE CREATIVE FLOW I do not print full time. My days and weeks are equally balanced between designing and printing. I am planning to print more pieces for retail, so I’m anticipating more time at the press. As much as I appreciate the authenticity of working with type, I’m just so wired to be able to tweak and manipulate words and images digitally, so my process is more modern. I’m a digital artwork to photopolymer girl. When I first started Maude Press, I was working with magnesium dies, but I quickly switched back to photopolymer for the consistency and because the process isn’t toxic.

I enjoy working with fun wedding couples like Sheila and Casey. They wanted chic and modern and since they wanted a map, we decided to play with layers, a pattern and die cutting to add dimension. So much opportunity to be creative!


PRIDE IN THE ROAD I’VE TRAVELED Launching Dee&Lala was a huge accomplishment. I am/was really proud of our brand and the illustration work that I contributed. A lot of that work was very personal to me, so it meant a lot that our line was so well received. I still have a stack of samples. I still truly love them, even after printing them over and over and over…

I am equally, if not more, proud of launching Maude Press. It has been a wonderful experience so far and now that I’m about 4 years in, I’m ready to take it to the next level. I love the custom side of what I do, so it’s truly been a pleasure.


THE FIRST LADY AND NAMESAKE I wish I could list off a tally of presses, but to date, my only press is Maude, my 10 x 15 New Style Chandler & Price. She’s a work horse, but I can’t say I wouldn’t mind a cylinder from time to time..maybe someday. Maude is named after a movie that is a personal favorite of mine — Harold and Maude.



MUTUAL RESPECT FOSTERS GOOD RELATIONSHIPS Not only is Boxcar super informative and amazing, you provide my plates and plant trees when I purchase enough! What I like most, though, is your true love for letterpress and the letterpress community.

SHARING FROM EXPERIENCE Acetate is my friend.  Not only is acetate great for packing, I actually tape it down to my platen to register my artwork. I tape the acetate to the platen, ink the form and print on the acetate and then I register the paper to the print on the acetate. It saves so much time and helps with those hairpin registration jobs.

I’m a fan of Van Son Holland Ink (rubber or oil), but if you want a good rich black ink, my friend introduced me to ‘Sable Black SO 1 lb.” from Graphic Supply, Inc. — it is THE best black I’ve printed so far. No need to add a little warm red to this black– it’s gorgeous au naturale.



LEAPING OFF THE PAGES IN 2015 This is the year that I’m finally ready to produce more products for retail (mainly for my own site and a few local shops). Nothing major, no reps or stationery shows, just exclusive MP products to share with the world. I have pages of ideas that I just have to bring to life–it will feel like old times. Oh! And this year, hopefully, I will finally actually print my own stationery and if I’m really on a roll…holiday cards!!!

Thanks Dee for the glimpse into Maude Press. You are moving ahead full speed and you embody a quote from your favorite movie  “Try something new each day. After all, we’re given life to find it out. It doesn’t last forever.”

LZW Compression File Prep for Letterpress Plates

For Adobe enthusiasts who use Photoshop to create their platemaking files, we’d like to introduce you to Lempel-Ziv-Welch, which is a simple algorithm known as LZW compression. LZW compression makes your file size smaller without losing any image quality. Have a 1200 dpi, 22 megabyte file? No problem with LZW compression. It can compress that file down to mere megabytes and sometimes even kilobytes. Why do you want higher resolution? So you can have text and images that are higher quality and pleasing to the eye when printed.

Here is how you use the gem that is LZW. If you have a Photoshop image or text that you need to bitmap for a platemaking line art file, follow these steps.

1. Open your file in Adobe Photoshop. Convert to grayscale via IMAGE > MODE > GRAYSCALE. Select Yes if a window asks about discarding color.

2. Check your image size via IMAGE > IMAGE SIZE. When this window opens up, make note of the Pixel Dimensions at the top. Look halfway down the page at the Resolution of Pixels/Inch. Is the number 300 or less? We can do better! Increasing your resolution can shave and smooth out the pixelation of your bitmapped image. Change your resolution to between 600 – 1200.

Adobe Photoshop file showing how to check image size resolution.



Did you see your Pixel Dimension make a big jump up? Don’t worry, LZW will take care of that later. Click OK to save this new setting.

3. Select LAYER > check to see if Flatten Image is showing. If yes, Click on this.

4. Click on IMAGE > MODE > BITMAP. A window will open to complete this step. Your input should match the resolution you just chose a few steps earlier. The Output should be equal to or greater than your Input (up to 1200 Pixels/Inch). Your Method should be 50% Threshold. If you are seeing Diffusion Dither (the default), click on the box to see other Method choices to find 50% Threshold. Choose OK. Your file is now in black and white in Bitmap mode.


Saving to Bitmap made my file size smaller, you say? Yes, it did, but it is still probably many MB large. Imagine having 4 or 5 of these files and organizing all this artwork into one large document. Your new art board can quickly get unwieldy and oversized.

Time to save your file as a TIFF (.tif file extension) and tap into the power of LZW! TIFF is the format of choice for commercial and professional image standards. TIFF is the most universal and most widely supported format across all platforms, Mac, Windows

5. To finish up, Select FILE > SAVE AS . The pop up window is looking for your file name and a format. Choose TIFF. Another window called TIFF Options will open. At the top (for Image Compression) select LZW and click OK.


Check your folder where you saved your TIFF The size is now probably under 1 MB. Your TIFF document was able to be compressed with all the quality you desire but now in a nicely managed little file.

Comparison of two files and their data size: one is a Photoshop (PSD) file at 3.6 MB and one is a TIFF file at 160KB because of LZW compression.

Speaking In (Type) Faces with the VABC Kickstarter Project

We’d love to see projects blending metal type and photopolymer plates come out of the newest Virginia Arts of the Book Center Kickstarter project. The project aims to creatively display the largest public collection of moveable type in Virginia. VABC is currently the home for more the 325 cases of moveable type, but printers and artists interested in using the type lack a basic resource to see these printed letter forms at work. VABC’s Kickstarter project will become a unique specimen book, as well as a creative resource for  letterpress printers. So help bring more wonderful letterpress into the world – support the project today!


Let’s See That Printed: Translating Ink with John Reardon

One of the most enjoyable aspects of working with so many talented printers and designers who make their photopolymer plates with us is coming across some truly inspiring design work. Designs that make you stop and wonder just what color ink they’ll be running or what the print is for. It’s even better when you get a chance to catch up with the printer behind the design. We chatted with the outrageously gifted tattoo artist, John Reardon of Greenpoint Tattoo Co. in Brooklyn, New York, when his plate came through our doors. We’ll let John take it from here.

Photopolymer letterpress printing plate being made at Boxcar Press.

The project came about by running into Dan Morris (of The Arm in Brooklyn) on the streets. This was the second time I printed at The Arm (the first was back in 2010). I also have a tattoo shop down the street from Earl Kallemeyn (Kallemeyn Press). I’ve drawn stuff for him. He comes by the shop to hang out occasionally.

Photopolymer printing plates on a Vandercook.

John Reardon printing on a Vandercook.

Dan told me I needed to make another print and I agreed. I’ve been drawing and tattooing daggers like this for about 7 years now. The first one I drew I tattooed on Othello Garcia when we both worked for Scott Campbell at Saved Tattoo. When I find the time I have four more to finish drawing and print. The difference between my drawing for printing vs tattooing is that I can put in more detail in a print. Also I have to make tones by stippling or cross hatching. It’s fun. I printed with my buddy Jordan Haley and two bottles of red.. Been on a Spanish Rioja kick this winter…(it’s how I survived).

John Reardon printing on a Vandercook and pulling the paper through the press.

Final pulled prints of the ever talented  John Reardon.

Huge round of thanks out to John for letting us take a peek at his cool printing project!