Sarah Wilkinson and Karis Van Noord are two beautiful California girls living their dream with Tabletop Made. With a garage turned studio and music at full blast, their stationery line proves that with a little you can get a lot. Each one of their cards are hand printed on a tabletop Kelsey Excelsior and the response has been nothing but positive. They have been featured on well-known blogs such as Design*Sponge, Sycamore Street Press, and more as of late. Read on about these ladies to hear what everyone is talking about.

How did each of you first get into letterpress?

We dreamed of starting a letterpress card company, and for fun, we took two workshops at Irvine Fine Arts Center with Madeleine Zygarewicz of Panorama Press. We were hooked! We immediately started searching for a press of our own.

What was your very first press?

Our first press (that we still use to this day) is a Kelsey Excelsior 6×10. We nicknamed him Sven, and he’s a hard-working man. He complains sometimes, but he’s had a good life so far.

What medium do you usually print?

Most of our designs are on photopolymer plates, but we do have a couple of steel plates. We also have a few collections of metal type, which we use for our own personal designs, say stationery with a friend’s name. However, photopolymer is our medium of choice.

What’s your process from sketch to press?

Taking inspiration from just about anything, we sketch, scan and trace the image to Illustrator, play around with colors, send each other ideas, rework the design a couple of times, prepare the file for plate-making, jump for joy when the plate arrives, and slap it on our Boxcar Base!

What other print shops do you admire?

We love Deadweight, Great Lakes, Morris + Essex, Tall Cow, Dutch Door Press, and Krank Press.

Who or what inspires you the most?

Living in Santa Barbara is a huge inspiration to us. We love looking at local textiles, architecture, natural landscapes, Mexican pottery, paper cuts – basically everything around us!

What’s your favorite item from Boxcar Press?

We love our base!

Any neat tricks you can share?

We have one trick that we swear by. We use paper corners to hold our paper in place. This allows us more room for the design since we don’t have to worry about mashing clips up on the base.

How was your experience showing at LA Renegade Craft Fair?

LA Renegade was an insightful experience. It was our first fair ever! Since we weren’t sure what to expect, we over-prepared. We basically brought our whole print shop. Now we know better! Our favorite parts included meeting fantastic artists who were so friendly and helpful to us and seeing our customers in person! We want to try out the SF Fair next.

Thanks Sarah and Karis for showing us your talent and hard work! Check out their blog and shop for all the latest from Tabletop Made!


Our Boxcar Talks over the past year have showcased letterpress studios from all over. But there’s nothing quite like Pangnirtung, a small community of 900 people on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, and there’s no one quite like Jenn Robins, who took our Boxcar Plates with her during her Artist in Residence under the northern lights. Jenn, alongside a translator speaking Inuktitut to the Inuit print and textile artists, gave presentations and demos on many forms of printmaking. Jenn has shared her incredible journey and work with us.

Jenn got into printmaking, studying under Mary McCullough, at Okanagan University College. Due to some health issues she studied for 10 years – one course at a time! On her wish list was to see the light of the North, the blue spectrum. After a few trips to the western arctic, she built friendships and became enamored with the land of the North. She completed a 6-week artist in residency in the Uqqurmiut print studio in Pangnirtung, in the Eastern Arctic, where the Inuit artists are known for their exceptional original prints.

Jenn does not claim to be a letterpress printer. She is a visual artist whose work consists of various forms of intaglio and relief printing; her unique contribution to the printmaking world is her explorations of printing and embossing on various metals, using a variety of ink viscosities and the etching press.

Jenn Robins

Jenn Robins

Stencil brushes & ink


Left - shop aprons; right - Jolli & Eva (fellow artists) with a pulled print


Spring---enough sunshine to expose outside


May workshop

Left - Josia, a fellow printmaker (and really great person); right - the shop

Left - Josia, a fellow printmaker (and really great person); right - the shop

Top - Cape Dorset & Inlet; Middle - Cape Dorset community; Bottom - Cape Dorset Sunset

Top - Cape Dorset & Inlet; Middle - Cape Dorset community; Bottom - Cape Dorset Sunset

Her teaching in the Arctic had to be resourceful with only small amounts of supplies and ink available. Our Boxcar Plates were used as intaglio plates – they are made of thin metal, with a photopolymer surface – and she remarks on how they are a versatile plate, greatly used in a variety of image-making options such as photogravure and relief printing.


One of Jenn's inked plates

The equipment was limited, but was used with fantastic results. Jenn’s homemade miniature UV light box with a tiny 4” x 4” range, and our supply of photopolymer plates enabled her to create several hand-pulled prints and also to give demonstrations of this process to the printmakers and textile artists of Uqqurmiut. Jenn also took the simplest of styrofoam plates created by the textile artists and turned them into exquisite little aquatint hand-pulled prints, using Boxcar plates. Jenn proves that with a lot of hard work and imagination, possibilities are endless.

Temp lightbox assemby - photo etching

Temp lightbox assemby - photo etching


Temp burner unit in action


Temp UV light system 6x4 - post exposure

Temp contact plate for photo etch

Temp contact plate for photo etch

Jenn teaches at the local colleges, VCA and VISA, and continues to give workshops at the University of Victoria. She’s planning on heading North again, as soon as the chance arises. There will be an exhibition of her work with several pieces created using our Boxcar Plates, alongside her fellow artists, this fall. To read more about Jenn, her experience and a look at many more photos, please visit her website.

Boxcar Talk with Sweet Letter Press

Elizabeth and Matthew were professional dancers in New York when good ol’ letterpress twirled into their lives. These days, after numerous hours in their Boulder, Colorado studio Sweet Letter Press, they do find time to dance together in their kitchen. We’ve got a lot of love for husband and wife teams. A lot of love surrounds this duo – to each other and to their work.

How did you two first get into letterpress?
Matthew and I got into the stationery business when we decided to make our own invitations for our wedding in October 2006. Since I was a designer and he was an illustrator, we figured we could do a good job ourselves. When it came time to decide how the invitations should be printed, we fell in love with letterpress printing while looking at samples at Village Invites in Midtown NYC. It was a little out of our budget, but we remained very attracted to this form of printing long after the wedding. When we moved to Colorado, we decided to learn about letterpress and found a couple of generous older printers who offered to share their knowledge. On one of their presses, we printed our first professional wedding job for a very satisfied client in February 2008, and then we acquired our own studio and press in the summer of 2008.

What was your very first press?
Our very first press was a table top Craftsman. It only took 1 or 2 uses before we decided it was by no means enough and we promptly got it on Briarpress. Our first “real” press, which is still our current workhorse, is a C&P Old Style, 10×15.

What medium do you usually print (lead/wood type, photopolymer, lino, etc.)?
Photopolymer with the Boxcar base system.

What’s your process from sketch to press?
Usually new ideas come to us over morning coffee. We discuss a concept and then Matthew gets to work drawing ideas. Once we have all the original pieces we need, I scan his pencil drawings, convert them to vector art and put together the completed design in Illustrator. We then send the files off to Boxcar where they are magically converted into plates.

What other print shops do you admire?
We admire the work of Bella Figura* for their beautifully classic designs and impeccable printing. On the more whimsical side, we love Old School Stationers and Maginating Letterpress and Design. And of course, Studio on Fire for always pushing the envelope with printing techniques and styles. Their blog is always a great source of inspiration.

Who or what inspires you the most?
We find a lot of inspiration in nature – Colorado is full of amazing wild flowers, trees, mountains etc. Also vintage poster art, textiles and photography. Fabulous design in any medium.

What are your favorite things/items from Boxcar Press?
Love that they recycle plates!

Any neat tricks you can share?
Using the Boxcar system, many a typo can be fixed with a scalpel and a loop.

What are you looking forward to?
We are working to premiere a new line this May which should be fun. Also, we’ve taken on our biggest project yet that has us pretty ecstatic – a baby due this summer! Can’t wait to design the birth announcements!

What was the experience like for you at NSS last year?
NSS is a lot of work. 2010 was no exception, but we met a lot of great people and picked up some new stores.

For more from Sweet Letter Press, visit their etsy shop and check out more photos on flickr. Congratulations on the little one, Elizabeth and Matthew! No doubt the baby announcements will be fantastic.

{Photos by Sullivan Studios.}

*Bella Figura is a part of Boxcar Press.

Boxcar Talk with Satsuma Press

Can we use the word impressed without the pun? Because the woman behind Satsuma Press impresses us to no end. Lynn Russell is not only a self-taught designer, but runs her letterpress shop full time all the while being a wife and mother to Liam, a child with neuromuscular disorder called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 2. This lady has her hands full but was kind enough to let us dip into her life and learn more about her one-woman operation.

Photo 62


I took my first letterpress class nine years ago and it was love at first sight. I didn’t set out to become an artist; in fact, I hadn’t taken any sort of art class at all since high school. For me, letterpress was simply the right fit. Letterpress printing is hands on work that requires an eye for detail and design.


A Vandercook SP-15, which I still have, in addition to a Heidelberg Windmill. The Vandercook is my trusty, slow paced machine; the Heidelberg is a tempermental beast (but when it’s happy, it is amazing.)


Photopolymer (from Boxcar)



I find inspiration from so many things – botanical drawings and vintage textiles in particular. I sketch everything in Illustrator now, but it often takes several rounds of revisions before I feel that a drawing is ready for press. With Illustrator, it’s fairly easy to make small adjustments to lines and shapes (although probably not as easy as it could be as I have no formal training in graphic design or any of the computer programs that go with that!) It’s also easy to play around with color choices – though sometimes I change my mind about this right when I go to press.


In no particular order –

I love Julie’s work – beautiful drawings, lush paper, rich colors. Studio Olivine
I am consistently blown away by the registration and attention to detail over at Studio on Fire.
I love the simple, peaceful work Rebecca does at Moontree.
Not letterpress but xylene transfers…stunning graphics, amazing prints. Beauchamping



I’m inspired most by people who do what they love – the very best way they can, with integrity. There are several people/studios that embody this philosophy with all sort of mediums. I admire them all immensely.

Heath Ceramics
Herriott Grace
Skinny laMinx


Soon after I bought my first press, I found I was pregnant with my son, Liam. I worked only sporadically then – and even less so from the time Liam was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disorder called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 2 at 14 months until he was two and a half. (Read more at Liam’s blog.) After that, though, I slowly returned to my small studio. In that space, I found both solace and inspiration. I learned as I went along – making mistakes often, yet loving the process. Years later, I still make mistakes, learn from them and love printing. While my work has evolved over the years, I have stayed true to my original aesthetic – good, simple design that is pleasing to the eye and mind; refreshing color and lush paper; plenty of open space and quiet, graceful beauty.

Satsuma Press is still just me (and my 2 printing presses) – and I like it this way. I still design and print everything by myself, although I collaborate with other artists around the world on occasion. I still answer every email and pack every order. My husband helps out from time to time, but mostly I spend my days in the studio alone. Some days I work just a few hours, some days I work fourteen hours. I keep my schedule somewhat flexible for all the things that may come up for my family. Through it all, my intent remains the same – small-scale, honest work done well.


Well, not a thing or an item, but Cathy at Boxcar has provided endless amounts of help to me, from the time when I was just getting started and even now. It’s really nice to have a small company to work with over the years. Also, the Boxcar Base is pretty nifty and I have one for each of my presses.




No, not really a tricks kind of person…but two things I can share, that I’ve learned over the years – and which I need to be reminded of more often than I’d like to admit are these:

Don’t print late at night. This seems unavoidable sometimes (for me this is usually in early fall when I’m trying to get my calendar printed), but more often than not, I make mistakes that I’m too tired to catch at the time. Do I still print at night? Yes, on occasion, but I try to make it something simple, like printing my logo on the back of each card.

If a client doesn’t seem like a good fit at the start, s/he probably isn’t. It’s better to face this up front and at the beginning, rather than further down the line when it causes more difficulty for everyone.



I do have new projects that I’m excited about! I actually just did my first jewelry collaboration on a lovely little necklace.

Be sure to check out Satsuma Press’s shop. It’s never too late to order some 2011 calendars! (Especially when they’ve been designed and printed with love.)

Boxcar Talk with Dead Feminists

What do you get when you mix Chandler O’Leary from Anagram Press and Jessica Spring from Springtide Press? Beautiful, detailed, thoughtful and bold broadsides letterpress printed under the series name Dead Feminists. With a new print impressing numerous eyes every three months since 2008, the Dead Feminist series strive to feature “a quote by a historical feminist, tied in with current political and social issues, and letterpress printed from hand-drawn lettering and illustrations.” We could simply just let the images do the talking, however the pair have shared with us more details about their work and efforts.

How did each of you first get into letterpress?
Chandler: For me, letterpress was at the end of a winding path and a long story. The short version is that I have an art school degree in illustration, a professional background in graphic design and print production, and a long line of first jobs that included things like hot wax paste-up and tractor decals. Add to that a long-standing interest in typography and storytelling, and a stubborn streak that leads me to insist upon doing everything by hand, the old fashioned way, and letterpress turned out to be the perfect fit.

Jessica: I worked as a typesetter at Macalester College, managing services for various publications on campus. I sat at a huge console in front of a green screen and coded fonts and output to RC paper which would be waxed and keylined. Not having the benefit of WYSIWYG really forced me to understand picas and points. After college I typeset road atlases for Rand McNally with these huge confusing charts with symbols and numbers, so when the Macintosh came along it was brilliant. I spent 10 years as a partner in a graphic design firm and we had the chance to get a Vandercook 3 – no frills, no motor, but it was a sweet machine. The more I printed the less I was interested in the computer – twenty-one years and several presses later, it’s even more true.


What was your very first press?
Chandler: I’m always telling people that investing in letterpress equipment is a lot like getting married – you can certainly get out of it, but not without a lot of pain and expense. So until I become a homeowner and won’t have to move again, the only press I actually own is a Kelsey 3 x 5″ platen press, which I use for studio demos and tiny projects, but I do the majority of my printing at various local letterpress studios with whom I have an arrangement – like Jessica’s studio, for instance. The first press I ever printed on, however, was a Vandercook No. 4 at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Since then I’ve printed on well over a dozen different cylinder and platen press models, a benefit of not having a permanent shop is being forced to become proficient with whatever is available. My favorite presses are still Vandercooks No. 219 and Universal One.

Jessica: See above. My second press was a Vandercook 4 that suffered horribly, overturned in a Chicago alley at the hands of incompetent movers. The third was another 4 (with extra parts from the deceased 4), then a Universal I and a C&P. I also have the pleasure of using a Universal 3 where I teach – it’s huge, completely motorized, and awesome.


What medium do you usually print?
Jessica: While photopolymer is fast and delicious, I prefer to use handset type. After collecting for years, I have enough type, ornaments and other goodies there’s no excuse not to use them, other than time or client work. I’m especially interested in daredevil printing, whether it’s handsetting curved type and complex registration of colors or using found objects that can be made type high. I’d put Chandler’s illustrations in that category too!
I also have to thank membership in the Amalgamated Printers’ Association to help me really hone my typesetting skills. It’s a group of both amateur and pro printers who are constantly inspiring through a monthly bundle of ephemera. Members must print 150 copies to exchange four times a year, and there’s nothing like printing for people who realize how hard you worked.


In your own words, how do you describe a broadside?
Chandler: The great-grandaddy of the poster, the broadside was one of the earliest forms of mass communication, usually containing important information and distributed by someone in a position of authority. Nowadays, the broadside has become a favorite of the letterpress world, and converted into an art form that combines both images and text.

Your work is so intricate. What’s your process from sketch to press?

Chandler: Jessica and I are both printers, and we each do our own work, most of the time. When we collaborate on the Dead Feminists series, though, our jobs on the technical side of things are pretty segregated: I’m the illustrator, she’s the printer. On my end, the design/illustration always starts with a lot of historical research. Then I complete a pencil drawing of the design at full size—and at the same time make decisions about color choices and how the design will work logistically for letterpress. Then I lay a sheet of translucent vellum over the pencil art and ink everything in black, separating the colors by hand (each color is a separate vellum layer) and cleaning up the inconsistencies in the pencil as I go. Then I scan each vellum sheet at a super-high resolution, set a colophon in digital type, convert each color separation to a bitmap file in Photoshop, and turn the files over to Jessica. Jessica then has film negatives made from my files, and makes her own photopolymer plates with the negatives. She then prints the broadside on a Vandercook Universal One, using my ideas about ink colors as a starting point, then making her own decisions on the fly, as needed.

Jessica: Chandler is being a little modest about her mad skills making all these separations convert to photopolymer—even though she shows me sketches and even color separations I’m always surprised and delighted when the printing is underway.

Who or what inspires you the most when deciding your next broadside?
Jessica: We have a lot of discussion back and forth. Often it’s triggered by an event – like the Gulf Coast oil spill or the passage of Prop 8 in California – though Rachel Carson had been on our list for awhile. We make a real effort to connect current events to these historical figures because their words are still so relevant and can provide inspiration, even guidance. Our country has been through some real turbulence since we started these broadsides, and there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of challenging topics to address (or women deserving recognition for their contributions).

How do you choose which organization to benefit?
Jessica: With the success of the series we’ve been able to direct some funds, and hopefully attention, to non-profits that support causes we believe in, and that connect to each broadside. We tend to focus on smaller, local groups that might not be as well known. In some cases, like Just Desserts, the state library in Olympia where we did broadside research had suffered massive budget cuts, so it was an obvious choice to give our support.


How has your response been to these series?
Chandler: We’ve been completely floored by the response these prints have had. We never even planned to print more beyond the very first broadside, let alone a whole series, but people have spread the word about the Dead Feminists, mostly thanks to the internet. Between (a marketplace site devoted to handmade items), blogs and old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing, the series has kind of taken on a life of its own. We’re now working on our tenth print in the series, and the broadsides have been collected by people in nearly every state in the country, as well as countries all over the world.

What are you looking forward to?
Chandler: I have a solo exhibition coming up in November, for a new editioned artist book I’ve been working on for the past two years. So that’s at the front of my mind right now, but the Dead Feminists are a nice current to have running in the background, something I can look forward to whenever I need to switch gears or give myself a break from a huge project. Jessica and I will both be exhibitors at the biennial Codex Symposium and Book Fair in Berkeley, CA, this February—we’re looking forward to taking the Dead Feminists on the road. The Dead Feminists will also be included in the upcoming anthology of design using handmade elements, Fingerprint 2, to be published by HOW Books next year.

Phew! Talk about a couple of busy ladies! Thanks, Chandler and Jessica, for your time and sharing insight into the Dead Feminists series. Don’t forget to check out the Anagram Press shop and Springtide Press shop, too.

Boxcar Talk with Albertine Press

Once upon a time, Shelley Barandes was working as an architect, but her love for paper couldn’t keep her away from being devoted to letterpress. Albertine Press started out as a simple custom design and print studio and has bloomed to include a vast collection of fine stationery. Located in Somerville, Massachusetts, their work can be seen in more than twenty states nationwide and Canada, and counting.


{Photo by Melissa Coe.}

How did you first get into letterpress?
I studied printmaking in college (while an architecture major) and came back to it after several years working at architecture firms. When I moved back to New York, I was turned on to the Center for Book Arts by a friend. That, as they say, was the beginning of the end.

What was your very first press?
I learned on a Vandercook SP15 and a Craftsman 8×12 platen press (neither owned by me). I bought two tabletops before finding my very own Vandercook #4 and a C&P 10×15, both of which we use nearly every day.


{Photo by Melissa Coe.}

What medium do you usually print (lead/wood type, photopolymer, lino, etc.)?
Primarily polymer plates, but we have a small collection of lead and wood type that we break out for special projects as well as the occasional workshops.

What’s your process from sketch to press?
Pretty much exactly that. I always have a Moleskine with me (I prefer the gridded style) for notes and sketches. I move on to nicer papers or tracing papers to clean up drawings before scanning them in. Final drawing touch-ups and most typography happens on the Mac, along with all color separations.


{Photo by Albertine Press.}

What other print shops do you admire?
The commercial work done by Studio on Fire is pretty mind-blowing. I wish I had the time and resources to experiment with all of the techniques they use. I also really love the peaceful simplicity of Rebecca’s designs for Moontree Letterpress in Brooklyn. Firefly Press here in Boston does exclusively hand-set and linotype projects and their work is impeccable.


{Photo by Melissa Coe.}

Who or what inspires you the most?
I find inspiration everywhere – patterns I see in the sidewalk, in architecture, in fashion; ideas sparked by my wedding clients as they describe their perfect event; fallen pinecones and flowers in neighborhood gardens; drawing on command for my 18 month old daughter.

What are your favorite things/items from Boxcar Press?
Besides the base/plate system? The apron, definitely. And also the super-cute baby-tees. I have a Boxcar Baby myself (now a Boxcar toddler) and had bought her a shirt before she was even a twinkle in her daddy’s eye.


{Photo by Melissa Coe.}

Any neat tricks you can share?
I can juggle, sort of. But you probably want printing tricks. We come up with all kinds of tricks to achieve certain effects, or use up seemingly unusable scraps of paper. It’s more about finding creative solutions to your every day problems. I don’t think we ever do the same things twice because each job we run has its own quirks.

What are you looking forward to?
As exhausting as they are, I look forward to our winter craft fairs and open houses. I love getting a chance to meet directly with our customers and see how they respond to our work, new and old.

What was the experience like for you at NSS this year?
NSS was great. It was our fifth year exhibiting and it seems that every year just keeps getting better. We finally hit upon a booth design that really speaks to us and for us and I can’t wait to use it again!!!


{Photo by Nole Garey.}

Do you have any suggestions for people hoping to exhibit next year or how to promote their new product lines?
Focus on what you absolutely love to create and start with a small, cohesive, well-designed collection. Better a few things that everyone will love than getting overwhelmed trying to manage 200 designs and not have a clear sense of yourself or your brand. You can always add more later.

How was NYIGF for your first time?
This summer was our first NYIGF and we couldn’t have been happier with our reception. It was nice to be exposed to a new, completely different audience. We can’t wait to go back next year!


{Photo by Albertine Press.}

For more from Albertine Press, stop by their Etsy store and visit their blog to keep up with the current doings. If you are in the Boston area, they also offer great classes. Thanks, Shelley!

Boxcar Talk with Pistachio Press

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!

pistachio-pressWhat 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!

Boxcar Talk with Haute Papier

When planning her wedding three years ago, Sarah Meyer Walsh couldn’t find anyone who could customize her wedding invitations, which ultimately served as her inspiration in launching Haute Papier. Her business partner Erin Miller joined her about a year later and they’ve teamed up in creating a stationery business that places equal value on high design and top notch printing. With two locations, Haute Papier is a luxury letterpress studio dedicated to couture letterpress, specializing in high end custom wedding invitations and stationery, including a selection of custom designs, fine stationery and gift items. Their stationery is available in more than 80 stores across the US and Canada. With their two locations and expanding retail collection, they managed to squeeze in some time for a little Boxcar Talk:


How did each of you first get into letterpress?

Of course, any stationery designer certainly loves the look of letterpress. Prior to doing our own printing we would farm out the work to local printers – printers who we are proud to still call friends (and who we call on when we have a question about our presses!) We really really loved when our clients chose letterpress for their invitations and thought the one thing missing was knowing how to print ourselves. So we took a one day class in the basement of a letterpress hobbyist in Alexandria, Virginia. He was a super nice guy, but here we are two young ladies in a dingy basement hand cranking a tabletop press and just thinking we were so cool to be setting type and mixing ink and having a blast. To this day I’m not too sure what our instructor thought of us or our enthusiasm for letterpress. I think we quite overwhelmed him! Well, at the end of our class he handed us a copy of a newspaper dedicated to the letterpress community and in the back was a classified section. We honed in on our press, called the owner and purchased the press within 20 minutes of leaving our workshop. Now mind you, the press we bought was in Pittsburgh. We would go up and officially adopt her a few weeks later. And that is another the story in of itself. A story for another time perhaps!

What was your very first press (and are you using it still)?

A Golding Pearl 7×11. You may call her Pearl (we call her the gobbler)! She is semi-retired but still does a mean job on our envelopes!

What medium do you usually print (lead/wood type, photopolymer, lino, etc.)?

Photopolymer plates from Boxcar (specifically KF152)

What’s your process from sketch to press?

We love to draw! Our hand drawings and sketches form the foundation of our new designs. We also LOVE vintage images and sometimes incorporate those into our designs as well. So, from our doodling, we turn the designs into reality in CS4 and CS5 (depending on which computer we’re working on). Then we order plates from Boxcar and the rest, as they say, is history.

What other print shops do you admire?

We’ve always admired Studio on Fire for their ability to print anything!

What do you love about working with Boxcar Press?

Cathy Smith, of course! (read: wonderful customer service.) Of course, the quality plates keep us coming back for more!

Any neat tricks you can share?

I don’t know if we have any neat tricks, but I will say a deep breath goes a long way at times.

Who or what inspires you the most?

We find inspiration in so many different things. Right now, we’re in love with a bunch of photos that Sarah took of the amazing architecture in Argentina this past spring!


What’s next for Haute Papier?

We’re in the process of expanding our cash and carry lines and look forward to introducing it to our retailers!

What was the experience like for you at the National Stationery Show? Do you have any suggestions for people hoping to exhibit?

We love NSS! We’re going on exhibiting for our third year and love meeting new dealers and reconnecting with our current dealers. It’s also a nice time to meet fellow printers. As we all know, NSS is a costly undertaking so we really try and kill it! We are excited to be there and ready to talk everyone’s ear off who will listen to us about Haute Papier! It’s really about making the most of our week.

Thanks so much, ladies, for sharing a little insight about Haute Papier! For more about Sarah, Erin, and Haute Papier visit their website.

Boxcar Talk with Maginating

Brad Woods from Maginating has been on a wild ride the last six years. Although he had a degree in classical animation and a Master’s in computer animation, it was love at first sight for Brad and letterpress. Being surrounded by computers most of the time, letterpress enabled him to use his hands again: drawing, erasing, cutting and packaging until soon he couldn’t get away from the cast iron machine and the tactile qualities of letterpress. He took time away from his one man studio to have a Boxcar Talk:


How did you first get into letterpress?

About six years ago I was at a restaurant with my sister.  She suggested I check out the shop next door – she thought I’d think it was pretty cool.  Turned out it was Sugar Paper, a letterpress company who specializes in stunning custom letterpress and includes a storefront.  Anyway, I was blown away!  I’d never seen anything like it before.  Jamie, one of the owners, was in the shop that day and was very kind – she was happy to answer all my questions.

About six months later I was fortunate enough to meet Bob Paduano – a master of all things letterpress.  He’s been in the business a long time and was able to restore a Kluge 10×15 for me.  At the time I was still doing freelance work so, for about a year, whenever I had some spare time, I worked down in our garage – trying to figure this big hunk of cast iron out.  I never took any classes…couldn’t find any that used platen presses.  I just kept looking online for answers, and spoke with all sorts of helpful and generous printers.  It took some time but eventually my knowledge base grew to a point where I was able to get going at an operable speed.

Believe it or not – my first job was a wedding invitation set. Miraculously, it turned out great – the client was very happy. Knowing what I know now, this was a craaazy first piece. I don’t know what I was thinking. In my defense, I plead temporary insanity (and a whopping case of ignorance.)  Glad I didn’t blow it!

Not long after that I stopped taking on any freelance work and dedicated all my time to creating a greeting card line. That was almost four years ago. (It’s important to note that none of this would have been possible had it not been for my lovely wife, Stacy.  She supported me all the way – encouraging me as I gradually expanded the card line and brought in no income…)

What was your very first press (and are you using it still)?

Yes, I still use my first press – a hand-fed 10×15 Kluge. It’s fantastic – I’ll probably keep it forever!!

What medium do you usually print (lead/wood type, photopolymer, lino, etc.)?

I only use photopolymer (specifically KF152)

What’s your process from sketch to press?

I have this little sketchbook (4×6) that I keep close at hand. It’s crammed with doodles – all the ideas that come to me, wherever I am… Most of the time they’re these crummy little drawings, but that’s all they need to be. I don’t want to pause to consider the logistics of a design but act more as a camera to my mental images. If an idea looks like it’s going to work as a card, I take a photo with my point-and-shoot digital camera and import it into the computer. I find it’s good enough quality to meet my needs and much faster than scanning. This next stage is where the computer comes into play – it’s hard to avoid. I prefer the crisp edge of a vector graphic as opposed to a raster one, so I tend to work in Adobe Illustrator (check this out for more information about the difference between the two.) I import the photo of the doodle into Illustrator and “trace” it.  A lot of the refinement happens in this stage and I try to keep it as loose as possible when using a mouse. Once I feel it’s done I then consider whether or not it’s good enough to be a card (I really don’t know until then). Sometimes it isn’t, and I’ll go back to the drawing board. Sometimes I’ll rework the design over a couple of months (or several years.)  For example, my “Birthday Owls” card began as an idea in 2006 but wasn’t released until 2009. Once it’s received the “Maginating Seal of Approval,” I send it off to you guys at Boxcar Press to be converted into a photopolymer plate and we’re off and printing not long after that.


What other print shops do you admire?

I am a big fan of many, many print shops, however, I recently discovered Pie Bird Press at the National Stationery Show…their work blew me away – everything about it was awesome! (and yes, it’s letterpress!)

P.S. great blog, too

Who or what inspires you the most?

I find inspiration in a great variety of things, artistically speaking, some of those are:
Jon Klassen

Danish Modern furniture

William Joyce

Mo Willems

UPA animation studios

Alexander Girrard

Charles and Ray Eames

… and Jim Henson

What do you enjoy most about working with Boxcar Press?

I love Boxcar’s photopolymer system – I have a Deep Relief Boxcar Base and appear to be addicted to KF152 photopolymer plates…(but I can quit at any time – I swear).

Any neat tricks you can share?

As anyone who uses Crane’s Lettra knows, it draws like crazy when cut in large quantities. The same problem applies when you try to corner round a good quantity of finished cards. Our solution has been to create a die for each card size with round corners and the score line included. It’s quick, efficient, and everything comes out perfect!

What are you looking forward to? (i.e., upcoming shows, publications, events, etc.)

I’m working on a top-secret project right now…can’t tell you about it (but I’m very excited!)

What was the experience like for you at NSS?

We’ve been exhibiting at NSS for the past three years. This year was fantastic – it’s taken some time, but we’re finally beginning to see the full merits of what the show has to offer. While sales are always great (and we’re grateful for each and every one) the NSS offers a potentially massive networking opportunity. While it’s always been a part of our show experience, it’s becoming more substantial.  The opportunity to speak with bloggers, press, fellow card-creators, reps, designers and all sorts of other creative types is not only fun, but a great way to increase your “prosperity” at the show.

Do you have any suggestions for people hoping to exhibit next year or how to promote their new product lines?

There are so many details to consider when exhibiting for the first time at NSS. I would highly recommend signing up for the mentor program offered by George Little Management. This program will partner you with a “veteran” exhibitor – someone who has similar design sensibilities and product and has exhibited at the NSS before. And for those of us who have already exhibited at the show, I would highly recommend that they also sign up as a mentor for GLM’s program.

I would also recommend not using foam core walls – they may be fast and look great, but they’re expensive.  Also, once the show’s over, you’re probably going to leave the walls there (everyone else does) – which, to me seems like a terrible waste (and a bit odd, given the push on keeping this industry as green as possible).  I would recommend trying to create a flame-proof soft-wall, using some type of fabric, sign material – something like that.  I’ve seen all sorts of amazing applications!  The show’s already expensive enough and the last thing you want to do is spend more money on shipping or materials (or foam core walls).  That said, I have semi-hard walls (burlap stretched over wooden frames).  Had I known about the weight and shipping factor (my booth’s just under 400lbs.), I would have done a soft wall.  I’ll keep using what I have for now (get my money’s worth), but will go the soft-wall route next time around, for sure.

Thanks, Brad, for such fantastic advice and input! We can’t wait to hear about your top-secret project!

Boxcar Talk with Snap & Tumble

Snap & Tumble is a one woman operation studio based in a home in Toronto, Canada. With just two table top presses and a showcard press, Tanya Roberts reminds us that if you put your mind to it, anything is possible. Since the spring of 2007, she has shared every trial and error of learning and mastering her tabletop presses on her blog.
What made you want to become an artist?
I never set out to become an artist.  My love of craft printing and the desire to do letterpress – to search through antique markets for type or old printer’s blocks, to mix the ink, to operate the press itself, and to see the results of my labor – is what has led me to where I am today.


How did you first get into letterpress?
My desire emerged from the shadows – literally! I was in a stationery store and noticed the shadows formed by the deep impression on a card that had been made by a letterpress. I picked it up, ran my fingers over the type, and fell in love.  From there, my curiosity took over. Probably the most important early move I made was taking a letterpress workshop at Open Studio which introduced me to a flatbed press. It was after doing the workshop that I decided to go out on a limb and get my own tabletop. From then on I’ve been self-taught but have been guided by the online letterpress community. One of the reasons I now offer workshops is so that other people have an easier time learning about letterpress than I initially did.


What was your very first press?
My first press is the Adana Eight-Five. It was perfect for me when I started out because it was small and it fit in my basement apartment kitchen. I’ve moved up to a 6.5 x 10 Canadian Craftsmen Machinery Co. press which is what I primarily use now. I’ve also added a small Showcard Press to the family.


What medium do you usually print (lead/wood type, photopolymer, lino, etc.)?
It depends on what I’m printing.  I usually use Boxcar photopolymer plates and lead/wood type. I like making use of my type because I’ve acquired a great collection of the classics. I started off experimenting with magnesium dies mounted on wood, but ever since I tried out the polymer plates and registration, the Boxcar system seems to be the best for me.



What’s your process from sketch to press?
I tend to skip the hand-sketching part and go straight to Illustrator. There, I play with shapes and type, getting an idea of layout and composition. I don’t usually concern myself with color at this point.  It’s not until I get the plates on the press that I’ll consider color and mix inks until I’m happy with what I see. Many times I simply experiment with moveable type – deciding all elements of design on the fly.  Having a background in advertising design and copywriting, I think my brain is wired to latch onto anything type-related. Most of my product is type-heavy, making use of my beloved gothic wood and Poster Bodoni lead type. If I find something that I want to include in a design, I will scan it in to the computer.  For example, there was an occasion when I found a vintage embroidery pattern book that included an exquisite alphabet. I scanned it into Photoshop, converted it to black and white, heightened the contrast and exported it to Illustrator. From there I traced the letters and it was ready for Boxcar.

What other print shops do you admire?
I’m consistently moved by the work of Maria Vettese from Port2Port Press. The simplicity of her prints is extraordinary.


Who or what inspires you the most?
In no particular order: I’m inspired by skillful typography, interesting use of colour, antique wood cuts, Hatch Show Print posters, Heather Smith Jones’s use of organic shapes, snail mail from friends, excellent design, and generally by passionate people who make stuff.


Any neat tricks you can share?
Here’s a tip for cleaning rollers: get a regular Rubbermaid plastic bin that’s just under the length of your rollers (pins included), drill a hole at each end of the bin. Slide the pins of the rollers into each hole. This way you’ve got both hands free to scrub instead of using one to hold the roller while the other rubs it clean.


What are you looking forward to?
There’s starting to be a real visible presence of letterpress printers in Toronto and I’m excited to see it grow. In terms of shows, I always look forward to the annual City of Craft fair and hopefully I’ll be able to attend the next Wayzgoose Festival in Grimsby, Ontario.  As for books, I’ve got for Reinventing Letterpress: Prints by Contemporary Artists on my wishlist.


Thanks Tanya! And if you’re in her neighborhood, be sure to check out Letterpress Curiosity Workshops especially if you want experience on a tabletop press.