Clean Prints at Spotty Boy Press

Molly Kempson of Spotty Boy Press wears many creative hats and has a knack for inspiring those around her. From making art (and joy!) with a local research hospital’s patients to working full time as an elementary art teacher, there is never a dull moment. The recent Coffey resident book artist (University of Florida) and Hamilton Wood Type’s New Impressions exhibitionist sat down with us to talk shop about life’s inspirations (from patients she has worked with to working with her local artist studio collective), exploring the 21,000 acre wildlife preserve mere minutes from her studio, and the Eureka! moment of when she used a linoleum block in her press for the first time.

Molly Kempson of Spotty Boy Press (Floriday) serves up fresh prints and good cheer.

ADVOCATE FOR THE ARTS I’m an elementary art teacher and I make art with patients in my city’s research hospital as an artist-in-residence. I learn so much from teaching and take it to the studio with me. I’m pretty awful at science, but I like to think that I missed my chance as an understudy for Audubon and Bartram – I am obsessed with creatures.

Molly Kempson of Spotty Boy Press (Floriday) serves up fresh prints and good cheer.
Molly Kempson of Spotty Boy Press (Floriday) serves up fresh prints and good cheer.

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT I finished my M.A. in art education at the University of Florida last spring (2016). I pursued that degree with ambition for both becoming a better art teacher and to work alongside MFA printmaking students. I had been making linocuts for years, and took a class in intaglio and spent a miserable semester on the same plate – I couldn’t just leave it alone. I decided to take letterpress the next semester with Ellen Knudson, whose work I already loved. It clicked right away, and when I found out I could put linoleum blocks in the press it was all over.

   Molly Kempson of Spotty Boy Press (Floriday) serves up fresh prints and good cheer. Inking up a C&P with Molly Kempson.

PRINTING COLLECTIVE I print in a collective of artist studios in Gainesville, Florida. Some folks are faculty or alumni of the University of Florida, and many aren’t – we’re a small town with a vibrant arts community outside of the university. Each studio is separate, but I love opening my door and connecting with the 19 other artists in my space.

It’s my personal gallery of prints from friends. Trading with other multiple-makers (ceramicists as well as printmakers) has provided me with a space that is just buzzing with colors and details that want to keep me moving forward.

FAB IN FLORIDA North Central Florida is full of springs, bright blue pools of water in the forests where manatees warm up in winter and alligators stay scarce. Being able to kayak in clear fresh water all year is something people don’t associate with Florida. I spend most weekends on the water without making it to the beach, which baffles some people.

Molly Kempson of Spotty Boy Press (Floriday) serves up fresh prints and good cheer.

Gainesville has a ton of parks in city limits, too. I can bike to a 21,000-acre preserve full of sandhill cranes, bison, wild horses, and massive gators from my studio within fifteen minutes.

Molly Kempson of Spotty Boy Press (Floriday) serves up fresh prints and good cheer.

PRINTING MENTORS Ellen Knudson (Crooked Letter Press) taught me impeccable studio manners and problem-solving skills. Martin Mazorra taught me at Penland and helped me work through ideas faster using negative space more effectively. Sarah Shebaro (Striped Light) showed me what linocut letterpress can look like in a style that riffs off of modern quilting. It’s amazing.

I am always entranced with Jennifer Farrell‘s ingenious typesetting and her ampersand series. 

Ashley Taylor is a Florida printer constantly changing and mixing print mediums with intention and perfectly honed craft. She’s as comfortable making wood veneer letterpress matrices with Eileen Wallace as she is mixing day-glo puffy screenprinting over traditional etchings.

PART TIME PRINTING, FULL TIME FUN I don’t print full-time. I would say 40% of my “work” time is spent printmaking, the rest teaching in my school and hospital. My work is reciprocal – I make work inspired by the people with whom I work. If it’s a kindergartener’s drawing of a snake she saw (or imagined) or my experience making a portrait of a patient/wildlife rehabilitator’s fox, it’s working material. I take it to the studio with me. My students and co-collaborators fuel my practice completely.

PRINTING FEATS Last summer (2016) I was the Coffey resident book artist at the University of Florida’s special collections. I was able to continue working with Ellen Knudson, who did nearly all of the binding and most of the typography (I can carve all day, but I don’t consider myself a designer). Working with the natural history collections in UF’s special collections, I created a print portfolio of all of Florida’s woodpeckers with three-color reduction prints of each bird. We made an edition of fifty artist’s books of eight prints each in portfolio cases.

I was recently selected for the New Impressions exhibition at the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum along with some serious print heroes.

PRESS HISTORY  My current press was actually my very first press! It’s a C&P 8×12, and I love it. I can’t print the big stuff I’m used to, but I’m adjusting. I have been carving linocuts in the chase and my reduction prints have never been better!

I’m a teacher of small children and used to planning for the worst case scenario. Planning for a press move took months for me, and I was blessed with a wonderful seller (a great stationery printer in his own right – Matthew Wengard) and very enthusiastic & almost dangerously cavalier movers. If you’re a control freak, my only advice for a press move is to surround yourself with optimists experienced in moving heavy things.

Chandler & Price (Florida).

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar lets me focus on my strengths – linocut and woodcut carving – while producing high-quality plates for book arts and stationery purposes. My artist’s book (the Woodpeckers of Florida) was printed and bound in eight weeks and wouldn’t have been possible without photopolymer plates – this project required 2400 passes through the press, leaving no time to set or distribute type.

SHOP TIPS For platen press relief printers, carve in your chase! And for you reduction block printers on proof presses, watch and make notes on those quoins. Ghosts can haunt your registration, and no matter how neurotic you are, cut more paper than you will ever need for a reduction print.

WHAT’S NEXT Another book arts project on North Florida vernacular language for plants, animals, and buildings is in the works.

A huge round of applause out to Molly of Spotty Boy Press and we’re excited to see what new book arts & printing adventures she’ll be embarking on soon!

Press Pursuits With Texas-based STUDIO 204

From middle of the night press checks to early morning calls to her printshop mentor, Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 has carved out a beautiful living printing to her heart’s content in her spacious Arlington, Texas studio. Teaming up with her wonderful husband, Kim enjoys the freedom of press pursuits, sharing the alluring hum of printing with workshops, and inspiring a new generation of designers & printers.

Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.

A STUDIO BUILT FOR TWO I have practiced graphic design for the past 39 years. The last 10 years involved learning and practicing letterpress printing and bookbinding.

Purchasing a 219 Power Vandercook required more space, so my husband and I decided to relocate the studio to his father’s former 1950’s television shop in Arlington, Texas. Studio 204 is located in the historic area of downtown Arlington which is going through an extensive revitalization.

Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.

LETTERPRESS’S ALLURE As a designer, I learned printing in the middle of the night when I received a call that my job was on press and they needed someone to approve the printing. Hardworking pressmen held the press until I arrived to review the work. There were no female printers in those days and it could be intimidating but that is where I learned to print. All those years press checking paid off when letterpress reemerged. Now “I” can print and experiment with no restrictions.

Bold prints: Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.
Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.

PRINTING MENTORS Casey McGarr of Inky Lips Press is my print mentor and hero. He was and still is my 24-hour print crisis line and I owe him a great deal. My husband — a print designer as well — and I share the studio and presses. He is my constant inspiration and biggest fan.

Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.

FAVORITE INK COLOR Favorite ink at the moment is any fluorescent printed on Astrobrights neon paper.

DESIGNER & PRINTER I am a graphic designer, printer, bookbinder and a teacher. My process begins with research, design, experimentation and fabrication— though not necessarily in that order.

A EUREKA MOMENT One time I scanned a python skin, created a bitmap and sent it for plates. Before Boxcar made the plates they called to ask what it was? A bit skeptical, the next question was, what are you going to do with it? I told them I was going to print it on Pulsar Red Curious Cosmic. Curious Cosmic is a soft matte metallic coated paper, but when I printed on it became glossy and reflective. Eureka, it looked like I had foil stamped it. My client who designs couture handbags made from python was impressed. So we printed all her invitations with the python pattern on different metallic paper. She is now making a python clutch bag. Metallic foil is applied directly to the skin before the bags are sewn.

PRINTING FEATS For 10 years I was fortunate to work with David Carter Design developing print collateral packages for five-star resorts on many continents. My last assignment was rebranding The Stoneleigh Hotel in Dallas, Texas, the place I called home.

PRESS HISTORY First and still is my 219 Power Vandercook.

Boxcar custom-made plate on Boxcar Base. Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar’s customer service is a rare commodity and I talk about it all the time. Their knowledge is the best in the business.

LIFE (AND SHOP) TIPS Keep print alive. Pay it forward.

Texas-based Kim Neiman of STUDIO 204 served fresh letterpress prints in bold, colorful flavors.

WHAT’S NEXT More printing, more experimentation, more design, more teaching and cooking lessons in Southern France.

A huge round of thanks & applause out to Kim of STUDIO 204. May the future printing roads always rise up to meet you!

Big Prints at The little Blue Chair

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer. From enjoying the whirling clinking of her C&P, the heartfelt pride of raising a family (toddlers in tow), and the bliss of walking into her backyard studio, Hope’s infectious energy & passion resonates in her close-knit client relationships and breathtaking, colorful, & airy letterpress printed goodies.

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

LETTERPRESS LABOR OF LOVE In college, I focused my course training in Printmaking. I spent many hours in the basement print-lab at Louisiana State University. My hands were callused and ink covered 90% of the time, and from then on, a labor of love was born. Fast forward six years, I’ve acquired two (new to me) presses for my backyard studio. My company, THE little BLUE CHAIR has found its home in my heart.

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

INK IN THE BLOOD My first dabbling in letterpress printing was an elective class that I opted to take in college, a book arts and binding course. I always knew I loved the texture letterpress left on fine papers, but to be honest, I had NO idea how it was done. I just knew it was something I was attracted to. After a year’s worth of printmaking courses, pulling lithography and intaglio prints off of relief presses, I finally asked my professor about letterpress printing. Unbeknownst to me, I had been working in the lab 20 feet away from a Vandercook Letterpress all this time. That following semester, I enrolled in the book arts and binding course offered and I knew I had found something special.Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer. Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

HOMEGROWN STUDIO My printshop is located about 20 yards outside my back door in a Mayberry-type town near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. My first press was a tabletop Chandler and Price that sat in my spare bedroom (now home to a head-strong toddler).

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

My husband built our home, and when he began to add an outdoor living area to our garage, we decided (well, maybe I decided) that we should build a studio attachment as well. I’ve since acquired a 10×15 Chandler and Price that proudly sits in that backyard studio. With two little ones now, it’s an unbelievable blessing to be able to have my work so close to my family.

PRINTING MENTORS While at LSU, one of the professors was Kathryn Hunter, owner of Blackbird Letterpress. My book arts teacher was a grad student that worked for Kathryn for many years. They both had such passion for the art and inspired me to continue learning and perfecting the craft. 

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

DESIGNER + PRINTER As a mother, I wear many hats. I’m a chef, chauffeur, referee, and of course their mom. When I enter my studio doors, I wear the designer & printer hat (and the accountant, social media manager, business coach, and customer service). I absolutely love having both roles as the designer and printer. I feel I have maximum control over the final product and it amplifies my pride in the finished piece of work. I primarily work with the soon-to-be-wed as their personal stationery designer. My work is extremely process driven and involves a creative input from all hands involved. It becomes a true collaboration.

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

The end goal for me and my clients is to create a branded design throughout …in a way that really speaks to the wedding guests and tells the individual story. This may look like an illustrated monogram or crest, a handcrafted map of the venue’s city, along with venue illustrations that help narrate the feel of the hosted event. I love working with handmade papers as well …there’s nothing better than letterpress printing on a natural cotton, wrapped in silk ribbon, sealed with a wax seal stamp. Add on some vintage stamps and I’m a happy lady.

FULL TIME FUN Over the last five years, I have grown from part time to full time. It’s the dream to be able to wake up (walk out the back door) and have my job be what it is …creating something new every day. I’ve honestly had a hard time calling it a job, because I love it so much. People can love their jobs, right?

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar has played a colossal role in my workflow process. Since 2012, I’ve outsourced all of my platemaking to Boxcar and have had such a wonderful experience doing so. I use a polymer plate for both my Chandler and Price presses and have produced work from intricate illustrations to bold typefaces.

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

I have to give a special shout-out to the printmaking department at Boxcar. The customer service I have received over the years has been nothing short of grace & love. This crew knows what they are doing, but they have such heart for their printers and a passion for the art. Boxcar is a company I will always stand behind. 

WHAT’S NEXT This year, I am excited to be releasing a wedding stationery collection that will reflect and support as many handmade artists as possible, from the platemakers at Boxcar to the papermakers around the country. This collection will be geared towards the refined and organic bride and groom with a special story to tell. I can’t wait!

Thanks Hope for the beautiful peek into THE little BLUE CHAIR. We tip our hats to you and your amazing printing adventures and keep up the fantastic work!

Top 20 of ’17 Letterpress Mother’s Day Cards

She’s the witty, smart, caring, and generally all-around-awesome human being that is the anchor in your life. Count down with us the top 20 of ’17 of the sweetest, funniest, and gorgeous letterpress Mother’s Day cards to say “Thank you, Mom!”.  Let us know what you are getting your Mom this year in the comments below!

2017 Letterpress Mother's Day cards featuring sweet, flora, funny, and beautiful messages for Mom.

1. You’re The Bomb Mom by Hammerpress | 2. To A Mother Like No Other by Hunter Paper Co. | 3. Mother’s Day Sitcom Moms by Papillon Press | 4. Queen Bee by inkwell | 5. Happy Mother’s Day postcard by DD Letterpress | 6. Wonder Mom by Luxe Papery | 7. Homebrewed by Slackline Press | 8. Good Job Mom by Steel Petal Press

2017 Letterpress Mother's Day cards featuring sweet, flora, funny, and beautiful messages for Mom.

9. Mom Thank You For Everything You Do by Color Box Letterpress | 10. Marquee Mom by Oddball Press | 11. Cheers To The Best Mom Ever by Lucky Bee Press | 12. Madre by Alee Letterpress | 13. Chillax by hello! Lucky | 14. Love You Mom by indepent1

2017 Letterpress Mother's Day cards featuring sweet, flora, funny, and beautiful messages for Mom.

15. Thank You Mummy by Paper Elephant Press  | 16.  Strongest Woman I Know by Ink Meets Paper | 17.  Right Here by Smock | 18. Mom, You’re Like a Candy Bar by Loudhouse Creative  | 19. Merci Mama by Cherry Laurel Studio |  20. Lucky Mom by Sugar Paper

2016 Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadsides: Part 1

In its fifth year of running, we’ve teamed up with amazing young poets, and inspired printers to share with you 2016’s Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project in a two-part blog feature. The collaboration of 22 artists and pediatric patients is helmed by poets Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplick of the Writers in the Schools program and the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle. WITS works with long term patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital to write poetry, out of which printers & artists create beautiful letterpress broadside prints. Boxcar Press supports this project with photopolymer plates for the limited run of broadsides. Participating printers share their experiences bringing each poet’s words to life in this year’s edition.

This first installment features six printers who share their printing process and experiences with the youth writers of the program.

2016 Seattle Children's Hospital letterpress broadsides project
Letterpress broadside posters from the 2016 Seattle Children's Hospital letterpress broadsides project

Bonnie Thompson Norman Every year, I feel a strong connection to the young person whose poem I print. I know each person who works on these broadsides feels the same way. We don’t always have (or choose to have) the opportunity and/or privilege of meeting our poets, but the bond is a strong one. As the project comes to an end, we all gather for a potluck dinner. All of the completed broadsides for that year’s project are displayed. Each of us reads “our” poem and talks about the process of creating the image, designing the text, printing, etc. The sharing that takes place as we read and talk about our connection to the young person who wrote the poem and our experience in interpreting it for others to see, is a meaningful bond for all of us and each of us…to the writers, the poets who work with them, and one another. It is what keeps us looking forward to coming back year after year. It isn’t just a legacy for the poets and their families. It is our legacy, too.

Here is a video of the creative process for a few of us:

(video courtesy of www.seattlechannel.org

One last comment on the bond between printer and poet… last year, I wrote a blog post about my young poet who I was able to meet on his 17th birthday. He teared up when he saw how I had interpreted his writing. We met at the Children’s Hospital where he was (again) a patient when I gave him his copy of his poem that I designed and printed. We were both emotional when he saw how I had interpreted his writing. It was so gratifying to see how he appreciated what I felt was our collaboration though we had not met before.

Chris Copley 2016 was my second experience with the Seattle Children’s Hospital poetry broadside project. My 2015 project was both artistically challenging (still a rookie to letterpress, I carved three 10-inch-by-13-inch linoleum blocks to illustrate the poem’s text and images) and emotionally poignant (the poet I worked with, 13-year-old Ahmie Njie, died about a month after I printed her poem). Exchanging a few Facebook IMs with her before she passed away remains one of the highlights of my life.

I liked the idea of incorporating the text of the poem itself in the illustration of the poem, so I planned to do that again in 2016. I worked with a poem by 12-year-old Kayli Jones, a Chinese-born adoptee living with her American parents and three brothers in Idaho. I exchanged a few email questions with the poet’s mom to learn a little more about the poet.

Chris Copley creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

The primary design concept for me revolved around Kayli’s Chinese origins. So I decided to use the poem’s text to represent branches of a Chinese-style cherry tree in bloom. Cherry blossoms are considered a symbol of good luck in Asia, and Kayli’s poem ends on a note of hope and determination to beat her cancer.

I hand-drew the letters of the poem, then ordered a polymer plate from Boxcar. This was my first polymer plate print run, and it worked SO WELL. I couldn’t have been happier. All of my text was printed in black. I then hand-set a tall, thin column of text for the colophon; the form was intended to evoke the look of a column of characters on a Chinese-style painting.

I decided to print the second color, red, using a different technique — pressure printing. I used a print from the first color run to cut out the cherry blossoms, and then glued them onto another print to create the pressure-print “plate.” I used the print with the blossom “holes” as a frisket to mask the speckling you get with pressure printing. Printing the blossoms also went pretty smoothly, although I had to recut the frisket twice to try to get the blossoms the way I wanted.

(An added disaster-turned-blessing: I forgot to bring a linoleum block as required for pressure printing, so I used the backside of a Boxcar base, and the swirly pattern on the base’s bottom side left an absolutely beautiful effect on the cherry blossoms.)

Finally, I added another element, at least to some of the prints: several hand-drawn Chinese-style chops, also in red ink. Two of the chops spelled Kayli’s name in characters reminiscent of ancient Chinese text. I printed them freehand on only a few prints, using an ink-stamp pad because I worried they would distract from Kayli’s poem.

I was really happy with the broadside design and printing, and I felt it represented Kayli well. As much as I enjoy the artistic and technical challenges of portraying a poem, it’s important to me to represent the person whose work I’m illustrating.

Darcie Kantor It was an honor to be part of the Children’s Hospital Broadside project. This was my second year participating.

Darcie Kantor creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

For my process I combined Boxcar plates for the poem and did a linoleum block reduction for the fire/flames. It was a fun project to work on.

Darcie Kantor creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

Juliet Shen The boy who wrote this poem was a registered member of the Swinomish tribe whose lands are north of Seattle on Puget Sound. I had designed a font for the Lushootseed language (indigenous to this area) and asked my contacts in the Tulalip Lushootseed Department to have his poem translated so it could be typeset in both languages.

Juliet Chen's beautiful broadside as featured in the 2016 Seattle Children's Broadsides.

When it comes to making art work, I am against the appropriation of traditional Native American art styles by outsiders because my research for making the Lushootseed font revealed that the iconic imagery used by Northwest tribes has deep cultural significance. I decided to design to my particular strengths, which are typographic, not illustrative, so I typeset the poem in a shape that I hope looks like an elk to readers. I rely on polymer plates because my primary focus is on typographic design and I need the control that using polymer affords me.

Heidi Hespelt I do want to say that our printing community is amazing!  I had a terrible back injury at the end of last year and was pretty much out of printing commission. Amy Redmond offered to do the actual printing for me if I wanted to be involved in the design. She made it possible for me to participate by giving of her time and printing expertise.

Heidi Hespelt creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

Project supervisor, Jenny Wilkson, selected a younger poet for me, not knowing that she chose what was secretly the one I wanted. Serendipity.  My poet was Alex Enderle, and the poem was “I Am Me”.  Alex was 7 when he wrote the poem.

Heidi Hespelt creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

I think of it as the cupcake poem.  I wanted a younger poet because I have a now 5 year old grandson that is a big part of my life and felt like I could probably tune in to what a little guy might find interesting. Bright colors and yumminess that you can see seemed important and I loved what I was able to accomplish with Boxcar plates.

Annabelle Larner I’ve participated as a printer in the Seattle Children’s Hospital Broadside project since its inception about 6 years ago.

Most of my work is all hand done. This year’s project, from April 2016, was printed using a hand-cut wood block as the printing base, with a lightning bolt used as a pressure print. It was printed with a split fountain ink in dark blue, then the final polymer type was printed in red.

Annabelle Larner creates beautiful broadsides for the 2016 SVC Children's Broadsides project.

Working on this project is extremely rewarding, and also hard. I want to really get into the words of the printer and try to convey their feelings in a way that is not too literal or childish, as I know kids can appreciate darkness, and what they are going through is pretty dark. Sometimes I get to meet the kids and it’s always special. Their parents are often very grateful, and seeing the kids talk about their poems is amazing.

Stay tuned & read on about this amazing Broadside project in the upcoming Part 2. The creativity and intensity of both poets and printers and the dazzling results are why Boxcar is proud to have a part in this project every year.

Creative Flair With Callidora

Graphic-designer-turned-letterpress printer Carrie LeGrow of Callidora Letterpress + Design balances airy & dreamy perfect prints and full-time family life with creative flair to spare. From chancing upon a dusty printing press to settling into her home studio, Carrie has taken the plunge into letterpress and revels daily in the inspiration that a bit of ink, a loving & supportive family, and marveling in the little things that (printing) life can bring.

Graphic-designer-turned-letterpress printer Carrie LeGrow of Callidora balances perfect prints and full-time family life.

A PRINTING DISCOVERY My name is Carrie LeGrow and I am a designer, letterpress printer, wife, and mama to two amazing little girls ages 2.5 and 2 months. I have a BFA in graphic design and have always been drawn to the beauty of letterpress printing. I learned the art of letterpress printing shortly after receiving my degree in 2007 and happen to discover a 500lb antique printing press collecting dust in a garage in Rhode Island. Over the course of a year, I restored the old press and it is finally at home in my home studio. All of Callidora’s letterpress pieces are printed by hand printed on my Golding Pearl Press, circa 1880. 

THE DRAW OF LETTERPRESS I first got involved in letterpress by taking a one-day class offered by a local print shop. I wanted to get my feet wet and see what letterpress was all about. Of course I loved everything about it so I then signed up for a two-day course at Montserrat College of Art. And those two experiences are the extent of my “formal training”. After those courses, I decided to buy a press I came across on Craigslist. With my little Golding Pearl and minimal printing supplies, I got printing. I read a lot of blogs, watched a lot of tutorials and had a lot of trial and error. My first “job” was when I was asked to design and letterpress print a friends’ wedding invitations and the accessories that complemented their event. From there “Callidora” was born.

As I said, I have always been drawn to the beauty of letterpress printing. There is something about the tactile nature of a letterpress printed piece that was just love at first sight for me. I am also drawn to how each printed piece is given an impression that cannot be replicated by other printing methods. I find myself staring at my work from all different angles just so I can see the impression as the light hits… it is just swoon worthy. I also love the process of designing on the computer and then handcrafting those pieces to life.

Hand-feeding each piece of paper and each envelope into an antique press one sheet at a time, one color at a time is so rewarding. When you design mostly on a computer and then send that PDF away for a printing plate, it satisfies me to get that piece on press and have it come to live in such a tactile way.

BEAUTY IN THE BAY STATE My studio is located in my home on the North Shore of Massachusetts in Topsfield. With a young family, logistically, a home studio just works for me right now. I stay at home with my girls and split my time between them and working for myself. I am able to hop down to my studio and do the naptime hustle when both girls are sleeping. I am also able to work at night and on the weekends but still be close if anyone needs me. My husband totally redid the entire space for me after we moved into our home in 2012. It is cozy and has everything I need for a small print shop … the only thing we are trying to figure out is how to get my recently purchased 800lb+ Golding Jobber down a flight of steps.

Topsfield is a really historic, small town. We are lucky enough to have a few wedding venues and I am a preferred vendor at the Willowdale Estate, located in Bradley Palmer State Park. We also have a quaint downtown with a bakeshop (The Topsfield Bakeshop). They specialize in all kinds of whoopies (so good!) and and I am a sucker for their chai tea latte.

PRINTING INSPIRATION I am mostly self-taught in the art of letterpress so I do not really have any printing mentors, but there are so many fabulous printers out there doing such beautiful work and I am so inspired by them. Every time I am on Instagram I feel like I am discovering someone new that I am in love with. That is mostly where I go to get inspired and crush on other artists.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I am a designer and printer, exclusively printing my own designs. I have a BFA in graphic design and have worked at various fashion lifestyle companies and a few smaller advertising agencies as a graphic designer. During my whole career I have always loved creating art on the computer. Now as a printer, I get so much joy in not only creating, but printing and handcrafting my own pieces. It is the ultimate for me. Also, because of my design background, I will often incorporate digital printing with letterpress.

All of my wedding suites are entirely custom, which includes custom design and handcrafted, letterpress printed invitation suite. From design to letterpress printing, I handle every step of the design and invitation process. This ensures that I have complete control over the quality of my product at all times. I have yet to outsource any piece of Callidora’s invitation suites, which include everything from envelope lines to sewn photographs to letterpress linen hang-tags.

PART-TIME PRINTER, FULL-TIME FUN I stay at home with my two young girls and split my time between them and working for myself. When they are a bit older and in school, I plan to be taking Callidora full-time.

PRINTING FEATS I am really pound of making Callidora Letterpress + Design happen. It has been a dream of long standing that had finally come to fruition. During my entire career as a graphic designer, I would print here and there on the side. I always dreamed about opening my own letterpress and design studio. When my first daughter was born in 2014 I decided not to return to work full-time. I knew that this was the time to see if I could make a go at it. I took on a handful of wedding clients that year and am blessed that brides keep seeking me out ever since.

PRESS HISTORY My first press was a Golding Pearl Old Style #3. I print mostly stationery and wedding suites, and since everything is around a 5×7 size and smaller it is actually still my main press.

BOXCAR’S ROLE I would not be able to so seamlessly letterpress print my designs if it were not for Boxcar Press. I use the base with the polymer plates and it is a game changer for sure. They are reliable and consistent and that is very important when you have tight deadlines with wedding clients. 

SHOP TIPS If you run into a press or printing issue, go on briarpress.com. I have solved so many problems and gained a wealth of knowledge from their discussion pages.

WHAT’S NEXT In 2017 I hope to continue working with wonderful clients. I love working with brides on their wedding invitations, new parents on birth announcements, families on party invitations and many more custom designs for special moments. I have a true passion for creating and making exquisite pieces that feel less like invitations and cards and more like beautiful gifts.

Immensely big round of applause out to Carrie of the ever-elegant Callidora Letterpress + Design! Her amazing journey is an inspiration to us all here!

Letterpress City Tour: Awesome Atlanta

On our next leg of our letterpress city tour series, Meghan Paine of Iron Heart Press gives us a down-south homestyle tour of her beloved Atlanta, Georgia.  From awe-inspiring sites (Martin Luther King Jr’s birthplace, the headquarters of Coca-Cola & CNN, and former host of the 1996 Summer Olympics) to the best eats & treats, the Big Peach offers sweet artisanal shops, amazing neighborhoods, and of course, a brilliant & rising letterpress community. With Georgia on her mind, Meghan shares her printing picks, can’t-miss-spots, and insider gems.

Meghan Paine of Iron Heart Press gives us a down-south homestyle tour of her beloved Atlanta, Georgia.

A DECADE OF DOWN SOUTH LIVING I’ve lived in Atlanta for just over 10 years, so it feels like I’ve been here all my life.

FUN + FULL OF FLAVOR I spend a lot of time in my backyard, Old Fourth Ward Park, stuffing my face at Ponce City Market, and walking off the damage on the Beltline.  Old Fourth Ward Fence and Rail, Atlanta, GA.(photograph courtesy of R. Neff)

Meghan Paine of Iron Heart Press gives us a down-south homestyle tour of her beloved Atlanta, Georgia.

WELCOME ARTISANAL SHOPS Atlanta is super receptive to letterpress. Old Fourth Ward is particularly invested in the handcrafted and maker space, and there are dozens of small paper shops that feature letterpress greetings and art. The festival scene in Atlanta is huge and well-loved, so crafters have a great stage for their art.

COMING TOGETHER: ATLANTA’S PRINTMAKER STUDIO  The Atlanta Printmaker’s Studio hosts an annual event called Print Big! which features giant hand carved woodblocks, inks, and STEAM ROLLERS. STEAM ROLLERS, people! Total mic-drop event.

Print Big! even held by Atlanta Printmakers Studio in Atlanta, GA.
(photography courtesy of Atlanta Printmakers Studio)

ALL ABOUT THE COMMUNITY I currently participate as a teacher and volunteer with the Atlanta Printmakers Studio which offers amazing workshops for kids and classes for adults, and I’m happy to be a part of such a cool and meaningful organization. A few years ago I collaborated with Lifeline Animal project for a set of greeting cards to benefit animal adoptions, which is a cause very dear to my heart. Letterpress is such an awesome channel for collaboration — if there’s a message, it can be printed!

THIS COULD HAVE ONLY BEEN PRINTED IN ATLANTA I see a lot of truly original letterpress art coming out of Atlanta, but I think Atlanta is such a hub for printers who’ve lived all over the country that there’s no such thing as a homogenous style here. That diversity in art and culture is one of the many great things about the city. Everything is either unique, refreshing, or downright weird!

BUY LOCAL: ATLANTA’S BEST Letterpress printers in Atlanta are obscenely supportive and helpful, whether its sending clients to one another, sharing tips and tricks, or putting our heads together to solve a problem on a job. I feel like I’m a part of a community that I can rely on, and I work regularly with many other printers in my area.

FAV NEIGHBORHOOD PICKS Naturally, Old Fourth Ward is the best, but… I love the Highlands for drinks and a fun night out, Decatur for amazing food, and Inman Park for beautiful houses and lawns.

ATLANTA VIBE I’d describe the Old Fourth Ward vibe as “rational hipster”. Sure, we have lots of skinny jeans, fabulous mustaches, and dapper hats, but the demographic is mostly 30-something creatives and career types with just enough disposable income to support crafters and makers, drive sensible cars, and keep dozens of artistic and delicious restaurants booming. Art is crucial to this neighborhood, and you see some of the most amazing works of art in both sanctioned installations and graffiti.

WeHeartAtlanta-Mural
(photograph courtesy of 365AtlantaFamily)

One of my favorite little tags is a set of incredible koi fish “swimming” up the Beltline right in front of Paris on Ponce.

koi-graffitti-tag-atlanta-beltine

O4W takes its food and music very seriously, too, and we should — The Masquerade is an Atlanta musical institution right in the center of the neighborhood, and City Winery is bringing even more talent into our backyard.

LOCAL EATS + GREAT TREATS Bocca Lupo is hands-down my favorite restaurant in all of Atlanta. It’s a long walk or a short drive from Old Fourth Ward, but after filing my belly with delicious, imaginative Italian food, the walk is never a bad idea. The chef is a frickin’ genius. You know how some high end restaurants mix weird ingredients in bizarre ways and leave you wondering if maybe you just don’t get “fine dining”? You’ll get creative ingredients at Bocca Lupo, but I’ve never had anything that wasn’t over-the-top delicious, and I end up feeling like a foodie because I can absolutely understand why duck and kumquats belong on the same crostini.


(photography courtesy of RVA News)

I’m also obsessed with King of Pops. Outside of Atlanta, no one has really heard of them, but they got picked up by Whole Foods Market, so they’re basically on the path to world domination. King of Pops started out as a few guys with little rainbow umbrella-shaded refrigerated carts selling popsicles in the park and now I gauge whether or not I will attend an event by the likelihood of King of Pops carts. They’re headquartered in Inman Park and even sponsor a Tuesday night yoga class in O4W next to the skate park that attracts hundreds during the nicer months (read: almost all of them), so they have my vote all around. Pro Tip — try the Blackberry Ginger Lemonade.

VINTAGE SHOP FINDS Ponce City Market has all the usual big-box stuff: Lululemon, Sephora, Williams-Sonoma, Anthropologie, etc., but if you want to find some treasures, check out Paris on Ponce and Pop Marche. They’re jam packed with vintage, handmade, wonderful, and weird from furniture to clothing to books to (occasionally) motorcycles. You never know what you’ll find.


(photography courtesy of Paris on Ponce)

HISTORICAL NEIGHBORHOODS I live just down the street from Freedom Parkway, which is modestly adorned by a cast iron sculpture of Martin Luther King. Not far is the King Center and Dr. King’s home, and it’s incredibly moving to tour the sites.

Because it’s part of our town, I think it’s easy for Atlantans to forget how special these places and monuments are, but we at least have the luxury of a holiday to remind us to go out and appreciate what’s right here at home.

Meghan Paine of Iron Heart Press gives us a down-south homestyle tour of her beloved Atlanta, Georgia.

CONSTANT GROWTH Atlanta is a living, breathing organism. Neighborhoods die, revive, gentrify, and backslide from year to year. Old Fourth Ward used to be a post-industrial tire dump, but that tire dump is now the centerpiece of the neighborhood: a stunning park with ponds and waterfalls and ducks, oh my.

NOT TO BE MISSED Just around the corner in the Highlands is a little karaoke joint that only the locals know about called 10 High. Now shhh, don’t go telling everyone you heard it from me. It’s secreted away in the basement of Dark Horse Tavern, making it feel like a prohibition secret spot kinda joint, and what makes it really great is the full band that will make you sound like a rock god, with Atlanta’s own famous radio personality English Nick singing backup for you.

Also, walk the Beltline — eventually it will be built out to connect the whole city, but my favorite section, the Eastside Trail, connects Piedmont Park (worth a half day’s visit on its own) to Krog Street. You’ll see great art, smiling faces, dogs, dogs, dogs, and you can end your walk with a beer and a tasty lunch at Krog Street Market. You might even see one of Atlanta’s Tiny Doors.

Tiny Door in Atlanta, GA.

INSIDER INSIGHTS Atlanta is a really vibrant place, rich in culture and oddity. We embrace different like a big city, but we love to support our own like only a small southern town can. Come visit, and try the cobbler.

Meghan Paine of Iron Heart Press gives us a down-south homestyle tour of her beloved Atlanta, Georgia.

LETTERPRESS STUDIOS IN ATLANTA

Hyde & Seek Press Lawrenceville, GA
Atlanta Printmakers Studio – Atlanta, GA
Alee & Press – Atlanta, GA
Bumblebee Press – Atlanta, GA
Farmwood Press – Atlanta, GA
Henry & Co. – Atlanta, GA
Cherry Laurel Studio – Decatur, GA
Megan King – Avondale Estates, GA
Aureate Press – Cumming, GA

MUST-SEE STOPS

Print Big! Atlanta Printmakers Studio’s annual community art extravaganza held in the spring. Highlights include printing by steamroller.
Georgia Aquarium – Home to the Western Hemisphere’s largest aquarium.
Margaret Mitchell House – Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Gone With the Wind” author’s birthplace.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Center – An inspiring museum center dedicated to King Jr.’s legacy.
Atlanta Jazz Festival – Free Memorial Day Jazz fest in Piedmont Park.
Marietta Diner – Try the Spinach Pie; featured in Food Network’s Diners, Drive-in, and Dives.
World of Coca Cola – Tour the famous world-famous headquarters.
Xocolatl Chocolates – Award winning bean-to-bar chocolatier.

We hope you enjoyed our second 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!

Big Beautiful Prints At Tiny Dog Press

While managing a Baltimore, Maryland stationery store, Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press fell in love with letterpress printing while attending a weekend class in Austin, Texas. Fast forward a few years later, and the happy-go-lucky printing gal set-up shop in her cozy (but comfortable) 20’ x 20’ garage. Packed to the brim with printing sights, smells (ah! the smell of fresh ink), and studio canine pals, Kari has carved out a slice of printing heaven at home. We caught up with the Baltimore-based printer as she talks shop about an amazing love for letterpress, urban gardening, and the kicking off a new card line.

Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press produces big, bold, and colorful prints in her cozy Baltimore-based garage printshop.(all photography courtesy of Side-A Photography)

PRINTING, PUPS, & PASSION I am a Baltimore-based, Texas native with a deep love of printing, color, and urban farming.

I am the owner of Tiny Dog Press in Baltimore, Maryland. I am married to my loving & supportive husband and we currently have 2 dogs and 2 cats who love driving me crazy by barking at every bird in our yard while I am printing.  I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art with an emphasis in Printmaking from Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

I love city life and love living in Baltimore, Maryland which has a rich history in culture and printing.

When not in the studio, I spend time planting and tending my urban farm, otherwise known as the jungle of my backyard. During summer months, I can be found leaving boxes of vegetables on neighbor’s porches.

FOR THE LOVE OF LETTERPRESS While at Baylor University and searching for a degree that would intrigue me, I landed on Studio Art in Printmaking. At the time, my most recent art class was from elementary school. The dean allowed me to take Drawing 1 and 4-1/2 years later I graduated awarded as one of the top students.

Unfortunately, Baylor did not have a letterpress. That was the only print form I did not study in college. Years later I was managing a stationery store in Baltimore and was introduced to the commercial side of printmaking. I immediately fell in love with several letterpress companies (all of who I still follow). I understood letterpress printing by concept at that point, but did not learn the actual process until a few years later when I attended a weekend class in Austin, Texas.

Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press produces big, bold, and colorful prints in her cozy Baltimore-based garage printshop.

The love of paper, smell of ink and physical labor required drew me to printmaking. I loved being able to reproduce one image and share it with multiple people. I love the feel of the impression with letterpress printing. At markets, I ask each customer if they would like to feel a card. I believe the handling of the paper and experiencing the impression gives a greater joy to the receiver of the card than one that is printed digitally.

TINY SPACE, BIG HEART Tiny Dog Press’ print shop is in my 20’x 20’ garage. We purchased our home knowing I would need a studio workspace. Few houses in Baltimore have garages and ours happens to be a detached garage which makes it into its own separate building. I love my little garage. Shortly after moving in, we renovated the space which included rebuilding 2 termite damaged walls, adding windows, a sink, new walls, cement floor, lighting and doors. At the end I was told by our contractors that it would have probably been better to do a full demo and rebuild. Little did they know that printers love restoring old and broken things in order to make new and beautiful work.

The best part about the location of my studio is that I stay within my neighborhood/community. During most months, my windows display my garden. School days I hear, see and wave to the kiddos walking past after school. During the summer months, I open the studio up for neighborhood kids to produce work with artistic mentorship. I love receiving knocks on the door from kids who know they can come in to draw, paint or print for 15-20mins before running back out to play. One young lady has been my apprentice for the past 3 years. She started with helping fold & package cards. This past summer, I taught her how to print, mix ink and general up keep of the shop.  During August, she designed and printed her own cards and then sold them at a holiday market! All of which she loved doing while it helped her push herself to new levels within her creativity and abilities to sell her products. I love when I receive random knocks on the door with kids showing me their recent design ideas! If I was in a traditional location, I know this would not happen as organically.

PRINTING MENTORS Kyle VanHorn & Kim Bently have been great mentors as I have started my business. I started Tiny Dog Press while renting print time at The Baltimore Print Studios.

Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press produces big, bold, and colorful prints in her cozy Baltimore-based garage printshop.

As for printers who inspire, I will always love the work of Kiki Smith for its artistic beauty. For commercial printers, I was first drawn to letterpress through Mr. Boddington’s Studio and Hello Lucky.

DESIGNED FOR PRINTING I am a printer at heart. From the touch of the paper to the smell of the ink, my happy place is being behind a press.  I have a love-hate relationship with the computer. I design due to its necessity to grow a design-print business. I love printing for graphic designers, which is an area that I hope to grow in my business.

Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press produces big, bold, and colorful prints in her cozy Baltimore-based garage printshop.

FULL TIME FUN I have been running Tiny Dog Press as my full-time job since March 2013. At the time, I was also running another small creative business. Now I only focus on letterpress printing through Tiny Dog Press. I have focused my business to grow organically, building the business with profits it produces. This year I will start paying myself from the business! My husband and I wanted the business to be self-sufficient from the start, so we have focused all profit back into growing the business.

PRINTING FEATS 2016 was a year of many accomplished goals within the business. Each accomplished goal brings great joy. The two that I was most proud: first time a product published in the Baltimore Magazine local shopping guide {August 2016 edition} and bringing on 5 new retail stores, one of which I had been wanting to have product at for over 3 years! 2017 has started off great with a first time mention in the Mid-Atlantic edition of The Knot Magazine!

Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press produces big, bold, and colorful prints in her cozy Baltimore-based garage printshop.

Besides those goals being accomplished, as a business I am most proud of being able to use my business for more than producing products but also to reach my community for something bigger than the stationery I produce. This past November, I was proud to organize and host the Benefit Baltimore Market that brought more than 500 people out on a cold & rainy “Giving” Tuesday evening to a local brewery in support of 5 Baltimore City non-profits. Through beer, food and vendor sales, collectively we raised $2,000 which were donated to the 5 non-profits. In August, I collaborated with a local retail store to create and sell cards that would benefit a popular area that experienced severe flooding. I love having a small business that gives back to the community where it is placed. I love having the financial ability within my business to be able to give back to the community. I hope this is something Tiny Dog Press is able to continue and grow further into.

PRESS HISTORY Besides working on presses as a college student, my “first” press is the L Letterpress. Embarrassing, but we all have to start somewhere. After taking a class in letterpress printing and not having access to a press or permanent location to house a press, I purchased the L Letterpress to print mine and a friend’s wedding invitations. I still have the press and use it for kid workshops.

After moving back to Baltimore, I was able to focus on letterpress printing by renting time at The Baltimore Print Studios printing on a Vandercock SP20. I purchased my 1949 Chandler & Price press in 2014 and finally finished restoring it in 2016!

Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press produces big, bold, and colorful prints in her cozy Baltimore-based garage printshop.

BOXCAR’S ROLE I purchased my first printing plates from Boxcar Press back in 2010 when I was printing on the L Letterpress. Since then they have been a great resource for plates and materials. When setting up my studio, I purchased my base, ink and several small supply items through the Boxcar store.

SHOP TIPS Any advice I have, others gave to me. If you are looking to start your own print shop, don’t fret – a press will come on your radar at the right time! Don’t try to force that time to happen sooner than it should. I was working on having a C&P press shipped to me from Texas which I found in an antique store, when suddenly the press I now own came on the market and was located less than a mile from my house. Huge cost and logistics saving.

When switching to a new press, give yourself time and grace. Each press prints differently. Different is not worse or wrong, it is just different. Learn how to design towards those differences or learn how to use those differences as a positive in product development.

Also, remember to ALWAYS check your crop mark line thickness or Boxcar will call you when you are at the grocery store.

WHAT’S NEXT Spend more time in the studio designing new cards and getting my hands dirty with ink! I am also looking at hosting a kids maker camp this summer and several kid focused workshops.

Huge round of thanks out to Kari at Tiny Dog Press. Catch her amazing new work on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter! Printed goodies can be purchased here on Etsy.

Printer’s Wonderland at Ice Pond Press

Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is a self-taught, Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire. From imbibing in the lush, raw natural beauty of her home state, she translates that creative power to form airy, beautiful, and bright eye-popping colored prints.  Seven years and counting, Molly still lives up to her own inspiring words – “there are many creative ways to reach a beautiful result.” She sat down with us to talk about her new card line, creating beautiful printed goodies, and taking the time to enjoy the natural gems that surround her daily.

Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

(All photography courtesy of Susan Beth Breuner Elements of Light Photography, Emma Light Photography, and Ice Pond Press)

PRINTING MARVELS IN MONTANA I live in Bozeman, Montana by way of Utah, Colorado and Michigan. Past job titles include: dog photographer, public relations director, professional skier and cookie cart peddler. I ski, fly fish, mountain bike, trail run and pretty much eat up everything Montana has to offer, most often with my husband and big white dog. And then we drink some beer.

Blind deboss business card from Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

SELF-TAUGHT CREATIVE I don’t hold an MFA or graphic design degree, have never taken a printmaking class, and I hadn’t used a press until I purchased one so you might say I am a homespun case. I have embraced the concept that there are many creative ways to reach a beautiful result.

I’ve had my backyard letterpress studio, Ice Pond Press, for seven years. I parlayed a full-time career in public relations straight into full-time letterpress. I suddenly had a need to create something tangible by using words, images, art, ideas and gorgeous paper. The extra reward is that this work could all come together into a product that makes people happy.

Knowing I was on the search for a press, my father-in-law spotted a gigantic Chandler & Price Craftsman at his printer in Utah. After an epic journey involving several U-Hauls, massive machinery, a mountain pass and a road trip with my in-laws, we delivered my press to the studio my husband had just finished building in our back yard in Bozeman.

Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

PRINTING ABODE I feel so lucky to have my little studio. My husband BJ had his sights set on building a sauna with wood from an old family barn. Plans were under way and it really sounded nice but I jumped in with big plans for a letterpress studio. Luckily he was not only supportive but speed-built the studio (with the help of builder friends,) hanging the barn door just in time for the C&P to arrive. We rented a Spider Lift to deliver it from the driveway to the backyard. It was a tenuous trek and several tree branches haven’t been the same since. Still, the 2.5 ton press was gently placed on the studio floor on a diagonal, facing the window and allowing for a view of surrounding trees and wildlife. It is an absolute delight to be in my studio space; it offers me peace and a lovingly created space where I feel good working hard. 

Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

PRINTER AT HEART I do some of the design, particularly if it involves stick people, flowers or text-only. Mostly I work with designers; my #1 being Michael Johnson. It’s like he has a view into my brain…he can translate my heady explanations of concepts into works of brilliance.

Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

FAVORITE DESIGN SOFTWARE I love Adobe Illustrator Draw.

Red and blue traditional wedding invitation from Ice Pond Press.

FULL TIME PRINTING FUN Yes, for the past five years. (After two years of learning and printing small jobs.)

PRINTING TRIUMPHS In my early days of Ice Pond Press, I was contracted to print a poster for a private Keith Urban concert. The job forced me to purchase a large Boxcar Base which was a turning point because now I do a lot of larger format posters and art prints. I feel a personal triumph each time I collaborate with artists to create beautiful letterpress prints that allow them a different medium for their art.

Also, I’m happy & excited to be a part of the Boxcar Blog’s printer profile series!

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar is like no other partner I know. Every single time I upload an order I have the feeling that everything will be expertly done and will arrive on time. In fact, just today Rebecca fixed a phantom crop mark I didn’t even know was in my file. It’s things like that that create 100% trust. I can call and ask their opinion on how a file will work for platemaking and that helps me know if I can help a client’s wishes come true. Boxcar helps me create my weekly printing schedule because I know exactly when plates will arrive. Their efficiency helps my efficiency.

Boxcar Base in action at Ice Pond Press.Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

PRESS HISTORY My current press is my one and only: Chandler & Price 14 1/2″ x 22″ Super Heavy Duty Craftsman Press

Blind deboss business card from Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

SHOP TIPS As a self taught printer, I think everything I do might be a trick or a hack. One that’s tangible is HENRY GAGE PINS! They can take a beating and their malleability makes them invaluable. Also, crop marks on plates for pre-cut paper. I typically register by printing a blind deboss on my tympan (which is actually butcher paper,) using the impression of the crop marks to register and finally trimming off the crops before inking. Or, if my press is already inked, I tape a piece of tracing paper my setup, make an impression and then follow the same steps. 

WHAT’S NEXT I’ll roll out a talking vegetable card line and keep up with the year-round wedding season. I’m generally forging on into the wilderness of this wonderful letterpress world.

Immense round of applause out to Molly of Ice Pond Press for taking the time to let us discover the hidden printing gem in Montana’s backyard!

Taking Flight With Wolf & Wren

Combine best friends, nerdy artsy passion, part-time printing & designing, and cheery, brilliant letterpress cards and you have the formula for the winning dynamic behind Wolf & Wren. Colorado-based Lauren Stapleton and Chicago-based Liz Wolf have harnessed their love for letterpress, passion for printing, and “go get’em” attitudes to flourish from a small ten card line to a 78-card line sold all over the country. Both sat down with us to discuss how they’ve been able to manage working across the country, the loving support of friends & family, and the happy, coffee-soaked moments when they get a chance to meet up throughout the year.

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country.

THE CREATIVE DUO Wolf & Wren Press is best friend duo, Liz Wolf and Lauren Stapleton.  We collaborate to produce special letterpress printed cards and other paper goods.

We met in childhood as budding artists. As adults, our background in the arts ranges from printmaking and paper-making to painting and bookbinding. Our sustaining mantra is combining good ideas with diligent planning, elbow grease, patience, and a little fun. We started Wolf & Wren Press to create unique and heartening products. All cards are illustrated, printed and packaged by us!

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country (with the help of a canine friend too!)

LS:  I live in a beautiful old town neighborhood of Longmont, Colorado with my husband, Matt, 1-year-old son, Micah, and our Newfoundland, Beatrice. In my spare time I try to fly fish, print for pleasure, eat s’mores by a campfire, cook, and drink beer. But spare time doesn’t really enter my lingo very often as my husband can attest to.

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country.

LW: I live in Chicago, IL in the Andersonville neighborhood on the north side. My husband Will and I are expecting our first baby in 6 weeks. I love to draw, hunt for vintage treasures, go out for walks and brunch, drink coffee or red wine, and laugh with friends. Currently, I love to binge Netflix, go for short walks, and prep our apartment (whoa- nesting is real!).

Our workload with Wolf & Wren has increased a ton in the last year, but Lauren and I are able to keep our lives in balance. I attribute this success to running a business with your best friend. It is so satisfying to accomplish our goals together.

LETTERPRESS LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT LS:  In college at Colorado State, I was a printmaking major, and simultaneously worked in the preservation lab of the university library fixing books. After college, I moved to San Francisco and became a bookbinder at Taurus Bookbindery, and took some classes at SF Center for the Book on letterpress printing. I realized that letterpress was the commonality between books and printing and fell in love. I immediately found a job as a letterpress printer to learn the trade further.

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country.

LW. My last semester of college at University of Illinois, I took a book arts class. My professor Bea Nettles introduced me to the Columbia College Chicago Book and Paper program. Soon after I started the MFA program and delved into the world of papermaking, letterpress, and bookmaking. I still concentrated on drawing which was/is my main interest. I was able to produce all of my drawings into printed matter, which was awesome. I love letterpress.

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country.

PRESS HISTORY LS: I bought a Vandercook SP15 in 2008.  I actually ran the business hand-feeding every piece till 2015! Now that I have a Heidelberg Windmill 10×15, that seems unimaginable. I do all my scoring on a Golding Pearl No. 3.

The wonderful print space of Wolf & Wren (Colorado).

PRINTING HAVEN LS:  I have a shop at my home. It’s actually a shop and not a garage, with no heat in the winter which gets pretty interesting. It holds all our stock of cards, the Pearl and the Vandercook. I had to get a different shop when I bought the Windmill. It’s just a couple blocks from my house, and holds the Windmill and the guillotine.

DESIGNER + PRINTER LS: Printing is my wheelhouse, though I can dabble in design work.  This work suits my skills to a “T”.

LW: I do the drawing and designing of our plates for printing. My knowledge of letterpress printing helps immensely when designing plates (hey- no full page color washes).

Brilliant and festive letterpress printed cards from Wolf & Wren.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS LW: When designing our cards, we start with a big brainstorm session that usually concentrates on a series of cards we are working on. Sometimes we start with the text, other times it is the imagery. For example, our most recent series is based on natural wonders. We knew we wanted the text to have sentiments like “You are amazing”, so we thought of all of the natural wonders imagery that would fit. We decided on a double rainbow, a geyser, an erupting volcano erupting, and a comet. After I’ve completed an initial sketch, I will send them to Lauren; we will discuss changes, color options, and layout adjustments. I will then create the final drawing, scan it, and work in Illustrator to create the final design. Lauren and I will look at the final file (are the crop marks correct?), and then upload onto the Boxcar’s website (which is so easy)!

FULL TIME FUN LS: Liz and I have been working towards the goal of running the business full time for years and we are closer than ever. We both go to work at our respective day jobs, and run this business at night, on the weekends, and pretty much every spare moment. Luckily, we have had a lot of fun getting to where we are now and I wouldn’t change any of it. We are so thankful for our supportive husbands and families for helping us along the way.

PRINTING FEATS LS: I am so proud of us for starting this business. We have been best friends since we met in 8th grade and we often talk about if we could have shown our past nerdy artsy high school selves what we would be doing as adults, I would have been so happy! Why did I worry about what I was going to do when I grew up?!

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country.

There have been a million accomplishments along the way too. Every single time I have moved and taken presses with me has been a minor miracle.

LW: Ditto! I am so happy that we started our business and have sustained our vision. After reading “In the Company of Women” I was struck by the similarities of the successful entrepreneurs interviewed. It is not an easy or straightforward path. You need support from family and friends, a lot of grit, and to continually cultivate your creativity. We started our line with a suite of ten cards that we sold at fairs and on Etsy. Now we have 78 in the line and sell upwards of 4,000 cards per month.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar plates have been the base for all our cards.  They are always friendly and happy to help if needed. Uploading files with the automatic color separation is amazing. Registration is a breeze with the plates and the Boxcar Base.

National Park-themed funny letterpress birthday card from Wolf & Wren.

SHOP TIPS LS: Static Guard Spray! Life saver. When I first started printing on my windmill it was last winter. I was having the strangest registration issues. I suspected it could be static.  This spray changed everything. Hours and hours of frustration solved. It’s so dry here in Colorado that static is a major issue for me. I was getting shocked every time I touched the press.

Best friends Lauren Stapleton and Liz Wolf (of Wolf & Wren) capture the thriving printing spirit while working part-time and across the country.

WHAT’S NEXT We are always working on new cards, and this year we will expand our line with new products. We don’t want to give away too much, but we will be working on prints amongst other things. Our winter 2017 catalog will be coming out in the next few weeks.

The creative part of our business has always been the easiest part, because there is never a lack of ideas! We have a production plan for our coming projects and will start checking off the list. 2017 will be an exciting year for W&W!

Huge round of thanks out to Lauren and Liz of Wolf & Wren! Keep the amazing work going!