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!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *