Up until recently, Marcelo of Carimbo Letterpress & Design was known mostly for his prowess in the letterpress circles of Brazil and South America. Now he’s becoming a name to those outside of Brazil, gaining attention for Carimbo Press and spreading the modern letterpress love. Marcelo sat down with us between press runs to talk about the tactile appeal of letterpress and expanding his line of printed goods.
MODERN LETTERPRESS Carimbo Letterpress is the sum of the enthusiasm and efforts from Érico and Marcelo, two graphic designers with a passion for typography, printing and old stuff. We went to college together but had been working on separate jobs for several years. In the beginning of 2009 we began to notice some great letterpress work featured on the web and wondered how people were doing those beautiful things nowadays. Then we came to understand the use of modern letterpress with photopolymer, thick paper, cotton paper, edge painting and all that tactile appeal. At the time there weren’t any printshops in Brazil really doing this kind of work, so we went looking for our first press and began making plans for our letterpress studio. Besides that, we thought it was great that we could do things ourselves and be our own bosses.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS Despite being graphic designers, we had no experience being actual printers. So in the beginning, after some printing for ourselves, we decided to offer letterpress printing to friends. Soon we felt confident with the results we were getting and decided that we could do it professionally and thus began offering our services in our area.
FULL TIME FUN For some time Érico still kept his job working at an agency but now we operate as a full time letterpress printshop. Our current goal is to have a nice balance between commissioned work and our own. We have a lot of custom orders (and that’s the priority), but we are always looking for ways to improve our processes and have more time to print our own designs and projects as well.
PRINTING FEATS We are proud of learning how to print by ourselves and overcoming all the difficulties to start this kind of operation here in Brazil. It was – and still is – hard in so many ways, but we feel that we’re always improving. We never had a mentor of any kind, so to understand how to operate all these machines and also to do maintenance is kind of a big deal for us. We think that we helped develop a Brazilian market as well. At first we noticed we needed to have an educational role too, explaining why letterpress printing was so exciting and how it was different from current and modern printing techniques. We had several clients that were looking for something unusual but did not know exactly what letterpress printing was. After some time, we started to get a lot of requests specifically because we were doing letterpress and people had started to ask for it.
PRESS HISTORY We have a small tabletop press from Japan (still on maintenance work), a Heidelberg Windmill (1974), a Vandercook SP-15 (1968), and a Catu (which is a platen press made in Brazil). We have a working Linotype Model 8 (1929), but it still needs to be plugged in. We also have a manual Krause paper cutter, one corner rounding machine and one stapler machine. Our first press was the Windmill and it still gets most of the jobs. When we were looking for presses I remember asking what would happen if by any chance my hand got stuck on the platen. A mechanic that was showing us the machines answered that my fingers would be like a sheet of paper – and so we decided to go with the automatic feeding on the Heidelberg. Now that we have more experience we are confident with our hand fed Catu. We try to equip ourselves with different presses for different types of jobs. We mix our inks by hand according to the Pantone formulas / guide and we are always improving our edge painting technique.
BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar helps us in so many ways. First, by providing the press manual for our Windmill (later we would find an original and physical copy in Portuguese, but at the beginning we were always reading the Boxcar PDF). We find a lot of information on the site very useful too, like the instructional videos by Harold. It is hard to find good supplies here in Brazil, so things like the Boxcar Base, swing away lay gauge, roller setting gauge, gauge pins, etc. are excellent additions to our printing gear.
SHOP TIPS Always try to go by the book: adjust the press thoroughly and try to learn and understand all of its moves. Then it’s easier to figure what isn’t working properly and to think on ways to solve the problems. We also find that baby powder is useful in so many ways as it helps cleaning the rails, preventing the plates from over sticking to the base, drying the printed tympan after a missed sheet, etc, etc.
WHAT’S NEXT This year we are trying to get everything in place around here: we are improving our shop and presses so things can be done more efficiently. We also have a lot of ideas that we want to put out and we expect to finally make it through with our line of printed goodies. Our website is in a desperate need of a revamp and we are trying to tie this loose end, too. We have some other nice projects coming along as well.
Big round of thanks out to Marcelo of Carimbo Letterpress & Design for giving us a closer look at the shop!