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!

Vintage Cool: WE ARE 1976

The creative trio behind WE ARE 1976 effortlessly combines fun, eclectic, and world-wide inspirations to create hand-made letterpress paper goods in the heart of Dallas, Texas. From punches of color to fun & funky illustrations & prints, the shop is a happy culmination of the team’s love of learning, community printmaking workshops, and the ambition to keep the creative juices flowing. The crew caught us up on eight (and counting!) joyous years honing their craft, incorporating letterpress in their day-to-day lives, and enjoying the rich printing community that surrounds them.

FUNKY + FUN Hello! We’re Vynsie, Jully, and Derek and we own a small shop and letterpress design studio in Dallas, Texas called WE ARE 1976.  We opened our shop 8 years ago and we carry handmade and beautifully designed objects (ceramics, jewelry, and home goods) and paper goods (stationery, cards, and prints) from independent makers from all over the world. 

About four years ago, we started making our own line of stationery and art prints and have added custom branding, design, and letterpress printing to what we offer. We also teach printmaking workshops and host guest instructors that teach workshops such as calligraphy, water coloring, and jewelry stamping. We all grew up around the Dallas area and love being a part of the creative community here.

FIRST TASTE OF PRINTING Vynsie’s background is in graphic design. She got her first taste of letterpress and antique printmaking techniques at Graham Bignell’s Paper Conservation in London many years ago (cleaning old type cabinets in exchange for press time).

She also worked at Peter Harrington’s Rare Books (at their sister antiquarian print shop, formerly known as Old Church Galleries) which deals in rare books and antique prints made from wood, copper and steel engravings.

We carried the same vision and love of printmaking when we started our business. We have a diverse collection of art prints from illustrators, designers, printers (letterpress and screenprint) from the United States, Europe, Japan and Australia. Dallas also has a really tight letterpress community and we’ve been fortunate enough to get to work with them in various ways – the amazing people at Inky Lips PressMissing Q PressColor Box Studio, and Studio 204 were very generous with their time, expertise, and the work they shared in our shop. Five years ago we decided to make letterpress a permanent part of our shop. We started taking more letterpress workshops from places like Punch Press in Austin and San Francisco Center of the Book and with a bit of patience, we were able to locate two presses. We started printing immediately, teaching ourselves and each other.

BIG PRINTS IN TEXAS We moved to our current location because we needed a bigger space to fit our letterpress studio, which takes about half of our shop space. We’re in a charming historic district called The Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff, Dallas. We’re across the street from a wonderful pie shop, Emporium Pies, and cute shops like Green PetNeighborhood, and Wild Detective. Most of the businesses are independently owned and we feel incredibly lucky to be here. There’s also amazing food and drinks on every corner in Oak Cliff –  Small Brewpub, Hattie’sEl Si Hay and Spiral Diner. Also, The Texas Theatre is a revitalized theatre with independent programming, fun events, and they host new art exhibitions monthly at their Safe Room gallery.

PRINTING MENTORS One of our presses is from the Art Larson’s Studio Hortan Tank Graphics. When the press was shipped to use, his colleague Joe Riedel came down to help us set up and was invaluable in teaching us the fundamentals of running and operating our presses. And, as mentioned above, we were really encouraged and motivated by many in the Dallas letterpress circle – Casey McGarr of Inky Lips Press, Jason McDaniels of Missing Q Press, Rhona Warren of Color Box Studio and Kim Neiman and Virgil Scott of Studio 204. Also, in our shop, we carry work from other illustrators/printmakers that really inspire us – Daria TesslerNate DuvallNaoshiDeth P Sun and Kelly Puissegur

DESIGNERS + PRINTERS We’re both. We’re a family business and work on most projects together whether it’s just exchanging ideas initially or packaging finished projects. It’s so important for us to create unique and beautifully crafted pieces for us and for our clients so there’s lots of discussion and brainstorming before we even start designing or printing. We usually go through a few rounds of roughs and concepts before we get to a finished piece. We have a nice collection of antique type, so we work on many typeset posters, digitally design work, and use Boxcar plates.

FULL TIME FUN With our custom work, own line of stationery and our workshops we’ve been printing full-time for 4 years now. We’re lucky that we have really good team here so if we’re not printing that day, we’re designing something new, or trying to come up with new ideas. 

PRINTING FEATS As simple as this sounds, just operating these complex machines is something we’re proud of. Whether it’s just servicing the press, troubleshooting to get the perfect impression, or finding a solution for a squeaky part, learning to trust our instinct with the mechanics of these antique presses while producing beautiful high quality print work brings a new kind of confidence that we don’t get from our normal day-to-day life. We’ve been very proud to do more custom work – wedding invitations, branding projects, personal stationery. All of these moments and projects are important to our our clients and we’re so honored to be a part of it.


PRESS HISTORY Vandercook 325 and Challenge Proof Press. We have added a Vandercook 219 and tabletop Pilot.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar has made it so much easier for us to create custom work for our clients and for our own line of paper goods. Super helpful with file prep questions and any changes or adjustments. 

WHAT’S NEXT Designing and printing more! 

An amazingly large round of thanks out to Vynsie + team of WE ARE 1976. Keep up the phenomenal & beautiful letterpress work!

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!

Benjamin Eakin: New Beginnings with Quite Simply Cards

Letterpress finds us all and captivates us in one way or another. Benjamin Eakin of E. W. Card Crafts is no exception. From a rich printing history with his father in the newspaper business in Quanah, Texas, to navigating the transition from the old-school style of hands-on typesetting to the digital and modern age of letterpress printing, Benjamin has taken up the gauntlet of the challenges of starting a new part-time letterpress business. Armed with a small but mighty Craftsman Superior (that rode shotgun in his car on the return journey home after acquiring it), he is testing out the waters and is finding himself discovering new projects, a new greeting card line and championing the zealous ambition all letterpress printers share: the dream of getting back on press for just a little bit longer.

Benjamin Eakin of E.W. Card Crafts (Texas, USA), letterpress prints hand-made text-focus cards with brilliance and panache.

A RETURN TO LETTERPRESS To my utter dismay, I find I will soon turn 64. No idea at all how that happened but, well, here I am. I’ve worked at many things over the years, including a 16-year stint with my father and our book publishing company, software support for a book publishing software company, some time with a CPA, and my current position is the cash office of an international kidney dialysis company, among other things. Eakin Press originally published mainly Texas history and began as an extension of Nortex Press which had been printing county histories for a number of years. In turn, Nortex Press started as an extension of the Quanah Tribune Chief newspaper for the express purpose of printing county histories.

PRINTING TRADITIONS I grew up in the newspaper business in the 50s and 60s in north Texas. My father was the editor of the Quanah Tribune Chief in Quanah, Texas. At the time, the population was about 5,000. When we moved there when I was five, the newspaper had letterpress presses only. Even after a new building was built, the presses were moved the block down the town square to start a new life there.

Quanah Tribune (Texas, USA) early printing days in the 1950s-1960s.

Our pressmen and Linotype operators were all a little rough around the edges but that only served to make them more interesting. I worked at the newspaper collating papers and doing cleanup for many years. Not everyone in town knew my name but most everyone knew me as “Little Ed” – that editor’s kid. That made it rather difficult to get away with much. Eventually, the newspaper switched to offset presses but kept the Linotype and one or two of the letterpresses for job work. I used to deliver funeral notices to the stores on the square since this was a weekly paper and Wednesday might be too late to get the word out about a recent death in town.

Benjamin Eakin of E.W. Card Crafts (Texas, USA) posing for photos for the Quanah Tribune newspaper.

My brother, sister, and I did a lot of posing for photos to accompany news stories – for instance, posing in a wheat field for a story about that year’s crop. My father’s gone now and I’m afraid I don’t remember all the presses that were originally in the shop. There are some great memories, though, about the noise and smell of the press room.

Benjamin Eakin of E.W. Card Crafts (Texas, USA) as a book production manager before starting on his journey into letterpress printing.

I used to do the design and book layout for the book publishing company after years as the production manager. I was the one to first bring in a PC to test out typesetting on a personal computer instead of our dedicated Penta typesetting system. We gradually transitioned to PCs only. The designing I do now for the greeting card line, in addition to writing the text, has mostly to do with choosing a typeface for each card. My intent with the cards is to focus solely on the words to paint a visual picture for the recipient. We are so bombarded with images today that I cherish the chance to use my imagination to come up with its own visual. I’d like to think there’s a niche audience for the words I write and the look and feel of handcrafted cards.

PRINTING IN THE LONE STAR STATE My current shop is a small bedroom at home that operates as my home office and now home to my Craftsmen Superior press. I purchased the press last year from a couple who’d purchased it a couple of years earlier in New York. They ended up moving to Houston, Texas and life apparently got in the way – babies and such. I found it on Briar Press  and met the sellers just north of Houston to pick it up. The press rode in the passenger seat of my car for the trip back to Richardson – a part of the Dallas metroplex.

Benjamin Eakin of E.W. Card Crafts (Texas, USA) and his Craftsmen Superior tabletop letterpress on the ride home.

PART TIME PRINTER, FULL TIME FUN Sadly, I don’t print full time. In fact, the new online store was pushed back several months after I agreed to be a cousin’s executor. Sooner than expected, she died in late March of pancreatic cancer and several things were placed on hold as I tried to figure out how to handle that new job. My goal with the new online store, Quite Simply Cards, is to try to put myself in a position to give up my “day job” and concentrate on printing my greeting cards. I’m hopeful I can transition to printing full-time sometime in 2017. E.W. Card Crafts is named after my partner Tom Hayes and I. Edward is my middle name, William is Tom’s. Hence, E.W. – or Edward-William. We both worked for Eakin Press for many years in the past.The 1980s photo supplied of the two of us shows me on the left and Tom on the right. We’re a tad older now.

PRINTING FEATS I tend not to see my own accomplishments and rely on other people to point out that I’ve done something worthwhile. Yeah, I’m working on that rather poor self-image thing. Recently, however, I printed Shakespeare’s Sonnet 154 for the Oxford Bodleian Library’s call for entries to print all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his death. While I pushed it to almost the deadline, I managed to get my entry there on time. I printed the sonnet under my private press name Little Boy Blue Press. I was a fun challenge taken on for the pure enjoyment of it.

Benjamin Eakin of E.W. Card Crafts (Texas, USA) and his Craftsmen Superior tabletop letterpress press.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar Press has been there from the beginning with help in determining how I was going to set up my press. That included walking me through why I really needed to work with InDesign to produce print-ready images for ordering the polymer plates. I also now have two of Boxcar’s Deep Relief bases to help in a faster setup and press change for printing. Answers to questions have always been readily available from Boxcar.

PRINTING TIPS Neat tricks? Well, I’m a little too new to have much in the way of tricks except for one thing. Since my greeting cards all have the same basic layout, I’ve set up Excel files with a representation of the grid on my Boxcar base. I export the type for a card to a PNG file with transparency. Once I position the polymer plate exactly where I need it, I place the type transparency in the Excel file for that card. Now I know exactly how to position the plate for subsequent runs of that card.

Benjamin Eakin of E.W. Card Crafts (Texas, USA) simple but efficient production and design set-up headquarters.

benjamin-eakin-texas-letterpress-printing-img8

Also, setting up one card aids in quickly positioning a new card since I can position based on the previous card – if the saying is wider than the previous card, I can center the type for the new card over the previous and so on. I save a file for each greeting card for quick reference.

WHAT’S NEXT Plans for 2017? Hopefully, I’ll be able to print full-time. No plans right now to expand beyond the greeting card line but would like to think we’ll be successful enough to perhaps purchase something like a C&P 10×15. That would be too large for my home shop, so would mean finding a small commercial office. That’s the goal in the long term. I don’t see myself officially retiring. I have no reason to believe I’d be happy without some new project in my life. And it seems I never tire of finding new projects.

We’re cheering on Benjamin as he starts his new greeting card line and a huge round of thanks to him for letting us get the scoop on his wonderful printing heritage. Catch him here on Facebook!

Mirka Hokkanen: Linocuts and Letterpress

As a full-time mom and part-time printer, naturalist Mirka Hokkanen exemplifies the can-do printing spirit. The fine arts printer has enjoyed the challenges and joys that also come with relocation as her wonderful husband is active in the Army. The results are astounding and show the love she has for the printing tradition as seen in her beautifully detailed nature-themed linocuts and letterpress print work. We sat down with Mirka to talk shop, what it’s like to catch up with letterpress after all these years, and of course her upcoming wood engraving teaching position in Finland next summer.

 Mirka Hokkanen of Texas prints beautiful letterpress and linocut fine art prints.

THE TRAVELED PRINTER I’m a printmaker, mom, army wife, Finn, and an animal and nature lover. I was born and raised in Finland and came to the US after high school to go to college as an international student. I took a printmaking class my first semester and have been printing ever since. After my MFA, I got married to an Army guy, and we have been traveling the US (and Europe) since. Our family now consists of my husband and I, two kids, a doggie and fish.

The kids are finally old enough to be at a part time day care, and I am starting to work in the studio more efficiently. I feel like there is so much work to catch up with after being a full(er) time mom for several years. We love spending time outside (as much as the Texas heat will let us). The kids are just as interested in exploring nature as I am.   

Mirka Hokkanen of Texas prints beautiful letterpress and linocut fine art prints.

FOR THE LOVE OF LETTERPRESS There were some awesome letterpresses at the University of Dallas, where I got my MFA from. No one knew how to use them, so for my graduate work, I set some type on my own, and did embossing for a book project I had. The experiment was fun, and as a printmaker, I love all presses, no matter how they print. The seeds of letterpress were sown and I went on my way with etchings. Fast forward about six years, and several state-to-state moves. I was trying to look for a medium that was easier to move than etching equipment, but something I could get high detail in. I exposed polymer plates at home for intaglio, and was getting into color reduction linocuts. Letterpress drew me in, because of the ease of registering multiple plates. I proceeded to drive an hour and a half to take letterpress classes at SVC in Seattle and met Carl Montford who then taught and got me involved with wood engraving.   

Mirka Hokkanen prints beautifully detailed linocut prints.

PRESS HISTORY My very first press was a blue Dick Blick etching press. I used it quite a lot, but when I started getting into letterpress, I first got a tiny Sigwalt from eBay for almost nothing (because it was in horrible shape). Obviously that did not take me too far after fixing it up (I don’t think I ever printed anything with it) and within a couple years, my studio had an assortment of about 5 letterpresses in all shapes and sizes. 

Mirka Hokkanen prints on a Vandercook beautiful nature-themed linocut prints.

PRINTER ON THE MOVE Wherever we move, we do our best to get a house with enough room to have a studio in it. That way I can be at home and pop to work in the studio as much as possible. Compared to most other printers, my shop needs to pick up and move every three years, which limits the amount of things I can accumulate. I barely have any type for that reason or huge presses, and use polymer plates or carve linoleum if I need text in my work. My current studio is tiny, I can’t teach classes in it, but the best part about it is that it is right here, and I can go in there whenever I have a spare moment.

If I had to pick one thing to save in case of a fire, I’d grab my Morgan Lin-o-scribe press. I think everything else I could bare to part with or could replace. It’s like a loyal old dog: he follows me around everywhere we move, is a little shaggy and rough around the edges, waits for me patiently when I can’t get to printing for months, and makes a great impression whenever I need to get work done quickly.      

Mirka Hokkanen prints on a Vandercook beautiful nature-themed linocut prints.

THE PRINTER AND DESIGNER I’ve always considered myself a printmaker, but recently I’ve been becoming more of a proper business owner too. I come from a fine art background, so I’ve always done everything from designing the images, and carving the plates, to hands-on printing and then photographing and marketing to sell the finished product and sending them off to their new homes. 

THE CREATIVE PROCESS I usually have a mix of ideas in my head for new prints. I think it kind of looks like alphabet soup in there. Over time, I might sketch things on paper and let them marinate some more. Sometimes things will mull for over a year before the time is right to start working on them. When I finally have the finished idea of what I want to do, the execution goes pretty fast.

I often don’t sketch things too much. Many times it’s just one drawing that I might work over and over, which gets transferred onto a block and then carved. It’s fairly mechanical after the idea is complete. For multiple plate blocks, with several colors, I might do thumbnail sketches with watercolors, or scan my drawing and play with color options in Photoshop.

Cutting and printing with linocuts by fine arts printmaker Mirka Hokkannen.


PART TIME PRINTING, FULLTIME FUN
I’d say I work as an art business as close to full time as I get from the kids. I’ve done my fair share of odd jobs over the years, from adjunct teaching, to volunteering and then staying at home with kids. With the moving, my studio is the only thing that travels with me and that I can work on consistently. My dream one day is to make prints full time and have an assistant who would do some of the business end of things. It won’t be until after we settle down one day, though. It’s fun to dream in the meantime, though.

Mirka Hokkanen prints beautifully detailed linocut prints. "Mr. Carpey".

PRINTING FEATS I’m proud that I’m still printing with passion after all these years. I have more confidence than ever in my work, and have figured out how to challenge myself and grow without the consistent support of a local artist/printer/gallery community that many others have. My friends live far and wide, and the peer community who I rely on offers support through emails, phone calls, and social media groups.

On the flip-side; picking up every three years, has forced me (a sworn introvert) to become super fast at networking every time we land in a new town.  

BOXCAR’S ROLE I’ve been ordering unexposed plates from Boxcar for about 5 years now, and the service has always been flawless. I’ve even ordered a couple ready made plates, when I wanted something to turn out perfect or needed lots of detail that I didn’t want to risk exposing myself. I have some ideas for prints with larger plates, that I care not to carve as engravings, and Boxcar will be my go-to plate source at that point.

PRINTING TIPS I usually print linocuts and engravings, which in some ways is different than type. I’ve got a lot of tricks up my sleeve to get things to print right. First, I almost always prefer to ink by hand, which gives me more leverage on ink coverage, and how the paper lays on the plate while printing.

In this video, you can see I use pieces of foam on big prints to keep paper off the plate until the press rolls over it. It keeps the ink from making stretch marks in solid areas. If you use a different system, like a Vandercook or an iron hand press where the paper meets the plate differently, this wouldn’t make a difference.

Really, the biggest advice I can share is: have lots of patience and have a group of people who you can call on for advice. The best way to learn is just to do lots of it. You will have a different problem with each edition to solve, so you become really smart by the time you’re a seasoned printer. LOL! I try to keep up with a blog of tips and tricks. It’s a record for myself to remember the things I’ve done with editions and hope it’s something for students to reference also. You can find it here!

  Mirka Hokkanen prints on a Vandercook beautiful nature-themed linocut prints.

WHAT’S NEXT At this point it looks like we will be moving overseas in the middle of 2017. Packing and unpacking will take up most of the year, so I am working really hard to build up a mailing list now, and release a collection of prints in March-April before we pack up. Join the mailing list here!

Secondly, I am also really excited to be teaching a wood engraving beginners class in Finland next summer. The technique is all but died out there, so I hope to invigorate and inject some enthusiasm about engraving into graphic artists there.  

A big round of thanks out to Mirka for letting us get a sneak peak at her beautiful printing world!

Melissa Livingston: Falling For Letterpress

Melissa Livingston of Livingston Press is located in the sunny city of Oakton, Virginia. On this warm fall day, she shared with us a small peek at her printing world and the wonderful printing community that inspires her daily—from running letterpress workshops, printing mentors (and family), and the itch to get back on press.

Melissa Livingston cheerily prints on a Chandler & Price Oldstyle in her letterpress shop in Oakton, Virginia.

INSPIRED BEGINNINGS As a small child I fell in love with letters while watching them dance across the big screen the first time I saw the movie 101 Dalmatians. The opening credits were revolutionary at the time. The spots on the dogs morphed into words; it was art to me. Because of my love of letter forms, color and paper, I studied commercial art in college and then worked as a book and calendar designer.

Melissa Livingston's gorgeous letterpress business cards for Livingston Letterpress

A RETURN TO THE PRINTING ARTS After taking a long sabbatical to raise my 5 wonderful children, I decided I wanted to get back into design. By that time everything in the design world had changed from waxed columns of type placed by hand on the art board to being completed on a computer screen. I missed the hands-on experience, so one day on a bit of a whim I decided to buy a 6×10 Kelsey Excelsior Victor tabletop press that came with a Boxcar Base, despite not actually knowing anything about how to print.

Melissa Livingston prints on a Chandler & Price Oldstyle in Virginia.

PRINTING MENTORS After an on-line search I discovered Alan Runsfeldt at Excelsior Press Museum Print Shop in Frenchtown, New Jersey and took the little press to him to learn how it worked. Alan became a mentor and a friend. I purchased my first drawer of type from a basement in Bethesda, Maryland and with the patient guidance of Rebecca at Boxcar Press, learned how to submit a file to create a polymer plate. I was printing! I printed my niece’s wedding invitations, Christmas cards and lots of other projects. I set up a little designated printing space in my basement and loved creating on that little press.

melissa-livingston-letterpress-invitation-suites

One day the little press broke and seeing my disappointment, my husband searched on eBay for a press. He came across a 10×15 Chandler & Price Oldstyle not far from our home. A dear friend helped us move the press into our garage and through YouTube videos and the kindness of other artists in the field (including Alan who taught me how to properly oil my machine), I continued to learn the craft of letterpress printing.

Melissa Livingston prints gorgeous letterpress pieces in Virginia, USA.

THE CREATIVE FLOW My passion is really the hands on aspect of the craft. I prefer a machine powered by foot treadle. I have also collected quite an array of wooden and lead type and I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of setting type. I stock only primary colors of ink and mix all my colors by hand. I have also added a Potter Press for poster making, which does not have an inking mechanism, so all inking is done with a brayer.

Hand-set type locked-up in a chase by Melissa Livingston.

I do some design work with Illustrator, but prefer to leave the computer-related tasks to others. I work with a wonderful designer, Holly Osborn, whose work you can find on my website. It has also been a joy to collaborate with my daughter Megan as she has designed a few wedding suites.

Melissa Livingston prints gorgeous letterpress pieces in Virginia, USA.

VERY VIVACIOUS IN VIRGINIA Livingston Letterpress began with the Chandler & Price in a corner of our garage. In the cold winter I would use a space heater and a candle under the ink disk to keep it warm enough to move the ink. In September of 2014 I moved into a real studio we added onto our home. The studio is a sacred, beautiful space to me; a physical reminder that dreams really do come true! I have a stunning composing table that found its way to me through the kindness of a jewelry artist who had inherited it from a printer friend. I have cases of type that sat for decades in basements and now have new life as letters are inked and pressed to the paper to print once again. I am connected to my tools as I have cleaned and scrubbed and made them functional again. It is an amazing feeling to look around the room and be surrounded by love; love for the craft, love for the kindness of others who have taught me or passed along tips or equipment, and the love of a family that supports this passion of mine.

PRESS HISTORY 6×10 Kelsey Excelsior Victor tabletop press, 10×15 Chandler & Price Oldstyle

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar Press has been a wonderful resource to me. I use a 5×7 Base, a 9×12 Base and also very small bases that allow me to mix polymer plates with handset type. I love the flexibility that platemaking allows a letterpress printer. I recently ordered plates in Korean, Arabic and Russian!

I think the thing that impresses me most about Boxcar is the kindness of the staff, especially their patience as they have walked me through how to confirm my artwork is 100% black.

Melissa Livingston prints gorgeous letterpress pieces in Virginia, USA.

PRINTING FEATS I am so grateful for the opportunities that have come my way through letterpress printing. I treasure the connections I have made with people who have come to print and I love seeing their reaction as they create a treasure. I am inspired by the words people choose to turn into art. I was thrilled to get to print the menus and booklet covers and hand-stitch the bindings of the booklets for the 2015 Kinfolk Dinner in Washington, DC, but my favorite projects have been to print wedding suites for my oldest son and daughter.

Big round of thanks out to Melissa for the fun happenings at Livingston Press. Keep up the amazing work!

The Handsome Prints of Dapper Ink

In the beautiful rolling landscape of Greenville, South Carolina you’ll find the versatile Dapper Ink letterpress and silkscreen print shop. The down-south shop boasts expertly printed pieces, a great design staff, and a penchant for perfecting the right amount of ink (whether it’s on a tee shirt or cotton rag paper stock). The bright & light-hearted Virginia gave us a tour of her studio to talk shop, expanding to a new location, where to grab a great bite to eat, and of course… letterpress.

Dapper Ink printshop holds letterpress printing press treasures, silkscreen prints, and hand-crafted style.

PRINTING BEGINNINGS We are a custom print and design shop, primarily focused on screen printed apparel. Matt Moreau and his wife Jen started screen printing t-shirts out of their house in 2007, and now employ a full team of printers and designers. Our first letterpress machine, a Chandler and Price, came from a local printshop that had closed its doors. Matt started building a letterpress client base, and would print whenever he had some time to spare. I started learning on the C&P when I interned for Dapper during college. They brought me on as the full time letterpress printer about a year and a half ago.

TYPE OF SHOP We are a full service print and design shop. We have two automatic screen presses, three manual screen presses, a wide format printer for fine art prints, a Chandler & Price, 2 table top clamshell letterpresses, and a hot foil machine. We also facilitate digital, offset, and anything else our customers can think up.

NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN THE SPACE We currently have two full time designers and two design interns, and Matt, the owner, now focuses on designing for our sister company The Landmark Project. We have between 15-20 full time and part time employees between the two companies.  The designers here do everything from helping people refine their t-shirt or business card designs to full branding for new companies as well as creating designs for our own Dapper Ink retail line.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP Our main shop is about 1500 square feet. We also have a secondary space that is about 6000 square feet and we originally planned to move the business there, but it filled up too quickly so now we have both spaces. The large space is in a new development called Hampton Station. It’s a warehouse facility that is being converted into shops and green space. There is currently a crossfit gym, a paddle board company, and a brewery operating in the other spaces.

THE LOCATION We are in the Stone’s Point shopping center that includes a dry cleaner, custom denim shop called Billiam, a home goods/gift shop called Urban Digs, and a craft beer and wine bar Community Tap. We have a rotation of five or six food trucks that setup for lunch and dinner outside of Community Tap.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL We went through a mile of double sided tape in the span of about a year. I use it for press setup, and we seem always need it for something.

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE We have a standard 6×9 Boxcar Base that we’ve used from the beginning, but I’m thinking it’s time to upgrade to the 9×12.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE I just started using Easy Street for cleanup this year, and it’s a real game changer.

ORGANIZATION TIPS I wish we had some organization secrets [laughs].

PRINTING ADVICE Mixing reflex blue into black gives much better coverage than straight black ink.

COMING SOON In 2017 we will be focusing on our new retail/wholesale line.  We are currently in 8 shops around the country, and hope to expand. I am also excited to be training Alexander, one of our screen printers, on the C&P. We are hoping to add another press, and develop our poster printing capabilities.

Dapper Ink letterpress business card that beautifully uses wood grain pattern effectively and brilliantly.
Dapper Ink printshop holds letterpress printing press treasures, silkscreen prints, and hand-crafted style.

Sweet Prints at Typebee

Typebee studio’s very own Breanna White’s extraordinary printing journey started with a curious stumble over a classified for a letterpress internship. After the pull of the trip, the instantaneous (and quite insatiable) hook set in. Fast forward a few years later and Breanna is bridging the gap between old generation printing and new printing techniques at her cozy shop. With a small pile of chocolate at the ready (as she’s unabashedly a chocoholic), she sat down with us between ink runs to talk about her escapades for printing with DOMA coffee, the joy of working with her hands, and her inspirational (and aspiring printer) daughter, Jaedah.

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

CREATIVE CHOCOHOLIC PRINTER In a nutshell, I’m a biodynamic gardener, book nerd who loves chocolate, not coffee… I know, designer’s sin, guess that’s why I’m a printmaker for a coffee company? Wait, how’d that happen?

LUCKY WITH LETTERPRESS It all began as a child, being handed the assembly-required gifts at holidays. I was attracted to the process of building. Starting with a myriad of unfamiliar objects, working through the technical illustrations labyrinth to arrive at a complete, usable item. One could imagine clicking a mouse eight hours a day wasn’t exactly filling my cup. So when I was tasked to find an internship, I began researching the tail end of design. Printing. I stumbled across a listing for a letterpress intern at Steel Petal Press reading ‘hand skills required’. That’s me!! Embarrassed to admit, I didn’t even know what letterpress printing was at the time, but I remember the very moment when I pulled the trip, making my first impression. I was hooked. Not just the impression, the whole of the process. There is something magical about process, the unfolding of a project over time. Since we are by design process-oriented beings, process-oriented tasks help us connect at a deeper level.

Letterpress work samples from Breanna White of Typebee studios.
Letterpress work samples from Breanna White of Typebee studios.

With that, I found myself traveling to Webster, NY to purchase my first letterpress. A C&P Pilot from Ray Czapkowski at Dock 2 Letterpress. After meeting Ray, I realized his generation of printers understood the process from a practical and mechanical point of view. Which is necessary in the modern, because who are you going to call when the drive wheel from the 1924 New Style C&P decides to fly off at random, rolling towards your boss innocently sitting in the corner? Or when the original wood spool cracks during a lecture to NIC Students causing the belt to slip? It’s helpful to understand how the equipment functions so you can identify and fix malfunctions. The drive wheel was stripped, so I tapped new holes. The spool no longer had an evenly arched surface causing the belt to ride the higher route jamming it against the motor, so I evened it out with duct tape for the sake of continuing the lecture until it could be repaired. These are lessons learned from people like Ray and Ed Regan who taught me the historical and technical aspects of letterpress. There’s a lost generation of printing knowledge, it’s important to bridge that gap, and ask questions because knowing the limitations of the output gives way for good input. Start with output and work backwards.

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

COZY PRINT SHOP It’s 400 square feet of pure bliss. If there were a shower, I’d highly consider moving in.

DESIGNED TO PRINT My initial training is in Visual Communications with a BFA from the Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago along with typographic studies from HGK in Basel, Switzerland. So I wear both hats but I enjoy printing most. And the fact that I get to wear an apron to work is pretty appealing. I’ve been fortunate to work with a diverse group of clients and designers and enjoy the collective efforts. Having had prior experience with the design process does give the ability to communicate effectively with clients and designers alike.

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS Research. Research. Research. Then long walks to visualize the final idea and from there work backwards taking into consideration the output of the design before creating a roadmap, also known as the lost art of sketching. Coupled with many chocolate intermissions. If I find myself spinning the wheel, I take another walk to get the creative juices flowing. Once I have a tight comp, I’ll bring it in digitally. My least favorite part of the process…

FULL TIME PRINTER I letterpress full time in parts for the last two years and have been printing for five. I own my business, Typebee Letterpress Printshop and also subcontract for companies like DOMA Coffee Roasting Co.

COFFEE TIME Finest coffee you’ll ever taste. It’s of an unfortunate irony that I cannot drink it. Here’s the story:

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

As a recent arrival from Chicago, I soon understood searching for studio space in Spokane, WA would become a Quest of Epic Proportions. And as the universe would have it, a trail of crumbs led me to the front door of DOMA Coffee Roasting Co. in Post Falls, ID. I have had the fortune to work unique jobs in my lifetime, cleaning a coal mine for one but in no way did I know solicitation for letterpress restoration would be one of ’em.

Following my 30-second elevator pitch to Mindy, Jack-of-all-DOMA, I awkwardly lingered in the front entrance. I’d like to believe before words were ever exchanged between Rebecca, owner of DOMA, and I that we knew something magical was already in the making. After The Wonderful World of DOMA tour, we came upon our last stop, The Press. If you have ever felt motionless in a point of time whilst all else carries on around you… The Press was that point. And some employees would admit, a hindrance between point A and point B.

If you can imagine a 5’3” lady weighing approximately 120 lbs. soaking wet wearing denim coveralls too many sizes too big, with nitrile gloves and a half face ventilator mask… well, there I was with wire brush and mineral spirits hand scrubbing a 2,500lb. cast iron beast of a lady clad with God only knows what. I think too often we perceive the old as something to avoid or something to replace. Letterpress printing is more than ink on gorgeous paper; the process represents a historical pivot, one of equal corporative between craftsman and machine.

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios. A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

After the letterpress was restored, well someone needed to operate it. For a time I flew back and forth between Chicago and Idaho to fulfill orders. It was in November of 2014, DOMA was having an open house for the Winter Wonderland coffee bags and Lee from Letterpress USA stopped by asking a lot of questions. At first I thought she was interested in the process but later realized I was being tested on my expertise. Less than ten minutes of her departure I received a phone call asking if I’d like to work for Letterpress USA. I said yes without thinking, hung up the phone and realized that I lived in Chicago!! Ha. So naturally I went home and packed the car and then headed west. I currently work part-time for Letterpress USA as a journey(wo)man learning Die Cutting, Perforating, Scoring and Foil Stamping.

On the side, I offer private lessons and lecture about the history of letterpress & the process of printing. Also just began a joint Greeting Cards venture: CardCo Lab is a collaborative letterpress project managed by myself, printmaker Bee, and creative writer Michal Bennett. Our purpose is to craft exquisite and one-of-a-kind letterpress greeting cards that connect brilliant artists, creative minds, and judicious consumers. Each card that we create is printed as a limited edition run and is only available until sold out. Then it’s on to the next beloved project.

PRINTING FEATS The first one that comes to mind, is restoring DOMA’s New Style C&P. It had sat for 30+ years and needed some TLC. When we fired Er’ up for the first time, Rebecca, owner of DOMA, and I just looked at each other in a state of ‘is this really happening?!’. Another was when I finally mastered printing on bag gussets without a break in the ink. The Addy Award was a proud moment too.

PRESS HISTORY My first letterpress was a C&P Pilot from Webster, NY. In a few weeks Bootup (boo-dup), will be having a new home in San Jose, California. Er’ is a well-traveled press: New York to Chicago to Post Falls to San Jose. Tear tear, Er’ will be missed. Other presses in the shop: Pulowech (pul-lah-wetch) a New Style 12 x 18 C&P, Nukumi (noo-goomee) an Old Style 10 x 15 C&P and hopefully coming soon Nakuset (nah-goo-set) a Heidi 10 x 15 Windmill from Seattle. Much needed for my poor back.

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Letterpress in the modern would not exist at its current capacity without Boxcar Press. This is where technology and old world methods meet. As I’ve said before, letterpress is a process in a non-process oriented world. People want to push buttons and enjoy instantaneous gratification. If it weren’t for platemaking services like Boxcar, I’m not sure how practical letterpress would be from a turn-around standpoint. Personally, Boxcar has helped me from the very beginning from understanding what base/plates to use, troubleshooting and same-day turn around when you’ve overlooked placing the headline in your artwork. Oops. As Michael at Letterpress USA says, “Print Happens.” Thank you Cathy, Rebecca and the Boxcar team for all you do!! And I have to say, I think it’s important to create and foster relationships within the printing community. It’s exciting to see people joining the craft, which keeps us moving forward. Boxcar has always been that pillar in the letterpress community.

A hand-on approach, cheerful attitude, a love for letterpress, and lots of chocolate are what energizes Breanna White of Typebee studios.

SHOP TIPS Never count anyone out, by that I mean we all have something to teach and something to learn. Ed is a great example. He was considered a mere mover of presses. After striking up a conversation he became one of my greatest mentors. And has a treasure box of information and history one couldn’t believe. One of my favorite stories of his is about simultaneously running three Heidi Windmills as a youth. I remember being in awe, now I can do the same. Picture your vision, and enjoy the process of getting there.

WHAT’S NEXT I’m working towards offering everything under one roof; design, letterpress, packaging and finishing. I’ve spent the last seven years learning each part of the process in depth and would like 2017 to become a year of transition from being a solo printer to having multiple people of their respective fields working together with Typebee. Press on.

LAST THOUGHTS The most important piece to all of this, are my daughter Jaedah and her sidekick MoMo, a rainbow stuffed sock monkey. They’ve always been at my side and eager to spin every flywheel we come across. She’s my little inspiration and aspiring printer.

Immensely huge round of thanks out to Breanna of Typebee for the unique glimpse into her exceptionally awesome printing realm!