Letterpress Passions with Puro Papel

Join Boxcar Press on this “adventure of a lifetime,” as we get a first-hand look at Miami based printer, Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel and find out how she brings the heat when it comes to passionate letterpress printing. Best known for her vibrantly colored projects (both printing and non-printing) discover how Catalina’s worldly travels inspire her work, creativity and how she shares this printing tradition with her local community.

Catalina Rojas sets up her Pilot Press for a new letterpress print project.

LIFE’S ADVENTURES & LETTERPRESS  We all have a starting point, an origin. In many cases, they shape and determine the type of person you become. I was born in an area that was rooted in the Catholic faith and traditions. While this was my origin, the dialogue I have with myself, I believe I don’t come from a place … more so, I come from a way of life that was instilled by my parents.

My parents were travelers and never ceased to seek the zest for adventure. With two kids on the hip and a Great Dane, they were never deterred by what others might think and managed to stay true to their “hippie-chic” ways. At one point, my aunt and her boyfriend joined our entourage and many people would confuse our family for a circus troupe.

Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel prints on her Pilot Press.

Book arts and fine press printing by letterpress printer, Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel.

During my first five years, we traveled through South America. Quite literally, through the roads less traveled by. Zigzagging through cities, towns, forests, plains, deserts, and jungles. However, there was one significant life trip that would determine how I would experience life, my sense of self and ultimately my creative process.

All the details and memories of this trip come rushing back … like having bananas for breakfast, or crossing rivers in long wooden canoes and sleeping in hammocks. I remember feeling the heat from the bonfire and seeing the ashes flying and floating like dragonflies. I remember hearing the speaking drums and the chanting.

All of these things on the trip seemed to me like a lifetime and an irrevocable art of me … despite the fact that neither my parents seem to remember it in full detail (and color) as I. They would even go as far as saying that trip was rather uneventful. This trip shaped how I look at life – I live in adventure and in meaningfulness.

My work is an inextricable part of my life. I take every assignment as an adventure, in which I try to discover essence, textures, tones, colors and other delicacies. To later bring together these elements and materialize them in a simple design, or concept.

Book arts and fine press printing by letterpress printer, Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel.
(Project Notes: Norton Box- Vineyard in Mendoza. I did a limited edition of 30 boxes to send to  30 journalists  with a bottle of wine, some postcards of the winery (belly band is letterpress), a wooden note from the president of the company (letterpress), a leather notebook, and the press kit).)

Every project, I take the challenge of telling a story by communicating its purpose through design and artisanal ways of printing. I believe life is an experience made of a small act, where the beauty of small details grounds us and turns each moment in a unique ritual.

THE PRINTING BUG  I took a class in Parsons, and my teacher was a typography designer and a letterpress printer. After several trips to his studio I was bit by the letterpress printing bug. I fell in love with the technique of letterpress printing and how this could take printing to a higher level.

Book arts and fine press printing by letterpress printer, Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel.
(Project Notes: Leather Book (covers are letterpressed), Accordion book – A family gift for a Portuguese grandmother! )

MIAMI MARVELS  I have a tiny studio, with more windows than walls, located on a sunny corner of Miami Ironside in a bucolic garden. When I first saw this space, I knew it was “the one,” due to all the natural light coming in during the afternoon, I felt this space was going to illuminate me. WIth the natural light and the abundance of windows … I feel like the garden is part of my studio. Behind the studio are train tracks, and several times a day, I can hear the train pass through. Next to the studio, is MiMo (AKA: Miami Modern) a neighborhood that is bringing to life the Art Deco hotels and restaurants of the great era of the Magic City!

Catalina Rojas sets up her Pilot Press for a new letterpress print project.

PRINTING INSPIRATION Although he probably doesn’t know this … my first inspiration was Peter Kruty, my professor at Parsons because he taught me how to respect typography.

Book arts and fine press printing by letterpress printer, Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel.

FULL TIME PRINTER I became a full-time printer in 2004 after I bought my first letterpress.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS  My creative process starts with a conversation with my clients, so I can understand the essence of the message. With each project, I design every aspect and incorporate elements and details of the message into their piece. I like to think of what will surprise me … because it will most likely surprise my audience, and will help keep it innovative and fun!

Book arts and fine press printing by letterpress printer, Catalina Rojas of Puro Papel.
Project Note: Don Perignon Party invitation- all digital and lots of assembly! This gentleman was turning 80 and celebrating in style  with family and friends in his hacienda in Argentina. The cork top part opens to reveal a message)

PRINTING FEATS When a project evokes magic, emotions and becomes a conversation piece, I feel accomplished. When I’m at a moment that it feels close to my soul, that is when I know I’ve achieved “good-design.”

A beloved Pilot Press awaits for the next printing adventure in the Puro Papel studio.

PRESS HISTORY  I still have my first press(!) which is a C&P Pilot press.

BOXCAR’S ROLE  When I find a good vendor, I stick to it! Throughout my years of printing, Boxcar Press has come to my rescue. Whenever I have a rush job, they are always availble to help and save me. There is a sense of loyalty to one another, and I feel they are a part of my team. 

PRINTING TIP  When you don’t know something, ask your colleagues! And if they are not around, don’t be shy to experiment!

SHOP TIP Mmm, I don’t have any particular one, I just know that when it gets very frustrating and it doesn’t work out, I let it rest and start again a few hours later.

WHAT’S NEXT  I want to focus more on doing limited editions and special packaging.

I also love to give back by sharing my passion and expertise with paper. This year I’m involved with missionaries in the desert of Peru who train people in disadvantaged communities on how to make handmade cotton paper. This wonderful community and its artisanal workshop, Papelera Don Bosco, has a letterpress machine, so I will be teaching them all I know about letterpress and box-making so they can fly high!

An immense round of appreciative applause out to Catalina for letting us get a sneak peek at the magic behind Puro Papel!

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