Pursuit of Happiness with Papypress

In the hustle and bustle of the rapidly changing Singaporean landscape, Corby of Papypress is methodically calibrating her Windmills and Adanas. Outside of her shop, one might see technology blurring faster than oil-based ink dries on rollers, but inside, Corby muses over reviving letterpress in a sea of mass printing and fast-paced technological pursuit while discussing the future of letterpress.

Papypress is a letterpress print shop based in Singapore

(photo: Corby’s printing partner, Ian, and fun letterpress goodies)

THE PRESSES We have six presses for letterpress; two 8×5 Adana’s, two 10×15 Heidelberg Windmills, one 8×5 Kelsey Excelsior, and one 10×7 Floor Model Platen. We also have one 2-color GTO and one 1-color RYOBI for offset.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP It’s 1600 square feet, which is awfully small as it needs to house all the above machines, our stacks of papers, as well as 10 people!

TYPE OF SHOP  It’s an industrial building that we own a unit in on the 5th level. We have been in this location for 13 years and it’s still serving us well.

THE LOCATION It’s in an old flatted factory located 10 mins from town. The area that we are in has some of the best local food, so we never really have to go hungry even when working till the wee hours of the morning. It’s many Singaporeans’ favorite supper haunt.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP I love the smell of inks and paper! The production room has always been my favorite, and the whole space is what we call an organized mess. Our prized possessions are obviously all of our letterpress machines and lead type, as they are almost impossible to find locally. All of our overseas trips are spent sourcing for more type and machines ever since we started reviving letterpress in Singapore.


MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL It’s undoubtedly the Heidelberg Windmill. It can do practically anything! Even after so many decades, the windmill can still create beautiful prints that elicit feelings of intrigue and awe in people. It never fails to amaze me each time I discover something new I can do with it.

FAVORITE INK We use oil based inks. We usually hand mix colors ourselves hence the collection of little boxes of pre-mixed pantone colors. Papypress loves bright colors. Pantone 806 in particular.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE If it’s the Adana a little squirt of kerosene and 2 sheets from my phone directory will do the trick! It’s the fastest and cleanest way I have been taught.

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE Handed down from an old print shop, it’s a solid piece of aluminum block with self-made grid lines. I know it’s a far cry from the Boxcar base, but it’s what we have been using since we got the press.  I have wood blocks lying around too, but use them only if I want more “Retro” prints. Most times we just stick to polymer plates.

We live halfway across the globe in Asia, where the rapid pursuit of technology and mass printing has meant that there is now a death of letterpress related equipment and accessories here. I probably only know of one other active letterpress printer in Singapore. Supplies are a pain to get here and I usually get them shipped in from the US or UK.

OIL OF CHOICE We’ve been using SDM-801, seems to work well for us. Takes some time before it starts dripping.

WHAT TYPE OF RAGS DO YOU CLEAN UP YOUR PRESSES WITH Definitely old tees. Once in a while a Spiderman or Superman shirt comes along, Pokemons are really common!

FLOORING MATERIAL Concrete. It’s the best in my opinion. It’s easy to clean and mop. Some ink blotches here and there, but inevitable in any print shop I guess.

FLOOR PLAN TIPS I like to have everything around me. Within reach. Always make sure there is enough space to push a little trolley on which you can place your papers around.

PIED TYPE Plenty, especially since we buy bags of types from overseas since the circulation of type in Singapore is almost zero.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE Whenever you take something, just make sure you put it back in the same place! Somehow the human brain is able to build a map of where everything is after a while…

PRINTING ADVICE Post-It notes/pads! I have lots of them around. Whenever you need to increase the packing in a certain area, just slap one of these on the draw sheet for a quick fix! It’s removable and can be easily moved around. Tape and paper tend to damage the drawsheet.

Papypress is a letterpress print shop based in Singapore.

Many thanks to Corby at Papypress for giving us a behind the scenes look at their Singapore letterpress shop!

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