Boxcar Talk with Satsuma Press

Can we use the word impressed without the pun? Because the woman behind Satsuma Press impresses us to no end. Lynn Russell is not only a self-taught designer, but runs her letterpress shop full time all the while being a wife and mother to Liam, a child with neuromuscular disorder called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 2. This lady has her hands full but was kind enough to let us dip into her life and learn more about her one-woman operation.

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WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO BECOME AN ARTIST? HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO LETTERPRESS?

I took my first letterpress class nine years ago and it was love at first sight. I didn’t set out to become an artist; in fact, I hadn’t taken any sort of art class at all since high school. For me, letterpress was simply the right fit. Letterpress printing is hands on work that requires an eye for detail and design.

WHAT WAS YOUR VERY FIRST PRESS?

A Vandercook SP-15, which I still have, in addition to a Heidelberg Windmill. The Vandercook is my trusty, slow paced machine; the Heidelberg is a tempermental beast (but when it’s happy, it is amazing.)

WHAT MEDIUM DO YOU USUALLY PRINT?

Photopolymer (from Boxcar)

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WHAT’S YOUR PROCESS FROM SKETCH TO PRESS?

I find inspiration from so many things – botanical drawings and vintage textiles in particular. I sketch everything in Illustrator now, but it often takes several rounds of revisions before I feel that a drawing is ready for press. With Illustrator, it’s fairly easy to make small adjustments to lines and shapes (although probably not as easy as it could be as I have no formal training in graphic design or any of the computer programs that go with that!) It’s also easy to play around with color choices – though sometimes I change my mind about this right when I go to press.

WHAT OTHER PRINT SHOPS DO YOU ADMIRE?

In no particular order –

I love Julie’s work – beautiful drawings, lush paper, rich colors. Studio Olivine
I am consistently blown away by the registration and attention to detail over at Studio on Fire.
I love the simple, peaceful work Rebecca does at Moontree.
Not letterpress but xylene transfers…stunning graphics, amazing prints. Beauchamping

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WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU THE MOST?

I’m inspired most by people who do what they love – the very best way they can, with integrity. There are several people/studios that embody this philosophy with all sort of mediums. I admire them all immensely.

Heath Ceramics
Moop
Herriott Grace
Modaspia
Skinny laMinx
Bookhou
EmersonMade

HOW HAS LIAM INFLUENCED YOUR WORK?

Soon after I bought my first press, I found I was pregnant with my son, Liam. I worked only sporadically then – and even less so from the time Liam was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disorder called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 2 at 14 months until he was two and a half. (Read more at Liam’s blog.) After that, though, I slowly returned to my small studio. In that space, I found both solace and inspiration. I learned as I went along – making mistakes often, yet loving the process. Years later, I still make mistakes, learn from them and love printing. While my work has evolved over the years, I have stayed true to my original aesthetic – good, simple design that is pleasing to the eye and mind; refreshing color and lush paper; plenty of open space and quiet, graceful beauty.

Satsuma Press is still just me (and my 2 printing presses) – and I like it this way. I still design and print everything by myself, although I collaborate with other artists around the world on occasion. I still answer every email and pack every order. My husband helps out from time to time, but mostly I spend my days in the studio alone. Some days I work just a few hours, some days I work fourteen hours. I keep my schedule somewhat flexible for all the things that may come up for my family. Through it all, my intent remains the same – small-scale, honest work done well.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT WORKING WITH BOXCAR?

Well, not a thing or an item, but Cathy at Boxcar has provided endless amounts of help to me, from the time when I was just getting started and even now. It’s really nice to have a small company to work with over the years. Also, the Boxcar Base is pretty nifty and I have one for each of my presses.

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ANY NEAT TRICKS YOU CAN SHARE?

No, not really a tricks kind of person…but two things I can share, that I’ve learned over the years – and which I need to be reminded of more often than I’d like to admit are these:

Don’t print late at night. This seems unavoidable sometimes (for me this is usually in early fall when I’m trying to get my calendar printed), but more often than not, I make mistakes that I’m too tired to catch at the time. Do I still print at night? Yes, on occasion, but I try to make it something simple, like printing my logo on the back of each card.

If a client doesn’t seem like a good fit at the start, s/he probably isn’t. It’s better to face this up front and at the beginning, rather than further down the line when it causes more difficulty for everyone.

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WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO?

I do have new projects that I’m excited about! I actually just did my first jewelry collaboration on a lovely little necklace.

Be sure to check out Satsuma Press’s shop. It’s never too late to order some 2011 calendars! (Especially when they’ve been designed and printed with love.)

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