Shelley Barandes, the printer behind Albertine Press, is inspired by architecture and fine custom letterpress printing. It’s no surprise as both trades support the meticulous nature of crafting complex and carefully devised works through attentive planning and design. And like architecture’s founding core values: beauty, durability, and utility—Shelley’s letterpress printing has it in aces.
THINK INK Professionally, I am a trained printmaker who spent five years post college working in architecture in Paris and New York before coming back to printmaking, and then letterpress, where I stayed for the past nine years. I’m also a mom to two apprentice printers (4-year-old and 9-month-old girls), both of whom have grown up in the studio. I take the little one with me every day to the studio where she serves as mascot and favorite distraction.
FIT TO PRINT I have a printmaking background but was turned on to the Center for Book Arts in New York City where I took my first class in hand typesetting. That was the beginning of the end of my architecture career as I started printing more and more, taking on custom jobs and started Albertine Press.
BEAUTY IN THE BAY STATE Our studio is located in an industrial building in Somerville, Massachusetts which also houses two (yes, two) chocolate companies. Our neighbors down the hall (EH Chocolatier) routinely bring us over trays (yes, trays) of “mistakes” which we happily consume.
THE PRINTING PROCESS I design our wholesale line of greeting cards and note sets as well as much of our custom printing. Drawing from my architecture background, many of our designs feature cityscapes, which I’m particularly drawn towards. For a new city sketch I’ll do a lot of research to pinpoint iconic scenes, buildings and elements of a particular place and start sketching from there. My style of line drawing translates well to letterpress, so aside from cleaning up the images a bit, they’re ready to use for printing.
FULL TIME FUN The studio is a full time business, which was always the goal. In addition to me (and I’m behind the desk more often than behind the press these days) Albertine Press has four full time production folks who oversee the custom printing and the greeting card line, as well as two interns.
PRINTING FEATS I’m proud that our work has been recognized both locally and nationally in the press as well as for some awards. I’m also really excited to see that several of my former interns and employees have gone on to start letterpress companies of their own.
PRESS HISTORY A Kelsey 5″x8″ that I found at a flea market. The Vandercook arrived not too long thereafter so it was really just used for letterpress classes. I’m waiting for my daughter to be old enough to start using it.
BOXCAR’S ROLE All of our plates are Boxcar plates and I have printed exclusively with the Boxcar base / plate system from the beginning. The fast turnaround and super customer service and attention to detail have made it a real joy to have Boxcar as our partner. At times I look at the volume of plates we create and think about getting a platemaker, but then I think about how well you guys do it and I am just so happy to let you do what you do best, and you really do.
WHAT’S NEXT I could fill a book with my future plans, many of which I have to put on hold while I juggle the business and the girls. That said, I’m excited about the new designs planned for release in the new year – more city sketches, of course, but also some more organic designs, like fruits and vegetables.
Big round of thanks out to Shelley for letting us take a sneak peek around Albertine Press!