What to do with excess paper

Letterpress printers get to work with some of the most luxurious, gorgeous paper on earth, but what’s a printer to do with all the extra paper that piles up after a job is finished? We asked letterpress printers from all over the country about the unique ways they’re giving new life to paper scraps, discontinued products, printing goofs and excess inventory, and we’re feeling particularly inspired by the answers!

Here at Boxcar Press (also home to Smock and Bella Figura), we move excess paper and product in a variety of ways. Beyond our regular green printing efforts (we have a weekly pickup from the Empire Recycling Company and we reuse paper scraps in the office for notes), we have a few events to move out excess product and sell items that would otherwise just gather dust. We started hosting a Sidewalk Sale to sell slightly imperfect cards, notebooks, gift wrap, boxes, and more at extremely low prices. Partnering with local food trucks has been a great way to boost attendance and make the event really fun! If you’re near the Syracuse area, our 2014 Sidewalk Sale will take place on Wednesday, August 13 and Thursday, August 14 from 11am-5:30pm.

Smock's 2013 Sidewalk SaleSmock's 2013 Sidewalk Sale

In addition to the Sidewalk Sale, we also invite teachers from the Syracuse City School District to come in and stock up on papers for their classroom projects during our annual paper giveaway in October. We save excess envelope liners, paper scraps, and envelopes throughout the year, and the teachers stock up and put these offcuts to good use.

Teachers_MG_8957Every October, Boxcar Press organizes a paper giveaway for local teachers in the Syracuse City School District

Igloo Letterpress of Worthington, Ohio — We are part of a few neighborhood Facebook “freecycle” groups and every time we have a stack of extra cardboard, paper scraps, or even unused furniture or supplies, we post a picture on Facebook and let people know they can come grab what they like from a shelf on the porch. We are very connected to a few elementary schools and the local preschool in the neighborhood, so we often bundle up boxes of usable scraps and pass them on. There are also some great arts companies, guilds and groups in Columbus that call us every once in a while to see what we might have – we are never short on paper to give away!

With our seconds, we organize them into our bathroom-turned-sample-room and are generous in giving them to future clients. We love being able to send clients home with a stack of beautiful letterpress items to remember us by. For discontinued items and styles, we clearance them in our retail shop, and gift them to lucky customers as a bonus for a sale on other items. It’s always nice being able to use a few extras to smooth over a rough transaction, and fun being able to offer a bonus card for a large online order.


Sugar Paper of Los Angeles, California — At Sugar Paper, we take recycling very seriously. All scraps that result from die cutting or misprints on the letterpress machines are recycled on a weekly basis. We have 2 bins in the pressroom dedicated to recycling. Any extra inventory or discontinued items are all part of our sample sale that occurs in the spring right here at our Los Angeles studio (and they are sold with crazy low discounts!) If we have paper that we haven’t used and will no longer need for any of our products (think extra envelopes or discontinued paper stock), we post the news of extras on our social media channels and give local schools and programs a chance to come pick them up. The photos below are from our sample sale last spring.


Jenni Undis of Lunalux in Minneapolis, Minnesota — I am thrifty and resourceful by nature, so we reuse as much as we can at Lunalux. We’re lucky to have a retail boutique and a letterpress studio in the same space – we can re-purpose even the smallest scraps and off-cuts, and sell them directly to the paper-obsessed people who will appreciate them the most. If we end up with extra stock from a custom project, or big-ish scrap, we print whatever suits our fancy and turn it into a little product on the shoppe. The shelves here are full of small-run notecards, notepads, bookmarks, and tags. Odd bits of blank paper are bundled with bakers twine and sold for a dollar (perfect for DIY gift tags, place cards, etc.) Make-ready, mis-print and over-print posters are reincarnated as notebook covers. We’ll even trim the decorative elements off old invitation samples and pair them with tiny envelopes – fancy, limited-edition gift cards! If it ends up in the recycle bin, it’s pretty dirty, small, non-descript, or otherwise useless.

We recently had a “Paper by the Ounce” sale. We pulled out boxes and boxes of discontinued wholesale products and sold them for $1 per ounce. People bought pounds. A nice way for us to send useful, cute stuff out into the world and make room on our shelves.


Haute Papier in Arlington, Virginia — Scraps take on a whole new life once they become the skinny strips that are left after we cut our papers down for liners.  We use the “bands” as we call them to wrap our boxes of stationery before they ship out to our stores.  And because we have WAY more strips than we could ever use, we also donate them to elementary schools for their art programs.

Since we never make mistakes, we don’t have seconds…. just kidding.  We often use these in house for writing notes to our stores and sending little treats along with our orders.  For discontinued items, we sell by the bundle, give to schools, and try an inventive sale idea.


Smudge Ink in Charlestown, Massachusetts — We schedule paper giveaways for local teachers, art instructors and community leaders. They come for a 3 hour period and clear out our excess paper and envelopes. This is usually posted on social media. We also have a yearly holiday Sip and Shop and have a few bargains for people in addition to our new products.  Some of the proceeds from that event go to the Greater Boston Food Bank, so we have the satisfaction of helping, too.


Matthew McNary of Hammerpress in Kansas City, Missouri — We recycle the majority of our paper scraps on a weekly basis. Occasionally, our folks get creative inspiration and repurpose the scraps for interesting things (like dog jewelry) or personal projects. If the scraps aren’t too small (and are somewhat uniform in size), we’ll store them and reuse them for projects that fit smaller press sheet sizes (like business cards or hang tags) or for our own small printed materials. For example, our last run of business cards were printed from scraps of a postcard project.

Twice a year, we gather all our misprints, make-readies and discontinued product for a big sale. All cards go for $1 and larger sheets sell for $3-$7. It’s proven to be a great way to offer some great deals to our customers while giving us the opportunity to open up some storage space and generate a little revenue from paper that would otherwise be gathering dust or taking up space in a landfill somewhere.


Joey Bordega of Mama’s Sauce in Orlando, Florida — We do lots of recycling. In fact, we’ve got a 4 yard dumpster specifically for recycling that gets picked up weekly.  All of our excess, unusable paper goes in there.  Sometimes, a project will leave a usable amount of paper left behind.  If it’s one of our house stocks, we trim it down to one of our commonly used sheet sizes (maybe 4UP or 16UP business cards) so that it’s ready to go next time we need it.  If there’s something left from a more uncommon paper order, we’ll add it to an internal inventory at a highly discounted rate so our consultants can try to use it on an incoming project that could benefit from that paper.  On occasion, we’ve given leftover paper to a local school teacher to use for art class.  We love paper and try to use every square inch!


What does your shop do to help move excess paper? Share your tips in the comments section below!

The Letterpress Roundtable VI: Letterpressing the Issue

With the 2012 election just a week away, we thought it’d be fitting to poll some of the printers we admire to see how they’re using letterpress to inspire political change. The results are in, and they’re poignant, humorous, intelligent and – above all – stimulating. We gathered some of letterpress’s best for the sixth installment of our letterpress roundtable discussion in an effort to light the way for what is yet to come. Read the stirring responses this group has to offer and be sure to tell us about your own projects in the comments section below!

Sarah Meyer Walsh & Erin Miller – Haute Papier

We love our political coasters – which represent both sides of the current political culture – because they are fun and flashy.  No matter where any one person falls in the political divide, it’s important to vote and that was our focus with the political coasters!  Plus, we think they’d be a ton of fun for an Election Night Party. And we just can’t call ourselves proud Washingtonians without getting a great product to market that represents our area’s past-time – national politics!


My artist’s books often relate to political content and encourage change. I have been creating them collaboratively in weekend workshops that I teach for beginning letterpress printers. The classes are taught in my home studio through the University of Washington Experimental College. The books are conceived, designed and directed by me with the participation of whoever shows up for the workshop that weekend, so there is often a surprise element in the content and direction of that content. At the end of the two-day workshop, each participant gets five copies of a finished book which has been produced in at least two, if not more, colors/press runs.

Pictured above is my “Homeland Security” artist’s book, and the project below is “A Primer for Democracy”. The primer’s main theme, VOTE, is repeated and reinforced: CALL and/or FAX your elected representative, often, because your voice – and everyone’s voice – matters. Essentially, this alphabet book [printed on a 10 x 15 Chandler & Price] can be constructed, reconstructed and deconstructed in countless ways. Like democracy, as a completed structure, “A Primer for Democracy” is a little bit wobbly and requires care in constructing and maintaining.


Our first project, “PARTY PEOPLE IN THE HOUSE: Who will it be? Presidential Election 2012” is a set of 11 coasters, bearing the faces of American politicians. We thought it would be interesting to capture the facial expressions of these desperate politicians during this US presidential election, and create a coaster set which could appeal not only to those who are interested in politics, but also to those who couldn’t care less one way or the other…or better yet, to people who hate politics, but can find humor in it. Our intention is to make people think and talk about serious issues with a little humor, or even just to look at them.

The expression, “PARTY PEOPLE IN THE HOUSE” obviously stands for the political parties and the White House. (It is also intended to portray these characters as party people, who you may invite to a house party…and that they would be “in ‘da house!”.. which has been borrowed from street slang, but is cleaned up a bit in spelling). This product is not to be taken too seriously about political opinions, but with irony and humor. When you open the box, all the party people come out and sit with you while you drink! You can make a toast to your favorite politician, or make a stain on your least favorite one.

Each original illustration was hand-drawn and printed on a vintage letterpress (Adana 8×5), then edge painted by hand.


As far as my own work in letterpress, I use it almost entirely to support my photographic work, which is centered around recording local farming traditions and preserving local history as it is slowly stamped out (from an on-the-ground perspective that is, whilst the City of Portland would call themselves great preservationists…).  There is this idea that in order to move forward as a city and as a county, we have always to be looking ahead and shedding our skin, and what nobody realizes is that the system that accomplishes this on a base level, also runs family off their land and out of houses that they may have had for generations and generations.

My family has been on the same land that I live on since 1863.  Within my lifetime, I expect to see our ability to stay here challenged and quite probably yanked from under our feet.  Most immediately, my passion is to record everything I can about the small community that I live in, stories, images, [letterpress], textures, etc., and further down the road, I’m tinkering with some legislation that I’d like to see passed that would give protection to longstanding farms and encourage them to become centers of family identities. It is my hope to raise social awareness of immigration laws and their immediate effects.

Within all that, printmaking and photography in various forms play a central role.  The ability to capture just about everything but sound and taste is hugely important, as all the work I produce will eventually become key to my argument for protective legislation, as well as a dedicated record of the existence of everything that exists here, should it ever fall away.


We don’t print shirts.

No really, we just don’t do it. We’re a strictly paper-based shop and we like it that way. But, every 4 years, we arrive at a time that we feel is important enough for us to break this hard and fast rule. So, for the second election in a row, we printed PLEASE VOTE and PLEASE F*CKING VOTE shirts (and this year, totes too). Election posters have a rich history in the world of screen printing and letterpress, but we wanted a more mobile, thought-provoking item and T-shirts fit the bill.

Our message was deliberately simple, nonpartisan, and clear. Just VOTE. And if you REALLY felt strongly about it, “Please F*cking Vote”. By making shirts and totes, we found ourselves reaching an audience in a completely different way. The message became a quick reminder to the public and often, a conversation starter. We support the idea that everyone has their own stance, reasoning, and beliefs that will shape their vote, and that’s great. We have our preferred politicians and so do you. At best, we hope the shirts open a dialogue and encourage everyone to stand for what they believe in, and take it to the polls on November 6th.

Please Vote.

Jill Morrison – Ruff House Art

We here at Ruff House Art are proud to offer an eco-friendly line of letterpress products that push the boundaries of traditional stationery. When we decided to launch our line of political coasters (which are printed on 100% biodegradable paper) we just wanted people to get excited and involved in the upcoming election. It is important to stay knowledgeable & involved, and if our coasters can act as a reminder to vote, a conversation starter or merely a touch of patriotic decor, then we high-five that! Our entire election coaster line is on sale right now, too — 35% off while supplies last!

If you’ve got photos online of your work that stirs the mind and you’d like to share them, please include a link to the photos in your comment! We are taking the inspiration one step further and offering 10% off election-related plate orders retroactively until November 30, 2012.

Boxcar Talk with Haute Papier

When planning her wedding three years ago, Sarah Meyer Walsh couldn’t find anyone who could customize her wedding invitations, which ultimately served as her inspiration in launching Haute Papier. Her business partner Erin Miller joined her about a year later and they’ve teamed up in creating a stationery business that places equal value on high design and top notch printing. With two locations, Haute Papier is a luxury letterpress studio dedicated to couture letterpress, specializing in high end custom wedding invitations and stationery, including a selection of custom designs, fine stationery and gift items. Their stationery is available in more than 80 stores across the US and Canada. With their two locations and expanding retail collection, they managed to squeeze in some time for a little Boxcar Talk:


How did each of you first get into letterpress?

Of course, any stationery designer certainly loves the look of letterpress. Prior to doing our own printing we would farm out the work to local printers – printers who we are proud to still call friends (and who we call on when we have a question about our presses!) We really really loved when our clients chose letterpress for their invitations and thought the one thing missing was knowing how to print ourselves. So we took a one day class in the basement of a letterpress hobbyist in Alexandria, Virginia. He was a super nice guy, but here we are two young ladies in a dingy basement hand cranking a tabletop press and just thinking we were so cool to be setting type and mixing ink and having a blast. To this day I’m not too sure what our instructor thought of us or our enthusiasm for letterpress. I think we quite overwhelmed him! Well, at the end of our class he handed us a copy of a newspaper dedicated to the letterpress community and in the back was a classified section. We honed in on our press, called the owner and purchased the press within 20 minutes of leaving our workshop. Now mind you, the press we bought was in Pittsburgh. We would go up and officially adopt her a few weeks later. And that is another the story in of itself. A story for another time perhaps!

What was your very first press (and are you using it still)?

A Golding Pearl 7×11. You may call her Pearl (we call her the gobbler)! She is semi-retired but still does a mean job on our envelopes!

What medium do you usually print (lead/wood type, photopolymer, lino, etc.)?

Photopolymer plates from Boxcar (specifically KF152)

What’s your process from sketch to press?

We love to draw! Our hand drawings and sketches form the foundation of our new designs. We also LOVE vintage images and sometimes incorporate those into our designs as well. So, from our doodling, we turn the designs into reality in CS4 and CS5 (depending on which computer we’re working on). Then we order plates from Boxcar and the rest, as they say, is history.

What other print shops do you admire?

We’ve always admired Studio on Fire for their ability to print anything!

What do you love about working with Boxcar Press?

Cathy Smith, of course! (read: wonderful customer service.) Of course, the quality plates keep us coming back for more!

Any neat tricks you can share?

I don’t know if we have any neat tricks, but I will say a deep breath goes a long way at times.

Who or what inspires you the most?

We find inspiration in so many different things. Right now, we’re in love with a bunch of photos that Sarah took of the amazing architecture in Argentina this past spring!


What’s next for Haute Papier?

We’re in the process of expanding our cash and carry lines and look forward to introducing it to our retailers!

What was the experience like for you at the National Stationery Show? Do you have any suggestions for people hoping to exhibit?

We love NSS! We’re going on exhibiting for our third year and love meeting new dealers and reconnecting with our current dealers. It’s also a nice time to meet fellow printers. As we all know, NSS is a costly undertaking so we really try and kill it! We are excited to be there and ready to talk everyone’s ear off who will listen to us about Haute Papier! It’s really about making the most of our week.

Thanks so much, ladies, for sharing a little insight about Haute Papier! For more about Sarah, Erin, and Haute Papier visit their website.