Big Prints at The little Blue Chair

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer. From enjoying the whirling clinking of her C&P, the heartfelt pride of raising a family (toddlers in tow), and the bliss of walking into her backyard studio, Hope’s infectious energy & passion resonates in her close-knit client relationships and breathtaking, colorful, & airy letterpress printed goodies.

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

LETTERPRESS LABOR OF LOVE In college, I focused my course training in Printmaking. I spent many hours in the basement print-lab at Louisiana State University. My hands were callused and ink covered 90% of the time, and from then on, a labor of love was born. Fast forward six years, I’ve acquired two (new to me) presses for my backyard studio. My company, THE little BLUE CHAIR has found its home in my heart.

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

INK IN THE BLOOD My first dabbling in letterpress printing was an elective class that I opted to take in college, a book arts and binding course. I always knew I loved the texture letterpress left on fine papers, but to be honest, I had NO idea how it was done. I just knew it was something I was attracted to. After a year’s worth of printmaking courses, pulling lithography and intaglio prints off of relief presses, I finally asked my professor about letterpress printing. Unbeknownst to me, I had been working in the lab 20 feet away from a Vandercook Letterpress all this time. That following semester, I enrolled in the book arts and binding course offered and I knew I had found something special.Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer. Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

HOMEGROWN STUDIO My printshop is located about 20 yards outside my back door in a Mayberry-type town near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. My first press was a tabletop Chandler and Price that sat in my spare bedroom (now home to a head-strong toddler).

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

My husband built our home, and when he began to add an outdoor living area to our garage, we decided (well, maybe I decided) that we should build a studio attachment as well. I’ve since acquired a 10×15 Chandler and Price that proudly sits in that backyard studio. With two little ones now, it’s an unbelievable blessing to be able to have my work so close to my family.

PRINTING MENTORS While at LSU, one of the professors was Kathryn Hunter, owner of Blackbird Letterpress. My book arts teacher was a grad student that worked for Kathryn for many years. They both had such passion for the art and inspired me to continue learning and perfecting the craft. 

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

DESIGNER + PRINTER As a mother, I wear many hats. I’m a chef, chauffeur, referee, and of course their mom. When I enter my studio doors, I wear the designer & printer hat (and the accountant, social media manager, business coach, and customer service). I absolutely love having both roles as the designer and printer. I feel I have maximum control over the final product and it amplifies my pride in the finished piece of work. I primarily work with the soon-to-be-wed as their personal stationery designer. My work is extremely process driven and involves a creative input from all hands involved. It becomes a true collaboration.

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

The end goal for me and my clients is to create a branded design throughout …in a way that really speaks to the wedding guests and tells the individual story. This may look like an illustrated monogram or crest, a handcrafted map of the venue’s city, along with venue illustrations that help narrate the feel of the hosted event. I love working with handmade papers as well …there’s nothing better than letterpress printing on a natural cotton, wrapped in silk ribbon, sealed with a wax seal stamp. Add on some vintage stamps and I’m a happy lady.

FULL TIME FUN Over the last five years, I have grown from part time to full time. It’s the dream to be able to wake up (walk out the back door) and have my job be what it is …creating something new every day. I’ve honestly had a hard time calling it a job, because I love it so much. People can love their jobs, right?

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar has played a colossal role in my workflow process. Since 2012, I’ve outsourced all of my platemaking to Boxcar and have had such a wonderful experience doing so. I use a polymer plate for both my Chandler and Price presses and have produced work from intricate illustrations to bold typefaces.

Down-home roots and printing passion drive Hope Johnson of THE little BLUE CHAIR, a Louisiana-based letterpress printer.

I have to give a special shout-out to the printmaking department at Boxcar. The customer service I have received over the years has been nothing short of grace & love. This crew knows what they are doing, but they have such heart for their printers and a passion for the art. Boxcar is a company I will always stand behind. 

WHAT’S NEXT This year, I am excited to be releasing a wedding stationery collection that will reflect and support as many handmade artists as possible, from the platemakers at Boxcar to the papermakers around the country. This collection will be geared towards the refined and organic bride and groom with a special story to tell. I can’t wait!

Thanks Hope for the beautiful peek into THE little BLUE CHAIR. We tip our hats to you and your amazing printing adventures and keep up the fantastic work!

Creative Flair With Callidora

Graphic-designer-turned-letterpress printer Carrie LeGrow of Callidora Letterpress + Design balances airy & dreamy perfect prints and full-time family life with creative flair to spare. From chancing upon a dusty printing press to settling into her home studio, Carrie has taken the plunge into letterpress and revels daily in the inspiration that a bit of ink, a loving & supportive family, and marveling in the little things that (printing) life can bring.

Graphic-designer-turned-letterpress printer Carrie LeGrow of Callidora balances perfect prints and full-time family life.

A PRINTING DISCOVERY My name is Carrie LeGrow and I am a designer, letterpress printer, wife, and mama to two amazing little girls ages 2.5 and 2 months. I have a BFA in graphic design and have always been drawn to the beauty of letterpress printing. I learned the art of letterpress printing shortly after receiving my degree in 2007 and happen to discover a 500lb antique printing press collecting dust in a garage in Rhode Island. Over the course of a year, I restored the old press and it is finally at home in my home studio. All of Callidora’s letterpress pieces are printed by hand printed on my Golding Pearl Press, circa 1880. 

THE DRAW OF LETTERPRESS I first got involved in letterpress by taking a one-day class offered by a local print shop. I wanted to get my feet wet and see what letterpress was all about. Of course I loved everything about it so I then signed up for a two-day course at Montserrat College of Art. And those two experiences are the extent of my “formal training”. After those courses, I decided to buy a press I came across on Craigslist. With my little Golding Pearl and minimal printing supplies, I got printing. I read a lot of blogs, watched a lot of tutorials and had a lot of trial and error. My first “job” was when I was asked to design and letterpress print a friends’ wedding invitations and the accessories that complemented their event. From there “Callidora” was born.

As I said, I have always been drawn to the beauty of letterpress printing. There is something about the tactile nature of a letterpress printed piece that was just love at first sight for me. I am also drawn to how each printed piece is given an impression that cannot be replicated by other printing methods. I find myself staring at my work from all different angles just so I can see the impression as the light hits… it is just swoon worthy. I also love the process of designing on the computer and then handcrafting those pieces to life.

Hand-feeding each piece of paper and each envelope into an antique press one sheet at a time, one color at a time is so rewarding. When you design mostly on a computer and then send that PDF away for a printing plate, it satisfies me to get that piece on press and have it come to live in such a tactile way.

BEAUTY IN THE BAY STATE My studio is located in my home on the North Shore of Massachusetts in Topsfield. With a young family, logistically, a home studio just works for me right now. I stay at home with my girls and split my time between them and working for myself. I am able to hop down to my studio and do the naptime hustle when both girls are sleeping. I am also able to work at night and on the weekends but still be close if anyone needs me. My husband totally redid the entire space for me after we moved into our home in 2012. It is cozy and has everything I need for a small print shop … the only thing we are trying to figure out is how to get my recently purchased 800lb+ Golding Jobber down a flight of steps.

Topsfield is a really historic, small town. We are lucky enough to have a few wedding venues and I am a preferred vendor at the Willowdale Estate, located in Bradley Palmer State Park. We also have a quaint downtown with a bakeshop (The Topsfield Bakeshop). They specialize in all kinds of whoopies (so good!) and and I am a sucker for their chai tea latte.

PRINTING INSPIRATION I am mostly self-taught in the art of letterpress so I do not really have any printing mentors, but there are so many fabulous printers out there doing such beautiful work and I am so inspired by them. Every time I am on Instagram I feel like I am discovering someone new that I am in love with. That is mostly where I go to get inspired and crush on other artists.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I am a designer and printer, exclusively printing my own designs. I have a BFA in graphic design and have worked at various fashion lifestyle companies and a few smaller advertising agencies as a graphic designer. During my whole career I have always loved creating art on the computer. Now as a printer, I get so much joy in not only creating, but printing and handcrafting my own pieces. It is the ultimate for me. Also, because of my design background, I will often incorporate digital printing with letterpress.

All of my wedding suites are entirely custom, which includes custom design and handcrafted, letterpress printed invitation suite. From design to letterpress printing, I handle every step of the design and invitation process. This ensures that I have complete control over the quality of my product at all times. I have yet to outsource any piece of Callidora’s invitation suites, which include everything from envelope lines to sewn photographs to letterpress linen hang-tags.

PART-TIME PRINTER, FULL-TIME FUN I stay at home with my two young girls and split my time between them and working for myself. When they are a bit older and in school, I plan to be taking Callidora full-time.

PRINTING FEATS I am really pound of making Callidora Letterpress + Design happen. It has been a dream of long standing that had finally come to fruition. During my entire career as a graphic designer, I would print here and there on the side. I always dreamed about opening my own letterpress and design studio. When my first daughter was born in 2014 I decided not to return to work full-time. I knew that this was the time to see if I could make a go at it. I took on a handful of wedding clients that year and am blessed that brides keep seeking me out ever since.

PRESS HISTORY My first press was a Golding Pearl Old Style #3. I print mostly stationery and wedding suites, and since everything is around a 5×7 size and smaller it is actually still my main press.

BOXCAR’S ROLE I would not be able to so seamlessly letterpress print my designs if it were not for Boxcar Press. I use the base with the polymer plates and it is a game changer for sure. They are reliable and consistent and that is very important when you have tight deadlines with wedding clients. 

SHOP TIPS If you run into a press or printing issue, go on briarpress.com. I have solved so many problems and gained a wealth of knowledge from their discussion pages.

WHAT’S NEXT In 2017 I hope to continue working with wonderful clients. I love working with brides on their wedding invitations, new parents on birth announcements, families on party invitations and many more custom designs for special moments. I have a true passion for creating and making exquisite pieces that feel less like invitations and cards and more like beautiful gifts.

Immensely big round of applause out to Carrie of the ever-elegant Callidora Letterpress + Design! Her amazing journey is an inspiration to us all here!

Vintage Cool: WE ARE 1976

The creative trio behind WE ARE 1976 effortlessly combines fun, eclectic, and world-wide inspirations to create hand-made letterpress paper goods in the heart of Dallas, Texas. From punches of color to fun & funky illustrations & prints, the shop is a happy culmination of the team’s love of learning, community printmaking workshops, and the ambition to keep the creative juices flowing. The crew caught us up on eight (and counting!) joyous years honing their craft, incorporating letterpress in their day-to-day lives, and enjoying the rich printing community that surrounds them.

FUNKY + FUN Hello! We’re Vynsie, Jully, and Derek and we own a small shop and letterpress design studio in Dallas, Texas called WE ARE 1976.  We opened our shop 8 years ago and we carry handmade and beautifully designed objects (ceramics, jewelry, and home goods) and paper goods (stationery, cards, and prints) from independent makers from all over the world. 

About four years ago, we started making our own line of stationery and art prints and have added custom branding, design, and letterpress printing to what we offer. We also teach printmaking workshops and host guest instructors that teach workshops such as calligraphy, water coloring, and jewelry stamping. We all grew up around the Dallas area and love being a part of the creative community here.

FIRST TASTE OF PRINTING Vynsie’s background is in graphic design. She got her first taste of letterpress and antique printmaking techniques at Graham Bignell’s Paper Conservation in London many years ago (cleaning old type cabinets in exchange for press time).

She also worked at Peter Harrington’s Rare Books (at their sister antiquarian print shop, formerly known as Old Church Galleries) which deals in rare books and antique prints made from wood, copper and steel engravings.

We carried the same vision and love of printmaking when we started our business. We have a diverse collection of art prints from illustrators, designers, printers (letterpress and screenprint) from the United States, Europe, Japan and Australia. Dallas also has a really tight letterpress community and we’ve been fortunate enough to get to work with them in various ways – the amazing people at Inky Lips PressMissing Q PressColor Box Studio, and Studio 204 were very generous with their time, expertise, and the work they shared in our shop. Five years ago we decided to make letterpress a permanent part of our shop. We started taking more letterpress workshops from places like Punch Press in Austin and San Francisco Center of the Book and with a bit of patience, we were able to locate two presses. We started printing immediately, teaching ourselves and each other.

BIG PRINTS IN TEXAS We moved to our current location because we needed a bigger space to fit our letterpress studio, which takes about half of our shop space. We’re in a charming historic district called The Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff, Dallas. We’re across the street from a wonderful pie shop, Emporium Pies, and cute shops like Green PetNeighborhood, and Wild Detective. Most of the businesses are independently owned and we feel incredibly lucky to be here. There’s also amazing food and drinks on every corner in Oak Cliff –  Small Brewpub, Hattie’sEl Si Hay and Spiral Diner. Also, The Texas Theatre is a revitalized theatre with independent programming, fun events, and they host new art exhibitions monthly at their Safe Room gallery.

PRINTING MENTORS One of our presses is from the Art Larson’s Studio Hortan Tank Graphics. When the press was shipped to use, his colleague Joe Riedel came down to help us set up and was invaluable in teaching us the fundamentals of running and operating our presses. And, as mentioned above, we were really encouraged and motivated by many in the Dallas letterpress circle – Casey McGarr of Inky Lips Press, Jason McDaniels of Missing Q Press, Rhona Warren of Color Box Studio and Kim Neiman and Virgil Scott of Studio 204. Also, in our shop, we carry work from other illustrators/printmakers that really inspire us – Daria TesslerNate DuvallNaoshiDeth P Sun and Kelly Puissegur

DESIGNERS + PRINTERS We’re both. We’re a family business and work on most projects together whether it’s just exchanging ideas initially or packaging finished projects. It’s so important for us to create unique and beautifully crafted pieces for us and for our clients so there’s lots of discussion and brainstorming before we even start designing or printing. We usually go through a few rounds of roughs and concepts before we get to a finished piece. We have a nice collection of antique type, so we work on many typeset posters, digitally design work, and use Boxcar plates.

FULL TIME FUN With our custom work, own line of stationery and our workshops we’ve been printing full-time for 4 years now. We’re lucky that we have really good team here so if we’re not printing that day, we’re designing something new, or trying to come up with new ideas. 

PRINTING FEATS As simple as this sounds, just operating these complex machines is something we’re proud of. Whether it’s just servicing the press, troubleshooting to get the perfect impression, or finding a solution for a squeaky part, learning to trust our instinct with the mechanics of these antique presses while producing beautiful high quality print work brings a new kind of confidence that we don’t get from our normal day-to-day life. We’ve been very proud to do more custom work – wedding invitations, branding projects, personal stationery. All of these moments and projects are important to our our clients and we’re so honored to be a part of it.


PRESS HISTORY Vandercook 325 and Challenge Proof Press. We have added a Vandercook 219 and tabletop Pilot.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar has made it so much easier for us to create custom work for our clients and for our own line of paper goods. Super helpful with file prep questions and any changes or adjustments. 

WHAT’S NEXT Designing and printing more! 

An amazingly large round of thanks out to Vynsie + team of WE ARE 1976. Keep up the phenomenal & beautiful letterpress work!

Big Beautiful Prints At Tiny Dog Press

While managing a Baltimore, Maryland stationery store, Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press fell in love with letterpress printing while attending a weekend class in Austin, Texas. Fast forward a few years later, and the happy-go-lucky printing gal set-up shop in her cozy (but comfortable) 20’ x 20’ garage. Packed to the brim with printing sights, smells (ah! the smell of fresh ink), and studio canine pals, Kari has carved out a slice of printing heaven at home. We caught up with the Baltimore-based printer as she talks shop about an amazing love for letterpress, urban gardening, and the kicking off a new card line.

Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press produces big, bold, and colorful prints in her cozy Baltimore-based garage printshop.(all photography courtesy of Side-A Photography)

PRINTING, PUPS, & PASSION I am a Baltimore-based, Texas native with a deep love of printing, color, and urban farming.

I am the owner of Tiny Dog Press in Baltimore, Maryland. I am married to my loving & supportive husband and we currently have 2 dogs and 2 cats who love driving me crazy by barking at every bird in our yard while I am printing.  I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art with an emphasis in Printmaking from Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

I love city life and love living in Baltimore, Maryland which has a rich history in culture and printing.

When not in the studio, I spend time planting and tending my urban farm, otherwise known as the jungle of my backyard. During summer months, I can be found leaving boxes of vegetables on neighbor’s porches.

FOR THE LOVE OF LETTERPRESS While at Baylor University and searching for a degree that would intrigue me, I landed on Studio Art in Printmaking. At the time, my most recent art class was from elementary school. The dean allowed me to take Drawing 1 and 4-1/2 years later I graduated awarded as one of the top students.

Unfortunately, Baylor did not have a letterpress. That was the only print form I did not study in college. Years later I was managing a stationery store in Baltimore and was introduced to the commercial side of printmaking. I immediately fell in love with several letterpress companies (all of who I still follow). I understood letterpress printing by concept at that point, but did not learn the actual process until a few years later when I attended a weekend class in Austin, Texas.

Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press produces big, bold, and colorful prints in her cozy Baltimore-based garage printshop.

The love of paper, smell of ink and physical labor required drew me to printmaking. I loved being able to reproduce one image and share it with multiple people. I love the feel of the impression with letterpress printing. At markets, I ask each customer if they would like to feel a card. I believe the handling of the paper and experiencing the impression gives a greater joy to the receiver of the card than one that is printed digitally.

TINY SPACE, BIG HEART Tiny Dog Press’ print shop is in my 20’x 20’ garage. We purchased our home knowing I would need a studio workspace. Few houses in Baltimore have garages and ours happens to be a detached garage which makes it into its own separate building. I love my little garage. Shortly after moving in, we renovated the space which included rebuilding 2 termite damaged walls, adding windows, a sink, new walls, cement floor, lighting and doors. At the end I was told by our contractors that it would have probably been better to do a full demo and rebuild. Little did they know that printers love restoring old and broken things in order to make new and beautiful work.

The best part about the location of my studio is that I stay within my neighborhood/community. During most months, my windows display my garden. School days I hear, see and wave to the kiddos walking past after school. During the summer months, I open the studio up for neighborhood kids to produce work with artistic mentorship. I love receiving knocks on the door from kids who know they can come in to draw, paint or print for 15-20mins before running back out to play. One young lady has been my apprentice for the past 3 years. She started with helping fold & package cards. This past summer, I taught her how to print, mix ink and general up keep of the shop.  During August, she designed and printed her own cards and then sold them at a holiday market! All of which she loved doing while it helped her push herself to new levels within her creativity and abilities to sell her products. I love when I receive random knocks on the door with kids showing me their recent design ideas! If I was in a traditional location, I know this would not happen as organically.

PRINTING MENTORS Kyle VanHorn & Kim Bently have been great mentors as I have started my business. I started Tiny Dog Press while renting print time at The Baltimore Print Studios.

Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press produces big, bold, and colorful prints in her cozy Baltimore-based garage printshop.

As for printers who inspire, I will always love the work of Kiki Smith for its artistic beauty. For commercial printers, I was first drawn to letterpress through Mr. Boddington’s Studio and Hello Lucky.

DESIGNED FOR PRINTING I am a printer at heart. From the touch of the paper to the smell of the ink, my happy place is being behind a press.  I have a love-hate relationship with the computer. I design due to its necessity to grow a design-print business. I love printing for graphic designers, which is an area that I hope to grow in my business.

Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press produces big, bold, and colorful prints in her cozy Baltimore-based garage printshop.

FULL TIME FUN I have been running Tiny Dog Press as my full-time job since March 2013. At the time, I was also running another small creative business. Now I only focus on letterpress printing through Tiny Dog Press. I have focused my business to grow organically, building the business with profits it produces. This year I will start paying myself from the business! My husband and I wanted the business to be self-sufficient from the start, so we have focused all profit back into growing the business.

PRINTING FEATS 2016 was a year of many accomplished goals within the business. Each accomplished goal brings great joy. The two that I was most proud: first time a product published in the Baltimore Magazine local shopping guide {August 2016 edition} and bringing on 5 new retail stores, one of which I had been wanting to have product at for over 3 years! 2017 has started off great with a first time mention in the Mid-Atlantic edition of The Knot Magazine!

Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press produces big, bold, and colorful prints in her cozy Baltimore-based garage printshop.

Besides those goals being accomplished, as a business I am most proud of being able to use my business for more than producing products but also to reach my community for something bigger than the stationery I produce. This past November, I was proud to organize and host the Benefit Baltimore Market that brought more than 500 people out on a cold & rainy “Giving” Tuesday evening to a local brewery in support of 5 Baltimore City non-profits. Through beer, food and vendor sales, collectively we raised $2,000 which were donated to the 5 non-profits. In August, I collaborated with a local retail store to create and sell cards that would benefit a popular area that experienced severe flooding. I love having a small business that gives back to the community where it is placed. I love having the financial ability within my business to be able to give back to the community. I hope this is something Tiny Dog Press is able to continue and grow further into.

PRESS HISTORY Besides working on presses as a college student, my “first” press is the L Letterpress. Embarrassing, but we all have to start somewhere. After taking a class in letterpress printing and not having access to a press or permanent location to house a press, I purchased the L Letterpress to print mine and a friend’s wedding invitations. I still have the press and use it for kid workshops.

After moving back to Baltimore, I was able to focus on letterpress printing by renting time at The Baltimore Print Studios printing on a Vandercock SP20. I purchased my 1949 Chandler & Price press in 2014 and finally finished restoring it in 2016!

Kari Miller of Tiny Dog Press produces big, bold, and colorful prints in her cozy Baltimore-based garage printshop.

BOXCAR’S ROLE I purchased my first printing plates from Boxcar Press back in 2010 when I was printing on the L Letterpress. Since then they have been a great resource for plates and materials. When setting up my studio, I purchased my base, ink and several small supply items through the Boxcar store.

SHOP TIPS Any advice I have, others gave to me. If you are looking to start your own print shop, don’t fret – a press will come on your radar at the right time! Don’t try to force that time to happen sooner than it should. I was working on having a C&P press shipped to me from Texas which I found in an antique store, when suddenly the press I now own came on the market and was located less than a mile from my house. Huge cost and logistics saving.

When switching to a new press, give yourself time and grace. Each press prints differently. Different is not worse or wrong, it is just different. Learn how to design towards those differences or learn how to use those differences as a positive in product development.

Also, remember to ALWAYS check your crop mark line thickness or Boxcar will call you when you are at the grocery store.

WHAT’S NEXT Spend more time in the studio designing new cards and getting my hands dirty with ink! I am also looking at hosting a kids maker camp this summer and several kid focused workshops.

Huge round of thanks out to Kari at Tiny Dog Press. Catch her amazing new work on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter! Printed goodies can be purchased here on Etsy.

Printer’s Wonderland at Ice Pond Press

Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is a self-taught, Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire. From imbibing in the lush, raw natural beauty of her home state, she translates that creative power to form airy, beautiful, and bright eye-popping colored prints.  Seven years and counting, Molly still lives up to her own inspiring words – “there are many creative ways to reach a beautiful result.” She sat down with us to talk about her new card line, creating beautiful printed goodies, and taking the time to enjoy the natural gems that surround her daily.

Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

(All photography courtesy of Susan Beth Breuner Elements of Light Photography, Emma Light Photography, and Ice Pond Press)

PRINTING MARVELS IN MONTANA I live in Bozeman, Montana by way of Utah, Colorado and Michigan. Past job titles include: dog photographer, public relations director, professional skier and cookie cart peddler. I ski, fly fish, mountain bike, trail run and pretty much eat up everything Montana has to offer, most often with my husband and big white dog. And then we drink some beer.

Blind deboss business card from Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

SELF-TAUGHT CREATIVE I don’t hold an MFA or graphic design degree, have never taken a printmaking class, and I hadn’t used a press until I purchased one so you might say I am a homespun case. I have embraced the concept that there are many creative ways to reach a beautiful result.

I’ve had my backyard letterpress studio, Ice Pond Press, for seven years. I parlayed a full-time career in public relations straight into full-time letterpress. I suddenly had a need to create something tangible by using words, images, art, ideas and gorgeous paper. The extra reward is that this work could all come together into a product that makes people happy.

Knowing I was on the search for a press, my father-in-law spotted a gigantic Chandler & Price Craftsman at his printer in Utah. After an epic journey involving several U-Hauls, massive machinery, a mountain pass and a road trip with my in-laws, we delivered my press to the studio my husband had just finished building in our back yard in Bozeman.

Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

PRINTING ABODE I feel so lucky to have my little studio. My husband BJ had his sights set on building a sauna with wood from an old family barn. Plans were under way and it really sounded nice but I jumped in with big plans for a letterpress studio. Luckily he was not only supportive but speed-built the studio (with the help of builder friends,) hanging the barn door just in time for the C&P to arrive. We rented a Spider Lift to deliver it from the driveway to the backyard. It was a tenuous trek and several tree branches haven’t been the same since. Still, the 2.5 ton press was gently placed on the studio floor on a diagonal, facing the window and allowing for a view of surrounding trees and wildlife. It is an absolute delight to be in my studio space; it offers me peace and a lovingly created space where I feel good working hard. 

Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

PRINTER AT HEART I do some of the design, particularly if it involves stick people, flowers or text-only. Mostly I work with designers; my #1 being Michael Johnson. It’s like he has a view into my brain…he can translate my heady explanations of concepts into works of brilliance.

Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

FAVORITE DESIGN SOFTWARE I love Adobe Illustrator Draw.

Red and blue traditional wedding invitation from Ice Pond Press.

FULL TIME PRINTING FUN Yes, for the past five years. (After two years of learning and printing small jobs.)

PRINTING TRIUMPHS In my early days of Ice Pond Press, I was contracted to print a poster for a private Keith Urban concert. The job forced me to purchase a large Boxcar Base which was a turning point because now I do a lot of larger format posters and art prints. I feel a personal triumph each time I collaborate with artists to create beautiful letterpress prints that allow them a different medium for their art.

Also, I’m happy & excited to be a part of the Boxcar Blog’s printer profile series!

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar is like no other partner I know. Every single time I upload an order I have the feeling that everything will be expertly done and will arrive on time. In fact, just today Rebecca fixed a phantom crop mark I didn’t even know was in my file. It’s things like that that create 100% trust. I can call and ask their opinion on how a file will work for platemaking and that helps me know if I can help a client’s wishes come true. Boxcar helps me create my weekly printing schedule because I know exactly when plates will arrive. Their efficiency helps my efficiency.

Boxcar Base in action at Ice Pond Press.Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

PRESS HISTORY My current press is my one and only: Chandler & Price 14 1/2″ x 22″ Super Heavy Duty Craftsman Press

Blind deboss business card from Molly Douma Brewer of Ice Pond Press is self-taught Montana-based letterpress printer and life-loving extraordinaire

SHOP TIPS As a self taught printer, I think everything I do might be a trick or a hack. One that’s tangible is HENRY GAGE PINS! They can take a beating and their malleability makes them invaluable. Also, crop marks on plates for pre-cut paper. I typically register by printing a blind deboss on my tympan (which is actually butcher paper,) using the impression of the crop marks to register and finally trimming off the crops before inking. Or, if my press is already inked, I tape a piece of tracing paper my setup, make an impression and then follow the same steps. 

WHAT’S NEXT I’ll roll out a talking vegetable card line and keep up with the year-round wedding season. I’m generally forging on into the wilderness of this wonderful letterpress world.

Immense round of applause out to Molly of Ice Pond Press for taking the time to let us discover the hidden printing gem in Montana’s backyard!

Banshee Press: Best Friends in Letterpress

When best friends Britt Madden and Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press set-up shop in the creative & booming city of Denver, Colorado, they sought to foster the true tradition of letterpress by raising the bar for elegance, quality and beautiful craftsmanship. Fast forward a few years later and the magnificent duo still prints perfection, adds to printing ephemera collection, and heckles one one another in good fun. The brilliantly cheery pair sat down with us to catch us up on the next moves for the shop, properly cut paper (the foundation for success!) and why you shouldn’t print & mix colors alone at night.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in ColoradoBritt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

BUILDING FROM THE GROUND UP We are a duo (Ava & Britt) born and bred in Colorado. We met in high school and have been best friends ever since. After college, many travels and odd jobs we decided to unite our creative talents and work a job we loved and built from the ground up. We both majored in print, and decided letterpress was a perfect channel for our perfectionism and design dreams, so creating Banshee was an obvious move. Out of the studio we take advantage of all the adventure Colorado has to offer and spend our free time outside with our friends and family.

THE FIRST TASTE OF LETTERPRESS Britt didn’t have letterpresses in her school, and once she graduated decided that she needed to learn. She bought a C&P 10×15 New Style on Briar Press and taught herself in her garage. Ava’s school did have letterpresses and she learned to use them while in college. We maintained our practice the best we could until we began Banshee with the purchase of our second press, the Vandercook Uni I.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

CREATIVITY IN THE CENTENNIAL STATE Our shop is located in the RiNo (River North Arts District) of Denver. It’s a concentration of creative businesses, including architects, art galleries, designers, furniture makers, illustrators, wineries, breweries, sculptors, photographers, and an array of studio spaces. The buildings are covered in murals and color and the streets bustle with evening nightlife. Our space is full of natural light, plants, and presses, and we enjoy having people come and go as they walk by. Our favorite thing about it is that we can use the space for all of our creative endeavors, not just letterpress, and encourage our friends to visit us to do so as well.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

MEET THE PRESS FAMILY Our first press was a Chandler and Price 10×15 New Style. We now additionally have a Vandercook Universal I and a Heidelberg Windmill 10×13.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT We are both designers and printers and we print designs provided by our clients as well. We have a quirky aesthetic, and enjoy designs that utilize the unique capabilities that letterpress offers.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

THE CREATIVE FLOW Normally we begin any design job with close conversations with our clients. The more information we can gather, the faster and more efficiently we can design to their needs. It saves us energy and them money. We then move into our brainstorming sketch phase where we put whatever our brains come up with down on paper.

After a “would you want that to be your logo?” elimination, we come back to clients with a variety of ideas that we narrow from there.  Sometimes we know that either Ava or Britt will be more of a fit for a particular job and will work solo in those situations, but never without feedback from the other.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

PART-TIME PARADISE We do not print full time. Britt has two young kiddos that capture much of her attention and Ava owns and runs her own business as well. Printing full time is something we wouldn’t mind, but at this point in our lives is not something we can make the time for.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

PRINTING FEATS Making it onto Boxcar’s blog!  For the past two years we have published an artist series of letterpress editions that we are very proud of and enjoy doing immensely. We recently purchased a Windmill and have taught ourselves how to use it. And finally, we are best friends in business and we still love each other with all our hearts.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar is our patient, kind, and understanding babysitter. We know the rules, and yet, we sometimes break them. They always call us with a smile to remind us of our errors before we make them. They have kept us from adding additional stress to our jobs, and consistently make this huge piece of our process easy. Thank You!

SHOP TIPS Bow down to King Reggie and make him your friend. Properly cut paper is the foundation to success. And don’t mix and print color alone at night.

Britt Madden & Ava Goldberg of Banshee Press are the best friend duo behind the beautiful letterpress pieces that are hand printed in Colorado

WHAT’S NEXT In 2017 we are going to focus more on our own designs and begin creating a line of products all our own. It’s easy to lose yourself in printing other people’s jobs, and we want to keep our aesthetic a priority. It makes everything more fun.

Immensely huge round of thanks out to Britt & Ave of Banshee Press for letting us take a peek at their printing paradise!

Learning Letters with The Alphabet Press

Like letterpress, the city of Selengor in Malaysia sits on the crossroads of both traditional techniques and revolutionary technology. The country also is home to Zeejay Wong of The Alphabet Press, a custom letterpress print shop that offers unique letterpress stationery featuring bold colors and bright imagery in the form of endangered Malaysian animals and favorite food delicacies of the country. We caught up with Zeejay to see how the letterpress journey started with an across-the-globe trip to Melbourne, Australia and resulted in a thirst to make print come alive again in Malaysia.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

HANDMADE CREATIONS I was trained as a web designer and it was my profession for eight years before I got into letterpress printing. Shifting from high speed digital works to something that seems to be technologically backward; it was truly a transition. I am now a full-time printmaker at The Alphabet Press and I enjoy creating products that are made by my own hands.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Three years ago, we were a web design company who set out to look for something special for our business cards. We believe that the first impression is very important. I have been looking for printing technique such as letterpress in Malaysia, but we lacked the knowledge and resources. We decided to fly all the way to Melbourne to learn the craft itself from Carolyn from Idlewild Press. Since then, intrigued is an understatement to how I am at awe of the attention to detail that goes into letterpress printing.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

MARVELOUS MALAYSIA I co-founded The Alphabet Press with 3 of my fellow partners. We rented a small shop in Selangor which is the second busiest town in Malaysia. Compared to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, Selangor is less busy a town with good neighborhood. Everything is easily accessible. Our shop is located in a small town in Selangor surrounded by suburban neighborhood, which fits the nature of our business and choice of lifestyle a lot.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I am both a designer and a printer. I graduated from Multimedia courses in a local university, and I was trained to do everything that design entails from graphic to video to 3D modeling, web design, and more. But now, I have found my niche, which is letterpress printing.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS Malaysia is a big pot of culture. The vibrant nature of our nation that makes up from different races, cultural, food, and architecture really inspires me. I like to observe the little things that happen around me. Before I start doing any design, I will walk around in the town to get myself some fresh air and let the surrounding inspire me. And hopefully, I can find something that interests me and make it into a design subject. There are too many things to learn in Malaysia and the only thing that worries me is that I do not have enough time and resources to make it into something tangible. I usually don’t see this as just design but the documentation of our culture.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

FULL TIME FUN Yes, I have been a full-time printmaker for two years, since we started The Alphabet Press.

PRINTING FEATS We finally released a series of social cards, notecards, and notebooks featuring the endangered animals in Malaysia and favourite foods of Malaysians. We launched the debut at Kinokuniya Book Store in Malaysia and to us, it’s more than just a product launch. We did a letterpress demonstration as well to educate people about the old craft of letterpress with the lead types we salvaged from the old printing shops around Malaysia.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

BOXCAR PRESS We’re loyal supporters of Boxcar Press! There aren’t many resources for letterpress in Malaysia, and Boxcar Press has truly been our lifesaver. We started The Alphabet Press by purchasing most of the important tools from Boxcar Press. It’s not an exaggerated statement to say, without Boxcar Press, it would be pain in the arse to start a letterpress studio here. Oh, and the videos are particularly helpful for a beginner to start to learn how to use their Heidelberg platen press.

PRESS HISTORY A 1969 Heidelberg Platen Press (Windmill). We acquired this press from an old veteran printer. At first, he was quite reluctant to let it go. It took me 2 months to convince him to sell the press to me and promise that I will take care of it. Since then, we became good friends and he is also a good mentor of mine.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

SHOP TIPS Paper is expensive for us, especially when we import most of our papers. We used to have a big margin on our printing. Now, we have reduced it to just 14mm (0.551 inches) for top and bottom and 10mm (0.393 inches) for left and right of the paper. We usually stick the plate to the very edge of our aluminum base and use a gauge for my print jobs most of the time as I require a perfect registration. Besides, I will always have rosin powder around me to fix the most irritating problem – the ghosting when I print a large blotch of colors. Apply a little bit on the roller track and it can solve most of the problems.

We follow the beautifully crafted designs of The Alphabet Press, a Malaysia-based letterpress print company that features the type-loving Zeejay Wong and his team of letterpress aficionados.

WHAT’S NEXT We will be focusing on our bespoke services. People love their wedding and business stationery printed with letterpress. Besides that, we will keep on participating in local art festivals to promote the craft of letterpress to the people in Malaysia. We want to make print alive again in our community and to upkeep the traditional printing skill that would otherwise become obsolete in the fast-moving world of technology.

Huge round of thanks out to Zeejay Wong of The Alphabet Press for letting us catch a glimpse into his vibrant printing world!

New North Press Pushes Printing Boundaries

Richard Ardagh of New North Press pushes printing boundaries by uniting technology and old-world printing traditions. The UK-based letterpress printer melds his traditional printing background, his reverence for type (and boy does New North Press have a few fonts… 700+(!) typefaces), and his love for technology. We caught up with Richard about how working with the 3-D printed typeface A23D (a first of its kind) continues to inspire him on a daily basis.

Richard Ardagh of New North Press pushes printing boundaries by uniting technology and old-world printing traditions.

LETTERPRESS IN LONDON My name is Richard Ardagh, I’m a partner of New North Press letterpress studio in London, UK. I studied graphic design at Central St. Martins and that’s where I was first got a flavour for letterpress. A few years after graduating, around 2008, I met Graham Bignell (who had founded NNP in 1986) and we began working together producing posters. In 2010, with the help of Beatrice Bless, we held an exhibition called Reverting to Type, showcasing contemporary letterpress from all over the world. New North Press is now run as a partnership, focusing on keeping the craft alive through teaching, working on commissions, and producing our own work.

Richard Ardagh of New North Press pushes printing boundaries by uniting technology and old-world printing traditions.

SHOP STORIES The building we’re in is an old shoe factory on a cobbled street in Hoxton, a previously industrial and now increasingly gentrified area of East London. The press shop is full to the rafters of type treasure. I love seeing people’s expressions when they visit for the first time. We have over 700 wood and metal fonts and three large cast iron hand-pull presses – two Albions and a Columbian – plus two proofing presses and an Adana.

Richard Ardagh of New North Press pushes printing boundaries by uniting technology and old-world printing traditions.

PRINTING MENTORS Beatrice and I are hugely fortunate to benefit from Graham’s 30 years of experience and enthusiasm.

DESIGNED FOR PRINT We set type by hand, so design is an integral part of what we do. We’re lucky to have clients who appreciate that and want to work with us because of it. It’s also an important part of our teaching to help people understand how to best communicate their intended message.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS Personally I start with a pencil and paper, getting ideas down and thinking through how to order the information. I prefer to start with a fairly clear vision, but have learnt to accept and work with the quirks of the process.

PRINTING FEATS In 2015 I ran a project to produce a 3D-printed letterpress font, with the idea of making a prototype that connected the newest and oldest forms of print technology. Thanks to an Arts Council grant I was able to commission the best people I could think of to work with: A2-Type to design the font and Chalk studios to fabricate it. The result, called A23D, is a font like no other; a wireframe design with each character made up of 0.3mm lines giving them a 3-dimensional appearance similar to an architectural plan. I’m very proud of it and hope it inspires the next generation to keep evolving what letterpress is and can be.

PRESS HISTORY Graham’s first press was the Albion and this was the press I learnt on too.

Richard Ardagh of New North Press pushes printing boundaries by uniting technology and old-world printing traditions.

PRINTING TIPS Pressmanship is a complex art, I seem to learn something on each job I print.  There are a million little tricks with hand-presses, ways of using the tympan for makeready and masking using the frisket.

WHAT’S NEXT We’ve been invited to be part of some exciting projects and also hope to attend the International Letterpress Workers Summit in Milan again.

A huge round of thanks to Richard of New North Press for letting us catch up with the delights of his printing abode.

Green printing: tips for being an earth-friendly letterpress printer

One of the biggest ways a letterpress printer (newcomers and veterans-of-the-trade alike) can make a positive environmental impact is to incorporate eco-friendly practices into their business and workflow. Actions as simple as recycling paper, re-using scrap materials, or partnering up with a non-profit organization whose vision for a greener planet is as sharp & clear as yours. We reached out to some earth-friendly letterpress printers for ideas on how to lighten your shop’s environmental footprint.

Sierra Zamarripa – Lovewild Design Sustainability is a huge priority for us at Lovewild Design. We have a full range of letterpress goods, screen printed gifts and bath products all handmade in our Brooklyn studio. We do much of our printing on a Vandercook SP-15, as most of our letterpress items are small batch. All of our papers are made from post consumer waste or renewable resources like cotton and made with the use of hydro or wind power. We also try to be pretty waste-free. Be it paper scraps, rags, etc. – everything gets reused as much as possible.

Eco-friendly Lovewild totes featuring NYC designs.

Before starting Lovewild, I worked in the public sector. This really woke me up as to how much was being wasted in day to day operations be it money, resources or materials (paper!). I knew that if I was going to do my own thing, I couldn’t in good conscious contribute to the massive amounts of waste many companies make.

We’re constantly inspired by other companies or initiatives, and we’re always looking for ways to be even more green. Eco friendly paper is a start, but is often wrapped in packaging that will end up in a landfill. We’ve switched to “plastic” that is plant based. It’s sustainably made and is compostable. Some of these materials have limits as there isn’t yet an eco plastic that is rigid. We have to be creative with our packaging to make sure it meets market standards while staying green.

Eco-friendly Lovewild coasters featuring NYC designs. Lovewild Design utilizes eco-friendly practices in her letterpress printing operations.

Alicia Rohan – A&P Design & Co. We are a custom invitation studio & letterpress print shop. We have been in business for 5 years, and we have 10×15 C&P called Lupe, and a C&P Pilot called Lola.We are all about incorporating eco friendly practices into our print shop the best we can. We letterpress on tree-free 100% cotton paper, our printing is all done manually by hand with a foot treadle. Our cutting is also done manually. We recycle all paper scrapes, plates and shipping materials.

We love that we do everything by hand. It helps to reduce errors and allows us to make sure everything is printed to our expectations. I think our brides appreciate it when they see how their invitations are printed and when they see its all done by hand they appreciate the process so much more!

A&P Design uses hand-powered printing presses to cut down on carbon footprint. A&P Design uses hand-powered printing presses to cut down on carbon footprint.

Joe & Margot Borges – Pomegranate Letterpress When we decided to jump into letterpress in 2007 and buy our first press, we made a few upfront decisions on what we wanted to be and how we were going to do it. Partly because we understood that there were already many big players, especially in the United States, and a couple in the Toronto area. So did the world need another letterpress printer? We had to carve our niche and the best thing we could do was be ourselves and make business decisions based on our values. After all, that really is the only difference between us and everyone else.

Pomegranate-IMG1

Both Margot and I are very aware of how we live our lives, and how our decisions impact the world around us. We don’t see ourselves as fanatic eco-champions, nor do we shy away from the fact that we print on paper. Our view is that we can find a way to live better by making simple personal decisions on what to buy, when to buy it and even where it buy. We shop at places we feel match our core values and to try, whenever possible, to shop local. This translates into our business goal: to lessen our environmental impact, provide a quality service and run a fun business.

Our first decision was on the types of presses we were going to go after — non-electric, non-motorized. All three of our press are hand-cranked, and that means a few things: reduced electricity use, shorter print runs and less waste. When you can only print 150-200 impressions an hour, you do everything you can to be as efficient as possible during make-ready and rarely print more than you need! This means all our wedding designs are bespoke — no catalogue and very few samples. As a result, we’ve become a well-respected, local print and design studio, working face-to-face with all our clients. When you work directly with the client you become a team and the projects are more fulfilling.

Earth-friendly letterpress printer tips from Pomegranate Letterpress

Our next big decision was our ink choice. In addition to considering the environmental impact of the ink, we wanted an ink that did not smell — our studio started in our basement and we needed something we could live with. We found and use Caligo Safe Wash inks, a smaller, independent, family run operation in Wales. The inks are non-toxic, wash up with soap and water, and there is no smell. They take a little longer to dry, and although we may not always achieve the same opaque colour and coverage as rubber inks, we feel that it’s the best choice for us and the environment. Not only are we extremely happy with the results we’ve achieved, so are our clients, and we recommend Caligo to any fellow printer who has ever asked.

Next: paper. Trust us, we appreciate the irony of printing on paper while promoting an environmentally sustainable conscience. We are constantly searching for papers that maximize the recycled content and give preference to Certified Processed Chlorine Free paper (PCF). Whenever possible, we look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. We have also tested other non-tree paper but we have to ensure they work well with our inks. It’s difficult to find paper for letterpress that fits all these criteria and in smaller quantities for craft printers. We use Neenah Classic Crest, which is manufactured Carbon Neutral and is Green-e certified. We also love using Saint-Armand, Crane Lettra and Mohawk Strathmore.

Some of our most popular products have been created from the off-cuts of other projects. Our PomeMini cards and gift tags are printed on the remnants from wedding invitations, our PomeNotebooks are made from repurposed posters and the inside sheets are art paper we found in the garbage. Last year we purchased some cutting dies destined for landfill. One of them was a Christmas Ball ornament. We had a few Christmas cards that weren’t selling well and with a few passes through the press we had brand new ornament cards — a popular items at the fall craft shows. If a product isn’t working, why not give it a new life?

“Going green” for some is a fad, or something to attract more customers. For us, we don’t see ourselves as “green,” we just try to be sustainable and it’s truly how we roll. Pomegranate is an extension of Margot and I together, and the core values we live by. We print everything from wood and metal type, to polymer plates and lino carving. In our studio, we currently have a Vandercook SP15 proof press, C&P Pilot table top platen and a small Showcard press. We have a very nice collection of wood and metal type as well. We love what we do, and we love when people appreciate letterpress.

Jeff Marrow – Percolator Letterpress Co. We are located in Austin, Texas, a community that is very mindful of the environment and green business practices. At our shop, we try to minimize our environmental impact as much as possible. In Central Texas, water conservation is a top of mind issue. It can be very hot and dry down here, which means we run the air conditioner a lot during the summer months to keep the shop at a practical working temperature and low humidity level. In addition to making cool air, the A/C also makes a lot of distilled water. We harvest this water and are able to use it in many ways including watering plants, trees, and grass, which then take greenhouse gases out of the air as they grow. The A/C does use electricity, but our philosophy is to maximize all the benefits we can from any machine in the shop.

Baum cutter at Percolator Press.

To further save on electricity, we chose a Baum paper cutter with a motor that only activates when a cut is made. It is a tremendously efficient machine. Also, our Heidelberg 10×15 Windmill is a very efficient marvel of engineering. The GE electric motor that runs the powerful press pulls very little electricity relative to its production output.

Finally, we have a shop-wide recycling and hazardous waste disposal program.  Austin has a wonderful single-stream recycling program that allows us to recycle nearly 100% of our scrap papers and plastics.  In addition to recycling paper, we are able to reuse some of the larger paper scraps in other project and we donate some paper scraps to a local kindergarten class for art projects. The kids love it!

Furthermore, the Heidelberg has a very clever, quick-clean mechanism that allows us to reclaim the hazardous cleaning solvents to be disposed of safely at Austin’s hazardous waste disposal facility.  Also, the rags we use to clean the press are old clothes at the end of their wearable usefulness that we purchase from a large used clothing facility.

We are always looking for ways to be more eco-friendly and efficient in our shop.  We love what we do and strive to create sustainable practices to help us create beautiful stationery, while doing our best to protect our natural environment.

Annika Buxman – De Milo Design Studio & Letterpress De Milo Design Studio & Letterpress is a small shop located in South Pasadena, California. Two treadle presses (Franklin Gordon and C&P), one Vandercook SP15, and two C&P Pilot presses get the work done. One wiener dog named Frankie helps out when she’s not busy sleeping on top of a paper stack.

Annika Buxman of De Milo Design Studio & Letterpress gives back as an eco & fair trade paper printer & user.

I think being “earth friendly” and “global friendly” go together. In 2007 I was fortunate to meet some fair trade artisans in Bangladesh who, along with making beautiful paper, have created a supportive and safe community for rural women who have few options for employment. I call the paper line “Sustain & Heal” because the goal is to sustain the earth and heal lives that have been adversely affected by poverty and cultural systems detrimental for women. It’s been so fun to meet customers who also care about these things. I’ve learned a lot from them and they’ve helped to shape the product.

We do other things like using Ecolo Clean press wash, soy inks, and regular trips to the hazardous waste drop off instead of dumping film chemicals down the drain. Also a lot of tricky trimming at the cutter so we get very little paper waste. We save the trim for use in handmade papermaking.

Annika Buxman of De Milo Design Studio & Letterpress gives back as an eco & fair trade paper printer & user.

I am inspired by observing and admiring other people who live close to the earth. My grandparents on both sides of our family were farmers. They composted and reused everything. I’ve met many urban farmers who continue the same practices. I watch them and try to follow their examples.

I used to do all kinds of design acrobatics to detract from the fact that the eco paper is not as bright white. Lots of floods with bright inks and overall patterns. Now I don’t mind the less bright paper and design more simply.

Amy Worsham – Typanum Press Since our last visit, our home studio has grown into a garage shop. Our original and ancestral 5×8 Kelsey Excelsior was joined this spring by a new style 10”x15” Chandler & Price. While proving harder to fit in our living room, the larger press has helped us to expand our capabilities and turnaround time in so many ways. We continue to offer a wide range of services including full design, hand-set type, mixed media prints, and social stationery, all with the ability to handle more jobs and with increasing complexity.  We pride ourselves in our environmentally friendly practices, from press and energy usage, press inking and clean up, to paper selection and packaging. This has been an easy process for us to implement for a number of reasons.

In many ways letterpress printing has an inherently low environmental impact. Merely by continuing to maintain and use our antique presses, rather than committing them to the landfill every couple of years, we, as letterpress printers, are retaining energy. Many of these presses use hand or minimal electric power (like our C&P). In addition to this, advances in ink and the increased interest in post-consumer paper have greatly reduced the waste and toxicity of the letterpress printing process.

Eco-friendly printing at Tympanum Press with Amy Worsham.

Like many other printers, we made the switch from oil to rubber based inks for a variety of reasons. We did a lot of research when we first began stocking our shop. We had a good deal of leftover oil-based inks that worked just fine, and were almost as old as the press, but for our situation, I wasn’t interested in using harmful chemicals with each press cleaning. We printed for a long time inside our home, with young children afoot and I use a lot of natural cleaning products with my home cleaning, why would I want dangerous and flammable chemicals in the house? Not only do we appreciate the print quality and shelf life of the rubber-based inks, but the lack of the need to use harsh solvents during cleanup has been a game changer, especially when we were printing out of our kitchen. Because we mix all of our specialty colors by hand, as needed, we also use very little ink.

For basic cleanup, we use vegetable oil with old cotton rags and newspaper. This quickly and easily removes the ink from the press but leaves an oily residue that will prevent proper inking on the next job. We had been using Bestine or other solvents [e.g. mineral spirits] to remove this, however acting on the recommendation of my fellow printer friend, Martha Beason of nearby Little Cricket Letterpress, we have switched to using a solution of dawn soap and vinegar. It works quite well and has no fumes or other noxious effects.

All our primary choices for paper are tree-free, recycled, or produced using alternative energy sources. This has been relatively easy to achieve as these types of paper often tend to lend themselves best to the letterpress process! In cutting, we order paper sizes that best match the project intended so we have very few scraps. For the times that we do end up with scraps, we are rarely at a loss to find use for them.

Eco-friendly printing at Tympanum Press with Amy Worsham.

Packaging is, many days, the bane of my existence. It is with great difficulty that I can convince myself to throw away materials that could be reused. Depending on which day on the week you visit the shop, it may look like a trash heap or an episode of Hoarders, but the truth is, I can’t throw any of my vendor packaging away. Because of this, my customers usually receive their orders in reused boxes. There are many ways to both creatively and professionally decorate a used box to allow for continued use. I am also constantly on the lookout for better, more sustainable ways to package our goods.

Eco-friendly printing at Tympanum Press with Amy Worsham.

Letterpress is a tradition born in a era where sustainability was just as much about economy as ecology, and we find that the same still holds true today. If we truly value our environment, its worth considering our waste for a wide variety of reasons.

We order a fair amount of Boxcar plates, but with good storage technique & care, we’ve found that we’ve been able to continue to use most of our Boxcar plates again and again. We’ll be sending them back for recycling once they are too cracked and brittle for use. We’ve recently taken on the task of creating recycling signs for local offices & friends in town and can’t wait to distribute them!


What does your shop do to help reduce your carbon footprint while creating eco-friendly letterpress goods? Share your tips in the comments section below – we’d love to hear from you! Interested in more ideas? Check out the different ways we’re a green print shop.

Looking for printers to join the new Etsy Manufacturing Marketplace

Today we’re sharing some big news from Etsy, who recently introduced an exciting new opportunity for letterpress printers. For those of you who don’t know Etsy, it’s a marketplace where people people make, buy, and sell unique goods. Etsy has grown over the last ten years to support over 1.5 million designers selling their products online. As these designers grow, they need production help to scale.

Etsy manufacturing is an exciting new opportunity for letterpress printers

As part of this next step, Etsy has announced Etsy Manufacturing, a new marketplace connecting manufacturers to Etsy designers. Printing is one of the largest categories in need of manufacturing help on Etsy. The great thing about working with Etsy designers is that they appreciate the quality and the craft of the letterpress as much as anyone. 

The goal of Etsy Manufacturing is not to inundate businesses with irrelevant inquiries, but to provide quality leads that will result in long term partnerships. When someone contacts you through Etsy Manufacturing, you can browse their shop and products to make sure it’s a fit on both sides. You can also make a beautiful online profile for your business – accessible to anyone – in just a few minutes. Here’s an example featuring Orlando-based letterpress print shop Mama’s Sauce

Etsy manufacturing is an exciting new opportunity for letterpress printers

Interested? It only takes a few minutes to apply and (in case you were curious) there’s absolutely no cost. You can learn more and apply at www.etsy.com/manufacturing/apply.