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.
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!