When Michael first met Patricia, she saw his printing press and said, “I’ve always wanted to have a greeting card company.” That’s all it took. Three years later, the duo has over 200 card designs via Sweet Bippy Press; a 1,000-square-foot shop, and is having more fun than adults should be allowed to have.
As co-owners, Michael and Patricia love coming up with ideas for new cards. For the last 30 years, the pair has been honing their skills—Michael in national consumer advertising and Patricia in sales and customer success. It’s a perfect match (the title of one of their card designs, coincidentally). Michael sat down with us to talk shop, vintage guitars, and a beloved press called “Vanderhalen”.
INK IN THE BLOOD “In 2002, I went on a press check at Full Circle Press in Nevada City. The owner, Judith Berliner, convinced me to buy my first press, a Chandler and Price. From the time I pulled my first print, I was hooked. Over the next couple of years, Judith went on to train me on her Windmills. She’s truly an angel”, said Michael.
PRINTING PARADISE We have an industrial space in an amazing warehouse in Petaluma, California. It’s called Watershed, and it’s a wonderfully creative building filled with fine artists, photographers, and woodworkers. We feel lucky and blessed to be here. The shop has a pretty minimalist decor. We painted the back wall PMS 137 to give it some energy. We are right on the Petaluma River. You’ll likely spot some competitive rowers, along with the resident egrets and Great blue herons.
ALL IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD Just down the block is an amazing artist, Marco Cochrane, who makes three-story-tall sculptures out of metal. We also face Petaluma River Park with a sculpture by Mark Di Suvero.
PRINTING MENTORS Judith Berliner of Full Circle Press. She’s taught me everything. Sometimes her methods are not “by the book,” but they often work better. We have fun trading printing tips.
THE CREATIVE SPIRIT “Beginning in 2023”, Michael says, “I’ve been printing full time and loving every minute of it. I approach design from my advertising experience. Then, I start with a pencil and paper (Blackwings are my weapon of choice). I find it helpful to get ideas from my brain to the page quickly. The winning sketch gets redrawn (often in Illustrator) and finally, good old polymer plates. I sometimes dream about having cabinets full of type, but I just don’t have the room.”
PRINTING FEATS I’m proud of our “Famous Guitar” series of greeting cards. Each features a different guitar from some of my favorite musicians. There’s Willie’s old Martin “Trigger,” George Harrison’s “Rocky” Stratocaster, and a bunch more. They are unique in that they are scored on the short side so that you can open them up and see the entire instrument. They also come with a custom Sweet Bippy pick.
PRESS HISTORY Our first press was a 1905 Chandler & Price platen press.
In addition to the C&P, we own three Heidelberg Windmills, two for ink printing and one—named “Metallica”—which is dedicated to foiling and die-cutting. Our latest purchase is a Vandercook No. 4, which we call “Vanderhalen”, says Michael.
BOXCAR’S ROLE Michael recalls, “When I started out, I didn’t have much of a printing network, and I was craving information. Boxcar’s site is chock full of great tips and information. I was an early adopter of Flurry paper—I think you offered it as a Kickstarter at the beginning. I love that paper. And the Swing Away Lay Gauge is amazing. All three Windmills have one. (Currently, one of them is hiding in the dark cavity below, but I will rescue it one of these days.)”
PRINTING TIPS 90% of printing issues are ink-related, so start light and add slowly!
WHAT’S COMING NEXT We keep adding to our Northern California collection of cards, and this year we plan to expand to SoCal and perhaps other states.