Boxcar Talk With Lenor Mirochna of Paprika Letterpress + Design

Take a large helping of letterpress love, add a smidgen of luck when finding the perfect press, pour in slowly more than a few cups of excellent design experience, add an enchanting creative streak, and you’ve got the divine recipe behind Paprika letterpress + design. Lenor Mirochna lets us in on the flavorful story behind the letterpress and design studio powerhouse. Read on to get the full scoop.

SPICING UP LETTERPRESS Paprika letterpress + design has been an adventure since day one with a serendipitous beginning. Short story about my background: I studied design at a number of different colleges and universities from Detroit to NYC. I began my design career in the mid 70’s; the beginning of computer typesetting where artwork was prepared using rapidograph pens, Xactos, photostats and hand done mechanicals.  There is a LOT to be said for the fabulous resources and possibilities of today’s graphic design. My experience has included ad agency design and art direction, owner of several graphic design firms, freelance design, commercial printing sales and print services buyer.

INK IN THE BLOOD I was interested in the process of letterpress and looking for a creative venture where I could use my design skills and love of color. I began to think about a local printer I met about 10 years ago who had a print shop in my town. On a whim, I stopped in one day and asked Dan Dewechter, the owner of Constitution Press, a 120 year old, continuously operating print shop, whether he had any letterpress equipment he was interested in selling. As luck would have it, he did. In fact he was consolidating and liquidating much of his shop having decided to explore other career options.

That is where I first met my circa 1916 Chandler and Price 8 x 12 press, all 1250 lbs of iron.  Along the way I also contacted Alan Runfeldt of Excelsior Press in Frenchtown, New Jersey. Interested in more hands-on-printing experience, I signed up for a day-long class with Alan and had a blast printing on a variety of presses.

FLOURISHING IN THE GARDEN STATE I am currently set up in a small garage studio. I hired some renovation help and we painted, insulated, refreshed and reorganized the space 6 months ago and now it is much more aesthetically pleasing as well as energy efficient. I am looking to expand my capabilities by purchasing another press by the end of the year.

PRINTING LEGACIES As a printer for over 30 years, Dan Dewechter has a wealth of knowledge and experience that you can’t find in a textbook. He not only worked with me, but also gave me pointers and patiently explained the idiosyncrasies of the process. He was generous with his time, talent and skills and is the person to credit or blame for what I ‘m doing now — right, Dan?

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I design and print. Currently, I am continuing to add to a line of greeting cards, notecards, and soon-to-come calendars. It’s been an adventure exploring the techniques and mechanics of letterpress printing. I have just scratched the surface of custom work and have collaborated with clients on custom pieces which has been extremely rewarding and a ton of fun.

PRINTING FEATS Letterpress printing is a beautifully complex yet simple process.  I love the colors, the feeling and the fun exploration of papers and technique. I’m not really sure I’d call it “my life’s work”.  I really like it and I’ll see where it takes me.

BOXCAR’S ROLE It was Alan who suggested I check out Boxcar Press to purchase plates as well as acquire more knowledge of the letterpress industry. Frequently posted videos and industry information on the Boxcar website has deepened my letterpress education. All of my plates are ordered through Boxcar Press and they have been an excellent, reliable resource for me.

GETTING STARTED When it was time to get my press, I contacted Dan, rented a trailer, asked my engineer husband to check out the situation and set the moving date.

When I arrived to pick up the press (haha- that’s a good story there) the fun began. (see the pictures) Dan was invaluable and incredibly generous in helping me get my shop set up.  Along with the press he gave me just about every possible piece of equipment needed to get started and in fact things I didn’t even know I needed.

Seriously. He included  quoins, 3 C &P chases, furniture, sets of guides, large roll of tympen paper, packing sheets, extra set of BRAND NEW rollers still in their box, cans of pre-mixed pantone ink colors, press wash, large “stone” on which to lock up the base, roller puller tool, sticky finger goo and stacks of  different types of paper to get me started. And more. And he helped move the press. Dan was amazingly helpful and I like to think he was happy to see the press go to someone who would work it and not sold as scrap.

WHAT’S NEXT My plans for 2012 include adding a new press to my shop, working with more custom clients and continuing to create new pieces for the Paprika letterpress + design line. My retail outlets include stores in Charleston, South Carolina, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and other areas of Pennsylvania. My cards have been featured in Culture Cheese Magazine and soon to be in USEF’s Equestrian magazine. In the future I’d like to grow the Paprika Letterpress brand specifically within the specialty retail and hand-made-art market nationwide.

Many thanks to Lenor for letting us take a look into the wonderful world of Paprika Letterpress + Design!

Boxcar Ventures Out

It’s always a happy experience when we meet our customers at shows and conferences. However, we get particularly excited when we can come to your place and meet you in your creative space!

Recently during winter travels, I was able to visit two customers in the Boston area. It meant navigating the Boston subway and bus system but it was such a kick to visit and get a tour from women printers and entrepreneurs, Smudge Ink and Albertine Press.

Shelley Barandes of Albertine Press is in Somerville, Massachusetts in a warehouse that also houses not one, but two chocolate companies.   That is the aroma you smell when you follow the signs that direct you to her space.  She has a large, open studio with plenty of natural light for printing and finishing.

I admired her Vandercook where her printer Matt was working and her Heidelberg windmill, not to mention seeing a pilot, a cutter and some tabletops.  On occasion, Shelley will teach a class to spread the love of letterpress, but not as often now that she has a pre-school daughter.  Shelley is busy!

A bus and another warehouse later, I was able to a have nice visit and tour with Deb Bastien and Kate Saliba of Smudge Ink.   They are in Charlestown, Massachusetts along the waterfront.  What amazed me was the quantity and variety of presses our customers have.  I lost count of presses at Smudge after five. Smudge Ink actually has a long history tied with Boxcar Press and we feel like we’ve grown in this business with them. 

They have a nice blend of letterpress with offset and everything was printed in gorgeous, vibrant colors (you should see their shelves!).  Everyone was hard at work while I was there and yes, I took note of their polymer plate recycling box.

While my visits were brief, it was special to see these talented ladies and where they find their creative energy. I was impressed above all at how they have built their businesses and thrive. And I especially appreciated their warm welcomes on short notice.  Our Boxcar doors are always open should you ever want to reciprocate and drop in here!

Boxcar Talk With Nina Interlandi Bell

Like Nina Interlandi Bell from Tweedle Press, deep dish pizza got its start in the Windy City of Chicago, where people know their dough. Like an artisanal slice, her printings are filled to the brim with flavorful creativity. Whether you get the tried & true cheese style, a smorgasbord of meat toppings home-run, or the more well-honed and inspired artichoke and basil, Nina’s letterpress work and these pizza pies never fail to delight.

Read on to find out more on the commanding and captivating Nina Bell.


THE NATURAL PRINTER I’m a a graphic and web designer, letterpress printer, paper maker, and lover of nature and local/organic food, with a dash of rock and roll. Also, I want to be a cowboy.

FOR THE LOVE OF LETTERPRESS When my husband (iHub, also know around the shop and our house as “Minister of the Office Of Fun”) and I got married 5 years ago, I helped to design and assemble our invitations. I had them letterpress printed by a local printer, and knew when I saw them that I wanted to learn how to do it. I took several series of classes at Columbia in Chicago where I learned to work with cylinder presses, type, and plates, and also helped out up at the Platen Press Museum in Zion where Paul Aken taught me my platen press chops. I wouldn’t necessarily claim one particular moment of insight when I realized I wanted this to be my full time job, but everything just sort of coalesced: my lifelong love of paper and desire to own a card shop, all my years of experience with graphic design, my (apparently) genetic desire to be a business owner, and the fact that I love to get dirty and tinker with dangerous equipment.

PRINTING LEGACIES I knew when I saw the miniature empire that Jen from Starshaped Press had built that it would be possible for me to do what I envisioned. I wanted the flexibility of creating my own schedule, the satisfaction of having people choose to spend their hard earned money on beautiful things that I design and print for them, plus the ability to take time off for kids when I need to (which will be March, 2012!). Paul Aken too, of course, without whom I would never have acquired any of my equipment and who I credit with helping me move closer to accepting imperfection. Still working on that.

THE DESIGNER & THE PRINTER I do everything! My career experience has been 11 years of graphic and web design, and I’ve been printing for the last 4 years. However, I didn’t actually go to school for any of this – my music degree was supposed to help me be a recording engineer for when my band got famous, but that didn’t work out so well. Luckily I have always been a designer at heart, and creating show posters and websites for my band ended up giving me the experience I needed to land real design jobs. It all looks very intentional in retrospect.

THE DAILY GRIND Usually I end up procrastinating on big design jobs because getting over that initial hurdle of inspiration is so intimidating. Once I’m up against a deadline and have assured myself that there are no other “important” internet tasks for me to complete, I usually end up staring at the blank screen for a while. Once something gets me into the zone – it could be an image, a piece of text, or a color combination – then there’s no stopping me. Coveted episodes of TV on the DVR be damned! I can remain glued to my computer, despite iHub’s desperate attempts to force me to “relax”, for a very long time indeed.

FULL TIME PRINTER BY DAY, CREATIVE CHAMP BY NIGHT Just about. I still do a bit of freelance design work here and there that is unrelated to Tweedle Press, but most of my time is spent working at the shop. It has been a slow transition from my full time design job to what I’m doing now, but I’m very lucky that the owner at my previous company let me step down my days there gradually as Tweedle Press got busier. I’m still only making about half as much as I was when working full time at my previous design job, but I’m lucky iHub is so darn supportive and the business is growing every year. Continue reading

Boxcar Talk With Ivan Gulkov

Printer and designer Ivan Gulkov first molded his passion for print in the colder climates of Siberia, Russia before turning out clean, modern collections at Pillowface Press that pay homage to the printing roots in the sunny state of California. Now, Gulkov balances the cool with the fun, with a nod to the old while creating the new. And he does it in spades.

Read on to get the full scoop.

Ivan Gulkov of Pillowface Press shares the full scoop on his background and printshop
Ivan Gulkov of Pillowface Press shares the full scoop on his background and printshop

SMOTHERED IN INK My name is Ivan Gulkov. I hail originally from the frozen wastes of Siberia, though currently reside in sunny California. PILLOWFACE PRESS is a small printmaking studio I set up to experiment with handset typography and photopolymer. Until recently, ours was one of the most traditional and conservative trades. For five hundred years, the tools and techniques of assembling type have not changed. Fonts were discreet, tangible things, you experienced on a physical level. In every letter, every space and ruler, there was a trace of the creators hand. Computers changed everything.

Continue reading

Getting ready to send out new Bella Figura albums

By the time you read this, stores will already be receiving their new 2012 albums that we have worked so hard on for the past several weeks and months. Within these pages, we have poured so much love & energy to present a DAZZLING selection of new envelope liners, new embellishments, new designs! Can’t wait to show you! To see it in person, go to the Bella Figura website & click on the link that says “Find a dealer“. Enjoy the feast for your senses!
bella figura 2012 albumsbella figura 2012 letterpress albumsbella figura swatches

Lou is building his own igloo

He’s been working steadily printing Smock cards. Soon he will have his own private enclosed digs!
letterpress printers love papersmock everyday letterpress igloo

Jack & the Beanstalk

Actually it’s Joe and bamboo that grows in Pat’s magic Heidelberg windmill. We’re waiting to see if Joe climbs it.

Bill is also becoming a press farmer with a strong daffodil that’s growing like crazy!

Running Windmill

The sleep machine is running, unaware it is being watched. Long out of production, this Heidelberg 10 x 15 windmill letterpress still runs smoothly & precisely with the loving care it has been given over the decades. If you listen closely, you can hear it breathing & purring as ink is pressed to downy white cotton paper.

Glorious Windmills

In a gleaming array of fine machinery, here stand some of our prized workhorses, Heidelberg 10 x 15 Red Ball Windmills!
heidelberg windmills in a letterpress print shop