The Allure of Ladyfingers Letterpress

From hand-drawn calligraphy, masterminding production workflow and streak of love for hot air balloons, Jenny Tiskus, Morgan Calderini and Arley-Rose Torsone of Ladyfingers Letterpress take the cake when it comes to all that is letterpress. We caught up with the trio as they were busy bustling around their sunny printshop in Pawtucket, RI to chat up AS220’s astounding community involvement and how to effortlessly mix inks.

Printing presses in action at Ladyfingers Letterpress.

DELICIOUS PRINTED EYE CANDY We are the ladies of Ladyfingers Letterpress, a wife-and-wife team who founded a hand-drawn letterpress studio when our own search for wedding invitations revealed a lack of options for same sex couples. We make stationery and wedding invitations for all kinds of people and occasions, including our new wholesale line of greeting cards launched last year in 2013.

Detailed finishing work and letterpress meeting at Ladyfingers Letterpress.

PIONEERING IN PROVIDENCE Morgan loved her first letterpress seminar at RISD so much she changed majors from graphic design to printmaking. She founded Providence’s first community printshop at AS220 where she meet Arley-Rose, the head graphic designer.

OPULENCE IN THE OCEAN STATE Our studio is in an old webbing factory in Pawtucket that’s been renovated into the Hope Artiste Village. Our space is sunny with high ceilings and white walls. We have lots of creative neighbors in the building and the Pawtucket Winter Farmers Market is held just down the hall.

Snazzy letterpress invitations courtesy of Ladyfingers Letterpress.

PRINTING MENTORS The Olneyville scene in Rhode Island exposed Arley-Rose to a community of screen printers. Local printer Dan Wood of DWRI letterpress is a gem and always willing to chat.  Dan donated local arts non-profit AS220’s Vandercook back in the day.  Rick Ring has been a great source of information and inspiration as special collections Librarian at Trinity College and previously as head of the Special Collections at the Providence Public Library.  The Library’s collection includes printing manuals, type specimen books and working library of Daniel Berkeley Updike of Merrymount Press. Rick introduced us to the collection and now Jordan Goffin helps us find printmaking treasures there.Arley-Rose Torsone of Ladyfingers Letterpress carefully letters a piece.

CREATIVE PROCESS When you come into the studio the first thing you’ll notice after the hum of the C&P is Arley-Rose with a micron pen or brush in hand. Our creative process is very collaborative.  Arley-Rose is the lead designer. She hand-letters all of our invitations and stationery. Morgan is the lead printer and keeps track of everything. Our studio has grown to include many folks at this time: Sydney keeps the finances in order, Kat Cummings is our head printer, Jill is our post-production lady, and Jenny is our wholesale coordinator.  There are a host of folks we call in during rush times to help, too.

FULL TIME FUN Printing in-house is something we love to do and an essential part of our business. We are small business owners so some of our time is spent doing other things but the heart of Ladyfingers is Arley’s hand-drawing designs and Morgan’s masterminding production.

Delicate letterpress map details printed by Ladyfingers Letterpress

PRINTING FEATS We are proud to do what we love for a living! We feel so lucky to design and print here in Pawtucket. We proudly employ a small staff of creative folks. We were just featured at the Martha Stewart Weddings party where Arley hand-lettered foil stamped notebooks we made. Morgan just got her hot air balloon pilot’s license for the balloon she built herself!

Guillotine cutter, letterpress printing presses featured at Ladyfingers Letterpress.

PRESS HISTORY We started printing on a Vandercook 4 at the AS220 community print shop that Morgan founded. The first press we bought is our current workhorse, a 10 x 15 C&P.  Last January we bought a Vandercook 219 from another artist in the area. What a dream!

BOXCAR’S ROLE Our type high bases are from Boxcar. Our designs are hand-drawn so we use photopolymer plates all the time. We recently got a Vandercook to print large poster size jobs and those bases are a big help!

SHOP TIPS We use the clear plastic sheets that would otherwise be waste from the platemaking process to mix ink. Easy cleanup!

Hand-inspected finishers deftly look over finished pieces at Ladyfingers Letterpress

WHAT’S NEXT We launched our wholesale line at the National Stationery Show last year (2013) and are so grateful for the overwhelmingly positive response we’ve gotten. We plan to return this year with lots of new designs.

Huge heaping round of thanks out to Jenny and Morgan for letting us get the skinny on Ladyfingers Letterpress!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *