interview - kathleen from twig and thistle:

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April 30, 2010

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today's interview comes from the fabulous Kathleen of twig and thistle. i got to meet kathleen at the alt summit blog conference a few months ago and she is just as sweet as her lovely blog! kathleen doesn't own a press herself, but has printed many projects on a press that her work happens to own! i thought that was encouraging to all you letterpress enthusiasts who are interested in letterpress but don't have a studio of your own. anyway, she has been so kind to snap some shots of a recent baby shower invitation she printed for her sister and the studio to share with us (and if you read her blog, you know her photography & personal work is simply amazing!) so i hope you enjoy!
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Hi! Please tell us a little about yourself: Thanks so much for asking me to be a part of your Letterpress Week! As you know, I'm completely smitten letterpress and consider myself more of an "addict" if anything. I live and work in Seattle, Washington and spend my days as a graphic designer here at a design firm. I have my own blog, Twig & Thistle, where I share all the things that inspire me both as a designer and as a crafter. My blog is where I document my finds and process and share fun DIY projects that incorporate both design, craft and of course letterpress.

You don't own a press but you've printed several projects yourself. I think that's encouraging to aspiring printers who perhaps don't have the means or resources to own their own press. My work actually has a Heidelberg Letterpress in our studio and I feel so fortunate to have access to it. It's a beautiful machine that works incredibly well and our studio generously encourages people to work on the press as often as possible and even provides free training classes to employees. When I interviewed there it was actually one of the selling points for me and I could hardly contain myself when I saw it!

Can you tell us how did you got started in letterpress printing and how you continue to print without your own press? :) My fixation with letterpress started in college and I began collecting everything I could on it. All those cards I bought for people never got mailed because I couldn't bring myself to part with them! Since my University didn't offer any classes on the subject I invested in a workshop at a local art school after college. It was a great intensive weekend course and helped me learn the basics but it wasn't until I found my job (with the press) that I actually got to put my skills to work.

Since my time on the press is limited, I typically design my plate and order it through a local plate making shop. This doesn't embrace the true art of letterpress and I'm sure most printers are cringing as they read this but the process allows me to have complete control over the design plus I can work more quickly rather than type setting by hand.
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What sort of projects have you printed? I've had the pleasure of printing our company's holiday card for the last three years in a row which has been a ton of fun and huge honor. My personal projects consist mostly of baby shower invitations, wedding invites and business cards.

Why letterpress? What do you love about it? For me, it's all about the process. You have to think a little differently when you're preparing to print on a press and I enjoy that challenge. It's incredibly fun to work on the machine and develop a rhythm to print consistently and swiftly. It's also about the final piece of course; it feels like a piece of artwork to me and the deeper the impression the better! I adore the feel of the paper and the texture the impression makes, the smoothness of where the ink is laid and the attention to detail that must go into each piece.
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letterpress classes in your area:

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to end the week off, i thought i'd post a list of letterpress classes offered in various cities. this is a big world though, so i'm apologize for not even covering a smidgen of all the cities there are. i encourage you to ask around your community, find a local printer, and definitely check briar press. you can often find classes that are being offered posted at briar press in the workshops & events classifieds section. there are lots of resources available, have fun :)

Brooklyn, New York: thearmnyc.com

Chicopee, Massachusetts maydaystudio.com


St. louis, Missouri: allalongpress.com

Minneapolis, Minnesota: openbookmn.org

Columbus, Ohio: iglooletterpress.com

Alexandria, Virgina: thehiveat1511.com
Alexandria, Virgina: railwaystationpress.com

Pasadena, California: armoryarts.org
Los Angeles, California: lalapress.com
San Francisco, California: jordan ferney (from oh happy day)
Carson, California: printmuseum.org

Grayslake, Illinois: paperstories.com
Evanston, Illinois: evanstonprint.com
Chicago, Illinois: colum.edu

Asheville, North Carolina:
Raleigh, North Carolina: officinabriani.com

Toronto (downtown) Ontario Canada: bookhou.com
Toronto (scarborough) Ontario Canada: snapandtumble.com


Bathurst, Australia: willamer.com.au


design + print process - christie & caleb from roll & tumble press:

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a studio tour from christie & caleb from roll & tumble press. i am inspired by these 2 simply because their method of printing is so original - no computers, no plates. all original illustrations and printing methods. read on to find out their neat printing process!
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We are Christie & Caleb, partners in art and life.....when we began this letterpress adventure we lived in an old rumbly-tumbly house that was built in about 1918.....we loved it's high ceilings, huge windows and amazing front porch however three short weeks ago we moved into our new digs.....a dream home, an English Tudor Revival style home that was built in 1930. It has been lovingly restored and modernized by an amazing dude.....we are more than thrilled at the increase in space, sun-porches with casement windows, green tile roof, huge yard for our traveling dog circus( ie: four rescue pooches) and a matching little building that will house the cutest print shop a person ever did see!....all this domestic stuff happens in Lil' Ole Little Rock ( Arkansas).
Our online shop is Roll&TumblePress.....a letterpress shop where we primarily print art posters , gig posters for our musical friends and sometimes the occasional card or two around the holiday season. Our parents tell us both that we were born creative and I guess it's true.....

Christie relentless insomniac, art grad and former painter/mixed media artist turned letterpress printer and Caleb an effortless sleeper,illustrator/art school dropout turned tattoo artist....we have pretty much done all kinds of jobs......waiter/waitress, cricket farmer, visual designer for a major retailer, faux finisher, long haul trucker, shop gurl, barista.....the list goes on. We are inspired by....quirky southern stuff and phrases from the grandparents, constantly changing light and colors, snapshots of life, various and ever changing musical phases, artists of the past, old architecture and signs, typography, nature and the seasons and eavesdropping.

Each poster begins with something as simple as one image or phrase, we talk about color palette, layout, size and typography. Caleb then begins to illustrate, the line drawing then is transferred to linoleum or wood blocks (one block for each color that needs to be printed). These are then hand carved, sometimes by Caleb sometimes by Christie depending on the "style" we're feeling.....Caleb(clean and precise), Christie(folksy).....this is typically the most labor intensive part of our work....one block can take hours to complete. Once all blocks are carved we then go to the type cases and pick out the type, we use almost all antique wood type, but sometimes use vintage lead type also.....all painstakingly handset....( no plastic plates allowed). We hand mix all our inks, pretty organically, we do have a Pan-tone guide, but we don't measure, use percentages, or do any kind of math when mixing......we want to have fun with the process.....ok..ready to go to press, we pretty much use a vintage Vandercook , and hand crank that baby once for each color....so if we print 250 posters and it has 7 colors.....well, yes, that is 1750 cranks....thank goodness it has to dry between each layer, but it can be physical......Once it drys, we set up fun little "style" shots using some of our quirky collections and list them in our shop.....*poof* it's letterpress y'all.

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The press we are currently printing on is not where we started......we drove 20 hours into the middle of Kansas to get our first press, way before we even knew what to do, because we wanted to be "letterpress printers".....it is not that easy, we soon realized, with the help of a true "old-timer" , many painstaking hours of learning how to hand set type, a whole new letterpress "vocabulary" , many long hours hand cranking an old press and a little luck, we were able to get this new life up and running we never did use that first old chunk of cast iron we hauled back.....but it set all this in motion, so it still is meaningful.......( we will send pics of the presses we use). Why letterpress????......in the beginning we wanted to try something new.....the methods we use,( ie: traditional ones) can be challenging.......so much art these days is produced on a computer ( which is fine), that is rewarding to actually get your hands dirty, take your time and use tools that are 100 years old......in the shop where our friend and mentor taught us, there was a poster that he printed that said......."souls dwell in printers type".....we think that that is certainly true.
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letterpress week - daily giveaway #5:

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saved these to end the week long giveaways with a bang ;) today you can win lovely custom letterpress cards from vermilion star press, a sweeeet set of stationery from smock paper (they have the best designs!), and a letterpress keychain from gazin design! but you only have till tuesday to enter so act fast ;)

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vermilion star press: shop | blog | facebook

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gazin design: shop

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smock paper: shop + website

complete prize package
RETAIL VALUE: $170!

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up to 6 chances to win!

( COMMENT TO WIN )
simply visit any of the 3 shops:
pick your favorite item and simply leave a comment.
*up to 3 entries*

( THREE EXTRA ENTRIES: )
twitter, facebook, or blog about this giveaway.
come back and comment with the link :)
*1 entry for each = up to 3 entries*

if you twitter, please tag it with @ohhellofriend so i can track your tweet ;)

all giveaway winner's will be announced on tuesday, may 4th!
please check back next week to see if you are the lucky winner!

studio tour: sycamore street press

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April 29, 2010

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sycamore street press

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I found our beloved Vandercook no. 3 letterpress via Don Black Linecasting in Toronto. I highly recommend these guys. They've been around for a long time, and they know what they are talking about. The Vandercook's previous owner was a career pressman who's boss let him take the press home when it had become "obsolete". This pressman then used it to print church newsletters for the next several decades, until he sold it to Don Black, who fixed it up and then sold it to us in the summer of 2007.
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We moved the press into our townhouse's dining room on Sycamore Street in Columbus, Ohio. The living room became the office / shipping station, and the basement housed all of the inventory. It was a cozy operation, but a year and a half later, Kirk decided to join me full time in the business as well, and our little place was bursting at the seams. So, we packed everything up, and moved out west to Utah to be near our families. In fact, we moved in with my parents so that we could afford to rent out a separate studio and save up for a house. It's been incredible working in this airy, light filled space, and it's the perfect location for the workshops we've been teaching on occasion.

After 2 1/2 years in business, Kirk and I have printed countless cards, posters, invitations, etc...on our completely manually operated press. It's a real workhorse and we love it...but we'd also love to add a more efficient Heidelberg to the mix one of these days.
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letterpress week - daily giveaway #4:

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happy thursday! hurray for week long giveaway's ;) today we have an amazing HUGE stationery sampler package worth $108 from ruby press: includes a small set of practically everything from her shop, and an awesome custom notecard set (i love custom products!) from bookhou.

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ruby press: shop | site

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bookhou: shop | site | blog | facebook
win: custom name notecard set, $30 value

complete prize package
RETAIL VALUE: $138!

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up to 5 chances to win!

( COMMENT TO WIN )
simply visit any of the 2 shops:
pick your favorite item and simply leave a comment.
*up to 2 entries*

( THREE EXTRA ENTRIES: )
twitter, facebook, or blog about this giveaway.
come back and comment with the link :)
*1 entry for each = up to 3 entries*

if you twitter, please tag it with @ohhellofriend so i can track your tweet ;)

all giveaway winner's will be announced on tuesday, may 4th!
please check back next week to see if you are the lucky winner!

press & printer - colleen from cleanwash letterpress:

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press: 1971 10x15 Heidelberg Windmill & 1907 12x18 Chandler & Price
printer: colleen from cleanwash letterpress

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her story: I have been a letterpress printer in Philadelphia for a little over three years but just ventured out this past September on my own. I found a great studio space and was given free reign to paint, wallpaper and cover the walls with vintage fabric; turning the space into my own. Currently in my shop I have a beautiful 1971 10x15 Heidelberg Windmill, a 1907 12x18 Chandler & Price, an Innoplatemaker, and a 23" Challenge hydraulic paper cutter. They were sourced one at a time after A LOT of searching and research!

colleen sent in some images of her lovely studio too. take a look :)
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interview - becky, sugar plum invitations:

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today we have the sweet becky from sugar plum invitations with a great interview, answering some basic letterpress questions. be sure to stop by her lovely blog as well!

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Please explain letterpress: Letterpress printing is a relief print, where an inked image is pressed into a sheet of paper. It's the same type of printing that Gutenberg used in the mid-15th century. It was the common form of printing for centuries and used up until about 60 years ago. Letterpress printing gives a great textual impression, especially if combined with heavy cotton rag paper. It's a unique look and feel that other forms of printing can't match. Each one of our pieces is hand fed through one of our vintage Chandler & Price Craftsman Presses.

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How did you get started in letterpress? My husband Troy was intrigued by the idea of vintage printing. We saw a few in action and then the beautiful results and we were hooked. It feels like a very personal way to print, each piece of paper is hand feel through the press for each color. There is lots of human touch involved. We're happy to produce something that requires a lot of skill and care.. much more personal than a laser printer! ( It's nostalgic, comforting and made at home with love.) I love mixing and using color when printing.. it's rather magical to watch an old greasy machine print something colorful and crisp!

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How does letterpress printing work? We have a custom plate made (think of it as a stamp) for every design and text used. We ink the press with one color.. say green. We then place the plate (with only the parts we want in green ink) into the press and align it with our paper. (Making sure registration and alignment are correct can take a long time sometimes an hour to get it perfect.) We then hand feed the paper through press, one sheet at a time. The ink dries. We tear down the press, clean it, and then re-ink and put in another plate to print the next color. Repeat. How do you say "time consuming?"


Why is letterpress printing considered a "vintage" form of printing? It's a vintage form of printing since we're using the same methods used for centuries. Just about everything is done by hand. Letterpress presses stopped being manufactured 40 years ago, and the printers that knew how to use them are dying along with this form of art. It's exciting to see a new generation of printers carry on this unique and beautiful form of printing. It takes a lot of time, patience and skill, but it's oh-so worth it. Especially in our fast pace lives of e-mail and texting , letterpress notes and invitations feels so elegant, special, hand crafted. It reminds me of when friends give me a jar of homemade jam. I appreciate all the work that went into it and cherish it all the more. Letterpress printing is a beautiful form of art, we love preserving.

How long does it take to print? It depends on how many colors we're doing, and how complex the designs are. A large wedding invitation set 2 colors with custom cutting can take all day.. 6-8 hours.

What press do you print on? We have two full size Chandler and Price Craftman presses, 60 and 90 years old!

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design + print process - sarah from parrott design studio:

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April 28, 2010

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I mix of all of my inks by hand using the Pantone Matching System {PMS}. Clients will send me things like paint chips or fabric swatches and I will find the perfect PMS color to match.

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My press can be run by a small motor or human-powered by spinning the fly wheel on the left. I did not use the motor for two years, & ran the press entirely by my left arm. It was not until a very large project came my way that I decided to attach the motor {and I am very glad that I did!}


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As the motor spins the flywheel, I turn the inking plate by hand {under the three moving rollers in this photo} until all of the ink is evenly distributed on the rollers & plate. My press is from 1898, so as you may imagine a few pieces are missing, but nothing that hinders the printing process or outcome, however I need to do many things manually, such as turning the inking plate. 


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I use magnesium dies for all of my printing. Once my ink is ready, I place my die & furniture into the chase. The chase is a metal frame & the furniture are wood blocks of various widths & lengths that fill the chase for lock up. To the right of the die you will see a quoin, which is turned with a key to tighten everything in place in the chase. 


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Here I am placing the chase into my press. As you will see the chase does not lie flat, therefore everything needs to be locked in place or it is going to move when the rollers ink it up. 


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Locked & ready to go. 


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Here you can see the rollers have gone over the die, inking the surface. 

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Once the paper to be printed is lined up with the die, it is held in place with gauge pins on tympan, which is hard paper, inserted on the platen. Here the blank piece of paper is ready for the ink. 

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Letterpress as we know it today is highly sought-after due to the impression made on the paper. This impression can be controlled by adjusting the packing {extra pieces of paper} behind the piece of paper to be printed or by adjusting the platen. I like the impression to be noticeable to the eye & by touch, but I do not like it when the impression is so deep the paper cracks or when the impression is really noticeable on the backside of the paper. Occasionally only a kiss, when the die just touches the paper & little to no impression is made, is acceptable, especially with double-sided jobs.

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VoilĂ ! The first color of the first invitation is complete. This particular invitation is only one color, so it only requires one pass through the press. If the design had two colors, then it would need to go through the press a second time once I completed the first color.