As we proudly add Letterpress to our selection for 2016, we thought it might be fun to learn a little more about our Letterpress gal Amanda and what makes her tick, and also a little about the process that goes into making these fabulous, customized products.
Q: How did you find yourself in the Paper Goods/Letterpress industry, has it always been a passion of yours?
A: I’d say it was a bit of curiosity and a whole lot of luck! I’ve been a graphic designer for over 10 years now and there was a time when I just didn’t want to sit in front of the computer anymore. I wanted to get my hands inky and dig deep into the roots of design. So I started exploring with handmade design like screen printing and then eventually letterpress. It was love at first sight. I was hooked from the start. So I took some courses, learned the trade and then put it on my “to do when I’m retired” list. That was until I stumbled on a beautiful, old, dusty letterpress on kijiji (of all places!). It needed a home. And with the amazing support of my husband Justin, we bought it. Then promptly moved out of our 500 sq/foot condo into an industrial loft (where the floors could hold it). Since then we’ve moved it into a proper store front space on Pape, but that’s how it started and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.
Q: Why, in your opinion, is Letterpress superior to other types of printing?
A: The crispness and impression that a letterpress makes is just unbeatable with today’s printers. Even though the machines are so old, the quality has not been lost. I just love the impression it leave in a sheet of paper. It’s a craftsmanship – from mixing the ink to guiding each sheet through the press.
Q: Letterpress is a bit of a throwback to simpler times, before mass printing and electronic computers. Is this part of the draw for you?
A: Absolutely! When working at the letterpress, the expectation for immediacy just isn’t there. The process is slower and calmer. I love that about it. When I’m printing I’m able to step away from our fast-paced, technology filled world, and focus on a using my hands again instead of the mouse. It feels like stepping back in time. It’s refreshing!
Q: What is letterpress printing most commonly used for, personal or business products? For what purpose(s), in your opinion, is it most beneficial?
A: Letterpress is most commonly used for wedding invitations. Although I still get requests for business cards and personal stationery. The reason why it’s so popular with weddings is that the process and outcome of letterpress printing is very unique and special – the paper is luxurious, the impression is deep and you can literally feel the design. It’s not something that can be just done anywhere and therefore it makes it extra special, in celebration of an extra special day. Couples understand that their invitations are the first impression that their guests have of their wedding and it sets the stage for the day.
Q: Tell us a bit about the Letterpress process. How does it work?
A: To start printing wedding invitations, I get a polymer plate made for each colour running through the press. This is a thin sheet of plastic that has the design raised on a surface. I get the press ready to be used by making sure that all the oil holes get some oil and the press is wiped clean. The next step is to align the polymer plate on the press and trim my paper to the correct size. Once I’m ready the print I mix up the ink (using my pantone formula guide as reference) and work it until it has the right consistency. It goes on the press and inks the polymer plate. Then I carefully take each sheet of paper and guide it through the press as the inked plate presses into the sheet of paper with 200 pounds of pressure. The paper comes out with a beautiful impression of the design. If there is another colour to do on top, I do the process all over again and making sure that the polymer plate aligns correctly. Once all the sheets are done, I use my trusty guillotine from 1905 to trim the sheets. That’s the letterpress process in a nutshell.
Q: What is the most valuable piece of advice that you’ve ever been given?
A: Always have a golden egg so that you can do what you really love to do the rest of the time.
Q: What is your favourite project that you’ve ever worked on, letterpress or otherwise, and why?
A: It’s so hard to pick. There have been so many wonderful couples that I’ve worked with on their invitations that it’s not possible to just pick one. A personal project that stands out for me is the announcement cards that I did for the birth of my sons; Jack and August. It was a joy to work and print these cards.