Sunday, April 29, 2007

Cherry Blossom and Monogram Letterpress Projects

My sister asked me awhile ago to make her another set of letterpress cards. So here they are! It's on a sage green card from Paper Source with strawberry pink ink for the cherry blossom branch. Her name was handset with 30 pt. Virtuosa and printed in gold. On the envelope, to put a cute little touch, I letterpressed a butterfly on the flap.

For the second project shown, I wanted to make a simple monogram for my two friends who are getting married. I have to say that the monogram was a bitch to hand-set. The type I used is Melior 48 pt. for the "W" and 24 pt. for the "K" and the "M." This was printed on Arturo lavender with metallic brown (bronze) ink.

Fits and Starts: Business Update

Things are generally going well here at Joie Studio. I am still missing items for the letterpress (including ink!), although at this point, I have enough to get started. I designed two possible websites for Joie Studio. Now I'm just letting them both sit, and I'll figure out in a couple days which of the two designs I like better.

In the meantime, I'm continuing to photograph all the different projects I have done. I have started designing wedding invitations for letterpress, including a custom one for one of my good friends. I am also making letterpress business cards for another good friend and longtime client. We are doing the cards to match the business website I made for her, and the design is simple, modern, and fabulous! My sister and I are also talking about whether we should affiliate our event planning services or not.

Being a great lover of dogs and cats, we are also donating web development services and an event website redesign to Bow Wow and Meows, which is the one of the largest adoption fairs in Los Angeles County.

What an April this has been!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Paper Anniversary Card!

As part of our first wedding anniversary, Joel and I decided to mail our family first anniversary cards! The paper I used was Fabriano cardstock, and we matched the ink color to the Arturo celadon envelope. Inside, we used photo corners to attach the group wedding photo.

Here is the inside:

We left the inside left free for us to write a personal message!

Happy 1st anniversary to Joel and me!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

First Letterpress Class Session Projects

Here are some of the projects from my first session letterpressing. I did Christmas gifts and Christmas cards. I didn't take pictures of all the cards I did, but they were all in the same "strawberry" color ink and printed on various Paper Source cards and envelopes. This was before my shop acquired its fancy DSLR, so I'm sorry for the cast on some of the cards (from the lighting overhead).

You can see all the projects I've taken pictures of in my Flickr Letterpress Projects set.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Learning How to Letterpress (aka, Step 0)

It occurred to me, after covering Step 1 and Step 2, that I should probably talk a little about how to get started in letterpress. I think that the best way to get started is to get your hands dirty and take a class in letterpress. Erin on Adventures in Letterpress seconds that opinion, and she talks about how to find classes or workshops in letterpress.


In Los Angeles, there are a couple places that I know of to take a formal class on letterpress. The one I that I've been taking is at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, California. I know that Art Center College of Design (look under Public Programs) also has a class, as well as Otis College of Art and Design (also under Public Programs). I seem to remember that LA Book Arts Center had a workshop once, but please don't quote me on that. (I will tell you, just by looking, that the Armory's class is WAY cheaper than Art Center or Otis.)

Outside of Los Angeles, I have absolutely no clue. Briar Press has a "Workshops and Events" Section you can check out, along with a section in their Yellow Pages for "Schools/Classes." One word of advice I'd like to offer you: many letterpress experts have divergent opinions on what is good and what is not. Very divergent. To the point of being disparaging to each other. Take all opinions with a grain of salt, do your own research, and decide for yourself what you like and what you don't. There are some that will only print with one type of ink or another, will insist that there's only one good way to clean a press, have a clear preference for photopolymer plates or metal plates, etc., etc., etc.


Aside from taking a class (or finding a local printer to show you the ropes as Erin suggests in her blog post linked above), you can read up on letterpress online and in books. Here is a list of annotated online resources to help you get started:
  • Introduction to Letterpress Printing by David Rose
    This article was invaluable to me when I was first starting out. It explains the whole process, and the article goes on to list more resources for you to learn more.
  • Letterpress FAQ
    This is the FAQ of the Letpress list. It provides great answers to questions on starting letterpress, different presses, setting type, paper and supplies, and more!
  • Secrets of a Kelseyman by Jack Gifford
    While the title makes it sound like this article is made specifically for the Kelsey, it's actually quite relevant for all tabletop presses, giving fix suggestions to common problems.
  • Basic Letterpress Tools
    This primer gives you the basics on what you will need to hand-set type.
  • Things Within Every Letterpress Print Shop
    John Barrett gives a good list (in shopping list fashion) of what you need in order to start your own letterpress studio.
  • First Press Suggestions by John Horn
    This is an invaluable article listing the pros and cons of different tabletop presses, if you're looking to get one.

In addition, General Printing, as mentioned in David Rose's article, seems to be the definitive book in learning how to letterpress. It became so definitive that it's been republished and is available for purchase online. Additionally, I've heard that, though I haven't seen it so my word is no good here, the DVD/VHS called Ten Presses and How They Work is a great resource.


There is a discussion forum on Briar Press, a number of letterpress listservs (see David Rose's article for the list), and letterpress groups on Flickr, Flappr, and probably any social networking site. Letterpress people are very helpful and friendly. I will say this again, though, some people have very divergent opinions on what is good and what is not. You need to research for yourself and figure out what sounds best to you.


Letterpress is an expensive hobby and habit. I've invested thousands of dollars into classes, my press, my equipment, plates, ink, and paper. My greatest suggestion to anyone looking to get started is to take a class or hound another printer until they let you try it out. You might find that while you like the end product, you don't care for the more tedious aspects of letterpress. Or you might find that you absolutely love it. I think it was worth every penny for me to take the classes and to get firsthand experience in setting type, using different machines, and watching and getting inspiration from others in class.

Happy letterpressing!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Step 2: Get Supplies and Equipment

On Wednesday, I got a little care package from Dave Churchman (, (317) 849-5665). Dave Churchman is a nice letterpress dealer in Indianapolis. It contained all the furniture and quoins I had ordered from him.

When I opened the package from him, there was quite a bit of a surprise! Not only was there an insane amount of furniture (Dave offered to sell me "an assortment of furniture in useful sizes" for my press), but Dave had packaged in a couple of extras because it had taken him some time to get the shipment to me (I very inconveniently asked him to send me stuff right before Easter).

Not only did he send along a bunch of leads and slugs along with everything I ordered, but he also sent two envelopes, one marked "Your Press?" and one marked "1st Job?"

Inside of the first envelope was a little dingbat resembling my Golding Official:

Inside the second envelope marked "1st Job?" was a monogram "P" cut and my name, already type set!

Along with these two envelopes, Dave sent another enveloped marked, "Saved from the Hell Box," which contained a WHOLE LOT of dingbats that I haven't yet gone through. Thank you so so much, Dave for all the equipment and all the extras!

I still have a bunch of stuff that I need, but I now have officially enough to print! I did a test run yesterday, with good results. I had bought some metallic gold ink from a local ink supplier here in Los Angeles named Accent Ink ((323) 268-1807), and the President of the company gave me some black ink to try out as well. I didn't take pictures of the whole process, but I did get 25 good cards out of it, and I will post pictures of those later. It took awhile to get the impression even and the packing just right, but I think I'm now ready for a real run!

Monday, April 16, 2007

More Information on the Golding Official

I found this great webpage with information on Golding Presses. I e-mailed Steve Saxe, and he emailed back immediately and told me that my Golding Official was made in 1919! Funky!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Linoleum Cuts = Cute Letterpress

Over the last couple months, I've been working on linoleum cuts to print in letterpress class. I think everyone has their own method of carving linoleum blocks, but I found that linoleum blocks, while they can be carved by a fifth grader, should be carved with great caution and care. Everyone I've talked to seems to have nicked themselves in some way carving linoleum blocks. It's not the most precise way to get an image, but a lot cheaper than having a plate made. I've also found it fun and challenging to carve linoleum blocks. At least it keeps my hands agile. I'm not the most dexterous, and I've seen awesome linoleum cuts in class, but here are my linoleum cuts thus far. I have to say, they're pretty cute.

My first attempt was a bee (fans of Pooh will recognize this particular bee). I carved this three times before I got it right, and nicked myself more than once. It was my first time carving linoleum blocks! For those who like to know these sorts of things, the paper above is luxe frost from Paper Source.

Inspired by my cat Jezebel, I based this cut off of a block print I saw somewhere. This was printed the same day the bee was. This was my second successful linoleum cut. I have to say, I LOVE this linoleum cut way more than I did the bee. It has cleaner lines. It's printed on a white Fabriano card.

This is the most intricate linoleum cut I've carved yet. I wanted to do something Asian-inspired(actually I wanted to do a phoenix but that's way more intricate the koi I finally settled on). I saw this koi image somewhere and attempted to carve it, but my hands got tired by the time it got to the scales. I'm not sure if I want to redo this carving or not, as it took a really really long time, and this one looks pretty good, despite the mistakes on the koi on the right. This is orange ink printed on Arturo blue (same as the "Many Thanks" card...made in the same run).

Thursday, April 12, 2007

"Many Thanks" Letterpress Card

I saw this cool card on Letterpressed, and they were sadly out. Then I thought, "Wait a minute! I'm taking a letterpress class!" So I set type to create my rendition of the Letterpressed card. I printed orange on Arturo blue card on the Vandercook in class, using Spanish, Japanese, French, German (the correct version, Letterpressed), Hawaiian, and of course, English.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Step 1: Get a Letterpress

Essential to starting a letterpress studio is an actual letterpress. Which is a bit of a dilemma since many letterpresses, especially the motorized ones, weigh too much and take too much effort to move, store, and maintain for what I envision my business doing. So I began looking into tabletop platen presses, which are unfortunately, due to their rarity and relative ease of moving, seem to be more expensive than their much larger, motorized cousins (but, on the bright side, they easily fit into an apartment and require comparatively little moving/shipping cost). After reading the "First Press Suggestions" on Don Black's website, I became deadset on getting anything but a Kelsey (which are pretty easy to find on eBay), with a preference for either a Sigwalt or a Golding Official.

While scouring Briarpress, I happened upon an ad for a Golding Official 6x9 in mint, albeit a bit dirty, condition, complete except for the rollers, which needed to be recovered. After telling myself a million times over that it was a good buy and that I wasn't just flushing a whole lot of money down the drain, I decided to buy the press. Ted, who I bought it from, couldn't have been nicer and more helpful. He drove the letterpress down with him from northern California to LA where we met and he showed us how to take it apart and put it back together, gave us tips on how to clean it and what type of rollers to get, and helped us load the press into my car.

So we got the press home, and I took to the task of cleaning the thing off. According to Ted, the press had just sat on a man's shelf for over 30 years, unused. I used linseed oil to clean off the bulk of the dirt, grime, and whatever else was on the machine, with some mineral spirits here and there to help things along. The smells reminded me a lot of an oil painting class I took back in high school. After the oil cut through most of the grime, I used white vinegar to clean off the linseed oil and what little bits of rust there were.

Meanwhile, I priced recovering the rollers. Ted had stressed to me that I should get rubber rollers, as composition rollers, made from glue and glycerin, would get sticky and messy in the Los Angeles environment. I was still undecided as I had heard composition rollers were better inkers even though they didn't last as long. So I contacted Tarheel, who were wonderful and helpful, but they only cast composition rollers once a month and were on the other side of the United States. I contacted Ramco, a company based here in San Dimas, California. Adrian at Ramco said that he could get rubber rollers custom-made for my Golding in about a week. The best part was, despite what has been stated, Ramco's rubber rollers were cheaper than Tarheel's composition rollers. Faster, cheaper, and I didn't have to pay shipping! Adrian and Jane were so friendly and helpful, and my rollers were ready in one week flat!

Finally, for tympan paper, I saw a discussion somewhere on Briar Press on packing, where someone was talking about using Yupo paper as tympan paper. This struck me as a great idea, since it's relatively inexpensive and easily found at any number of art stores, so I decided to try it.

I wish I had taken some "before" pictures. But here are some pictures of my new acquisition, all put together and ready for ink and testing:

Golding Official #4, cleaned and put back together

Roller, custom made by Ramco

Yupo as tympan paper

Ready to go!
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Monday, April 9, 2007

To New Beginnings!

So life sometimes takes you on unexpected, delightful turns. I have been angling for quite some time now to move my website design business to focus more on special event websites (large corporate parties, weddings, and the like), and that what Joie Studio was supposed to be: a separate brand for elegant, upscale special event websites. But a friend of mine put it in my head to take a letterpress class. I had already planned to take an art class of some sort, and I figured one art class was as good as another. I was hooked after the first session of letterpress classes at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, California.

Since letterpress is a good complement to Joie's focus on special events, I've decided to encompass my letterpress work into Joie Studio for a one-stop shop for event design work. In the coming months, I'll be working on setting up Joie Studio, and I will share the progress on setting up shop and building out the Joie Studio website and online store, as well as new interesting web and letterpress designs from Joie and from other designers that I run across.
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