With the upcoming launch of letterpress, we thought it would be a great time to tell the letterpress journey story. If you’ve been in our Spencer, IA, Studio+Store at all over the past 11 months, you likely saw a little hand-drawn chalkboard sign that said, “Letterpress greeting cards coming in 2019.” This story you’re about to read is what took place before the writing of that sign, what has transpired since, and what yet remains to be accomplished in the next 4 weeks.
Pressed began as a hand-pressed jewelry brand, each one with reminders to be “pressed on the heart”. Two years later we added screen-printed (A.K.A. hand-pressed) apparel to our lineup, each one with the same type of reminders as our jewelry. We thought our little “family” so-to-speak was complete. Jewelry and apparel. We were loving our brand, the two items complimenting each other so well.
One fateful morning two years ago, I was designing new jewelry styles and came across a Henri Nouwen quote that just hit me deep inside my soul. When that happens, I know these words need to find their way into our lineup in some way. I read the quote to Eric right away and said to him, “Wow, this would make an AMAZING greeting card…..” *silence* lightbulb moment* A voice from deep inside said, “Letterpress.” Eric could see, as he always does, something was brewing. I said, “Letterpress!! Get it?! Letter-PRESSED?” Eric, being the Enneagram #7 that he is, loved that something big was brewing. One problem, he didn’t know what letterpress was. I did my best to explain that it’s an antique method of paper printing that has made a comeback. We resourced YouTube as we always do in these situations. We agreed, “Yeah that would be sweet,” and then we moved on with our day.
Remember when I mentioned Eric is an Enneagram #7? If you’re not familiar with the Enneagram yet, it’s a newly-popular personality test. We’ve been learning a lot about ourselves from this test. As I write this story, I chuckle because we knew nothing yet of the Enneagram on this day 2 years ago, yet I see its impact in the story. “Sevens”, as they are commonly referred to, are dreamers and do-ers. Nothing is too big of a dream for them. They LOVE dreaming. Sometimes they dream just for the fun of it, with no need to actually act on those dreams. You will rarely hear a “Seven” say that something can’t be done. So guess who secretly kept researching letterpress after our conversation? Yep, that would be Eric, our resident “Seven.”
After his first round of exploring the topic, he came back to me and told me he’d done some research. I was actually shocked, because, as an Enneagram #6, I never thought it would be plausible to enter into such a new and terrifying endeavor. Yet I listened eagerly. He said he’d learned that these antique machines, decades ago, could have been picked up for free in old print shops or out of junk piles. He also learned new technology had come about more recently that allows the use of a digitally-created image on this antique machine. When that happened, the art form made a resurgence. This meant machines had skyrocketed in cost. The ones he was finding were over $15,000. They can also be extremely difficult to locate if you don’t have connections or know where to look. The presses he found were all in Portland or New York. The logistics of transportation would be a nightmare and/or extremely expensive.
He temporarily put the idea out of his head, but not for long. He remembered his trusty old friend, Craigslist. You guys, he found a press just a couple of hours away in St. Clair, MN. Population 833. Want to take a guess on the price? $500. Can you imagine our shock?! Ok, this game got really real FAST. In a way that is SO out-of-character for me, I said, “We’re doing it. I don’t know how or when, but this is happening. Tell him you’ll take it!”
One HUGE detail I can’t leave out is the fact that a store was nowhere close to being a reality for us. It was only a pipe dream. The press was too big and heavy to fit in our house, so the only place to store it was in our garage. Our garage is a blessing, but not a place to start a luxury paper brand. The only way this idea of a greeting card line would become a reality is if we DID eventually get a store. But in the off-chance we WOULD open a store with a studio in the back, I knew we needed this machine to be a part of it. No. Questions. Asked.
In our excitement, we called our parents. We were met with, “You’re doing WHAT?!” One of them thought it was a cool idea but a bit “out-there”. One thought we were going to kill ourselves trying to get all 2200 pounds of this machine home. And the other two responses were differing variations of the same. But we pushed on for whatever reason. I’ve learned that there are some things we have tackled with this brand that are considered high-risk for many. But when all the details boil down and we’re left to make the final call, we often jump into the risk because we can’t imagine looking back on our lives having NOT tried that thing.
A few short weeks later, we DID make the trek to St. Clair and picked up the 1913 Chandler & Price letterpress machine that now sits in our store and is being used to print our line of “pressed” greeting cards. For the full story on how we managed to get it loaded and unloaded, you’ll have to find Eric in the store some time and ask him. It was an adventure, but clearly it worked in the end. For some behind-the-scenes of moving it into the store 2 years later, check out our Instagram highlights!
We don’t know the full history of this machine, but we’d love to dig in and see what we can learn about it. What we do know is that it was used in a small town in southern MN to print their local newspaper for many years. It is a thing of real historical beauty and we are so thrilled that God led us to it and inspired this big dream in us.
I am breaking this story into Part 1 and Part 2 because there is so much yet to say. Specifically, how in the world we managed to learn how to use the machine. Well, how ERIC learned how. I would have given up a LOOOONG time ago. Every day I continue to be amazed at his tenacity, his positive attitude, and his ability to think clearly in the middle of deeply challenging and frustrating circumstances. This is the most difficult art form we’ve tried to tackle. The precision required is mind-boggling at times. But you want to know something exciting? We’ve rounded a big corner. We have three Christmas cards printed and ready to fold, package, and inventory. And every day that he can, Eric is working at that press. We have 10 more cards designed and ready for production: 5 cards for seasons of comfort and 5 cards for seasons of celebration. We’re still not sure how many will be able to be released with the Christmas cards because we didn’t realize how difficult some of them would be for beginners to print. (Rookie mistake.) But one thing we know…. there WILL be a letterpress launch yet in 2019!
Mark your calendars for November22nd and 23rd! That is the weekend before Thanksgiving. It is also the one-year anniversary of our Studio+Store. We thought that would be the perfect weekend to throw an anniversary party, and what better way to celebrate than with the launch of our 3rd product line.
Thanks for your patience as we learn this craft. You guys are ready and waiting for these cards to be released, and we cannot wait to get them into your hands. Our hope for when you see them is that you will love the designs and have a deep sense of appreciation for the history of the machine that made them. We also hope that the words printed on these cards will serve as “reminders pressed on the heart” for those you love.