Meet Louie and Ella.
It’s been quite a while since the evening when, fresh out of our letterpress class at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, V casually told me that she had closed the deal on a pair of old-style C&P letterpresses. If you’ve never come face-to-face with a letterpress, I’ll tell you that they are impressive pieces of machinery.
At the time V found ours, we were packed into our studio like sardines, with no room in sight for these two enormous presses. We spent the next few weeks scouring Craig’s List for a space to house them, and eventually found the perfect little home, just around the corner from our store-front.
The next challenge was figuring out how to move the beasts from the garage print shop where they awaited our rescue. After much head-scratching; generous helping hands were enlisted, mass amounts of cast iron were disassembled, moving vans were loaded and unloaded, and everyone involved left wearing a half-gallon of grease. By the time the presses were unloaded and reassembled, we had grown quite fond of the hulking hunks of metal and Christened them “Louie” and “Ella”.
But the adventure was far from over, and the presses were still far from producing the gorgeous invitations we knew they were capable of.
There were motor belts to replace, cast iron parts to puzzle together, and the small matter of the cleaning… Oh, the cleaning. I spent many-an-afternoon in a heady world of cleaning fumes, chipping off layers of dried ink, soaking rust-spots in vinegar, and methodically scraping years of black glop out of every nook and cranny. Scrubbing grease off the presses became an obsession, a project akin to meticulously cleaning a pair of baby elephants with a Q-tip.
Eventually, I accepted the reality that the presses would never be the gleaming specimens I had dreamed about, and that letterpress printing would mean actually getting dirty. This came as a blow to a girl who, when leaving the beach for example, spends no less than a half hour removing each granule of sand from between my toes before even considering the next activity. But after a few tests runs, I’ve learned to like having a bit of ink on my hands… And elbow… And chin… And once on my steering wheel. These little bits of traveling ink make a girl feel pretty satisfied; they remind me of how exciting our letterpress adventure is turning out to be… And I haven’t even told you about the printing part yet!
Stay tuned for the next segment in our letterpress story. New characters will be introduced, platens will be adjusted and adjusted again, and, if all goes to plan, we’ll show you a sneek-peek of our first custom stationery run!