Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why I'm A Hobby Printer

Why am I a hobby printer? Why not make money with our letterpress shop? With the current popularity of letterpress wedding invitations, birth announcements, and other hand-crafted pieces, there’s a market for what my husband and I could produce. Despite this, we have remained primarily printing hobbyists.

The growing appeal of letterpress to the general public is certainly a trend I applaud. More people are recognizing the beauty and skill that goes into creating a handmade printed piece. And why not commemorate a wedding, anniversary, or birth with something one of a kind? I’ve seen wonderful creativity go into many of these letterpress pieces for hire done by other printers.

But instead of dealing with sometimes demanding customers, Bob and I have chosen to print what we want, when we want, how we want. It’s just the way we are. We’re stubbornly independent, and if we printed mainly for money it would take much of the joy out of it for us. So apart from the occasional job that interests us, we choose what we want to print − a poem, a saying, a holiday card, a booklet, a historical piece. We design and print each piece the way we want to print it. This keeps letterpress open-ended and exciting for us.

Something we’ve had fun doing over the years is using our press to print quotes that are significant to ourselves or others. For example, the custodian at the public library where I worked found a battered photocopy of a quote on attitudes inside a returned library book. He shared it with me, since it was a favorite of his. When he retired, Bob and I printed and framed the quote and gave it to him. I know it was one of the more meaningful gifts that he received.

Another friend had a favorite saying that we printed to decorate her desk at work: “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” We enjoyed designing the piece using old Victorian type that bent and curved, with a wiggly border to match.

We have a friend who loves to go out for breakfast, so much so that he calls himself, “The Commissioner of Breakfast”. We printed a business card for him to leave at restaurants where he’d had an especially good breakfast − and we liked the idea so much that we printed cards for ourselves, too. It’s amazing to see how happy you can make a waiter or waitress by handing them a simple hand-printed card. Interestingly, people tend to believe there’s really a Commissioner of Breakfast, even when you tell them it’s a joke − if it’s printed on a business card, it must be true, right?

One piece we printed, “Destined for Greatness...” sums up much of the feeling I have towards printing for pleasure. When I print I try to remember to take it easy, pace myself, and remember that the things I do just for the love and joy of it truly matter.

This quote on attitudes by an anonymous author was printed in Grolier with Empire border.

The eccentricities of Scribner by the Central Type Foundry of St Louis fit this quote.

We love handing these out whenever we have an especially good restaurant breakfast.


  1. You are making Letterpress sound so much fun that I want a set up in my basement. But then I'd never get anything accomplished. I love seeing all the things you've designed and printed. Very cool.

  2. Thank you, Lynn! Letterpress is fun, and not as complicated as you might think. You can start small and branch out. It takes time, but what doesn't? And if you're enjoying the process and expressing yourself, to me it's worth it.

  3. Joe and I were discussing your blog and all the interesting things on it, and decided that we need some of those breakfast commissioner cards. Then we thought, why not be a commissioner of bar-tenders or of pies? It's only limited by your imagination!

  4. Great ideas! The Commissioner of Pies sounds particularly promising. Do you suppose the Commissioner of Pies might get free samples? Hmmm, I think we even have a pie cut.