Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Day in The Hartford Prints! Studio

Running a card on our Vandercook 4T press.
Hartford Prints! is first and foremost a letterpress printmaking studio. We create all of our cards, art prints, and other retail paper products, along with all of our custom work, the old-fashioned way. We use a vintage Vandercook 4T printing press. Our press weighs an actual ton and started life as a newspaper proofing press handling small runs of the daily paper for the writers and editors to proof by hand.

Hand-setting a row of type.

Our designs are always a collaboration over many iced coffees and multiple Pinterest boards. We use the humor that our mom gave us and our dad’s attention to detail to bring our stationery to life, blending illustration, hand-lettering, and modern graphics. We usually start by getting together and talking about what our store customers are looking for- a print of a particular Hartford neighborhood, a certain type of card, more of a specific color- and any ideas for new products that we’ve had. We’ll brainstorm and hash the ideas out together and then get down to the nitty-gritty of designing. We love seeing our work in action and hope it inspires people to get a pen, lick a stamp, and know their local mailbox!

A hand-carved plate secure in the press.
We might hand draw or digitally design a piece, then we’ll make any further tweaks. Working as team is how we come up with some of our most successful products. A lot of times a joke or weird pun one of us makes will end up as a card, or a favorite neighborhood landmark will become an art print.

Mixing ink colors.
After nailing down the final design, the next step is to create the plate. Plates are either made digitally, by rendering our drawings and turning them into polymer plates, or by hand-carving a wooden plate. We also use hand-set type and have an enormous collection of different styles of type. We’ll prep the paper that we’re using by counting it out and cutting it down to rough size, and hand-mix the letterpress inks. Then we’ll secure the plate in place, ink up the press, and run each sheet of paper through, piece by piece, carefully setting each aside to dry. If the design contains elements of multiple colors, then this process is repeated for each color with a separate plate. We also have to print a backplate on our cards with our logo, so each card individually runs through the press at least twice.

Inking the press.
After the ink is dry, we cut everything to the final size. Then everything is painstaking folded, paired with an envelope (which has often been custom-selected for each unique design) enclosed in a plastic envelope for safekeeping, and labelled. Then it’s off to the store, where the item is given it’s very own item number, entered in our inventory system, and added to the floor displays, with extras stored carefully in our back room. After that, we photograph each piece and craft a listing for it on Etsy, so that people near and far can find us.

Finished prints hanging on the gallery wall of our studio.

Hartford Prints! is a letterpress studio and stationery store that is all about family. We are three sisters and a press, making pretty paper in our home city of Hartford. Addy, Callie, and Rory joined forces in 2012 to create unique letterpress stationery that is modern and fun. From stunning wedding invitations to offbeat greeting cards, our printing prowess, killer style, and graphic genius work together to make effortlessly beautiful designs.
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  1. As an artist I especially love this story.

  2. Something so dreamy about a letterpress studio :)
    Thanks for sharing!!

  3. This makes me want to learn how to do this! How very cool to have a vintage press!!


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