Frequently Asked Questions
What’s (an) interrobang‽
Ahh, funny you should ask. First and formost, probably not something you should name a business, primarily because no one can pronounce it, (say in-TARE-o-bang) and when I say it, it needs to be spelled out. But be that as it may...
An interrobang is a punctuation mark designed in 1962 by an advertsing typographer in NYC named Martin Specter. It’s meant to be used for the exclamatory interrogative; "You named your press WHAT‽" You can read more about it here.
Do you print from plastic plates?
What you’ll find, if it matters to you, and you’ve been shopping the internet, is that the vast majority of "letterpress" printers out there do fake letterpress. What they do is plastic "platepress", though they’ll proudly argue until they’re blue in the face telling you they’re letterpress printers. They don’t own any type, and they won’t acknowledge the difference between the genuine process and artifice they engage in.
It would be like someone telling you they baked your wedding cake from scratch, and then you found the empty cake mix box, and frosting tub in the trash. The end product may taste nice, but it isn’t what you’re being told you’re getting. And you’re being charged for something that doesn’t require the same knowledge, skills, or scarce materials to create.
That said, there will always be the need for plates for illustrative materials that print in conjunction with type. I typically have magnesium or copper relief cuts photoengraved when needed. Copper is superior to plastic or magnesium. It’s long-wearing and is archival, unlike either of those other materials.
Why does it matter?
In essence it’s akin to the artful difference between a photograph shot on film, requiring hand metering, the skillful setting of shutter speed and f-stop, chemical development, and printing on paper in a darkroom, and one made digitally and printed on an inkjet printer.
Which is to say, this is the genuine process. Letterpress, as the name may imply, is a typographic medium. Pressing letters into paper. Many people claiming to do letterpress are simply making pretty illustrative dents in paper with no regard for the tradition, skills, materials, and attention to detail required to do fine letterpress.
I’ve spent over 20 years building a collection of new, and vintage type and ornament. Much will never be made again. The type foundries that produced the types have been out of business for 30 to 50 years. You can count the sources for new type on one hand. Alongside wood engraving on boxwood, or producing platinum photographic prints, genuine hand-set typographic letterpress is one of the more endangered craft process currently being practiced. The makers of genuine letterpress foundry type, the basic element of the process for 560 years, have almost all disappeared because none of this "platepress" printers buy type.
Beyond that, genuine letterpress "speaks in a language" based on those traditional materials, properly employed. What that means is, you can’t do everything. Broad fields of solid color on uncoated stock? Not something letterpress is very good at. Photographs? Again, not what letterpress excels at reproducing.
Crisp type, and detailed line art? Yes, that’s more like it.
Is this your day job?
Yes and no. After running the shop for 18 years in my spare time, I left a well paid day job as a designer & developer in 2010. I do freelance design, development, and IT contract work to keep the mortgage paid, and food on the table.
Do you work with other designers?
Maybe. As designer, typographer, and pressman, this is my art, and I expect to have creative control over what I produce. Unlike other presses in operation, I’m not simply a pair of hands. I’ll collaborate with other designers contingent upon their understaning of the process, and willingness to work with the paradigm of traditional letterpress. If this is the case I encourage you to consult with me early in the process. This will ensure that your job can be realized via letterpress, with type and ornament in the collection, and on my equipment. If this isn’t acceptable, there are several shops in the area, and throughout the country who relief print only from plates.
Can you work from computer files?
That depends. See above. All my work starts as an electronic layout. I design for hand setting metal type (again, genuine letterpress) but often I have plates photoengraved for illustrations and art work. On rare occasions I’ll produce type from plates if the design requires. I never produce work only from plates.
How do you deliver layouts?
My usual method is to email a .pdf which will give the most accurate sense of type style and size. They tend to be very accurate representations of the overall look of a piece. Of course the final printed piece will have the added physicality of fine papers and subtle impression of beautiful type and ornament that makes letterpress so desirable.
Do you have price lists?
Yes, for stationery, and wedding invitations. I got tired of working up quotes only to have people disappear. That said, all the work I do is custom, and therefore, every job is different. I’m happy to develop quotes for any size job, be it something relatively simple like a business card, more involved stuff like the music packaging, to full blown wedding invitation suites with maps, programs and announcements, place cards, etc.
What I can say about pricing is that in general, it’s going to be a minimum of $200/per run, plus design time, materials, shipping, etc. My prices are "reasonably expensive" for custom design, hand- or machine typesetting, small batch printing, and die cutting services.
What’s your turn around time?
Depends on the job. It’s best to speak to me earlier rather than later. With regard to wedding invitations, of course it’s a given that they mail 6 weeks prior. I’d like a month for the average invite package. For any type of work, it’s a minimum 2 week turn around, or the price is going to nudge up. There’s always work in the shop, so jobs are qued according to when they come in.
Do you accept credit cards for payment?
Yes. I use PayPal which means you can pay me by credit card over the web. Super convenient. You probably already have an account to buy all that stuff on ebaY. Or, we now have the PayPal mobile card reader, so we can swipe your card when you come to pick up your job.
What are your terms for payment?
I ask for 50% to begin work, and 50% upon completion and delivery.