There’s nothing that spreads warmth and joy like receiving a hand-written card in the mail. Some of our earliest memories of connection are through corresponding by stationery. From writing to a pen pal to sneaking a note in a loved one’s suitcase, a thoughtfully written card is so much more than paper and ink. And thankfully, local letterpress company, Egg Press, has made it their mission to print and perfect the card-making process. Made in small batches, Tess and her team of 20, aim to create connections the old-fashioned way. With playful humor, unexpected color palettes, and details that delight, Egg Press is dedicated to the art of the analog in a world that grows increasingly digital.
Over the years, we've had the opportunity to collaborate with their talented team, partnering on products like our Big Picture Calendar, Poppy Dot Sheet Set, and Herringbone Rug (to name a few). And this year, we're incredibly excited to carry three of their seasonal holiday cards. Lucky for us, they happen to be located on the third floor of our Portland factory and headquarters. We caught up with Egg Press to learn more about their beginnings and the rewarding but laborious art of letterpress printing.
How did Egg Press start?
"When Egg Press opened its doors in 1999, founder Tess Darrow combined what she knew from her background in textile design with her experience working as a young designer at Nike. She began letterpress printing after college and found that she was increasingly drawn to spending time in her small print studio. In 1999 there were only a handful of contemporary letterpress card companies on the scene, and she recognized a huge aesthetic opportunity in the market for greeting cards that were modern in nature. She wanted to create things that she was compelled to use, write, and send. Tess launched with a few styles at the San Francisco Gift Show in 2000 and came home with enough orders for the business to take off."
In a few sentences, how would you describe Egg Press’ vision?
"20 years in, we keep pushing forward in our own way, focused on new ways to design, innovate, and connect with our consumers. We know that a text message is not a keepsake, and that technology has made us all crave the tangible where it counts the most - in relationships. Now more than ever, we want to help facilitate human connection by creating a canvas that inspires people to share what's real to them."
via Egg Press
How is letterpress printing done? Could you walk us through what it looks like from the initial design to the finished product?
"Letterpress is a relief method of printing in which the ink is pressed into the paper to create a tactile impression. We start by designing the cards, many of which are hand-drawn. We then use computers to compose the artwork. Once finalized, we send out for printing plates from an engraver. Once we have the plates in hand, we can begin printing. Every color is printed separately, with its own plate, and run through the press. The press is inked, and a set of rollers distributes the ink onto the raised plate. The printing plate is then pressed into the paper, creating an impression you can see and feel."
In a digital age that is often about speed and quantity over quality, what benefits do you see in making cards the traditional way?
"It’s always a thrill to see the first printing of a card we designed. The quality that is specific to the letterpress process is hard to replicate. And it’s always rewarding to be able to see the entire process through - from design to finished product. Letterpress printing is part production and part handmade. It’s the sweet spot for us. Plus, we absolutely love the presses - the way they sound is mesmerizing, and the tough old machines only look better with age."
via Egg Press
How do you come up with your designs and color palettes?
"We start with a brainstorm specific to the occasion we are designing for. Sometimes we’ll go out in the world to hunt for vintage fabrics and are always inspired by art books and children’s books that we have collected over the years. Color is intuitive. Tess has a very singular talent for picking unusual color combos that may be strange but are undeniably appealing. It’s one of the things that sets Egg Press apart."
via Egg Press
What are some of the most rewarding parts of letterpress printing and the most challenging aspects?
"Letterpress makes everything look and feel rich. The process allows for each piece to have slight differences, and even though you may not notice them, it makes each piece special. This, combined with the tactile experience and the feel of the impression into the paper, makes a letterpress card feels like a gift in itself. The challenge is that the process takes a lot of know-how. Even the most experienced of printers do their fair share of problem-solving on a day to day basis."