One of the many delights of working at Schoolhouse Electric is seeing small businesses build dream spaces. It's especially memorable when these spaces are on the other side of the globe. When we spotted Bespoke Letterpress, an extraordinary letterpress shop and café that included a number of Schoolhouse sconces and pendants in its recently renovated store, we knew they would be the perfect fit for our first-ever International Schoolhouse Spaces feature. Alischa Herrmann, Director at Bespoke Letterpress, chatted with us about her Australian-based print business and flagship shop.
What is the story behind Bespoke and can you describe a bit about the art of letterpress?
"Bespoke Letterpress, was launched in Australia in 2007 using a vintage foot treaded 1893 printing press, and has paved the way for letterpress in Australia and beyond ever since.
Reinventing a craft from the past, Bespoke Letterpress made the craft relevant again by designing and printing the old-fashioned way. Our products are produced to celebrate and showcase this time-honored print tradition.
Ten years later, the Bespoke Letterpress has a cult-like following and our products include letterpress and hot foil printed greeting cards, gift tags, notebooks, stationery and our world famous double-sided gift wrap.
We are forever governed by our love of letterpress, and we are focused on paving the way for how letterpress can be experienced and enjoyed by paper lovers from all over the world. But at the core of it all, everything we do, we do for the love of letterpress."
How did you choose your current space and what was your inspiration for the design?
"Discovering this space seemed extremely well-timed. We had been discussing ideas and options of creating a permanent store and how wonderful that could potentially be when we discovered the building where we now reside. At that time, it was undergoing a massive update and overhaul. Walking into the space, complete with its mustard carpet, 70’s timber panelling and mirrored columns, it didn’t take much for us to look past those things and see that this space had serious potential. Luckily, we came on board very early in the construction and refurbishment stage, so we were able to alter a few elements to best suit our beloved presses.
The store design was primarily focused on ensuring the products were the highlight of the space. Decisions and materials were decided upon to meet this primary need. We wanted to create a space that people felt comfortable in, one that truly encouraged them to linger and browse the stationery goodies. We also wanted customers to be able to watch the presses and stay and enjoy a bite to eat if they chose."
As an Australian-based shop, how did you learn about Schoolhouse and come to select us for your lighting?
"I won’t lie - lighting for us was one of the most deliberated decisions in the entire process. We knew the space demanded the perfect lighting solutions to best enhance and bring together the different spaces of the store. Upon entering our space, the customer sees through the cafe, stationery and press rooms, so we needed lighting that didn't invade this perspective, but at the same time complimented the entire space.
I learned about Schoolhouse when we were in New York a couple of years ago exhibiting at the national Stationery Show. From that moment, I always kept an eye on the brand. I was just waiting for the right moment to use some of the beautiful products."
To add to that, what drew you to the specific Schoolhouse fixtures you chose?
"To be honest, we loved so many of the Schoolhouse options. We were drawn to the specific lights we chose as they seemed to seamlessly fit with our vision and space."
We love how you’ve incorporated a café into your retail space, can you tell us about how that concept came to be?
"When considering the idea of opening a store, originally we just wanted it to be a simple, yet beautiful stationery store. However, we quickly thought it would be wonderful to have a space where we could provide our customers with the complete ‘bespoke’ experience. We wanted to show-off the presses and invite customers to observe the craftsmanship required to create our products first-hand. We also wanted our customers to have the chance to touch and see our products and enjoy a cup of coffee at the same time. To be honest, thinking back it was quite the wish list, but when this space was discovered it felt like our dreams had come true."
Can you tell us about the town of Bowral and your favorite places in your neighborhood?
"Bowral is located in the heart of The Southern Highlands in New South Wales. We are extremely lucky to be positioned in the same complex as many divine businesses including Dirty Janes Antique Emporium, Suzi Anderson Homewares, and Green Lane as well as in the main street of Bowral that attracts many visitors due to our proximity to Sydney."
What other brands inspire you/do you draw inspiration from?
"This list is far too long – we would be here for hours listing and comparing I am certain. We do, however, hold a certain special place for Huddle & Co, Barnaby Lane and all things Edith Rewa and luckily we have had the amazing opportunity to work and collaborate with these guys as well."
Photography © Lean Timms / Bespoke Letterpress