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We think every merchant in our Provisions shop is special -- but when we find one with a great story, we'll be featuring them here. Because we want to tell the world about our favorite makers.
Today: With the holiday wrapping season around the corner, we're talking to our favorite letterpress designer, Egg Press, and taking a tour of their Portland, Oregon studio.
The Egg Press office doesn't have cubicles or rows of computers. Light streams in through rows of windows onto whitewashed brick walls and polished wood floors. Ancient printing presses stand next to tables cluttered with brightly patterned cards and paper cuttings. A bookshelf holds all manner of design texts, from Milton Glaser's Art is Work to Cipe Pineles' The Life of Design. The team, led by founder Tess Darrow, affectionately refers to the space as the “Eggquarters” -- this is where the letterpress magic happens.
Tess was working as a designer for Nike in 1999 when she left to start Egg Press. She had a degree in textiles from the University of Washington and an internship with a local printer under her belt. She wasn’t a stranger to letterpress -- her thesis project at U.W. was a series of handmade books, and she was thoroughly captivated by the tactile process of printing.
Nowadays, letterpress is everywhere. To label something "letterpress" marks it as high-quality and handcrafted -- it's the stationery equivalent of a "farm to table" menu. But when Egg Press launched, there were only a handful of letterpress print shops and studios around; over the past 15 years, more and more have emerged. "It’s a popular medium for our current craft-obsessed times," says Tess.
So how does it actually work? It's a relief method of printing requiring some muscle from massive heavy machines (Egg Press' machines date back to the 1920s). First, they place a raised image on the press. Using rubber rollers, ink is transferred onto the image, then pressed into a piece of paper, leaving ink-filled imprints.
The designs on those raised images are inspired by all of Portland and beyond -- Tess and her small team of designers are always looking for patterns and color. They’re regulars at local shops like Alder & Co., Canoe, and Pistils Nursery. Scraps of vintage textiles from a grandmother’s quilt, the colors of a delivery truck in Japan, thrift store displays, and vintage books have all influenced recent designs.
If you’ve got your own design in mind, Egg Press does custom work, too. They do small jobs (like save-the-date cards and party invitations) and a variety of brand work for companies as big as Nike. Egg Press also works with other local companies -- they've created holiday packaging for local chocolatier Droga and textiles for their neighbor, Schoolhouse Electric.
More: Sip on one of these inspired cocktails while you write your letter.
There's a lot to admire about Egg Press' work, but we particularly appreciate the effort they've put into reviving the art of correspondence. They've set aside desks in their studio stocked with greeting cards and stamps -- employees are encouraged to write a few personal letters every week, on the clock. When is the last time you sat down and hand-wrote a letter, just to say hello? We're guessing it's been awhile, and Egg Press thinks so too. That's why they're about to launch their "Social Preparedness Kit": a curated group of stationery staples designed to make it easier for people to stay in touch. It's coming to our shop on November 25th, so stay tuned.
If you’d like to practice, order some of their cards here and then send us a letter! Our address is: The Provisions Team, 251 W. 30th Street, New York, NY, 10001. We promise to write back.
Top and bottom 2 photos by James Ransom; second image by Egg Press; third image by Carlie Armstron; fourth image by Jack Wineinger