Laura Hooper Calligraphy

This Saturday, I found myself in Dabney Lee’s shop attending a calligraphy workshop taught by the wonderful Laura Hooper.  While practicing my light upstrokes and heavy downstrokes, I wondered to myself “How did I get here?”


My inspiration to take a calligraphy class came from one of my many browses of the hashtag #letterpress on instagram.  I have an affinity for maps so I gave Laura Hooper’s Instagram feed a browse and decided to follow her.


Thanks to this post, the FOMO in me and, my never-dying love of all things calligraphy (letterpress, typography and maps), I instantly registered for Laura Hooper’s Calligraphy Workshop in Brooklyn, NY.


In three hours, I went from completely uncomfortable and not confident to quite pleased with my accomplishments.

Interesting Points:

In the words of Laura Hooper “Practice Makes Perfect”.

Baby Shower Invitation: Pooh Letterpress Part 1 – Ink Mixing


My good friend Michelle is chic (pronounced ‘chick’ by D) in that Audrey Hepburn kind of way and she’s having a baby!  She’s due in June which means it’s time for a baby shower.  Yes, it’s another opportunity for the USPS to deliver more of meiling’s mailing’s.


Her sister Stephanie came up with the adorable classic Winnie The Pooh theme.  As much as I love the bear who lives in the hundred acres woods, a brown and tan colored invitation implied Autumn and that just wouldn’t work right for a spummer baby.  So, for fun, I swapped the colors for something a little more chic.  Something like Tiffany & Co.


I like to mix my ink ahead of time.  So, after the design was finalized and the paper and photo-polymer plates were ordered, with the help of Dan @ The Arm, I mixed 8 ounces of each color (enough for 50 4″x6″ invitations and 50 thank you notes each with 30% ink coverage to be printed on a Vandercook proof press).

Interesting Points:

  1. Don’t mix too much ink.  I asked Dan, a well seasoned printer, how much ink I needed.  Before my question could be answered, I needed to know:
    • How big is the print?
    • How many copies will be printed?
    • How much ink will coverage each print?
    • What kind of printer will be used?
  1. “Don’t add white to color. Add color to white.” – Boxcar Press on Mixing letterpress inks: how to make 1600 colors from just 14 cans of ink.  Basically it’s easier to darken than lighten ink. Therefore, if the pantone recipe calls for X amount of transparent white and X amount of the other colors, go modest on the other colors.
  2. To the note above, the mixed clump of  ink will always look darker than the intended print color.  Remember that letterpress ink is transparent and will print lighter so taking a draw down of your ink onto the paper you plan to print will give you a better idea of how close you are.



Pantone 319 431



The Arm Letterpress


Lisa and JD wed on a beautiful Charleston, South Carolina plantation in the Summer of 2009.  Their wedding invitation was my first taste of letterpress.  I saved the invitation set which, to some, might seem odd. If you’re thinking ‘the invitations didn’t offer you well wishes and it certainly wasn’t regarding an occasion to celebrate you’, you’re right but holding on to it was an innate reaction and I didn’t do much to fight it.


I simply love the feel of deep impression on fine cotton paper so it became a dream of mine to learn the art of letterpress.  I have to be honest – I’m risk averse so dropping my career to go back to school to pursue the arts with a focus in printing was not an option.

My second option was to pursue a beginner course.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t commit to any courses offered during the week because my job and the number of hours in a day didn’t allow for it.

I suppose I took a shortcut because I started my ‘education’ of letterpress by reading blogs on the internet.  Eventually, my internet readings led me to the L Letterpress.  I know I know, there are various posts by letterpress printers that denounce the L Letterpress but, a few have opted to embrace it.

The optimistic posts consider the L Letterpress an inexpensive preview into the art of letterpress and these articles pointed me in the direction of The Arm Letterpress in Brooklyn NY.  After weeks of scouring the internet for information about The Arm and other co-op print studios in the area (which btw, in NYC, aren’t many), I registered for their  6-hour Letterpress on the Vandercook and C&P Pilot class.  While I understand there is much to learn about the rich history of printing, I appreciated having the opportunity to jump right into operating the Vandercook proof press and Chandler & Price Pilot press with just enough information to safely and properly use and clean the presses.

Taking this course was my inexpensive way to test whether this was something I really wanted to further invest my time and money in.  All I’m going to say is – I’ve booked some time to work on a press at The Arm this week.

Meet the creation at the next post.


20140307-161844.jpgChandler & Price Pilot Press

Wedding Invitation: Bigshot Letterpress Part 3 – Print

Idea & Inspiration – final recap:

Congratulations to my dear friend, D.  I hope you and J love your wedding invitations as much as I loved creating them.  Thank you for giving me this opportunity to flex my creative muscles.


I can go on and on with the details of each production step.  But, I won’t yap about it because I won’t do it justice.  Instead I’ve provided the link to my reads at the end of this post.  In summary, the steps are:

  1. Cut paper (make this the last step if you can)
  2. Mix ink color(s)
  3. Set gages on press plate
  4. Set print plate
  5. Print
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 above for each color or blind deboss






Internet Read:

L Letterpress techniques by Boxcar Press