Essie Letterpress is a design and print studio in the Cape, they work with top quality Cotton rich papers and all work is printed using a 1964 manually operated German Proofing Press. The press punches the designs into the paper creating a beautiful relief allowing it to be both seen and felt. I had a chat to them to find out more…
Tell us a bit about yourselves… My husband, Ben and I started Essie Letterpress just over two years ago. We live on a flower and Citrus farm two hours from Cape Town.
Letterpress is very popular overseas, how did you come to start it in SA? I was living in San Francisco, whilst studying Interior Design 12 years ago, when I first came across letterpress. I immediately fell in love with it! I went on to work as an Interior Designer after studying, but when I moved to the farm from Cape Town and wanted to do something creative, I instantly thought about starting a letterpress printing company. There was also a gap in the South African market for letterpress, so it seemed like the perfect venture.
Tell us about the process- are there any limitations with what you can do on the machine? I have 2 presses – one is a Proofing Press, where every item is hand printed individually, which I use for small jobs. The 2nd press is a Heidelberg platen, which has an automatic paper feed, so printing is much quicker, and I use this for larger jobs. There are limitations – certain designs do not like to be printed too deeply. We find that more intricate designs print well. Large fields of colour also often cause the paper to buckle. It is not ideal to print back to back (eg for business cards) as the impression will show through to the other side of the paper.
It seems like a very hands on process, how exactly does it work? It is very hands on, and is a real labour of love, as it is time consuming and the presses are often temperamental. We first start with the design, then we get a plate made (one per ink colour), and begin printing. We leave the work to dry overnight and then do all trimming and packing etc. the next day.
What is next for Essie? We are in the process of curating an Artists Almanac, which will feature designs by 12 local Illustrators, and which we will print. We are also in the process of launching a range of 2 notebooks, of which the covers are both letter pressed and foiled. We are also busy renovating an old shed, which I am planning to move my studio and office into.
Where can people buy your products? We have an online shop which features many of our products. http://store.essieletterpress.co.za or can you email me for other products not listed on the shop or for custom items. firstname.lastname@example.org, I also supply shops in JHB, CT and East London. Have a look at my website for a list of suppliers: http://essieletterpress.co.za/stockists.htm