THEMES OF NATURE, LUXURIOUS PAPERS AND HANDCRAFTED EXCELLENCE are the focus of these two letterpress artists. While the world is careening towards digital processes, San Francisco artisans Kimberly Austin and Stacey Pancake are looking back to a time when writing was an art form and the tactile sense of correspondence was of the utmost importance.
Letterpress cards embody the sincerity and permanence of the sentimental written word.
What exactly is letterpress? Johann Gutenberg’s “movable type” printing press began the whole genre. The cast-metal individual letters, punctuation marks, filigrees, etc., were arranged backwards into a forme, then inked and pressed into paper. The impression made from this technique is crisp and luxurious. The same technique exists today in high-end book and stationery form, with the added utilization of photographically generated plates and mechanically run presses.
As artist-turned-artisan Kimberly Austin soon discovered, letterpress was a perfect transition from the vintage photographic processes in her artwork to the vintage printing processes of letterpress. Austin is attracted to presswork in a tactile sense because of the deep impression it makes into thick cotton paper and the way it feels in your hand. It’s this artistry and technique that she brings to her custom work for wedding ephemera.
“Austin Press wedding announcements are lovely little packages to behold,” says Austin of the custom work she produces for exacting couples. “The ensemble is wrapped with transparent tissues, tied with delicate ribbon, then placed into a handmade inner envelope.” With her hand-feed Chandler & Price press restored to its 19th century glory, Austin prints each individual card with loving care and treats each client with personalized attention.
Artist Stacey Pancake of Pancake & Franks affirms, “Letterpress cards embody the sincerity and permanence of the sentimental written word.” For Pancake & Franks, her design company based in San Francisco, there is also a nod to sustainability incorporated in the minimalist design. Not only does Pancake use the less-polluting letterpress system, but she also prints on recycled or ecological papers and seeks to reduce waste without detracting from the beauty of the object.
With a new line of pre-letterpressed DYI wedding cards available, Pancake is giving couples the option to have a beautifully printed card that can be personalized by hand or printed from a computer. Like most letterpress artists, Pancake treats her cards as little works of art that are to be kept and cherished. BOND
WORDS LYNN TSUTSUMI / PHOTOGRAPHY ROB SCHROEDER