Kseniya ThomasKeymaster@kseniya5 years, 6 months agoThe Member Spotlight returns! From now until the National Stationery Show in May, we’ll be featuring exhibitors in our fifth-year anniversary booth, starting off with Sara McNally of Constellation & Co.:How did you become a printer?While in art school, I took a class on the history of graphic design. When we got to the invention of the printing press and movable type, I was satisfied and happy – I didn’t want to move on! After graduation, I loved design but didn’t want to spend 40+ hours per week behind a computer screen. I’ve always loved antique ephemera and working with my hands, so letterpress printing was incredibly attractive. My husband and I got married and moved (with our first tabletop press) to Seattle in 2009. I took a class on letterpress printing at the School of Visual Concepts and loved it. I quit my depressing ad agency job to pursue being a freelance designer and letterpress printer. I was then incredibly fortunate to get hands on during a year long apprenticeship at Myrtle Alley Press. We decided to officially take the dive into small business in January 2011 when we found a C&P platen press for sale. It was a giant mess, and I spent many hours de-rusting and getting it back into printing order. Once Josephine was up and running, we started taking client work and producing our own artwork and products. We’ve been busy ever since, growing our product line as well as our space and collection of type and presses!What was your first press?I bought a 5×8 Kelsey tabletop press at an antique store for $100 when I was still in college. My dorm room became print shop central, and I did nothing but clean and organize type for several months. I didn’t actually print on it until after we moved to Seattle, but it was my pride & joy nonetheless!
What do you make?
I design simple, heartfelt (or snarky) typographic cards and prints, produced with hand-set wood & lead type, antique printer’s blocks and hand-carved wood engravings. My work appeals to a rustic, masculine aesthetic. (No pastel colors here!) We also do full service design & printing for client work (wedding invites, business stationery, etc.) – I love getting to work with both digital design and old school processes.I’m super lucky to work in an 1890’s brick building in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square neighborhood. I love that our presses fit perfectly into the history of their environment. I love the soaring floor to ceiling windows in our print shop. In Seattle, we need all the natural light we can get! But of course, my presses are the best thing about the studio. Last year we added an 1890’s Reliance iron handpress to the family, and I couldn’t be happier about it!
What do you find challenging about being a printer?I LOVE being a printer. But some days, the choice to be 100% hand-fed and treadle-operated can take its toll on my tired bones. However, I always like to remind myself that this is why I don’t have to work out!Who or what inspires you the most? (please provide links, if applicable) Do you have a printing hero or mentor?Life itself gives me the most inspiration. I love to take walks around downtown Seattle, hike through Discovery Park, get coffee with a friend, or stay in bed and read a book next to my husband. Life is beautiful, and the simple things can bring great joy! Those quiet moments of happiness with the people we love are what my work is about.For my birthday one year, my husband Brad gave me unlimited wood engraving lessons. (A great gift, huh!?) My teacher, Carl Montford, is absolutely a master of his craft, and I am honored to call him mentor and friend. He was the “matchmaker? who brought us together with the seller of C&P, and he even helped us move the press into our studio, which was not an easy task! Carl is an absolute treasure to the Seattle letterpress community. But more that that, he?s like family to us. I spend every Friday morning in Carl’s beautiful home studio, and it’s time I wouldn’t trade for the world. I?ve really fallen in love with the historic craft of wood engraving. It?s infinitely satisfying to see my ideas become sketches, then printing blocks, then beautiful letterpress printed pieces. Wood engraving and printing on the iron handpress provide me an opportunity to express myself, to experiment, and to create.Do you have a printing or business tip that you can’t live without?Do more of what you love. Take a day off when you need one. Delegate things that someone else can do better (like bookkeeping!). If your adhesive-backed photopolymer plates won’t stick to your boxcar base, rub it down with hand sanitizer and dry it off before adhering the plates. Seriously. Changed my life. 😉Can we see your shop?
Sure! Come to Seattle for a cup of coffee and a chat. Okay, okay… here are some photos instead. (But be sure to drink coffee while looking at them.)
Thoughts (random or otherwise!) on the future of letterpress?Letterpress is here to stay! We love doing college tours, Saturday workshops, and art walk open house events to show the next generation the beauty of the printed word. There’s nothing better than seeing little kids geek out over printing on the iron handpress.Thanks Sara!
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