Kseniya ThomasKeymaster@kseniya5 years, 3 months ago
How did you become a printer?
Hartford Prints! is a collaboration between three sisters and a press! After winning a local arts grants in 2009, our older sister, Addy, founded Hartford Prints! as a non-profit educational space. She hired local youth to work as apprentices in the studio, learning letterpress while making art that expressed their experiences growing up in Hartford. When the grant expired in 2012, we decided that with our powers combined, we could turn the print shop into a successful commercial venture. Our younger sister Rory moved back to Hartford from Brooklyn to become our Creative Director. Callie, the middle sister, took over administrative duties, and Addy continued on as Master Printer. Addy has since passed the torch to our ?youngest sister,? Kaitlin Lennon, who started in the shop as an intern but has proven herself to be a master of the press, as well! Today, Hartford Prints! is both a letterpress studio and a stationery store, which we opened in October of 2013 with the help of another grant from the city. We remain very dedicated to our original mission to be an active community space, using the power of our press to create all kinds of positive vibes for and about our city. The moral of our story (so far!) is that Hartford is an amazing city for small businesses in the arts. If you love it, it will love you back!
What was your first press?
Our first and current press is our trusty Vandercook 4T. We also recently acquired a C&P from Trinity College here in Hartford. We?ve enrolled ourselves in a workshop at The Center for the Book Arts in New York to get ourselves up to speed on our new baby!
What do you make?
We make – in no particular order – stationery, buttons, bumper stickers, wedding invitations, special occasion paper, greeting cards, menus, t-shirts, tote bags, business cards, art prints, branding/logos, and all manner of Hartford schwag!
What do you like best about your work or physical shop?
We are so fortunate to have two physical locations, our studio and our store. Our studio is located in an old typewriter factory so it has gorgeous large windows that let in a ton of light. It is a fabulous space for daydreaming, printing, and storytelling while lining 250 envelopes! Our store is on the cutest street in all of downtown Hartford, Pratt Street. It has large windows, perfect for creating unique displays, and a bright turquoise storefront, which (we hope!) draws people in from the street. It is the perfect place to grab a cup of coffee at JoJos next door and come browse, chat, and shop on your lunch break!
As for our work, we love creating designs that resonate on a deeper level with our customers. When we design custom wedding invitations, we try to learn as much as we can about the couple so that their wedding paper is a unique reflection of their story, style, and love. When we design something for our store, we want to create something that leaves people feeling warm and fuzzy inside. Because in today?s market, it takes a little bit more thought and care to shop locally and we want our customers to be so happy they did!
What do you find challenging about being a printer?
One challenge that we constantly struggle with is designing commercially for letterpress. Many of our custom clients are not familiar with the printing process and want something that may only be accessible through digital design, like photographs. We always try to think outside the box and push our design capabilities further to produce work that is more dynamic and cutting edge, while remaining true to the traditions of our craft.
Who or what inspires you the most? (please provide links, if applicable) Do you have a printing hero or mentor?
We love, love, love, love, love Pinterest! It is an amazing tool for collecting design inspirations and we use it all the time when designing our own products, as well as with our custom clients. It is also a great way to spend an hour recharging your batteries, especially on those days when the coffee never seems to kick in! We also look to various design and wedding blogs, like deisgnlovefest, Oh So Beautiful Paper, Style Me Pretty, etc., to stay current on industry trends.
Our printing heros are definitely Ladyfingers Letterpress. We love the custom work they produce and are always awed by their technique and designs.
Do you have a printing or business tip that you can’t live without?
Over the past two years, we have struggled with the growing pains that come with starting a small printing and retail business. One of the biggest lessons we?ve learned is how important it is to have systems and protocols for all that we do – from printing, ordering, and design proposals to staff meetings, client emails, and taxes. These protocols have become the backbone of our business and will provide the support we need as we continue to grow.
Can we see your shop?
Yes! Please stop by, we love having visitors. Our studio is located at 56 Arbor Street, Suite 220, in Hartford. We are generally there from 9am -6pm, Monday through Friday, but it is always a good idea to call beforehand (860-578-8447), as we might be out running Etsy orders to the post office!
Our store is located at 42 ½ Pratt Street in downtown Hartford. We?re always there Tuesdays – Saturdays, 11am – 7pm. Come check us out!
Thoughts (random or otherwise!) on the future of letterpress?
We are not sure what the future holds for letterpress or for Hartford Prints!. We do know, however, that there is a strong demand out there for products that reflect a bridge between our past and our future – products that bring with them an amelioration of the urban experience and generate a lot of local love. We are committed to making beautiful paper and are excited for where this journey takes us next!
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