Letterpress Workshop - Old City Press & Co.


For awhile now, I've been intrigued by letterpress as a consumer, slowly but surely replacing Hallmark cards with very cool alternatives like Emily McDowell's hand-lettered greeting cards.  When a friend of mine let me know she'd stopped in Old City Press & Co. and learned of their workshops, I got excited and signed up.

I walked in at noon, and was immediately drawn in by the aesthetic of the store, a beautiful mix of modern and vintage.  Old City Press is a fairly new fixture in Old Town, Alexandria; it opened in late 2013, and is run by Pete Juratovic. There are letterpress machines ranging from 1918 to 1961 to cover all of your letterpress wedding and event stationary design needs!

12:26 pm,
Pete was running the oldest machine in the shop (1918 Chandler Price) to print envelopes for a customer, so our class was taught by Eric, who did a great job.  One of the awesome things about the class is that it's capped at 4 people max, which turns out to be pretty necessary once you get going.  I shared the class with one other participant, who was very cool (and kind enough to take some pics of me at the end for your enjoyment :)

Eric was our host for the day and took us through everything from the history of the letterpress industry to how Old City Press got started.  He was patient (you have to be, especially working with novices.) This experience made VERY clear for me why letterpress costs more than run of the mill stationary. And why it's worth it.

12:38 pm,
Just some of the tools of the letterpress trade: furniture to block off your letters and base, quoins and corresponding key to lock up your creation (Contents under pressure. Literally.)

12:40 pm,
Once we finished our history lesson, it was time to start producing our works of art. We started with wood fonts, of which there were drawers upon drawers upon drawers.  There were also lead fonts, which you could mix and match if you so desired.

1:08 pm,
Since being introduced to Maya Angelou's "A Conceit" shortly after her death, I've been struck by the line "Make room for me."  As @MF_Greatest put so perfectly, it was a command, not a request. And I loved it. So I decided to use it as the quote on my poster.

1:39 pm,
Blocking off the letters took a bit of effort.  Thanks to Eric for all of his help in getting the puzzle pieces to fit.  Me and my classmate decided on a vibrant blue, mixed up the ink, and laid it out on the press.  This one is from 1961, and was pretty cool to work with.

2:46 pm,
I huffed, and I puffed, and I came out with a finished product.

2:50 pm,
They let me try several times so I have a few copies to give away. 

Thanks for the knowledge and the fine souvenir I got to take home!

I highly recommend this workshop if you're interested at all in letterpress. Workshops are booked for the month of June, but when the list reopens, sign up here, or contact them on any or all of the social networks above.  Regardless, if you're in the area, be sure to stop in.