Of all the invitations sent and received, one of the most gorgeous and recognizable is a letterpress invitation. Running a finger over the deep impression and cotton paper, you can literally feel each part of the printed design…but what goes into this letterpress invitation?
Letterpress has it’s own history too – it starts about 600 years before Martha Stewart Weddings published an article that helped letterpress invitations became popular again.
A man named Johannes Gutenberg invented the first printing press with movable type. For the next 500 years the printing process remained greatly unchanged, until a more efficient type of printing came around in the mid-1900’s. Offset printing, followed by digital printing, almost rendered letterpress obsolete.
Letterpress’s recent revival has brought this ancestor of printing back to us. In our little print shop in Vermont, our letterpress’s presence is humbling – weighing in at almost 1 ton or 1,800 pounds – it’s amazing that her 96-year-old frame can produce something so beautiful and delicate. Her legacy continues as we print beautiful invitations and stationery on her.
So what does go into the invitation that makes it so unique, beside the history? The entire process is a labor of love; it is truly handmade and artisan. Printers go back to their roots while using today’s technology. For instance, computer software is used to create a design that is turned into a polymer plate – which has a raised design and looks a lot like a rubber stamp – it allows us to print almost anything, without movable type.
From start to finish, the entire printing process generally takes a few weeks. When a couple orders an invitation suite from us, we then send them a PDF proof, and after that’s approved we order the materials needed for their invitation. We order a polymer plate, cotton paper and envelopes to print on. We hand-mix the ink colors according to our Pantone Formula Guide, oil up the machine and set the design up on the press. After inking the press with one color, we test a few sheets to ensure the alignment, color and impression are all perfect. If everything looks great, then we hand feed each sheet of paper into the press and thousands of pounds of pressure prints each invitation. If there is a second color, we clean the machine up and restart the process with the next color. A quantity of 100 simple 2-color invitations, reply cards and printed return addresses, can be about 700 runs through the press – which is all operated by foot pumping. After cleaning up the press, we double-check all the pieces to ensure they are equally beautiful before shipping out the package to the lucky couple.
We are proud to say our designs are truly handmade, and that we are part of continuing the life of a wonderful printing technique. We just love everything about letterpress!