Monday, February 9, 2009

Poppy Letterpress: Pressed for success

Written By Amanda Whitley

In late 2007, my then-colleague, Louise Redman, told me she was setting up a letterpress business. My blank look prompted her to say “oh, don’t get me started – I can talk about letterpress all day.” Fast forward a year or so and that passion has translated into a flourishing business for Louise and her husband, Adrian.
Louise says she was hooked from the moment she saw her first letterpress printed greeting card. “There’s just something fantastic about being able to feel the design and not just see it. Oh, and I just love paper. A little too much.”

Letterpress is a form of relief printing where a raised image or letter is inked, and then pressed to paper to create a print. Modern letterpress is unique in how it leaves a deboss, or impression, in the paper that you can see and feel.
Originally, prints were created using lead type, which was composed to form sentences, and then placed in the press to be inked and printed. These days a design can be created on the computer, and photopolymer plates produced to print from.
“It’s an amazing way of combining modern technology and antique machinery,” says Louise.
“Our designs are printed on 100% cotton paper, which is soft and pillowy – you can’t help but touch it, it’s just so luxurious and has a handmade feel to it. The colours are vibrant, the printing is crisp and clean, and the paper is almost like fabric. Each sheet is hand-fed into the press, so it’s a time-consuming but addictive art. It’s hard to believe that such old greasy machines can produce something so beautiful!”

Finding the equipment has been the biggest challenge for Louise and Adrian. Most letterpress machines were produced about 100 years ago in the USA, and not many were imported to Australia at that time. Offset printing gradually phased out the need to print day-to-day items by letterpress, and many of the old machines were sent to scrap. The few that are still around are worth their weight in gold (that’s almost a tonne of gold!), so they’re hard to find.

“I’m lucky to have two large standing floor platens, one is 90 years old, the other is around 80,” says Louise.
“Along with the presses, I’ve had to find resources and suppliers of plates, paper and ink. Oh, and we’ve had to buy a new house and studio to accommodate the growing collection!”
The first project for the (rather disgustingly talented) husband and wife team was the creation of their own wedding stationery. And despite Louise once claiming she’d never work on wedding invitations she now finds them the most fun and rewarding jobs – just as well, since brides and grooms are lining up for Poppy’s personalised approach.

“We work one-on-one with our clients to understand the look and feel of their wedding, and the particular style that they’re after. Our designs tie in concepts from the wedding venue, bridesmaid’s dresses and flowers, table decorations…even jewellery! The invitation is the first impression that the guests get of the big day, so it needs to set the tone.”

Louise says that times have changed with wedding invites – the once strict etiquette surrounding format, wording and the like is far more relaxed…and that really allows clients to express themselves.
“These days you can do anything really – your wedding is a celebration of the two of you as a couple, and the stationery should reflect that. It’s a chance to get really creative, so don’t be afraid to have a little (or a lot) of fun with it!”
With their first child on the way, it’s quite possible that Louise and Adrian will add a baby collection in the future – Louise admits she’s already thinking about her baby announcement cards. Until then, clients are only limited by their imagination as to what Poppy can produce. Keep them in mind next time you want something beautiful and unique!
To find out more, check out or follow the studio happenings on the Poppy blog.


Anonymous said...

OOOH! Nina you always bring us the very best Canberra has to offer. I am so excited by this - I'm off to peruse the site. :D


*Spring Blossom* said...

Poppyletterpress designs are just amazing! They are truly a work of art and a momento that you will never throw out.
They look so wonderful and Louise is so passionate about every design.

Emma Davidson said...

Local letterpress - thankyou for blogging this! I've been checking out letterpress blogs online and spotted some lovely letterpress cards in Pepe's Paperie, so it's wonderful to know it's happening in our town :)

Anonymous said...

I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.