Guest Post: The Letterpress Comeback

Sometimes I think I overuse the term ‘love’ here on this blog. What can I say, there’s a lot to love in the prettiness hitting my inbox every day. But in the pantheon of loveliness, there are some details that get an extra special amount of awe. You know, for example, how I feel about proteas. And tulips. Calligraphy. Long tables. Baker’s twine. Cherries. Topiaries. Vera Wang. Romona Keveza. Shoes. LETTERPRESS. Oh, letterpress. Just the word is enough to put a smile on my face – the thought of such beautiful paper – not to mention actually holding it in my grubby little hands. Oh yes, there’s something very special about letterpress. But until recently, few South African couples went down this road for their invitations (or knew about it). Trust me, folks, that is about to change. And once you fall for letterpress, there’s no going back. It really is love. SO, I thought this was the perfect time to tell you more about it, and to help me I’ve enlisted the fab Vanessa Grib of Essie Letterpress in Cape Town (thanks guys!). Once you’ve had a read, be sure to head over to Vanessa and husband Ben’s website to see more of their gorgeous work, and give them a call about your own invitations!

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I still remember the first time I held up a letterpressed invitation. It’s a difficult feeling to explain. Think of the sound coming off a record player. Think of the excitement you used to get when developing your film photographs. Think of that bite into your grandmother’s homemade bread. You get the essence of holding something that has undertaken a long journey to get to this point. And you are the destination.

Letterpress is an interactive experience. Instead of it being just a picture of a word, it becomes a physical entity, something solid. It’s something you can touch. Letterpress puts a bite into the paper. It has a three dimensional quality that no other printing can equal.

But what is it? Letterpress is the act of running cotton rich paper over raised typography and images, creating an impression in the paper. You can feel it the gentle inclines and declines with your fingers and see slight shadows being created on the page. It is truly different.

This type of printing is a technique which has been in use in the West since the 15th century, when it was used by Johannes Gutenberg to manufacture the Gutenberg Bible. Because of the size, price and lack of accessibility to a traditional letterpress machine, this art form had almost vanished. Well, at least until a few years ago, when the comeback started. Inspired by the challenge of hands-on tweaks and unpredictable results as well as the tactile qualities of different inks, papers, and binding techniques, many designers over the world have taken to Letterpress printing. The more the world becomes streamlined, automated and accessible the more people want to move away from it. There is much more romance in holding a beautiful letterpressed invite that took a week to print than holding the financial report that has been spat out by the office printer.

South Africa has been a bit late in joining this revisit, but not slow on the uptake. Our studios have quickly caught up have been producing some gorgeous wedding invites. You can check them out at www.essieletterpress.co.za and www.letterpresscompany.co.za .

Here are some examples of our favourites from around the world:

Source: Lucky Luxe

Source: Oh So Beautiful Paper

And here’s one of ours:

With modern plate making techniques you are not limited to basic typography anymore. Anything is now possible. Any shape, colour or style. You can press the meticulous technical drawing from your top of the range design programs to the simple doodling from your notebook.

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