By Diana Limbach Lempel
Today, we meet Shelley Barandes, who runs the inspiring Albertine Press. Barandes produces graphic design and letterpress printing for private and business customers, creating projects from wedding invitations to corporate materials and handmade printed books. What makes Albertine Press so “Somerville” is the hand-made feel and use of traditional methods, but using very contemporary design. Today, I’ve chosen to print my whole interview with Shelley Barandes, so that you can learn about her business — and about letterpress — in her own words. Some of it’s a little technical, but I think you’ll be glad to learn about this really special printing technique.
DA: Let’s start by talking about letterpress. What makes it different from other kinds of printing or design products?
SB: Letterpress is a relief printing technique whereby raised forms are inked on their surface and then pressed against paper to transfer the image and text. Traditional printing uses hand or machine-set metal type and metal image cuts but many printers now use photo-polymer plates which allow for a nearly unlimited range of type and design. The depth of impression so prevalent in contemporary work is a more modern aesthetic; any impression at all can damage the old type. Between the new polymer plates and increased use of thick cotton printmaking papers, an impression you can see and feel is readily achieved and the tactile nature of that very impression is one of the things that sets letterpress printing apart.
DA: So, why should someone think about working with a letterpress printer, rather than a graphic designer?
SB: Why should someone work with a letterpress designer? If you’re set on the letterpress aesthetic, no one is more equipped than a letterpress printer to understand the possibilities and limitations of the process. We regularly work with other designers to print their projects, and we are always happy to advise on ways to make the most of a design intended for letterpress printing. I’ve taught workshops over the years and find that graphic designers especially enjoy learning to set type and understand the physical process of arranging letters and words on a page – a reminder of the basics of their own trade.
I started letterpress printing at the Center for Book Arts in New York. Suddenly I was spending less and less time doing architecture and more and more time printing custom projects for family and friends. Soon enough I had my own presses and Albertine Press was born.
DA: Why is Somerville the right place for you to locate Albertine Press?
SB: Somerville has been an incredibly supportive community in which to grow a creative business. Somerville residents have an amazing awareness and appreciation of both the hand-made nature of our work as well as the fact we are also a local business, and they go out of their way to patronize us because of those facts.
DA: What’s new and hot for you right now?
SB: Our latest and greatest is that we have a brand new invitation suite featured in the fall issue of Martha Stewart Weddings (the lead image here is our suite). We took the opportunity to also give our website a facelift, including many new images of our latest custom wedding work.
DA: What do you want Albertine Press to be known for in the future?
SB: Right now at Albertine, our time is prety evenly divided between our wholesale catalog (all of the greeting cards, note sets, coasters and journals we sell to stores across the country and to our fans at local craft fairs) and custom design and printing (mostly wedding invitations, with a healthy side of business cards and other projects). I’m working on a longer-term plan to bring more fine art prints and limited edition book arts projects into the studio, both my own work as well as collaborative work with other artists.