it’s finally here!

check out what I brought home yesterday! This new-to-me printing press is a 1934 Chandler and Price platen press that I bought from Maggie and Phil in Alexandria.


Phil’s father was a hobby printer and had a garage full of printing treasures. Phil described him as a man who took his hobbies very seriously and gave 200% into everything he did. I and several other printers & collectors were lucky enough to take home some of these hidden beauties.

I still have quite a ways to get this guy in printing order (it hadn’t been printed with in over 20 years). Next on the to-do? Get new rollers & trucks, a boxcar base, tympan paper, and clean all the layers of dirt and grease off this thing!

studio tour: production day

It’s pretty easy to make a mess on production day since i usually work on everything from paper trimming, mixing inks, calligraphy, assembling, and packaging all on the same 5’x3′ desk. I do try my hardest to keep things clean and organized (for the most part) and clean up before moving on to the next task.

production day-01

production day-02

Here’s a quick glimpse at the printing stage of a typical production day (printing siobhan and raleigh’s wedding invites!). you can see the stacks of paper on one side of the desk–they’ve been conveniently separated into stacks of 25 so it’s easy to keep track of how many I’ve actually printed. And on the other side, you can see part of what goes into mixing ink. For this particular project, it took me 3 tries to get the color exactly right, so you can see all the different shades of green I mixed…trust me, they look the same on the palette, but print very very differently.

How-to: registration

I’ve mentioned “registration” as part of the printing process in an earlier post. Some of you readers might be wondering: what is registration? To put it simply: it’s the method of aligning different colors on the same page. Because printing multiple colors requires multiple plates, each piece of paper is run through the press once for each color. A few weeks ago, I printed 60 3-color invitations: that’s 180 passes through the press, with 3 ink mixes and 3 setups & wash-ups per color.


Aside from multiplying press time, each additional color also makes set-up more challenging: the plates and paper guides have to be repositioned in order to print in the same spot. This method of aligning the printed areas is registration. With some designs, a loose registration doesn’t really matter – and could add some playfulness – but sometimes tighter registration is required so that colors are exactly aligned. Did you know that even an untrained eye can perceive a 1/100th-inch discrepancy in alignment?

Some printers use registration marks on their plates to make sure everything lays neatly on top of each other. In most of my printing, the crop marks play double duty as registration marks. Since I know the crop marks need to hit the paper in exactly the same spot for each color, it’s an easy way to align the plates without much additional setup.

Here’s a step by step of how I printed this most recent 3 color job:
1. set up and print color #1  //  this is done like any other set up…plate on the base, print on the paper. At this point, I’m not too worried about where exactly the form hits on the paper, just as long as all the crop marks hit the page.
2. washup & clean
3. ink up color #2  // without the form on the base, apply ink to the ink disk + rollers until you have even coverage
4. register color #2  //  adhere the plate to the base (if using photopolymer) or lock up your form in the chase. Print directly on the tympan to see where it hits on the platen. Use pins (that’s where the term pin registration must come from) and poke small holes on the tympan where the crop marks printed. Poke corresponding holes on your printed paper where those crop marks printed. Align the holes with the pins. Add gauge pins or guides to set your paper in place.
5. print color #2
6. repeat steps 2-5 for all subsequent colors until final prints are complete
7. trim  //  use your crop marks to trim your final piece(s) to size.



Just remember that between plates, you’ll probably have to adjust your packing and make ready…but that’s a given with set up. Also examine the first few prints in each run to make sure everything is hitting correctly. If not, make slight adjustments to your gauge pins or guides.

It’s true, the more colors, the more frustrating the process…but in the end, it’s all seems worth it! Happy printing everyone!

Studio tour: new ink shelf

I’ve been carting this metal shelf around with me for almost five years, from closet to closet, mostly forgotten & neglected. Each compartment originally held little white boxes used for storing tiny test tubes (or so I was told by the previous owner). It has always seemed like a really unique piece; it was free, but I’ve never known how I could use it. When we moved into our new house last fall, I knew that I wanted the shelf somewhere in my workspace. But it sat in the corner of the studio for almost six months before the perfect use finally dawned on me: ink storage!

ink shelf-1

I use rubber-based inks that come in 1 lb. cans, which fit ever-so-perfectly into the little cubbies. Awesome. And I just so happen to have exactly 12 cans of ink, one for each compartment. Even more awesome. So now the ink is easily accessible and it’s really convenient to pull out different colors. Previously, the cans were in a drawer and I’d have to dig through, and push aside one can just to get to the color I needed, which always seemed to be in the back (not quite sure how that happened!).

In addition to storing ink, I can also store other supplies on top: check out that awesome shades-of-blue pencil holder (thanks to Amanda and Anthropologie)! It holds several pens, pencils, nibs, paper clips… And I’m also using my favorite coffee can to hold brushes, rulers, scales, & random architectural drafting supplies. Even though I haven’t drafted anything in a few years, I just can’t seem to fully give up on that part of my life.

I love that I was finally able to find the perfect re-use of the metal shelf and save it from an otherwise inevitable trip to the scrap metal heap.

ink shelf-2

Studio decor: meet merlin

I’m slowly settling into the studio and things are constantly changing. I recently bought three shades of gray paint to test out on the walls and am waiting for a rumored sale before I buy a few gallons to finally paint the walls.

In the meantime, I just finished assembling Merlin the unicorn. He’s a lasercut cardboard puzzle made by Cardboard Safari right here in Charlottesville. He came flat-packed in eight sheets of cardboard; I just had to punch them out, sort the notched pieces & fit them together. The best part: no glue required. Happy to have a clean studio-mate!


Work-life balance

I admit it: I don’t always have the healthiest work/life balance. I love working from home, but find it more & more difficult to strike a balance between home-life and work-life. Now that I work mostly on a laptop, I tend to do my design work anywhere in the house: the couch, the dining room table, outside on our porch. I love the flexibility, but often leave behind a cluttered trail of sketches, snacks, files, scanner, camera…

Each room of our house has at some point been “the studio” and I don’t work in the actual studio space nearly enough. In fact, I seem to work in any space except for the room dedicated to work. Here’s a quick snapshot of “the office” today: the dining room.

work life-2

I do always print in the studio (the press is not quite as mobile!), but also really love working in the dining room. The large table means there’s just more room to spread out. But I have made two promises to myself for the year:

1. All studio work to be conducted in the actual studio
2. Close the laptop at 6:30 each night and put work away until the next day

For those of you who work from home, how to you strike a balance? Any advice for a novice?

Happy dance, part deux: published!

Remember my post about the first time StudioTEN15 was featured in a printed publication? I was so excited, I was literally dancing with the dog in the living room. Well, Gage and I are dancing again: we’ve been mentioned again! This time, The Knot: Boston featured Emily & Mike’s wedding on a one-page spread. There’s a photo of the booklet invitations we printed, designed by our friend Rush Bailey. Hopefully you’ve seen those posts here, here, and here?

Emily and Mike, thanks for letting us be a part of your day – it was truly a blast!

Pick up your own copy of The Knot: Boston at your local newsstand to check it out yourselves!