Q&A with Freshly Squeezed Print Shop
Catch up with Gracie from Freshly Squeezed for a little Q&A session:

Tell us a little about Freshly Squeezed.
Freshly Squeezed is a small letterpress print shop in Grand Rapids.

When and how did you get your start in the industry? What drew you to letterpress?
I became interested in letterpress printing shortly after I got married several years ago. While I was designing our wedding invitations, I looked all over Grand Rapids for that thick paper, deep impression look, but couldn’t find it. At the time, I didn’t even realize what it was called! Once I discovered letterpress and learned more about it I was hooked.
The ability to create something tangible at the end of the day is incredibly satisfying. It is so hands on, requires time, patience, and great attention to detail. The entire process reminds me to slow down in other aspects of my life as well.

Tell us a little about your process.
Each part of the process is done in house and by hand. It starts with a design which is developed onto a light sensitive plastic called photopolymer. This creates a dimensional plate that I adhere to a base that is then locked into the press. Once the press is inked up and the paper is cut I’m ready to start printing. My press is over 100 years old, weighs close to a ton, and driven by a foot treadle.

Favorite printing equipment?
I’ve always loved little knickknacks and the print industry is full of them! My favorite item is my old blue oil can. It is essential to maintaining the press and it is used daily. I’ve since started a small collection of cans of various sizes and shapes.

Describe a typical day in your studio.
I’m usually just hanging out in the shop by myself listening to some good tunes or maybe just the thoughts in my own head! It’s very peaceful…although I do love visitors 🙂 I try to plan out my day and get ready by making plates, cutting paper, and mixing ink. I give my press a good oiling up and then I’m ready to print. The prep work and set up take up most of my time.

What are some of your favorite pieces that you have worked on?
My favorite project to date was a portfolio cover for a West Michigan architectural firm. I used a super thick 60 pt. museum board for paper stock and it turned out so great!

What are your clients looking for at the moment? Any current trends you’re loving (or hating) right now?
Edge painting has been huge for quite a while now and I love it. It looks so good on super thick stock and can add a pop of color to any design. I think it perfectly highlights letterpress printing.

Something about Freshly Squeezed that most people don’t know?
Most people don’t know that it’s just me! I don’t (currently) have any employees, although my husband or a friend will occasionally help me out in a pinch. For the most part, it’s a one-woman shop.

Besides letterpress printing, what other services or products do you offer?
Most of what I do is commercial printing for individuals and businesses, but I’ve recently started a very small line of my own greeting cards which has been a wonderful creative outlet for me. So far it’s been limited runs of Valentine’s Day and Christmas cards, but I hope to expand to all occasions.
I also offer duplexing, die cutting, scoring, and edge painting services in addition to letterpress printing.

Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration comes from my clients. Most of the people I work with are just as enthusiastic about letterpress printing as I am which keeps me motivated. They also typically have really great artwork which is always fun to print!

Favorite Pantone color?
Like a lot of people, my current obsession is with a soft mint green like 337. I can’t get enough!

What is the greatest reward and largest challenge in working with the letterpress?
The greatest reward is seeing the finished product come together the way I have envisioned it. As a designer, you don’t always get this opportunity, so I feel extremely blessed.
The largest challenge is achieving perfection (a tough standard in any occupation). The press is affected differently by each design so I don’t always know what to expect. This has led to many late nights at the shop!

How has the changing print industry affected letterpress?
Letterpress itself seems to be surging despite some of the decline in the print industry overall.

What are some tips for designers that are designing for letterpress?
The main thing to keep in mind is that simple is better. There is no four color process so gradients, hairlines, and half-tones are not going to translate well. Also, each color and location is run separately, so purely from an economic perspective, it’s best not to go overboard. I would suggest that designers work closely with their printers throughout the designing process in order to anticipate any potential issues ahead of time.

What is exciting to you about the way the field (projects, tools, collaborations, etc.) is evolving? What is scary or challenging?
It’s exciting to me that people are excited! I love it when people approach me with ideas that are out of the box because it pushes me to be a better printer. I would love to start working with more local artists and producing limited runs of original artwork.

Anything else to add?
I just have to say that I feel like Grand Rapids is the perfect place to be. This city has been so welcoming for small businesses and craft industries and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

By AIGA West Michigan
Published March 19, 2014