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My Favorite Letterpressman is a Woman!

Written by in Profiles

Ladies of the Letterpress at National Stationary Show May 16-19.

Kelly McMahon withMay Day Studio hard at work pictured above.

Their backgrounds are varied, they live in cities and towns across the country, but the Ladies of the Letterpress share one thing in common: a passion for the craft of fine printing and fine printing techniques.  Their organization was brought to our attention in the run up towards the big National Paper Show starting this weekend in New York. Eight members of this nearly 500-person organization will be meeting and greeting guests at booths 2256 & 2258 inside the Javits Center.

Thomas-Printers_Kseniya Thomas

Kseniya Thomas with Letterpress

There’s nothing like holding something handmade and handwritten, something made just for you. The Internet can’t compete with that feeling! And when you send a letterpress-printed card, you’re helping support an ancient art, and helping that art and its practitioners continue to thrive. — Kseniya Thomas, Thomas-Printers

If you are going, look for them at booths 2256 & 2258.  Other members will have booths at the show, too. Just drop by the Ladies of the Letterpress Presents station and pick up their map/directory.

We spent some time talking to a few of these women to find out more about their work and lives. We will feature several of them over the next few days. Here are some of the things some of them had to tell us (four of eight then another batch of four of eight next week!):


Kseniya Thomas, Carlisle, PA and SLC, UT

After college, I had a yearlong fellowship in Germany, and one of the requirements was that we find an internship for six months. I wound up working in the print shop of the Gutenberg Museum, which awakened a love for printing I didn’t know I had! I came back to the U.S., found one press, and another, and found I could make a career out of letterpress printing.

My passion for the craft of letterpress has evolved. Initially, I was just in love with type and letterforms, but had no idea that there would be a way to work with letters all day long. Now, I realize that it’s not just about type, but involves many things: paper, ink and color, design, shipping, accounting, marketing. It’s  multifaceted, and that keeps me on my toes.

In 2009, Jessica White and I started Ladies of Letterpress, a group for letterpress printers of all experience levels and specializations. We have almost 500 members, and 8 of them will be exhibiting in a LofL booth. Please come say hello.


May Day Studio

Kelly McMahon, Montpelier, VT,

Ten years ago, I didn’t know what letterpress was.  Seven years ago, I walked in to a print shop and never wanted to walk out again!  I grew up in a small, rural town in southern California. Later, I spent time in western Massachusetts (college), Paris, France (junior year of college) and San Francisco (graduate school), I now have settled into a town of Montpelier, a place big enough that I don’t know everyone but rural enough that I can walk into the middle of Hubbard Park and not hear the sound of a single car.

Montpelier has been a great place to discover what I really want to do with my art and business. Here I have met folks like myself people in their late 20s o r early 30s who didn’t grow up here, but think it’s a darn good place to be. I have surrounded myself with people who think that doing what you love every day is the greatest gift—and making people happy with what you do is the icing on the cake!

Since printing & bookbinding are my work, I find other things to do to relax.  I knit, sew and bake. I also really enjoy my (very) part-time job as a film projectionist at Montpelier’s art-house theater, the Savoy.  As for family, I have a diverse group of folks on speed dial, spending time with my nieces is one of my greatest pleasures.  My birthday was Saturday May 1st and they called to sing me “happy birthday.” Since they’re four and nearly two years old, it was adorable.  As for pets: I have two cats, Sasha and Rory (or Beast and Punk, when they’re being nosy) who very much want me to get off my computer right now so they can sit on my lap.



Hazel & Violet

Beverly Wolfe & Nancy Hill, Phoenix, AZ

We share a long love of letterpress printing. Shopping around for a press, we found a local retired letterpress printer who was selling his shop contents. Well, we could not resist!! It was destiny. We set up our own shop, carry on the tradition, and have never been happier. We love what we do because we view utilizing the same process to create print that was used hundreds of years ago to be a pleasure. We love the tactility of the print on the paper and bringing ink to paper to create beautiful result

While Internet-based communication is widely used, a personally written correspondence has greater impact. A handwritten communication on personalized stationery or on a beautiful note card tells someone that they are special, valued and important to you or your business.



Amber Ellis-Senguine of Flywheel Press.

Flywheel Press

Amber Ellis-Seguine, San Francisco, CA

I am a San Francisco native who grew up in Burlingame CA, where my shop is now located. In fact, the shop is two blocks away from my Alma mater high school. I’ve walked there with my two little girls, ages 3 1/2 and 5 3/4 (a very important 3/4) to show them my old locker. My husband, Rich, is a firefighter and one of Flywheel Press’s many right hands.

I attended the University of Arizona, where I studied graphic design. My typography teacher, Ellen McMahon, introduced me to letterpress printing. The school had a Vandercook that was located in a space too small to be called a room; walk in closet would be a more accurate.

It was here that I got my first taste of the letterpress process. I was hooked after that. Fresh out of college I went to work for a non-profit as a graphic designer but, after awhile, I felt something missing.  Then it hit me: I wanted to start printing again. So, I bought a press, Rich went to pick it up (twice) and the rest is Flywheel Press history!

Throughout these years as a letterpress printer I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the most generous and amazing people. That sense of community is one of the draws for me. I find appealing the idea of passing down information to the next generation, as though we are a family and we can’t let the stories of our ancestors die with them. Some of those great printers have described letterpress to me as a “Black Art,” a description that I find fitting. I’ve depended on their generosity and their knowledge quite a bit, and I hope that someday I can do the same for someone else.

I feel strongly about the value of handwritten communication. We are so rushed in life. We often forget how important it is to take the time to write a thank you note by hand or send a birth announcement that celebrates the preciousness of a new born. A wedding invitation can sets the tone for what will be one of the most important days of your life. Handwritten communication says “I care enough to take time out for you.”