"I think it's in my genes, my grandfather was a printmaker and worked with letterpresses in Italy."
After years of searching for an art form that inspired her, Lu Mascaro's bloodline just may have led her to the letterpress. Two years after discovering the practice, she launched Edmonton-based company, A Piece of Paper Press, which she runs out of her quaint, Pinterest-worthy studio on Edmonton's south side.
Invented in the 1400s, letterpress printing was considered the first instance of mass communication and a revolutionary tool for distributing information. Johannes Gutenburg famously used it to manually print 180 copies of the Bible over three years with a staff of 20 in the mid-15th century. Today, the push of one button on the photocopier would complete the job in about five minutes.
Lu works on a manual press, using a process similar to what Gutenburg would have. Her press, which she describes as her muse, is a 60 year old Chandler and Price Pilot refurbished with a fresh coat of paint and some parts repair. The press is the star of her studio, along with thousands of tiny metal letters in various typefaces organized neatly in vintage letterpress drawers. The artist scours vintage markets and online for different typefaces and printing blocks for her designs.
Lu makes custom cards, prints, wedding invitations, baby announcements, postcards and anything your imagination can dream up to go on paper. Her designs are minimal, beautiful with a bit of quirk. A visit to her studio and tour through the process of making a single print, demands great appreciation for the detailed work from composing tiny metal letters side-by-side, to locking them in place, mixing inks and manually transferring that ink to paper at the right depth and consistency.
Traditional uses of the letterpress - to print newspapers, books, posters, etc - may have mostly died, but these vintage machines are not all collecting dust, being gazed at behind glass in some museum. The practice serves a more artful purpose today and artists like Lu are revitalizing presses and putting them back to work, entranced with the tactile nature of both the process and the product.
Just in time for Valentine's Day, I've partnered up with A Piece of Paper Press for a rad giveaway! You could win a set of five handprinted cards and a wall print. Enter below!
Also, as a sweet bonus for Dress Me Dearly readers, you can receive 10% off in the Piece of Paper Etsy shop by using the code DRESSMEDEARLY2014 until February 28, 2014. You can also contact Lu directly via her website for custom orders.