A large percentage of what we create at Boxcitement ends up at a commercial printers before making its way into a box, so it’s no surprise that we have a genuine interest in all things to do with printing. We love creating unique greetings cards, notelets, gift tags and notebooks as well as printing on less obvious things such as wood, glass and magnetised rubber. The funky designs we come up with are just part of the process, and when we have a design ready to print that’s where the challenges really begin. We often work with local artisans to help us create exclusive items that we hope you will love – not just because of the design, but also the materials and the printing process we’ve used.
Creating a gift card is easy though isn’t it? Write Happy Birthday, Congratulations or Thank You on a card, head to a high street printer and job done! That is of course one way of doing it; lots of greetings cards and other stationery start life in this way. At Boxcitement we like to try a little harder; we enjoy working with people who are passionate about printing and creating, and who employ techniques that have both stood the test of time and are bang up to date.
If you were to take a peek into our second Boxcitement box you’d find some lovely examples of an item created using this traditional, but currently very fashionable process. Dating back to the 15th Century, letterpress printing was the standard way to distribute information by printing type onto paper right up until the mid 20th Century, when offset printing was developed and took over. How letter press printing works is simple; the printer uses movable blocks made up of individual wooden letters, symbols and images and places them in a grid to keep them still; printed impressions are produced by repeated direct impression of this inked, raised surface against sheets or a continuous roll of paper.
Back in the day, the aim of the printer was to leave just the ink printed on the page with no impression into the paper at all, as leaving an indent would have been considered a mistake, a result of the press being set with the plate hitting the paper too hard. Today that indented effect is synonomous with letterpress and is seen as a desirable effect; at Boxcitement we love to take good quality, thick paper and to use the letterpress technique to print our designs with some impact into the paper, deliberately giving the design some ‘relief’ which gives the person holding the item a much more tactile, interactive experience.
By the 1980s letterpress was largely out of fashion due to the rise of home publishing and printing, and many printing businesses either discarded their presses or sold them off cheaply to enthusiasts and small scale ‘craft’ printers, who continue to use the rather complex machines with love and expertise. Much to Boxcitement’s pleasure and luck, we are based near a few extraordinarily skilled craftsmen who help us create our wares, such as Thomas Mayo who helps us translate our ideas into reality – step into his workshop and it’s like being transported back in time, with the addition of fluorescent inks! The enduring ‘touchability’ and the trademark texture and embossed feel as well as the ability to use unusual inks and papers in small quantities has ensured the popularity of letterpress printing for specialist products such as greetings cards.
Internationally letterpress is feeling the love too; Letterpress Workers International Summit is an annual gathering of designers and printers from Europe and Latin America where participants work together on a common theme, sharing their knowledge and skills.
In our opinion, letterpress printing is a craft and an artform that creates beautiful and useful items – right up our street! Proponents of the craft are thriving as the usage of this technique develops in line with modern print requirements. Just take a look at our Pinterest page for some beautiful examples of this very modern, but traditional form of printing – and look out for it soon in a Boxcitement box near you!