Artist: Erin McCall
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Web site: Sunlit Letterpress
Blog: Adventures in Letterpress
What do you create?
I design and print letterpress stationery for life's special moments (weddings, births, celebrations), as well as personal and business correspondence (greeting cards, notecards, business/calling cards, corporate stationery). I have a "ready-to-wear" line that is pre-designed and sold on Etsy, on my website, and in stores, and I also design and print custom stationery. I use vintage printing presses from the late 1800s and early 1900s to craft each piece of stationery by hand.
How did you come up with your company name?
Sunlit Letterpress is an offshoot of my graphic design business, Sunlit Media. The human eye is naturally drawn to light, and reacts to light - especially sunlight. When I named my graphic design business, I wanted to capture this idea of a visual reaction to things that are bright. (Unfortunately most people mispronounce it and call it "Sunlight Media", when it is in fact "sunlit".)
When and why did you decide to start your business?
I fell in love with letterpress in my early 20s after reading an article about the dying art (it is now enjoying a rebirth!). I then studied letterpress at the Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design under Jim Rimmer - the renowned letterpress master, type designer, type founder, an illustrator. Jim gave me my very first press, some metal type and a can of ink, and a letterpress addiction was born. It wasn't long before I started selling cards at art and fine craft shows, and online through Etsy.
Where do you get your inspiration for your projects?
I find inspiration in nature and in everyday objects, shapes, and colors. I spend a lot of time outside at sunset looking for silhouettes of flowers, trees, grasses, and other objects that would look good as a design when letterpress printed. I am also strongly influenced by Japanese motifs and icons, and have loads of origami papers and books on Japanese design to flip through.
Which of the tools you use is your favorite?
My favorite tool is my Chandler and Price press. It is a 1,200 lb. beast made of cast iron, and it took four men to move it slowly and carefully into my basement. The press was made in the early 1900s and was even used to print one of my city's local papers in the 1920s. The person I bought it from used it for 30 years in his basement. I smile when I am printing and think of how many people have used the press to create their own work.
What keeps you motivated?
I am motivated by seeing people touch my cards and watching their faces light up when they feel the tactile quality of a letterpress print. I am also motivated when I receive e-mails from people who have bought my cards and tell me how they gave them to a special friend or relative. A few people have used my "Bun in the Oven" card to announce their pregnancies to friends, family, and even husbands - and being a small part of such a major announcement makes me want to create more.
How do you get the word out about your work?
Etsy has done wonders for me in terms of marketing, and so has my website. My blog has probably been my most useful tool for spreading the word about my work, and I get thousands of hits every month. Art and fine craft fairs have also been useful for connecting with buyers, retailers, and custom clients.
What is your main goal for the next 6-12 months?
I have a zillion goals for this year - but here are my top two: Although I love Etsy, my goal is to get an e-commerce shop going on my own website a.s.a.p. so I can be more self-sufficient and less reliant on a third-party. I am also currently working on building the list of retailers that carry my ready-to-wear line.
What advice would you give to someone starting a creative business?
Make sure you can name at least 5 people ready and willing to buy your product before you start. Some products can be really fun and creative to make, but if no one wants to buy them you'll end up with a very expensive hobby instead of a business.
What’s the most important thing you’d like people to know/understand about your work?
There are is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in my stationery. When I started learning about letterpress there wasn't the wealth of information available for beginners like there is now. I had to work hard, research, read everything I could about everything from inks to platemaking to machine oil, and ask many experts for help. I worked hard to get here, and I am proud of what I have accomplished.
Which of your projects have you considered the most interesting or enjoyed working on the most?
Custom projects are my favorite, wedding invitations being my most favorite. I am honoured to be able to help couples create custom invitations that set the tone for the biggest day of their lives.
If you had the time, what new craft/medium would you like to learn or use?
I would love to learn how to silkscreen t-shirts and fabric, and maybe transfer some of my stationery designs to clothing. However, my letterpress equipment has taken up nearly a whole floor of our home, so my husband might object to my taking up more space in the house for my creative pursuits!
What's your definition of a perfect day?
Everyday that my family, friends, pets and I are happy, healthy and alive is a perfect day :)