It’s Okay to Not Know
After nearly a decade of letterpress printing, I’ve learned quite a bit about the history, process, materials, and business of stationery, weddings, and printmaking. I’ve become more and more specialized. I’ve learned what I like, what I’m good at. But, on the other side of the coin, I’ve learned where my weaknesses lie, what I don’t know, and what I’m okay with leaving to the experts.
This list is not a message to say that I’m not open to working with outside vendors to help clients achieve their desired results. It’s also not a statement that I’ll never learn these things. It’s just a note to say that I’m quite aware that I can’t do it all and do it well—right now. And, while I’d love to continue learning, growing, and adding related skills to my craft, I’m also okay honing in on a few things, and working to improve, specialize, and innovate within the ones I currently possess in the time and energy that I have in this season.
Below is a list of things I’m admittedly comfortable outsourcing so that I can focus on what I prefer to focus on: simple design, clean letterpress printing, and modern calligraphy.
Man, a gold or rose gold foil detail as much as the next person. It’s such a beautiful contrast on a wedding or shower invitation and really makes an impact on soft white (or colored) papers. But, here’s what I’ve learned. In order to produce it, I’d have to repurpose and dedicate one of my presses to it. It requires a whole different set of materials and expertise. With a limited amount of space, I’m choosing to keep my press(es) dedicated to traditional printing.
This is another way to customize paper that I really love—it’s a a great way to add a little something special by creating paper pieces with a special edge, shape, or cutout. But, again, this requires a set-up that I don’t currently have. I’ve figured out how to create these hand-cut circular tags, but outside of this simple technique, I’m simply not equipped.
The common denominator for all of these things is that I really, truly like these things, and totally understand their appeal! This technique of printing two (or more) sheets and then gluing them together to create super thick cards (particularly good for business cards) is a great way to make your paper goods stand out from the crowd. I’ve seen this done before, but without the proper equipment, my little studio isn’t prepared to offer this. Maybe down the road, but not yet!
I’ve tried this one time and one time only—and it nearly did me in. Colored edges add such a nice finish to double-thick cards and invites. From my research, the best way to achieve a good edge is to make sure your stack of paper is cut super uniformly, packed down tight with a book press or set of vices, and airbrushed. I attempted a method that I read about and only had so-so success with ink coverage. The kicker was that the edges weren’t dry after about three days. Yikes. It was sort of a nightmare. Until I have the time to devote to finding the right equipment and testing the method out (not on an actual client’s order), I’m happy to point you in the direction of someone who is more experienced!
Cat’s out of the bag. . . .I’m not a formally trained designer. In fact, my knowledge of design programs is quite basic and on a need-to-know level. I’ve always gotten by with what little I know, and have been able to finagle my way through most challenges. I would absolutely LOVE to be able to invest more into education in this area and I really hope to be able to expand into being able to use different technologies to create. Some day soon, I hope, but not today. For now, I’m comfortable accepting premade designs (I love working with other designers) or creating simple ones myself. But, I’m not a logo designer. I’m not a web designer. I don’t know how to make files for nearly anything else but letterpress printing. I have much to learn in this area—and I want to!
Alright, phew. It’s not always easy to talk about your shortcomings. But, there I did it. My hope is that getting better at what I know will benefit my clients, too. Here’s to finding our niches, digging deep, and trusting that we’ll find our way.