On today's blog we are excited to introduce our good friend, Kristine Arellano, letterpress and designer of Presshaus LA. Her lovely studio is based in Los Angeles. Kristine's interest in letterpress printing began during her stay in Germany. She took us through the process of printing as she printed our exclusive Thank You Vibes postcards. We had a lovely time chatting and hanging out with Kristine and her pup, Bagel. We are so lucky and honored to know Kristine!


What do you listen to while you are working?
KA: The speakers are constantly playing in the studio. I toggle between podcasts, KCRW and music. The morning could start off with KCRW, into straight-ahead jazz by lunch, indie alternative by 3p and throwback R&B by 5-6p to finish up the day on an up beat. Lately I’ve keeping tabs on the Serial 2. 


How did you fall into letterpress printing, and how did Presshaus LA begin?
KA: I’ve always had a love for paper but it wasn’t my main thing for a long time. I made non-letterpress invitations for friends, made holiday cards every year by hand and spent time cruising Papyrus + Paper Source when that was all I knew.  For a year I lived in Germany, the motherland of print, and there I found a master printer who took on my avid interest to learn the craft. My curiosity turned into an obsession and I ended up spending all my time in a letterpress basement surrounded by wood and metal type. I learned the analog way and all in German.


What do you look to for inspiration?
KA: I’m constantly somewhere between walks around the reservoir and the rabbit hole of the Internet. They are my immediate go-to sources. Guilty!!

I also find inspiration in happy accidents while printing on the press. Often I’ll try out an experiment on the press with new paper or a technique. Most of the time it works but there are days when it doesn’t. I’m still honing the craft, constantly learning the tolerances of the machine and it’s personality (yes, each one has a personality). Surprisingly, I still get excited with happy accidents. Test prints can be art!


How would you describe your style?
KA: My style is effortless design meets letterpress. For a while, I’ve strived to push the traditional of letterpress printing into this digital age by way of clean + minimal design. I naturally gravitate toward the “less is more” philosophy to let the print technique sing. The end result usually looks easy but behind the scenes there’s much more to it from the digital setup, sourcing the right paper, mixing the ink to the exact Pantone color, dialing in the impression level and ink levels without bruising and over inking, carefully trimming the prints and meticulously checking each one before they go out. 


What do you love most about your press machine?
KA: I have 3 machines and each one has it’s quirks and nuances. I mainly work with Vandercooks, a flat bed press. It’s slower than a windmill press and each sheet of paper is handled. The press is mostly made up of cast iron and weighs 1200+ pounds. They require constant oiling and cleaning, but they are heavy duty, resilient machines.

I love how an old, heavy, greasy machine can create the most delicate detail on a piece of paper. That always amazes me.


When you are not at the studio working, how do you spend your day?
KA: When I’m out of the studio, I’m out and about checking out new cafés and shops in the area with my husband and our dog, Bagel, alongside. I’m really close to my parents and family too, so I bank in time with them as much as I can. Funny how that happens as you get older. I’m all for the simple pleasures.


What is the best advice you have received?  
KA: “Go with your gut. It’s ok to say no.”


What does letterpress mean to you?
KA: The test of time. Print and letterpress is still relevant in this digital age. I know running fingers along letters pressed into paper isn’t for everyone, but for the folks that do get it, it’s what sets us and them apart. Nod to the paper geeks out there that buy greeting cards, send paper invitations, log in a journal, keep a notebook, write letters, and send postcards.


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