Letterpress. The word alone makes me grin like a lunatic and rub my fingers together as if I’m actually touching one of the handmade prints created by the giant, century-old machine. This is an automatic fit all graphic designers around the world break out in when they see something pretty (that’s how we recognise each other).
‘Studio Carissimo Letterpress’ is bringing the revived art of the old-school printing press back to Vienna. We know what you’re thinking – How do they intend to do that in this modern world in which books and newspapers are a click away on little icons on glowing screens? Well, people – this is art.
While this machine may have once printed newspapers, the art of ‘letterpress’ teaches the mighty old steel horse new tricks. New techniques are used so that the machine not only applies ink to paper, yet also embosses paper of thick and soft grading, with such brut force that it creates texture and different aesthetic effects – leading to charismatic and artful products being born.
On a trip to Australia, Ana – a Viennese fashion designer – and her boyfriend Alessandro – a graphic designer from Milan – stumbled across the craze of using antique printing presses amongst designers down under, and decided to convince Vienna of its value.
So they bought a German Leipzig Phönix printing machine from around 1900, brought it to Vienna on the back of a trailer and baptized it ‘Maria Addolorata’ – and this was the start of Carissimo Letterpress.
“We had to keep the machine’s weight of more than 600 kilos in mind, so we needed a studio without a cellar underneath to ensure it wouldn’t fall through the floor one day,” Ana tells me, recounting their hunt for a suitable studio, before they found their home in Vienna’s 12th district.
Nourishing and cherishing their old overweight steel lady, they taught themselves everything about letterpress, starting from scratch.
Alessandro slides into the printing press one blank paper after another in a perfectly-timed and well rehearsed rhythm, back and forth with the machine. Watching him offers a glimpse of what the love they speak of must feel like. I’m amazed at how Alessandro keeps his cool, despite how close he gets to losing his fingers in the machine. How can something so industrial and mean looking, create such fine and delicate art. I mean the print press, not Alessandro, of course.
The studio’s products range from business cards to wedding invitations, notebooks and greeting cards. They don’t only print them, but they’ll also take care of the whole design process, if needed, to create a customized, one-of-a-kind, handcrafted product. Adding the sense of touch to a print is a highly satisfying thing in our digital times – it adds depth and character.
“People are starting to notice the value of letterpress and how it makes your print a premium product, standing out in a sea of quick digital print fixes.”
There’s no doubt that in this case, like in any case – quality costs. However, it seems that much of the world’s consumers have made some changes, returning to a great appreciation of products created by hand, with time, expertise and premium materials. And once you see the individual beauty of Carrissimo Letterpress’ work, you’ll understand why the demand for individual beauty has been revived by such people like Ana and Alessandro.
After touching almost everything in their studio, and chatting with them for hours, I unfortunately have to leave – still rubbing my fingers together and smiling like a lunatic. See it for yourself! Here’s a sexy video about Carissimo Letterpress by Delibox Production: