BY JESSIE SPANGLER
Des Moines letterpress shops are bringing stationery and handmade quality goods back in style.
Located in the East Village downtown, the Permanent Collection has a relaxed atmosphere and displays printing machines on one side of the store where customers can watch the prints being made. On the other side is a collection of various cards and other prints.
“The Permanent Collection Letterpress and Design Studio got its start in the fall of 2006 when I acquired my first press — a Vandercook SP-15 — and began printing some holiday and Valentine’s Day cards,” Drake professor Sarah McCoy said, who opened the Permanent Collection. “I had been printing since 2001 at the University of Iowa Center for the Book, where I learned letterpress printing, and once I left graduate school in August of 2006, I purchased a press so I could begin printing on my own.”
Everything is designed and printed by McCoy in her studio, which any customer can see when they walk into the store. She uses paper that is 100 percent cotton and mixes her ink by hand which gives her products a “tactile quality.”
“The goal of my company is to produce limited edition work that visually speaks to a classic design aesthetic,” McCoy said. “I want my work to still have quality, imagery and typography 10, 20 (or) 50 years from now. Also, I design and print everything in my studio, which makes my work stand out a bit from others and usually shocks people that visit the retail studio.”
McCoy believes that handmade products stand out today, especially with the abundance of technology. She feeds every sheet of paper and card through the press by hand.
“Due to the nature of such a fast-paced digital world, seeing the quality craftsmanship and the slow production (and) hand quality of each product really stands out against the digital age,” McCoy said.
Another local letterpress company is the Pink Print Company, located in downtown Des Moines. Pink Print boasts a lot of natural light and white walls. Their focus is more on stationery, but they also sell cards and wrapping paper.
“My partner Sara Gaskell started the business, and I joined the business shortly thereafter,” said Stacey Lehr, who helps run Pink Print Company. “The idea for Pink Print sprung from a love of greeting cards, specifically sharing the art of letterpress, invitations and all things paper. Holding a physical piece of paper in your hand, be it an invitation or business card or piece of stationery, makes a special statement.”
Pink Print, originally named Pink Fine Stationery, opened its doors in 2005. According to Lehr, letterpress companies have seen a huge growth in the last six to seven years.
“Pink is a paper goods and design studio that creates products tailored to you,” Lehr said. “Since we believe stationery is an expression of oneself, we strive to create stationery with a distinctive stamp of style unique to each and every client. We believe there is a card for every occasion, and we make sure those cards are on our shelves.”