How it all started…every blog needs a little back-story!

How it all started…every blog needs a little back-story!

April 1st was no April Fool’s Day around here! It marked the birthday of Paper Doll Press having its own home. It will forever be ingrained in my mind the moment I pulled my first proof off of my Vandercook 4 press in my own garage, in my own home. It has been a dream in the making for some time now.

I started letterpress printing in 2004 after I took a workshop at Art Center College of Design. Newly married, no kiddos yet and living in a small apartment in Pasadena, I reached out to area printers to see if I could rent studio space locally. I had no idea what I was really doing, but I knew I loved it and I wanted to do it all the time. Here’s the thing about letterpress printers – they are super cool and generous (that’s how I plan to be!). So I quickly got the green light from local printer, Annika Buxman, owner of DeMilo Design, so I started working in her studio in Old Town on a trade basis. I would work for her and trade her in hours. It was a great set up for us because I could work during the weekends when she wasn’t there and since we were trading I didn’t have to put a lot of money up in rental fees. That first year I set up my “official” business after finding the perfect name, thanks to my writer husband and I also created Cards On Hand, which has become one of my signature products. And I had a blast. From there I continued to work and eventually did my first few wedding invitations. I’m afraid to say, when I look back on doing those, I cringe a little. There is just such a huge learning curve when working at that level. I made (and still make) a lot of mistakes. And I asked my mentors at every turn for help. I was still having fun and didn’t mess anyone’s wedding up too badly.


Annika’s letterpress


Cards on Hand Set

Cards on Hand Set


Wedding Invitation



I was advised from my mentor at Art Center, Gloria Kondrup, that it might not be the best idea to keep printing while pregnant. There are inks and cleaning solvents to think about, not to mention the grueling aspect of being on your feet for hours. So I decided to stop. We had Charlie and I was completely devoted to him for the first year. But I was getting antsy to create again and we found a little daycare where he could go a couple days a week so I could print. I started printing at Gloria’s studio and that’s when things really blew up. A lot of my friends were having babies and getting married, so suddenly I had a lot of work! It was awesome and busy and I kept making mistakes and learning. We also bought a house and I fantasized about turning my garage into a studio, but my husband had already called dibs on it for his home office. He writes professionally and pays the bills so I really couldn’t complain about that! So I kept going to Gloria’s and working hard and loving it. And then we decided to try for a sibling for Charlie. I stopped printing again. It took a bit longer the second time and between pregnancy and staying home with Sam for a whole two years, my break from letterpress was almost four years, with the exception of an occasional weekend workshop to keep up my skills. Six weeks before we had Sam we moved into our dream home in Pasadena. Part of why we loved the house so much was the amazing studio garage. The previous owners had used it as an artist studio so we knew we could make it work for us as a shared space. It gave me such a sense of peace to know there was a space waiting for me when the time was right. And then, just weeks after I delivered Sam, my friend and fellow printer Leslie let me know she was selling her Vandercook press. She knew I wanted it and knew I had a place to put it. But I was so tired and overwhelmed from having a second baby and wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with it right then. But my husband encouraged me to get the press and not give up on my dreams of having my own studio one day. That’s one of the many, many reasons I love that man.


Moving the Press In


Press All Wrapped Up


Last summer, Sam started preschool and I started working again for Annika and on my own projects. I have loved being in her studio because she is such an established and professional printer. She has taught me so much and helped me once again with my learning curve. I was hired to do a wedding, amongst other fun projects and my Cards on Hand sets sold like hot cakes. So finally, just this spring, I mustered up the courage and reached out to the best press mechanic in the land, Bob. He visited a couple of times and after A LOT of elbow grease and adjustments, my baby is up and running. I can’t quite explain the amount of joy and terror I have from having my own studio. I know I will continue to learn and make (a lot of) mistakes, but mostly I am proud and excited to be making a dream nearly 10 years come true. At the end of everything is my immense love for letterpress printing and for creating one of a kind invitations and stationery. And I am so excited for this next chapter!


Bob Adjusting the Press


Press is up and Running!



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