I’m Lu, founder and print-maker of Uppercase Press, a letterpress studio based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
I’m used to saying that print making is in my blood, even though it only started to interest me in the last few years. My grandfather was a print maker, and actually worked with a letterpress very similar to the one I have in the studio.
I started Uppercase Press because I really needed a creative outlet to express things I feel and think, and I’ve always wanted to work with something that would make people happy. Printing is a vehicle for great news.
I came across letterpress about 3 years ago, and I quickly knew that it was what I wanted to pursue. I admit I thought it would be a much shorter learning curve though. It’s been over 2 years since I got my Chandler & Price Pilot, and 1 year since I got my Chandler & Price Pearl, and it’s clear to me now that it is a long path. I guess that there is when you know that you found what you love, when you know there is a long path, but all it does to you, is make you curious and excited about what’s coming next.
Letterpress is a printing method that was invented in the mid 15th century by a German visionary man called Gutenberg. He was inspired by the presses used in the wine industry, and he thought he could use the same concept for printing. Because of his invention, letterpress was the norm for printing for many years, and was considered the first instance of mass communication. Letterpress is also called as the art of relief. When you operate the press, the type is pressured against the paper, and the relief makes the printing. In 1950, letterpress printing was overtaken commercially by offset printing. So letterpress printing remained in the background for the next 40 years.
In the 1980’s polymer plates emerged and provided the perfect solution for the revival of letterpress printing. The ability to transfer a photo negative to the printing plate revolutionized the process. Younger artists were acquiring the presses that were being thrown away or abandoned by older print-makers and re-transforming the method.
Currently, letterpress is again being seen as a valued and unique printing method. More and more, people have been admiring the crisp and elegant impression of the type on thick paper for special occasions and personal stationery.
Every time I need to find a name for something I always go back to its roots, what is involved, what kind of material is being used.
In the past, typesetting was a crucial stage for letterpress printing, and the uppercase letters and lowercase letter were divided in two different drawers. So it was a very common word in letterpress studios, and I thought Uppercase Press sounded great and loyal to what letterpress is.
I think being part of The Royal Bison was the first milestone for my business. The Royal Bison is the most important Art & Craft Show in Alberta (if not in Canada), and it is known for having the best selection of vendors. Being acceptable to this event gave me the confidence I needed when I was starting, and every time I am accepted, it reminds me that I can do this, and I am at the right path.
Love for letterpress
What makes me love letterpress is how simple but complex and elegant it can be at the same time. I love to play with different typefaces and see how each one of them print differently. I love simple colour compositions leaving the complexity for the textures that you get from the paper.
Also, letterpress gives me the opportunity to do something that I’ve always wanted to do: to encourage people to share some love, some good feelings and emotions. It makes my heart smile every time I print new business cards that I know that will be used to open new doors, wedding invitations that will be the start of very happy celebrations, and so on.
(Sign…) I see so many things it is a bit overwhelming. I wish I could do a personal stationery revolution, to start with. I feel that we don’t send cards as much anymore. In my eyes, there is no better gift than a nice card that you can keep forever and will always bring you great memories. Things break or get old, but not words in a card…
I am constantly trying to improve my style as well and that has been the biggest adventure. My background in not in design, so it’s not an easy thing. It is really a learning curve not only on the skill level, but also training the eye, developing a style and an identity. But I love it and every year and I can see it changing so much. I hope I am building something I will always be proud of.
Yes. There are lots of people in Edmonton who appreciate handmade products. But there is still a lot to be conquered. Unfortunately we still see local shops and artists struggling to make a living. I hope more and more people choose to support the local community in the city. That will only make the city more interesting and vivid, and will encourage artists to continue sharing their talents.
I am moved by words and feelings. I’ve even thought I wanted to be a writer not too long ago. There is so much to be said and told. I love playing with words with the typefaces I have in the studio, or just on the computer. And this is how everything starts with the cards I print. I feel or hear something that moves me, and I write it down. When I get to the studio I start playing with the form and size of the words until I get to a composition I like.
If I could achieve that with the typefaces I have, the pieces are printed right away. If not, I work on the design and order polymer plates.
When I started three years ago I didn’t want to print cards. I thought there were already enough in the market. Now I find cards are not only the best way to promote my business, but also the only way to express what I think and feel sometimes. Of course the most popular cards always have to be available, but other cards represent moments of my life.
As a second generation letterpress print maker, I get very excited when I work with couples who truly appreciate and understand the value and quality of bespoke hand-printed wedding invitations, but most of all, who appreciate the letterpress printing method as a craft which is slowly becoming a lost art.
One of the myths surrounding letterpress is that it’s more expensive than other printing methods. That is simply not true. Like any other printing method, there is an initial investment if you are printing just a few pieces. It’s also important to keep in mind letterpress is a labour intensive process with each invitation individually pressed.
Machine printed invites can actually be a lot pricier than letterpress invites. As with every printing method, the more you add to it, the more expensive it will get. This also applies to letterpress, but by no means is a one-colour letterpress invitation much more expensive than a digitally printed one.
What makes letterpress invites stand out is their sophisticated and elegant look with a nod to the past. The luxurious combination of the texture of the 100% cotton paper and the imprinted design makes each piece stand out in the best possible way. Letterpress is like a tactile white canvas with endless possibilities, the results can be fun, classic, modern, quirky or whatever the couple has envisioned for their day. One thing I know for certain is that letterpress invitations leave a lasting impression. And who doesn’t want that?
I am not a trend kind of person. I am always keen to stay with classics. I like black ink on white paper, with few images or text. The simpler the better. When I’m exploring outside of the classics, I create my own trends.
Please allow me to brag about the stores that support me.
One can find my cards in Edmonton at: Carbon Environmental Boutique, Habitat Etc, The Legislative Assembly, Plum Home + Design, Vivid Print, and soon at The Prints and the Paper. They are also available on my website uppercasepress.com.
Photo Credit to http://jillianschecher.com/
Lu Mascaro is the owner and creator of Uppercase Press printmaking. With a love of printmaking passed down through her grandfather, you can tell through her writing that she seeks out knowledge about her wonderful craft in order to better understand the process. From first discovering her through the Royal Bison Craft Fair in Edmonton, Lu's clever letterings, such as "I love you, that's it." and "In dog years, you're dead." caught my attention and admiration like I'm sure they will capture yours.