The L Letterpress Machine


Have you heard about this? Thoughts?

I have to admit, I’ve been avoiding the subject…
as if by not talking about it, I can make it go away.


Although part of me thinks I should be happy for any sort of new letterpress technology, it actually made me feel a little sick to my stomach. First of all, because it makes me worry about how it will affect our little mom + pop business. Secondly, because I really doubt that a tiny plastic machine can duplicate the quality of a half ton steel machine. Finally, because it takes all the romance out of this beautiful printing process.


But then I take a deep breath and calm down and realize that it’ll probably be fine. No, it won’t be nearly as high quality as what you can do on an actual vintage letterpress. It also won’t be able to print as large. And that’s why people will continue to order letterpress goods from people like us. And what this little machine lacks in romance and charm, it makes up for in accessibility and affordability. It may actually bring letterpress more into the spotlight and be a good thing for everyone involved. I certainly hope so…

Also, see this post about it: Is Nothing Sacred Anymore?

image credit: top photo via Paper Source

26 Comments

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  1. lilbookbinder says:

    I did see it, but I think I've been avoiding thinking about what I think about it..

    On the one hand, why shouldn't everyone be able to be an "artist?"

    But on the other hand… I had all kinds of "is it as nice?" "will people be able to tell one from the other?" etc questions start to flood my mind.

    yeah. I really haven't thought it through yet… (cringe…and… hey, I want one!) ;)

  2. lilbookbinder says:

    And now that I actually click through to the product description, I just find myself saying "Ew."

  3. kirsten says:

    I think you have nothing to worry about. I can't see how people could possibly get as good of a result from that small machine – and you have to figure that some people would not want to have to design their own cards, or just might like yours better. so your designs will always be a selling point.

  4. dahlhaus says:

    After reading the link: 'Is Nothing Sacred Anymore', it does feel like a bigger deal when you consider public perception and Etsy. It frustrates me to see hand-painted mass-produced ceramics for sale on Etsy in the same way you would be frustrated to see this type of gadget used and called 'letterpress'. I wonder whether the public really understands and can tell the difference between the real deal and the knock-off. The lines are certainly a lot blurrier these days than they used to be.

  5. jennifer says:

    yuk! Ronco.?

  6. Eva / Sycamore Street Press says:

    Yes, this could be a fun and affordable way for a lot of arty/crafty types to make "letterpress type" paper goods. And as far as that goes, I'm fine with it. But, you're right, Heather, the "Nothing Sacred" link brings up a lot of questions about Etsy and authenticity and consumers. Will they be able to tell from the computer screen that my work is the real deal? The high quality stuff printed on an authentic machine? I can always write that in the description, but half the people don't even read those…

  7. Eva / Sycamore Street Press says:

    Kirsten, you bring up a good point. Letterpress printing isn't the only element…the design is just as important if not more so…but they go hand in hand.

    Jennifer – What is Ronco? I'm feeling pretty slow here.

  8. Natalia says:

    I can relate to your fear. DIY always excites me but scares me at the same time as my craft, or better said; career choice, could very much become compromised. "Why hire a designer when I can do it myself?"
    Insert-your-photo greeting cards come to mind this time of year. (I try to avoid thinking about how much money and effort I have put into my art-school education by the way).

    I must admit however, that I am somewhat intrigued by products like this from a product design standpoint as well as in my position as a freelance graphic designer who appreciates handmade effects for very short print runs (I sometimes home-screen-print, stamp, gocco, etc for a specific look).

    That being said I would NEVER use a product like this to replace the letterpress. In fact, I think the product name is faulty and misleading. And like you said, it can't come close to doing what the real thing can.

    I hope this honest response is if helpful to you…fear not!

  9. Eva / Sycamore Street Press says:

    Thanks Natalia!

    Yes, the name bugs me. At least the gocco is called a gocco, and not the "S Screenprinting Machine". I love the gocco for what it is, and the thing is, when people print something with it, they say it's "gocco printed" or "printed on my gocco". They don't just say "screenprinted" and leave it at that. (At least not that I know of). And that's totally cool. But with the name of this machine, I could see people just calling stuff they make with it "letterpress printed" or "printed on my letterpress machine" which is not cool and totally misleading in my opinion.

    I'm all for DIY in general. I consider myself a part of the movement, after all! So part of me thinks I am being hypocritical in complaining about this machine….But I guess I'm not worried so much about the people who will use this for fun or to make thing for themselves as much as I am worried about the people who will try sell stuff they make on it and pass it off to customers as the real deal.

  10. Abbie says:

    I've heard that there are issues with the plates breaking easily– and I seriously doubt the quality is what you would get with true letterpress. I love the process and plan to keep buying the "real thing".

  11. Laurie & Clint says:

    That looks pretty cheesy. I can't imagine you could do very reliable printing or editioning on it, also, it doesn't look like it would last very long. I wouldn't be worried about it. That machine appeals to the scrap-booker crafty person, not the type of person that likes a quality, well designed, well printed product.

  12. Terresa says:

    The new smaller (read: cheaper but now affordable to the masses) gizmo will whet some people's appetites for letter press stuff, sure.

    But for fine quality letter press originals and an artistic touch? That's you, baby. :)

  13. mindy says:

    confession…I own one. I am a crafter & scrapbooker & letterpress lover. I love the look of letterpress art and absolutely love your work! I know for me personally I will not get the chance to own a true letterpress machine so this is as close as I can come. With this I know I will not be able to produce the wonderful looking products like you and many others but I can feed my need for small personal projects and this in no way will stop me from purchasing beautifully made letterpressed art in the future.

  14. Eva / Sycamore Street Press says:

    Thanks everyone for your support. And Mindy, I'm glad you commented. Like I said before, I'm not worried about people like you who are just using it for fun. In that context, I think this machine is a good thing…

  15. Jenn Kirk says:

    I agree with you about the conflict of supporting the DIY movement, but at the same time wanting to leave certain skills/products up to the professionals. "DIY" has affected many segments of the art industry like photography, printing, and design. And there are definitely jobs being lost because of this (e.g. a former, very non-technical client of mine downloaded a free trial of Dreamweaver and attempted to manage her site on her own!) but not every hobbyist or enthusiast can match the standard of a skilled artist. So I think there will always be clients and customers that will continue to demand high quality work and services. There will just be more dross for them to sift through. :)

  16. jennifer says:

    sorry, i wasn't trying to be obtuse. it reminded me of the Ron co. commercials when i was a kid. ie. veg-o-matic . . .etc

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronco

    also, thanks for the paper making suggestion! that might be easier than trying to weld a life size circus in my backyard!!

  17. Eva / Sycamore Street Press says:

    Ah! The Veg-O-Matic! Funny…

    And I don't know…it'd be pretty cool to have a life size circus in your backyard.

  18. Jessica says:

    Eva, I am really glad to see you have a decent attitude about the L Letterpress. I found your website after reading about you on Boxcar Press' blog, where I was also searching for tips on using my own L Letterpress. I loved your work and am planning on ordering a poster as a gift. Then I read your own blog and my heart sank a little. I adore the look of letterpress, but can not always afford to purchase it on a regular basis, and I was very excited about the opporunity to try a tool that would let me make it at home. I can sympathize with your fear that this thing could have a negative impact on your business, however I can just tell you that I most certainly will not be ordering products from companies who have been filling the web with nasty comments about "homecrafters". Perhaps it is this negative attitude, and not the L Letterpress, that will actually hurt their business. It must be the romantic in me that believed people associated with the beautiful art of letterpess would also have the integrity to match it.

  19. Eva / Sycamore Street Press says:

    Jessica, Thanks for your comment. I'm a bit confused, though. You said you think I have a "decent attitude about the L Letterpress", but then you say you read my blog and your "heart sank a little". I'm not sure what you are referring to there.

    In any case, I wish you the best and hope you have fun with your L Letterpress!

  20. Jessica says:

    My heart sank when I saw you had written something about it in your blog, but as I read I was glad to see it was not the same typical comments of many others in the letterpress business.

  21. Eva / Sycamore Street Press says:

    Ahhh! Thanks for explaining. :)

  22. Melissa says:

    Why are people so resistant to DIY? I'm not an artist but I love crafting. Some of my projects may be done better by a professional, but sometimes I enjoy making them myself.

    One of the other commenters said, DIY always excites me but scares me at the same time as my craft, or better said; career choice, could very much become compromised. "Why hire a designer when I can do it myself?" — I ask what is wrong with that? A crafter may not have the same skill or a degree, but they have fun with their project! If you have that skill why not use it, even if you just do it as a hobby. If they sell their wares on Etsy and the like, to fund their hobby(and maybe make some money)more power to them.

    What makes an artist anyway? I'm an amateur photographer..I'm self taught and I think my photos are good, but I didn't go to school for photography. Can I call myself an artist or just a hobbyist?

    The "Is Nothing Sacred" article you referenced is incredibly insulting to the some of the armchair crafters out there. Not just letterpress but any "craft" that requires some sort of skill. Just because one doesn't have the expensive equipment, doesn't mean they can't make something aesthetically pleasing — sometimes with a product that rivals the so called professional.

    I do agree with Jessica's comment above — and I thank you Eva for not dismissing outright anyone who would use this machine. I can understand why some letterpress business owners would feel threatened, but I truly feel if you have a quality product you will always have repeat
    business.

  23. Eva / Sycamore Street Press says:

    Melissa,

    Thanks for your comment. I'm surprised that this blog post is still getting comments after all these months! I think that's a good sign that this little machine is making us all think so much about letterpress, DIY and craft in general.

    I think the most important thing is that there are creative people out there making things – and in the process making themselves and others happy. :)

  24. social savvy says:

    I have used the L Letterpress machine with the help of some really great tips from Boxcar Press and got some surprisingly good results. However, it was not easy to achieve, and like anything else that is art related, requires skill and practice. I don't think the average user could get a good print from this machine, but a seasoned letterpress printer, like yourself, would be able to make lemonade out of this lemon of a machine. :)

  25. patty says:

    just stumbled on your site…i L*O*V*E letterpress art…it is truly beautiful. i have a degree in art and i love art/crafts/creating…i just wanted to say that this statement sounds very fresh! "That machine appeals to the scrap-booker crafty person, not the type of person that likes a quality, well designed, well printed product."

    why do they feel because someone may "craft" that "they" don't have an art degree or that you can only be talent if you do… and "the crafters" don't have/know "quality"…etc. as i said… FRESH!

  26. patty says:

    sorry… talented

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