We are all about process. We’ve never been very happy sending a design off for someone else to complete; we want to have a hand in every step. This means that the base collection of our line is all made in house– some pulped, pressed, printed, folded, trimmed, etched, and stitched. Here’s what we mean…
It Starts with a Pencil
Our designs start with a piece of paper, pencil, and lots of erasing. Once we have a sketch that’s close to what we want, we’ll either move to inking and scanning, or digitally inking with a stylus and tablet. There’s a lot of back and forth to get the exact look we want, sometimes even more pencil and eraser. Once we have a digital version of our drawing worked out, we will either move straight to printing, or have it made into polymer plates for the letterpress. Some designs have painted elements added in, texture, or pattern that’s all combined to make the final product. If you’d like to watch some lettering, check out our blog post here.
Environmental consciousness is at the heart of our business. We believe that small businesses have the natural instinct to be frugal with supplies and product, resulting in less waste and more earth-friendly practices.
In printing and production, lots of little pieces of paper scraps are generated, and typically those little pieces would go straight into the trash. Alison decided that just wouldn’t do, and began turning the scraps into new, soft, sheets of card stock. She breaks down the paper scraps into pulp, then uses a screen, deckle, and book press to make flat sheets that are then air-dried. Handmade paper takes a letterpress print beautifully, and then it’s folded and trimmed into cards. (Guess what happens to the trimmed pieces?) We’ve even started collecting scraps from other printers, and adding seeds to make the paper plantable.
If you’d like to learn more about the basic process, or try your hand at making some, check out Alison’s tutorial on our sister blog Adventures in Making.
Letterpress Printed Goods
Our favorite way of putting ink to paper is with the antique California Reliable platen press we’ve managed to make friends with. (It’s hard to claim ownership of anything that was born before your great-grandparents.) We typically print with polymer plates made from our illustrations. The foot powered press rolls one hand-mixed color of ink across a plate, then closes on the paper, leaving a beautiful (lightly debossed) design. Every color is set-up and printed separately, making each print session an exercise in good planning.
Although they take a bit more work, letterpress prints have a quality that can’t be captured in any other process. The colors are mixed before printing, which means they are “solid” instead of made up of dots of basic ink colors. The light impression that is made in the paper makes you want to brush your fingers across it. Best of all, a letterpress can print on stocks that a regular printer would never try: thick chipboard, handmade paper, and even fabric.
We love playing with new materials, especially ones that mean a second life for something that might have been headed to the trash.
If you’d like a virtual tour of our print-shop, check out this blog post.
Digitally Printed Goods
Some designs just aren’t right for the letterpress, and that’s ok. We also love our digital printers- ink and toner alike. Smaller run projects and designs with lots of colors are much easier to work with modern technology.
Most of our art-prints and watercolor based designs are printed with a high-quality Epson inkjet printer on specialty paper, while the inside pages of our jotters and planners are almost always printed by a lovely color laser printer (so they will never run, no matter what you spill on them!)
Journal and Jotter Binding
Most of our jotters and journals are also bound in-house (because we know just how we want it done!) That means that we get really used to saddle stapling, spiral binding, and stitching our books together. This also gives us a level of quality control that ensures we’re not wasting materials, and the ability to do small custom runs by request. We also trim, round, and do all the finishing touches that turn these little books into things we love to use ourselves.
Some of our products begin with an instinct to reuse the special and abundant materials around us. Although this can result in very different type of product, it’s a great way to apply our experience, art, and supplies in a new way– stretching our creative muscles and our footprint.
A few years ago we started our Doodle-ware line of repurposed glassware. Each piece is freehand-etched with a unique lovely letter or symbol, so you know that it’s just for you, or him, or her.
Similarly, Alison took a box of old library cards, bookbinding ideas, and an idea and turned them into unique statement lampshades for the bibliophile we all know. She uses the wire-frames from damaged shades as a structure, with a cover of stitched cards, and book repair linen. Long live ephemera!
A little History
Most of my work starts as a little idea in my head that turns into a sketch, then a design, and then is printed on my big old California Reliable Letterpress. I do all the folding, trimming, and binding of the cards and journals in my Issaquah studio because I love to work with my hands, and I believe that process is a big part of art-making. It also gives me the chance to make sure that the environmental impact of my work remains low, and I can reuse or rework materials– like turning paper scraps into handmade paper for more cards. I often try to repurpose vintage materials in unique ways, using those materials as inspiration for new things. No matter what medium I’m working in, the themes come through- I love typography, nostalgia, and a good dose of humor.
Alison Lang (the hands behind So, There.) has a mixed background in retail, art, and design. She graduated from the University of Texas in 2004 with a BFA in Design. The program’s multidisciplinary approach encouraged students to see different forms of design as just parts of the big picture that makes life better. She especially embraced product and packaging design, along with graphic design and art.
It was in Austin that Alison got to try her hand at letterpress printing for the first time; printing with wood type from the Rob Roy Kelly collection and polymer plates on a massive Vandercook. She was enamored with the history and tactile nature of the process– the limitations and the possibilities. After relocating to the Pacific Northwest, she began printing with a table-top Craftsman Imperial platen press before graduating to a much larger California Reliable press.
In 2010 she began developing the So,There line of letterpress greeting cards, journals, and jotters, before opening a brick+mortar shop in Issaquah’s Old Town. So There: Clever Handmade Gifts & More featured the work of more than 45 local artists and craftspeople, curated to appeal to customers with a sense of whimsy (and humor) and an appreciation of quality handmade goods. Along with useful products by other creators, Alison stretched her line to appeal to the local audience. She began to focus on typography, reused materials, and nostalgia to flush out both her own line of goods, and the selection of the shop.
After 2 years at the shop, she had a clearer vision of what she could offer her customers, and how to balance creating and shop-keeping–which resulted in the difficult decision to close her Front Street Shop. Running a retail shop was a valuable inspiration for her work, and so she holds annual pop-up shops inspired by her first brick+mortar, and looks for other ways to connect to potential customers face-to-face, and help represent other talented makers.
Alison splits her time between building the So, There line, freelance graphic design and production for other businesses, and curating gift shops. More about all that here. She loves getting her hands on unique materials and old technologies, then teaching them to do new tricks.
Alison’s primary studio is just outside of Issaquah in a weird little house, where she lives with her husband, and–three black cat–roommates. Follow along on their little adventures.