A Christmas Letter from 622 press

I know this should be a travel post, but instead this week I did some actual traveling, in the form of heading home to Wisconsin for the holidays. I’m taking a mini break from business and blogging through the new year, but if you’re looking for some holiday reading material, check out decor ideas here, here, and here, plus awesome handmade gift guides from years past here, here, here and here, plus wrapping ideas here.

Dear Friend,

2014 has been a big year for 622 press. It started off normally enough: living in Madison and continuing to work as art director of BRAVA Magazine—all while driving down to Mom and Dad’s on the weekends to print on my antique letterpress. Spring was particularly busy, as the business added Middleton’s The Regal Find to its group of wholesalers—in addition to Driftless Studio on State Street in Madison; the now-defunct east-side Absolutely Art; and When Pigs Fly in Whitewater.

I was also printing my largest wedding stationery suite to date—150 three-piece invitations with lined, printed envelopes, 2 different thank you cards, menu cards, recipe card favors and more, plus designing a wrap for the invites, table numbers and seating chart—along with two other weddings, and the usual business cards, stationery and such. There were quite a few nights that I got back to my Madison apartment entirely too close to midnight, rushing down after work and printing the entire evening—but it was worth it to grow 622 press.

Amy_Lanser_3085By summer I had finally accepted Andrew’s invitation to move to Bermuda—job or not (I had been hunting from the U.S. since last year). I told BRAVA my plans months before the planned move—and after a few tense weeks of indecision, they committed to my current contract position as main freelancer for design work. However, we still had to find a replacement for me as Art Director. It’s sort of a funny thing—searching for someone to do the job you’ve poured everything into for 5+ years… plus she would be my boss! I’m so glad we ended up with the candidate we did though.

The process to apply for Bermuda residency was incredibly long and costly—and inefficient. Every time I thought I had submitted everything the government/health insurer/customs official needed, I was handed another list of medical exams, notarized documents and letters to acquire. I had planned to move in late July/early August, but the BRAVA logistics pushed my move until the end of August—exactly when my lease expired, so I was working right up until the week before I flew out, along with selling all my furniture and car, packing a shipping container, giving away the remainder of my clothes and household items and trying to take care of last-minute logistics like bank accounts and cell phone plans. It was chaos, but the knowledge that a slower-pace awaited me on the island sustained me.

That slower pace wouldn’t come for a while though—the shipping container had arrived, but Bess remained on the dock for weeks while I filled out more and more paperwork and proved over and over again that I had permission to live on the island. I also got a Bermuda driving license (written and driving exams, just like in the U.S.!) and bought a bike.

Finally Bess and everything else was delivered—I finally had a decent set of dishes (goodbye, Andrew’s bachelor kitchen), some artwork and most importantly, my studio. It took quite some time to get everything set up, but now it’s the perfect creative space—with an ocean view to boot.

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Since the big move, I’ve been freelancing for clients old and new, as well as trying to grow 622 press. I post of-the-moment updates on facebook nearly every day, and of course blog as often as I can!

Several of the invitations we printed this year were featured on Wedding Lovely, a blog and wedding resource site that has been incredibly supportive of 622 press over the years. Our shadow monogram stationery was featured in Cool Mom Picks’ annual gift guide, which was far and away the biggest editorial feature I’ve had to date, and prompted quite a few orders this winter.

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While I used the end of 2014 to get the business in order—making sure inventory is correct, analyzing pricing, timing and shipping, and redesigning our branding—2015 will be all about new work. I’ve been designing a new spring collection of cards and prints, plus brainstorming and prototyping new products, and searching for new stores to begin wholesale relationships with. I can’t wait to show you what I’ve been up to!

Until then, stay warm, enjoy time with your family and be grateful for such a blessed life—I know I will. Merry Christmas and happy holidays, see you in the new year!

Kristin

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Travel Journal: East Coast Road Trip Part 2

IMG_3389When I left you, we were on the way from Virginia into North Carolina. I thought it would be a good place to pause since it was very much the transition from North to South. Know how I know? WAFFLE HOUSE!

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I seriously love Waffle House. The hashbrowns! The grits! The waffles! Amy and Molly had never been there, so I insisted we stop at the first one we came across. It wasn’t our last.

IMG_3400As I mentioned previously, we plowed through North Carolina in an effort to have more time in Charleston and Savannah. I don’t have much to report except that 1) We saw a lot of rainbows. A lot. 2) Corn nuggets are the best invention ever. An order came with my meal at some restaurant on the side of a country highway and we ended up ordering more for dessert because we liked them so much! Imagine really good (not canned) creamed corn, mixed with cheese, somehow battered and deep fried. Mmmm…

IMG_3447Anyway, back to the trip: we’re finally in South Carolina! We got the day started off right with chicken and waffles at the Early Bird Diner. The place is tiny and there was a wait, but it was so worth it! Molly loves the south and wanted to go on a plantation tour, so after breakfast we trucked out to Magnolia Plantation in Charleston.

IMG_3465To be honest, a big part of me felt like it was an insane thing to take a tour of… the plantation is not a tribute or a memorial to the people whose lives and freedom were taken there and at thousands of other places like it, it was simply billed as a pretty, historic property. And it was beautiful, but it was also hot and buggy and at one point so humid it was miserable to walk around for the hour or two we were there. It’s hard not to consider the misery it must have been to do physical labor there, day in and day out.

IMG_3584Anyway, the plan was to end the afternoon with a swamp tour, but as we got to that area, the humidity I mentioned turned into an all-out downpour. We bucked up and made the attempt—it felt kind of good after the intense heat of the day actually—but only lasted 15 minutes or so, as the rain kept pounding down harder and harder.

After a classic in-car wardrobe change, we headed in to town. We didn’t really do anything but walk around and take it all in… I don’t think I’ll ever get used to how beautiful old Southern towns are. I love the cobblestone streets and tree roots that have grown around the sidewalk, old doors and awesome architecture.

IMG_3524 IMG_3526We spent that night in Beaufort, a teeny little town with cute restaurants and bars… including a tucked-away pub called Hemingway’s whose regulars showed us a great time.

The next morning we drove into Savannah. After grabbing some lunch and checking out the shops in the touristy historic district, we took a carriage tour of the city, which sounds cheesy, but it really was a great way to see a lot of the town and learn a lot in a short period of time.

IMG_3585IMG_3596The shop above was the original Ford showroom—how cool is that? After the tour we did even more shopping (such a great city for reasonably priced, super cute clothes!), and then we decided we wanted to see the ocean one more time before the end of our trip, so we headed out to Tybee Island.

IMG_3624The next morning, we headed to the airport and our trip was officially history. We drove a little more, spent a little more and fought a little more than anticipated, but it was so worth having an adventure with my sisters. Hope you’re inspired to plan (and not plan) a road trip of your own!

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A Reluctant Quilter

About a year and a half ago, I sent my mom a text that began “Hell has frozen over, I have a question about quilting….” Marge has always been a sewer—from her childhood Barbie outfits to both her and our clothes a few decades ago, not to mention countless projects around the house, prom dress hems and more. I’d be willing to bet my parents’ house has more than one quilt in every room. She was our 4-H leader for sewing and owned a sewing machine shop for a while as well, which I worked at part-time in high school.

So in short, I’ve always been a sewer as well. But, as I’m sure you can tell by now, I’m not much of a pattern-follower, so quilting didn’t appeal to me. But here’s the big secret, readers: quilt squares don’t have to follow a pattern.

When I got a hankering to start a quilt, I just started sewing triangles together. I knew the feel I wanted, so I picked up 8 fat quarters (which are quarter-yard pieces that are more square-shaped than long and skinny like they would be off a bolt of fabric) and cut angular pieces that I simply sewed together into interesting arrangements. Once I ironed them flat and trimmed each into a 6-inch square—voila! Quilt squares!

quilt_4436Now to assemble: I got 50 squares out of my fabric, but didn’t like the shape when I arranged them 5 wide by 10 tall. So, I nixed two of the squares and went with a 6 by 8 quilt. I wanted to use some fabric I already had for the strips between squares, so I did some math and figured out that I had enough fabric for 2.5″ strips. One more afternoon of sewing—assembly-line style—and I have my quilt top finished!

quilt_4439I still have to do the actual quilting of the blanket, but I’m waiting to buy batting in the U.S.—it’s just too expensive here. Either way, I’m excited to be in the home stretch!

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Beer here!

beer_4766With all the new wood type I’ve added to my studio lately, I’ve been wanting to create more type-based prints. I started with this fairly simple beer print last week and I love it! It was a huge challenge to get it locked up in the press, but totally worth it!

It was also a huge challenge to get all the different fonts to print evenly. I wanted some paper show-through to give it a vintage feel, but some letters were so worn they didn’t print at all on the first few passes. Lots of extra packing behind the letters and some careful balancing later, voila! My new favorite print. Available in the shop—perfect to give that man in your life this season!

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Each print in the limited edition of 14 is numbered and signed by yours truly!

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Travel Journal: East Coast Road Trip Part 1

IMG_3275Since I’ve been feeling awfully homesick lately, I thought I’d share an awesome trip I took with my sisters (the hooligans pictured above) last summer. Don’t think of it as a guide—simply inspiration for a trip of your own! The most fun parts were the spontaneous stops we made along the way.

So we had decided to do a road trip down the East Coast as a last blast before I moved to Bermuda and Molly (the youngest, on the left above) moved to Atlanta. The idea had been bopping around my brain for years—mostly because I wanted to eat all the awesome food in the region (hello, crabs and cheese steaks and barbeque and soul food!). Have I mentioned I usually plan my vacations around culinary adventures?

Anyway, we started just north of New York City for the sole reason that we could get a cheap direct flight early in the morning. We hopped in our rental car and navigated our way to Staten Island. That’s right people—I drove through NYC on a late weekday afternoon. It wasn’t even that bad! Amy wanted to take the ferry back in to the City so we could get a good look at the Statue of Liberty. We got a pretty great view of the skyline as well!

IMG_3284After a couple hours of walking around, we hopped back on the ferry, back in our car and headed to Philadelphia for the night.

First thing in the morning (ok, it was like 11), we hit up Reading Terminal Market for coffee and ended up buying lots of locally made snacks. Then it was time for lunch and my first must-do: Getting famous cheese steaks from both Gino’s and Pat’s to see which was better. As a group we were split, but I would like to mix them together (one had better bread, one better meat… we obviously got cheese wiz on both) for the best cheese steak sandwich known to man! Maybe in my next life…

IMG_3301We took our time moseying back to our car so we could explore some of the neighborhoods. We ended up wandering through several blocks of Asian markets where one of the proprietors saw us commenting on the lychee and offered a taste test. Also, how beautiful are these crabs?

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Speaking of beautiful, Amy had done a little research and found a cooky last stop before we left the city (her specialty). Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is a house and adjacent lot that artist Isaiah Zagar began covering in mosaic tile in the late ’60s. Literally surface of the home (bathroom included) and the two-story maze outdoors is covered in shards of glass, dishware and who-knows-what-else.

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We of course made the obligatory stop in the historic part of town to see some of the most historic places in America, but didn’t stay long. After sweating all day in the hot sun, we were glad to pile back into the air conditioned car for the two-hour drive to Baltimore, just in time for dinner and then beers at what we were told is America’s oldest continuously operating tavern, The Horse you Came in On. We didn’t verify whether this was actually factual… but we had a great time anyway!

IMG_3344The next day, we decided to skip exploring much more of Baltimore in favor of spending the gorgeous day in Ocean City. The original plan had been to spend the night in Richmond, but then Amy discovered a bridge that went under the ocean, so obviously plans needed to change!

IMG_3379Ocean City was so cute—great boardwalk with trashy little beach shops (where we obviously made a matching sisters tank purchase). And on the way out we stopped at a crab shack! Finally!

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That night we stayed in the middle-of-nowhere, MD… or maybe we were in Delaware by then, I really can’t remember. The beauty of this trip is that we didn’t book anything in advance—we just found a hotel online an hour or two before we were ready to call it a night and took everything day by day.

The next morning we drove the rest of the way down Delaware and over/under the crazy bridge that leads to Virginia Beach. I didn’t take any photos because I was driving, but let me tell you… it was pretty cool. After spending much the day in Virginia Beach (which was just like Ocean City, on steroids), we put in some serious miles. We wanted to make sure we had plenty of time in Charleston and Savannah, which I’ll tell you about next Friday! Stay tuned!

Long-awaited Studio Tour

Remember when I promised you a studio tour approximately one thousand years ago? Well, I thought I’d finally make good! Here’s where I spend my days:

BDA_studio_officeDesk: Obviously a lot of my time is spent here: designing new letterpress imagery, working on freelance design projects, managing social media and of course blogging! I try to keep my desk fairly neat, but let’s be honest, there is usually a bit more clutter!

BDA_studio_deskdetailsEven though I have significantly fewer appointments these days, I still love my planner. I finally discovered the most perfectly designed planner four or five years ago and have ordered the same style online every year since! For lists that need to last more than a week, I prefer a small notepad—the one pictured here is a very fancy letterpress version given to me by a former intern.

The coffee mug was thrown by yours truly in college. I love drinking from a handmade mug, I always taper my mugs at the bottom so they’re perfect to wrap hands around. And I make them extra large so I only need a few refills each morning.

On the right are Bermuda stamps so I’m ready to send a card any time. I love the stamps here—they’re absolutely gorgeous.

BDA_studio_press BDA_studio_press2Now for the lady of the house: I’ve got Bess set up on a rug with a piece of plywood underneath to protect our light-colored tile floors and my feet. With my type cabinet on my left and a clean table to my right for finished product, I’m set up for maximum productivity!

BDA_studio_inkI keep my ink on my type cabinet, as that’s sort of the “dirty zone.” You can ruin an entire run with one inky finger leaving marks on your work, so it’s important to sequester ink and non-clean items in one area and wash your hands A LOT. When I was in my parent’s house that meant going upstairs every time I needed to wash up, so I feel downright spoiled that our kitchen is just 10 feet away.

Anyway, I mix my ink with a putty knife on a thick piece of glass; standard printmaking procedure. I currently use oil-based inks by Gamblin and Graphic Chemical and save my mixed colors in folded-up freezer paper (another product of my printmaking roots). And yes, I always label colors really specifically: robin’s egg, light orchid, plum, often with notes about consistency as well.

BDA_studio_typecase BDA_studio_toolsThe top of my type cabinet is quite warped (imagine that after a century or so), so I lock up my type on the dresser I use for storage (it belongs to our landlords, so I protect it with a plastic cutting board that just happens to match my yellow rug). I didn’t bring all my furniture (which is the wood blocks used to keep the printing plate or type tight in the frame), so I just keep it in a ceramic bowl I threw in college.

Other necessary printing tools: a ruler, screwdriver, masking tape and pencil hang out on the small side table of my press.

BDA_studio_finishingOver on the clean side of things: a small table to lay out freshly printed work, and my cutting mat for trimming and folding. I use a rotary cutter, thanks to my mom who is a quilter. I find that it doesn’t leave the dragging edge of an exacto knife and it’s much easier on your hands!

BDA_studio_dresserThe newest addition to the studio is this dresser, pilfered from the upstairs guest bedroom with Andrew’s help. I was trying to get by with just a few small drawers of storage and it just wasn’t working out. The room is much cleaner and more organized with it!

Above it, I decided to create a sort of inspiration wall. The alphabet was printed by Sugar Cube Press and purchased at Anthology in Madison before I moved. I’ve added other prints I’ve made, photographs, art pieces from my Australian penpal and others, and my own letterpress circle garland.

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Turkey Day Leftovers

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I could eat turkey and dressing with a side of cranberry sauce for two weeks straight, but if you’re sick of dousing everything in gravy and throwing it in the microwave, here are a few creative solutions for the loads of leftovers!

 

Breakfast: Sweet Potato Hash

I make this hearty and nutritious breakfast all the time, but it sure is easier when you’ve already got most of the ingredients already prepped in your fridge!

Ingredients:
1-2 eggs per serving
Leftover roasted sweet potatoes, cubed
Leftover sausage or bacon, cooked and crumbled (I had bacon leftover from an appetizer, or turkey would work here too—dark meat would be best!)Fresh or leftover veggies—I love mushrooms, brussels sprouts would be fabulous as well. Toss in some onions and whatever else you’ve got in the fridge!

Throw veggies and meat in a hot, oiled frying pan. Heat thoroughly, making sure not to stir too often so you get some delicious caramelization. Portion onto plates, throw a little butter in the pan. Fry your eggs over easy or medium—you want a runny yolk to create a delicious sauce for your hash. Top each plate of hash with an egg or two and enjoy!

Want to make this dish but no cooked sweet potatoes to be found? Cube one up, cover with water and microwave for about 7 minutes, or until you can pierce the cubes with a fork. Much faster than the oven!

 

Lunch: Cranberry Turkey Panini

A little savory, a little sweet, all covered in melty cheese. What could be better? In my family, we make my grandma’s cranberry-orange relish from scratch, but this recipe might work even better with the canned stuff.

Ingredients:
2 pieces of bread, buttered
2 slices of cheese: whatever you’ve got hanging out in the fridge will work2 slices of turkey—I think I’d go light meat for this one
A hefty scoop of cranberry sauce or relish, drained of any extra liquid

Layer in a frying pan or panini maker in this order: Bread (buttered side down), cheese, turkey, cranberry, turkey, cheese, bread (buttered side up) to prevent the bread from getting soggy. You’ve made a grilled cheese, you know what to do.

Looking for a little more flavor? Try a smear of dijon mustard on the inside of the bread, or mix a little balsamic vinegar into the cranberry sauce (extra points if you cook it first to make a reduction).

 

Dinner: Turkey Tortilla Soup

My aunt gave me this recipe a few years back and I make it all the time. I usually pick up a rotisserie chicken because I’m too lazy to roast one myself, but you’ve already done the work so you can go scratch all the way after turkey day!

Ingredients:
2-4 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced (I use the pre-prepped stuff in a jar or tube, but garlic powder powder will NOT work here)
1 jalapeno, minced—WEAR GLOVES! I’ve burned my eyes more than once while taking my contacts out, several hours and several hand washings after cutting up a pepper
1 bunch of cilantro, plus more for topping
1/2 t. cumin (I usually eye ball it and end up using more)
6 oz. can of tomato paste
32 oz. (or more) chicken broth
Leftover turkey—I never measure the meat, but I basically pull a small rotisserie chicken. Dark meat is best in this recipe, so start with two drumsticks and add in some breast meat if you need it.

Toppings:
4+ tortillas, sliced and baked till crispy
1 avocado, cubed
shredded cheddarlime juice (optional, I don’t use it, but my mom says it makes the soup!)

In a large soup pot, saute the veggies in olive oil. When they’re soft, add the cumin and hit them with a stick blender to make a puree. Cook for another minute or two, then add the stock and stir in the tomato paste. Let it simmer for a bit, then add the turkey, continuing to simmer until it’s warm. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve and top with whatever ingredients appeal to you—but definitely tortillas and cilantro!