Here's how this works... It's a Q&A format with questions created specifically for COLOR BOX. Most of the questions below were answered by Rhonda Warren. As a side note regarding future interview posts, each creative featured on my blog will have a different set of questions. I'm really excited about promoting other creatives, and chose the title BETTER TOGETHER for this concept.
COLOR BOX DESIGN AND LETTERPRESS is a boutique design studio nestled by White Rock Lake. The dynamic trio is passionate about paper, color, and letterpress.
To see their beautiful work visit: www.colorboxletterpress.com
Owner/Designer/Printer: Rhonda Warren
Designers/Printers: Paige Rommel and Traci Andrejko
At what point in your career did you know you wanted to pursue letterpress?
“It was quite by accident. I had left my job at a local design firm and been on my own for a year doing what I now call “normal” graphic design (designs for company brochures, apartments, etc.) when I received an interesting call one day from the owner of a local paper store. There was a Vandercook 4 press up for adoption, and the shop owner had remembered me mentioning my love of letterpress. As a dutiful wife, I called my husband, Lelan, to discuss the matter before taking on the 1,100 pounds of steel. Without my passion for print, Lelan was worried about diving into the unknown world of the printing press. He advised me to consider our lack of space for the large “hobby” item, so I immediately called the shop owner back and gleefully accepted the Vandercook. Eight years later, the orphan press is still in service alongside another Vandercook 4 and a Kluge platen press. Needless to say, Lelan was pleasantly surprised when what he thought was a hobby turned into a nice little business.”
You have a unique style. How would you describe it?
“It’s funny – I don’t really feel like I have “a” style, but people say that I do. I think I have several; sometimes I feel quite schizophrenic. I love all sorts of styles and looks. When I do things for myself my work tends to be very nature driven and/or whimsical.”
Where do you get your inspiration?
“When I’m working with a client on a custom invitation, I like to hear about the wedding or event and create an invitation, which conveys the feeling the guest will experience. But sometimes they don’t have the event planned, so we get to be the lead on the event and then the client takes inspiration from the invitation. I secretly love when an event is planned around the invitation, we get to go a little wider in our scope of inspiration – sometimes that feels a little more free, but sometimes it’s harder.”
Last May you had a booth at the National Stationery Show in NYC. Describe this experience and the impact it had upon your business.
"This was something I had wanted to do for years. Color Box shared a booth with 14 other small letterpress companies very similar to ourselves; this way we were able to exhibit much more economically than if we had a solo booth. The experience was amazing, there was so much to learn and do in preparation for the show it was a bit overwhelming: learn the vocabulary of wholesale, how to prepare for a major tradeshow, create a catalog, prepare a press kit AND design and print the products. We did well at the trade show; of course you always wish you had a few more orders in your suitcase when you pack up to go home, but it was a great start. We are continuing to reach out to store and of course we have them for sale on our website."
Tell me about your studio space and how it influences your work?
"My studio is close to my “real” house, which makes the commute easy. It’s a little house with a blue door, and I love that it’s so convenient and cozy. The garden in the front yard is always an inspiration, especially during the spring. Last year, we built a big-girl print shop in the backyard of the studio. It’s basically a glorified garage, but designed to fit our purpose with great natural light. I love my studio!"
What type of letterpress do you use?
"There are two basic types, cylinder and platen, and we have both. Our two cylinder presses are Vandercook number 4s, and these are the ones we use exclusively for printing at this time. We have a Kluge that I’m slowly becoming friends with; I’ve worked my way up to being able to set up a very accurate score on this press so far. Soon we’ll be printing on her."
Regarding your work, do you have anything exciting coming up?
"Along with the release of our new product line we launched in May, we just finished a complete redesign of our website. It’s up and running at colorboxletterpress.com, so take a look and let us know what you think. We’re pretty excited about it, we did the design and worked with a great programmer (Jake at jjwebstuff.com) for the backend."
What advice could you give to someone wanting to pursue letterpress?
"Find a press and start cranking. You just have to jump in; basically you learn as you go, there’s no short cut."
Where do you see your business in the next three years?
"I hope we are very much the same, I really want to keep things small so I can keep my hands in the design and printing portion as much as possible."
Paige, I heard you have a great eye for fonts, what’s your favorite font?
"Early on, I became very passionate about hand-lettering and experimental typography within the world of design and printmaking. I’m a sucker for a classic serif, but trying to pick one favorite typeface is like trying to pick a favorite song. It is just too difficult. One can fall in love with a great song, but if it is played too often, it can become monotonous. The best part about typography is the immense palette of typefaces I get to use. I’m lucky to be able to work on so many diverse design projects that require various typographical decisions. I love mixing several fonts that vary in weight and form, in order to create an unexpected but harmonious lockup of type."
Traci, your title is Day-dreaming Designer & Doodler, and it sounds like a great job. What’s your favorite part, least favorite part?
“The best part about this job is creating something from start to finish, getting a new project and being inspired by fashion, nature, patterns, or even the envelope color! Then starting digitally, sometimes on paper, adding a truly hand done element, and ending with a beautiful letterpress piece created in our backyard shop on a letterpress from the ’50s! I love being a part of letting a timeless art breathe new life every day. The hardest part is being constrained by time or budget, all while asked to created an expensive-looking invitation, and fast! Most people don’t realize how it’s all done and that the best things take time!”
Ta-da! There it is. We would love to hear your thoughts. I'll post again soon as I'm already meeting with the next creative!
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