Heidi – the letterpress machine

In 2013, whilst looking for a wire binding machine on eBay, an advert for a vintage  letterpress machine caught my eye and captured my imagination. I had done a term at University doing letterpress whilst doing my graphic design degree many moons ago and I absolutely loved it. Since that time whenever I saw letterpress cards in stores like Liberty, which would normally come from the US where the process is more common than here in blighty, I always thought how cool it would be to do some letterpress cards for 1973. The mice worked overtime in my head that night and I couldn’t think of anything else apart from the one and half ton chunk of German machinery. Come the morning that was that and I had to have it. I headed off in a rental van a couple hours later to Bristol to get the beautiful 1949 Heidelberg 10” x 15” platen which we were later to name ‘Heidi’.

From that whirlwind 24 hours 8 years ago a new direction was forged for 1973, but there was an immediate problem in that we didn’t have a clue how to work it. It was so different to the hand-fed presses I used at uni all those years ago. Luckily for us a serendipous moment happened whilst unloading Heidi out of the van. A young lad called Mike, who was coming in for some work experience, arrived in an immaculate, suped up bright yellow boy racer car with music blaring loud enough to make one’s ears bleed. I welcomed him with a ‘Hello mate……nice wheels’ to which he replied, ‘I made it myself’. He then turned and saw Heidi and was instantly transfixed, like when someone spots their future life partner for the first time. Instead of doing the warehouse work we had set for him, together we set up the machine and started playing around with it. He was a natural and, after watching a few short videos on Youtube, was able to operate the machine with ease. Needless to say Mike was offered a job and spent the next 9 years with us as our head printer and has only recently moved to pastures new to start a new career as a car mechanic. 

We now have 4 machines, two that we use for ink, one for hot foil stamping and the last one for die cutting which is overseen by Emma (who has become a master printer herself) and her two operators Harry and Noah. The print team produce around 400,000 cards a year together with other products like notebook covers and gift boxes, but the majority is greetings cards. We also partnered up with leading US letterpress companies Egg Press from Portland, the Californian based Ashkahn and People I’ve Loved and more recently the amazing Bench Pressed from Minnesota all on a license basis, where we print, manufacture and distribute their line here in Europe.

It's definitely fair to say that Heidi has helped shape who we are as a company and we are so grateful to her for opening many doors and with that making us many great friends.

James.

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