[Sami Jensen] We had the opportunity to speak to a lot of paper lovers at the National Stationery Show, including Harold Kyle, founder of letterpress print and pre-press shop Boxcar Press and co-owner of the online store Bella Figura and Smock letterpress stationery.
As the owner of one of the largest letterpress specialty print shops in the U.S., Kyle has watched the letterpress community grow over the last few decades. He points out that 20 years ago, you wouldn’t have seen much if any letterpress at the National Stationery Show. He credits the collaboration of book arts centers and online idea sharing for the resurgence of this 500-year-old tradition.
Kyle also attributes the rebirth of letterpress to the collaborations of designers and print shops. In the second video below, he discusses his own love for letterpress, beginning with his printmaking studies and his work at Campbell-Logan Book Bindery in Minneapolis.
One thing we heard frequently at the show was the pressure “brick and mortar stores” feel from e-tail. Boxcar, which has a thriving business with traditional retailers, has found a way to balance the convenience of e-commerce with the personal service provided by retailers. In Bella Figura, Kyle has managed to create an e-commerce solution that also supports the brick-and-mortar stores that carry Boxcar Press products: Bella Figura allows store owners to log customers who have shown interest in Boxcar press products … so if the customer decides to buy online, the store still receives credit for the sale.
Boxcar Press is constantly releasing new designs — Bella Figura alone releases 60+ designs a year. Though Kyle says he has a great design staff, he relies heavily on a team of over 20 external designers to come up with what’s next. “A lot of times, that involves pushing our production and incorporating new embellishments and processes into our shop. But we let the designers drive that.”
Sustainability is at the core of Kyle’s businesses. The products offered on Smock are printed on Mohawk Via PC 100 Cool White, Mohawk Options, Mohawk Loop and bamboo papers. Not only does Kyle select papers based on environmental footprint, he uses the same criteria when selecting printers. “We try to incorporate sustainability into every decision that we make as a company,” says Kyle, though he admits it’s a challenging process, as it often means limiting choices. “We are not just saying that we are green or eco — we are actually putting our money where our mouth is in our choices.”
Harold Kyle is the founder of Boxcar Press and co-owner of Bella Figura. These video segments are taken from Kyle’s interview at the National Stationery Show 2011, by Laura Shore, Felt & Wire publisher. View the entire video here. Last week we published this interview from the Stationery Show with Christopher Wu, co-founder of Paper Culture.