Boulder’s 100 Year Flood

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Almost exactly 3 years ago, we were praying for rain as the Four Mile Canyon Fire raged on the mountain side. Now we pray for continued dryness and receding flood waters. These forces of nature are incredibly humbling.

The last few days in Boulder have been surreal, to say the least. Shock and sadness at the suffering of those around us is mixed with relief and gratitude to have a dry house and studio, though the flood waters and debris came all the way up to our door.

SWEET letterpress studio after Boulder 100 year flood

The sun is bright and the sky a beautiful blue, but the National Guard helicopters flying over head are a constant reminder of our friends and neighbors in Lyons and other communities that are still in need.

After the threat to personal safety has passed, there is an overwhelming desire to help. And a helplessness in not knowing how we might go about doing that. We’ve offered our home to friends and offered to help neighbors with raw sewage clean up, but would love to do more.

Financial donations as well as donations of specific material things are being accepted by the following organizations:

Some people have even suggested going to certain neighborhoods with a shovel and offering a hand. I think we’ll be cleaning up for a long, long while.

There is also a wonderful organization that popped up on facebook called Save My Colorado Wedding – a group of dedicated wedding vendors, helping couples whose weddings are displaced by the Colorado floods. Their volunteers are ready to help save the wedding day by  finding alternate venues and wedding vendors.

It is amazing to see our community coming together to help each other through this disaster. Stay safe. Stay dry. Much love.


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Green Practices for Letterpress Printing

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Rubber based ink cans

Photo Credit: Sullivan Studios

Happy Summer! As the weather heats up we’re reminded of simple ways we can help the environment through things like turning off lights, using less water and being mindful of how we impact ecosystems. This inspired our topic for this post: eco-friendly elements of letterpress.

Here at SWEET letterpress & design we present our studio as eco-friendly, but what exactly does that mean? In an industry where the very methods used are antiquated and somewhat mysterious to the layperson, how do we try to respect the Earth? Let’s dive into the details.

Being environmentally friendly is definitely a trend, but we prefer to think of it as a series of ongoing decisions. Some of these decisions are simple and easy while others require some research and a little more effort. Here are some of the choices we have made to consciously reduce our impact on the environment.

Ink being applied to letterpress ink plate

Ink Choices

We hand-mix all of our inks for custom colors. Bridal suites, birth announcements, greeting cards, business cards, personal stationery… you name it and we have probably mixed a custom color for it. There are a few primary types of ink that letterpress printers use: oil-based, rubber-based and acrylic based ink. With few exceptions (metallics only come in an oil-base for example), we use rubber and acrylic inks for our pieces. Rubber based ink dries by absorbing into the paper, while oil based ink dries primarily through oxidation (air drying) so we try to reduce the VOCs in the atmosphere by minimizing our use of oil based inks.

Envelopes and paper supplies

Photo Credit: Sullivan Studios

Paper Choices

We print on sustainable paper whenever possible. Most of our jobs use 100% cotton tree-free paper but we also print on recycled papers, source FSC-certified paper products, and favor envelopes from vendors that have similar preferences. That’s just for finished pieces though, we also care about the paper that doesn’t get printed on. We donate our cotton scraps to a local paper-maker so they are reused. Finally, we compost or recycle every scrap we can no longer reuse.

Using Boxcar polymer letterpress plates

Photo Credit: Sullivan Studios

Plate Choices

Letterpress printing uses either handset type or printing plates. We print our projects by designing them and having plates made for us. There are two main options: plates made of magnesium mounted on wood or polymer plates that mount onto an aluminum base. We print primarily using our Boxcar Press base and  have our polymer plates made through Boxcar as well. We toured their facility and were impressed with the friendly people, their professionalism and their commitment to the environment. They have a wind powered facility and recycle polymer leftovers. In general, polymer plates are more eco-friendly because they are recyclable, use less material and the registration process is easier so it requires less make ready (practice paper used to adjust everything on the press until you start printing final versions)

Letterpress work bench with ink and cleaning supplies

Photo Credit: Sullivan Studios

Cleaning Product Choices

To clean the ink off a press after printing, most printers use solutions that have high VOCs. This is difficult to avoid entirely, because getting all traces of ink off the press and the rollers is critical to print quality but there are ways to reduce the use of high VOC cleaners. Solvents such as paint thinner and California Wash are commonly used, but as a general rule we clean initially with vegetable oil and then we go back over the press and rollers with solvent last. This allows us to maintain a clean printing press but significantly reduce the VOCs involved in our press cleaning process.

Biodegradeable packaging

Photo Credit: Sullivan Studios

General Practice Choices

In addition to the detailed elements of letterpress, we also adhere to some eco-friendly principles for the studio. We reuse, recycle and compost to the fullest extent possible (and cart everything  home to dispose of since our landlord doesn’t offer recycling or composting) and package our greeting cards in biodegradeable sleeves. We use repurposed packaging materials for our orders and always ship carbon neutral. Additionally, we have something called the “Sweet Tree” program. For every order over $1000, we plant a tree through American Forests.

There are lots of little ways people can be more environmentally conscious at home, but we extend that idea to our studio too. Letterpress is an eco-chic process with some adjustments to the standard workflow, and we plan to continue doing what we can to keep that up.

Do you have any eco-friendly practices for stationery or do you have a letterpress-specific tip that we could put into practice? We would love it if you would let us know in the comments below.

We would like to thank Sullivan Studios for the awesome studio photographs featured in this post.

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Help preserve meaningful correspondence

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Hi friends and fans,

Exciting things afoot here at SWEET. Drum roll… we are preparing to launch a beautiful new line of wedding invitations early next year! As we are hoping to make a big splash with this collection on a national scale, this project will be a major undertaking. Like many small companies, raising funds for ambitious endeavors can be a daunting task.

So, we have created a Kickstarter campaign to help fray costs. Kickstarter is a leader in the exciting new crowd-funding platform that helps contributors take a more personal stake in the companies they support. Creating our campaign was an exciting and challenging experience. With help from our business coach and a local film maker, we put together a video and written presentation highlighting our company mission, project goals, game plan and challenges, as well as coming up with an extensive list of sweet rewards for contributions. It was a lot of work packed into a short period of time, but we are very pleased with the results. It is our hope that this format will help to foster a loyal and invested community around us and our project, and more deeply connect us to the support system that enables the growth of our business.

Kickstarter is an all or nothing platform, i.e. if we do not meet or exceed our stated goal of $10,000, we will receive nothing. That is why we are hoping you will choose to get involved by contributing, as well as helping us spread the word. Please share our campaign with anyone you think might be interested!! With the holidays nearly here, our great letterpress rewards will make perfect gifts. We’re also offering a 15% off promo code for shopping at our website to all who contribute.

Please visit our campaign by clicking here!!  Campaign runs through December 7th, 2012.

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It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since our baby man Sammy was born. There are really no words to express how profoundly he has changed our lives and how grateful we are for him every single day.

So for his first birthday, we kinda decided to go all out. It started, of course, with the invitation…


Three color letterpress, hand illustrated carnival tent with whimsical garlands, grass green envelope and a coral belly band. From there, the party just followed suit….

Hand-sewn garlands for the tent and bunting for the smash cake (Elana’s Pantry almond flour carrot cake – super healthy and SO delicious), Lillabee gluten-free cupcakes in colorful polka dot paper cups,  avocado and sweet potato frosting (to compliment the color scheme, of course) and even a fedora with matching “one” badge for the guest of honor.

What a day and what a year. We love you so much, Samuel!

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Our biggest project yet

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Wondering where we’ve been? No, we did not take August off; we were hard at work adjusting to life with our newest family member – Samuel, born on 08.11.11. The SWEET studio is now officially reopened but please be patient if it takes us a little longer to respond to calls and emails. We are still trying to find the balance between little one and letterpress.

Special thanks to auntie Summer of sumemoto for the block printed SWEET letterpress onesie.

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Nursery Painted

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We are keeping the sex of “Baby Auggie” (due in August) a surprise which makes designing the nursery just a bit more challenging.

First up – paint.
After a long and painstaking process, trying to find just the right color – not too boy, not too girl, not to “Easter”, not too grown up – we finally found a winner! “Palladian Blue” by Benjamin Moore. We went with the zero-VOC Eco Spec formula, safe for both Mommy and Baby. (FYI, the Eco Spec formula turned out a good bit lighter than the chip or brush outs we did beforehand.)

Madigan gives “Palladian Blue” two paws up

Thus begins the transformation of our never-finished guest room into a modern and serene nursery for our little one. Here is a photo of the finished paint job with some decor Photoshopped in for the full effect:

Special thanks to Young House Love for the stand-in wall hangings.

Also shown:
Love Handmade Wood Sign – OhDierLiving on Etsy
Bamboo Mobile, Bird Trio – petitcollage on Etsy

Check out our nursery inspiration on Pinterest:
SWEET Nursery Inspiration on Pinterest


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Introducing Chloe!!

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Now that we’re in our spacious new studio, we’ve got much more, well, space. This allowed us to bring on our very first intern this summer. We all had a lot of fun; she helps us with loads of projects and we’d like to think she learned a thing or two along the way. So when we were approached by letterpress enthusiast/California transplant Chloe Chatenever and we all hit it off, we asked her to intern with us.

Not only is Chloe a fellow letterpress lover, but she’s also great with Madigan and gets all our Scrubs references. More importantly, Chloe is a great writer; she writes for Elephant Journal and is getting ready to start her masters in publishing. So naturally, I’ve enlisted her help keeping this little ole blog up to date. Woohoo for us!

So without further adieu, I introduce Chloe Chatenever. We feel honored to have her writing for the SLP blog and hope you enjoy her posts!

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3 Reasons to Celebrate

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2010 was a big year for us. In June, we moved into a new studio which is big enough to house both SWEET letterpress & design and our sister design studio, Spark & Flourish Creative.  So we named it Sweet SPARK design + letterpress studio and decided to throw a party in September to celebrate the move, the union of the brands and the 3rd birthday of SWEET.

First step – invitation design. We settled on a tri-fold piece featuring a hand drawn three and four color letterpress printing. Woot woot!

The party was a blast –  a good crowd and a great chance to sit back and enjoy all the hard work over the last few months. Thanks to all that attended (and thanks to Maureen of Sullivan Studios for these great party shots!)

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Magnesium plates, this is your moment

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The new studio is still (and always will be) a work in progress. But with the big logistical projects out of the way, it was time to move on to the creative stuff! I’d already had loads of fun designing the window decals and creating my wire-and-clip inspiration board.

But there was one big project left on the wish list and I was determined to cross it off before our launch party.

When we first started in letterpress, we used magnesium plates mounted on wood. We did a handful of jobs this way before we made the switch to the Boxcar base system and have never looked back. The metal plates have been collecting dust in a galley case for the last couple of years and I’ve always thought they deserved better.

The plan was to ink them all in various colors and mount them on the wall in a cool shape. Easy right? Well, it took quite a bit of time (more than expected!) especially since we decided the placement was somewhat precious. First, we inked them all…

Then, once dry, we laid them on the floor and fiddled (read bickered) until the placement was just right. The next step was to painstakingly measure the distance between each…

…and transfer them to the wall. I would read the measurements aloud while Matthew measured and hammered – 4 nails per plate! We used white nails so the plates really look like they’re floating in their apostrophe (or lamb chop) shape.

Keep an eye out for photos of the finished “scultpture” in our upcoming studio tour.

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