Meet Alischa Herrmann, the creative founder of Bespoke Letterpress, a Brisbane-based business, which designs and sells exactly that – beautiful bespoke designed letterpress stationery!
The Artisan team sits down with her to ask a few interesting questions about her work.
Artisan (A): As the owner of Bespoke Letterpress, we’d love to know what got you interested in starting a letterpress business? Why this particular product/or range of products? When did you come up with the idea and how long did it take to come to fruition?
Alischa Hermann (AH): As a graphic designer I had always loved the land of design and print. But as a graphic designer usually you are placed behind your computer hidden from the tangible world, which is print. Over the years as working graphic designer, I felt deep down that their was a void between what I would design, and the final finished piece that would come back from the printers on my desk. As my graphic design career grew and jumped in strength and strength this void would only become bigger and bigger. Quite clearly, I was supposed to be doing something a lot more tactile then sitting behind a desk all day!
Way back in the early 2000’s letterpress was really unheard of in Australia. As my detachment from being an everyday graphic designer grew I discovered this whole land of vintage printing and the more I researched and started to learn about printing – the more I became fascinated with this vintage craftsmanship, the more I discovered that letterpress being the origin of print – was also the origin of graphic design. I had found my calling.
It took quite a few years to build up my knowledge and source my first vintage press – an 1893 Chandler & Price Old-style press who weighed 800 kilos and I affectionately named Charlie. This was the very beginning of a whole new world full of challenges, frustrations, a lot of blood and sweat – but most of all love.
A: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the work you do on a daily basis? Do you work out of an office space? How do you organize your time and juggle the different responsibilities of running a small company?
AH: Our studio space was initially housed in the ground floor of our 1935 Queenslander in Brisbane, we happily printed and designed away in this studio for many years until earlier this year, when we then also started up a second studio in Bowral in the Southern Highlands of Sydney. All of our printing is now done out of a 1920’s 3 bedroom cottage which we have renovated into a full print shop, with studio space, office space and storage for our ridiculously big paper supplies. Our lovely Brisbane team still works for us up in the sunshine where they manage our day-to-day operations and the design aspect of our custom stationery and product ranges, and our Bowral studio manages all the printing
My day-to-day workings can be quite varied. We now have a team of 6 staff who work a variety of full time, part time and casual hours. A lot of my time these days is directed towards managing this beautiful team and ensuring that our working systems etc are all in place despite working between two different states. Some days you can see me at my desk, whilst other days I can be operating a press printing wedding stationery or our stationery product lines. Other days can see me doing post production work compiling our printed stationery into beautiful wedding suites, or assisting in helping get orders out the door to our lovely retail stores, who stock our ranges. Each day can be pretty unique, but its always busy and quite often weekdays and weekends become a blur as I really don’t manage a good work/life balance!!
A: Have you always had a love for letterpress? What aspect of the creative process do you enjoy most?
AH: Ever since I stumbled across letterpress all those years ago, it has really felt like a calling!! I adore all the aspects – even those which make your muscles ache and your hands look like a tradesman’s covered in ink and grease. Letterpress never stops being a challenge – every job presents unique quirks, and printing on such old machines never becomes easy. But it is this challenge and the drive to always push harder which keeps me coming back day in and day out to keep on being the very best letterpress craftsman that we can be.
A: What challenges and/or barriers did you have to overcome to establish Bespoke Letterpress? What was the learning curve like? What has starting and running a business taught you about yourself?
AH: In the early days, a lot of people had doubts and concerns that this business was a good idea – there were no other real boutique letterpress studios in Australia at the time (although plenty have popped up since!) and it was hard for people to share my vision. After all, the machines are old, they are slow, they are heavy and they require a lot of maintenance to bring them back to life. These machines were quickly outdated many years ago by far more advanced, and quicker print techniques, so although I had a dream and a vision – it was hard for others to share this passion to reinvent a dying craftsmanship. But I think I can be pretty stubborn and I knew that the more people doubted that “it could be done” the more driven I was to prove them wrong!!
I had this deep down feeling that I was following the right path, that this was the calling for me, and to cast all others doubts aside and to start to get my hands inky and dirty and to learn from the ground up.
Starting bespoke Letterpress and growing it over the years has taught me many things – I think I can be pretty stubborn, but combine this with a drive and I think although it must drive other people nuts, has helped me stay true to my passion and continue to push myself harder and harder. As Bespoke Letterpress grew, one of the big challenges I had was learning to “let go” and to learn to outsource and value the beautiful staff who can help Bespoke Letterpress grow. It was a very hard step, but I am beyond blessed with the beautiful girls (and dear husband) who share this journey with me and I am beyond thankful for the love and passion they bring to our letterpress land. Beyond this, I think as Bespoke has grown it has taught me a lot to follow my gut instincts – if something didn’t feel right, or it felt like we were doing it just for “success” rather then “love” then it’s a pretty sure sign that I needed to reconsider and ensure that everything we do, we do do because we love it and not because its “on trend” or a quick “profit”.
A: Do you have any advice for other folks interested in starting a small business of their own?
AH: Do what you love and do it with every little bit of passion, drive and hard work you can muster. If something doesn’t feel right, follow your instincts and always pave your own path!
All images courtesy of Bespoke Letterpress
Stand a chance to win a gorgeous set of Bespoke Letterpress stationery. Download Artisan Issue 5 on your iPad to find out how.