We’re going up north into Canada for today’s post from Chantal at Papillon Press! Transitioning their wedding line into something for everyone, this duo of illustrators started wholesaling their greeting cards a few years into their business. –Megan
I’m Chantal Bennett, owner and founder behind Papillon Press, a letterpress stationery studio based out of the village of Westport, Ontario, Canada. Papillon Press began in 2009 when I saw an ad on Kijiji (the Canadian Craigslist) selling a 10×15 new style Chandler & Price letterpress, along with 110 typecases, cabinets, and shop supplies. My co-founder/husband Joel Kimmel and I picked it up and moved it 7 hours north to our first studio, which was then located in our home in Sudbury, Ontario. Papillon Press, the illustrated press, was born.
Joel and I both studied illustration in art school. I attended Parsons The New School for Design in New York while Joel attended Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. We use our drawing skills to create greeting cards with a sprightly sense of humour, told in an illustrative manner but without hitting you over the head with a punchline. We hope our approach to life, which is to not take ourselves too seriously, is reflected in our cards and passed on to the person who buys that card.
Letterpress printing was a natural extension of our drawing styles. Both Joel and I excel at pen and ink drawings, and we discovered that our line works and prints very well with letterpress. For the first few years of the business we focused mostly on wedding invitations, then we began focusing more on selling our collection of greeting cards in 2012. We felt that greeting cards afforded us more creative freedom to draw the things we wanted to draw, like a gorilla high-fiving a kitten, rather than just decorative borders. Our cards often feature animals (including extinct ones like dinosaurs) in ridiculous situations – most often wearing party hats – and most of our wedding clients weren’t down with animals in party hats on their invitations (except for a select, awesome few).
We moved our studio, home, and beagle to Westport in 2013. Our studio building is behind our circa 1877 house on our property, located in the village. I love being able to walk 50 feet from my house and I’m at work. I also love that our studio is two stories, 1000 square feet on each level (right?!) so I have room for all my printing equipment, inventory, drafting tables, and even a little showroom area with a sofa for all those much needed workday naps (ok, sometimes). My computer desk faces a window where I frequently get distracted watching birds land on the birdfeeder.
Joel shared the Papillon Press workload for the first two years of the business, but now contributes only to the illustration portion of the design process because he’s too busy working for clients like TIME, Nike, and the Royal Canadian Mint (They pay better than I do. Shocker!). The majority of illustration & design duties, as well as the printing and managing of the business fall to me, which makes Papillion Press mostly a one-woman-show, save for the packaging and packing of orders which is the job of my studio assistant, Lynda. This year we introduced offset printed cards into our collection making use of the four-colour process to add more colours to our designs, but without adding to my workload.
I always knew I would be an entrepreneur of some kind, whether it be an illustrator or something else involving drawing, so I’m very glad I’ve managed to make this my full-time job. Papillon Press has been steadily growing over the years and I hope to keep expanding our current list of 50+ retailers in Canada and the USA.
All photos by Papillon Press
Interested in participating in the Behind the Stationery column? Reach out to Megan at [email protected]