Welcome to another installment of Behind the Stationery! Today we’re joined by LA-based designer and owner of Iron Curtain Press, Rosanna. Iron Curtain Press has grown their letterpress business by staying true to what inspires them, beginning designs with a particular occasion or person in mind. In need for more space, Rosanna shares about their search for a larger studio and, serendipitously, a storefront for their connected retail store, Shorthand, which has been a special way to extend the Iron Curtain Press personality. Welcome, Rosanna! –Megan
From Rosanna: I have been so fortunate to spend my entire professional life working in paper. When I was searching for what to do with my English Literature degree shortly after I graduated from college, I took a letterpress printing class and never looked back. I apprenticed with the fabulous Bremelo Press before striking out on my own a few months later. This February was the 9 year anniversary of working for myself as Iron Curtain Press. I think I was just young enough and idealistic enough to take the leap without thinking too hard about all the potential risks that come from owning your own business. Years of hustle, hard work, dreaming big along with a lot of sweat and tears have led to where we are now!
We’ve called North East Los Angeles home for the past 5 years. We’ve been in our current location since January 2016 and hopefully this will be our home for many years to come! The print shop where we create all our own products plus print all the custom projects that come through our doors each year is the bulk of the space.
We were able to open a small store front specializing in cute supplies for your desk just about a year ago. Shorthand sprang to life almost by accident. We were looking for a new studio space, ideally near our home, and a space on one of our favorite streets in our neighborhood became available. Owning a retail store had never been a top priority goal, but as soon as we saw the space I knew what I would want if I opened a store! Of course, we would sell all our own products, and then I wanted to find cute desk supplies that would complement our offerings. I started tracking down products for the store by figuring out who made my favorite little brass pencil sharpener and then once I found them, realized they made a bunch of cool stuff.
Over and over, I’ve just had in my mind something I want to carry, figured out who made it, and then found a wealth of other amazing products made by the same company or manufacturer. Our tagline is “for the love of your desk” and that helps me stay focused on what we bring in to the store. We thought, worst case scenario, this will be a cute showroom for our own products. But it’s really taken on a life of it’s own and buying for the store has become one of the best parts of my job. I love how delighted our customers are when they come in and experience our overwhelming appreciation of desk accessories and supplies.
Iron Curtain Press is a letterpress print shop. Everything we print has that lovely tactile quality that modern letterpress printing is known for. We also have a variety of finishing methods that we offer: mounting, edge painting, and die cutting to name a few. There are two kinds of jobs we print every day: projects for ourselves that become products that we sell (greeting cards, notebook covers etc) and then projects for our custom clients (business cards and stationery, small product packaging, invitations, etc). The custom projects are fun because they push our skills and boundaries and make us better printers. We are not a design studio in that we will happily consult about paper and ink but do not offer design services. We limit our design work to the items we create to sell.
We’ve cultivated a pretty magical team working with us here every day. We check in together in the morning to decide the priorities of the day, but there are always orders to be shipped out, payments to be collected, greeting cards to be re-printed, notebooks to be made, photographs to be taken, custom projects to be printed / inspected, and emails to be answered.
Currently, I spend most of my time writing estimates for custom projects, making plans for how the business will grow in the next quarter and year and placing orders for Shorthand. We are a hard working team, but I am a firm believer in not fostering an environment of workaholics. Our work days have a definite start time and stop time and we take our weekends. I believe building a small business is a marathon not a race.
I am so grateful that my job allows me to express my creative vision in so many ways. I love to create greeting cards by thinking of a specific occasion and person. Greeting cards are so personal and I’m most inspired (and the card sales reflect this) when I design a card for a particular person / occasion. When I design products for our line that are not greeting cards, I start by thinking about what I want to make and then price out the potential item to determine the hard costs, the potential wholesale price, the potential retail price and then researching to see if that seems to match what the market will bear. Once I know the product will actually work, I move into the design and prototyping phase.
At this point, I’ve thought about the new item so much that it seems to come together pretty quickly, but really I’ve just been thinking about it for a very long time. I am currently working on a pretty big release that will debut at the National Stationery Show in May – I’m in the prototyping stage and it’s so fun!
As the head of Iron Curtain Press, I am also so fortunate to be able to design every aspect of the business. As our company has grown, my husband Joel has come on board full time. His background is in photography and woodworking, so he takes all the photographs for our catalog and online, has built out both our print shop along with building all the fixtures for Shorthand. I love being able to work with him to design our spaces and see my vision executed so beautifully.
We are stoked for what 2017 holds for our cute little business. I love my job, I love the people that work with us every day and all of our clients and customers that allow us keep doing what we love.
All photos courtesy of Iron Curtain Press.
Want to be featured? Reach out to Megan at megan[at]ohsobeautifulpaper.com for details.