Behind the Stationery: Steel Petal Press

Steel Petal Press began straight out of college from Shayna’s deeply rooted background in stationery. Read on as Shayna gives us a look into her schedule as she breaks down the different aspects of her business and shares how they came to life. She shares some of her favorite business tools, including the reason why her business has been successful! –Megan

Behind the Stationery: Steel Petal Press via Oh So Beautiful PaperPhoto by Jennifer Kathryn Photography

My name is Shayna Norwood and my company is Steel Petal Press, a letterpress stationery studio based in Chicago, Illinois. I started Steel Petal Press when I decided to print holiday cards to send to friends and family living far away. At the time, I was new to Chicago in my first year at grad school earning my MFA in Book and Paper Arts, and far from everyone I knew. After printing my letterpress projects for school, I would use the school’s studios to print personal work in my spare time. I found stores to sell any extra cards I had printed, and the company grew from there.

Behind the Stationery: Steel Petal Press via Oh So Beautiful Paper

Behind the Stationery: Steel Petal Press via Oh So Beautiful Paper

Photo by Jennifer Kathryn Photography

The first two years, I operated Steel Petal Press on very part-time basis. I focused on my schoolwork and other art projects, and would only print new cards when I had and the chance and inspiration. In January 2011, I went full time and haven’t looked back since. Fun fact: The very first card I ever printed is Love from Chicago Skyline and it’s still one of my best sellers to date.

Behind the Stationery: Steel Petal Press via Oh So Beautiful Paper

Photo by Steel Petal Press

I offer letterpress printed greeting cards, wedding invitations, and personalized stationery. I print, package, and ship all my products by hand in house. It’s definitely a labor of love. I started off doing just greeting card, and then incorporated personalized stationery and wedding invitations after a year. When I started Steel Petal Press full-time, wedding invitations were maybe 80-90% of my income (the margins are just so much better for me), but I have really been working on developing the wholesale side of my business, which has seen some significant growth in the last year or two.

My studio is currently located in a large building full of creative businesses in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. It’s 500 square ft and I’ve been here for over two years. I’m just about busting at the seams and am looking to move into a larger space (hopefully a storefront) when my lease is up at the end of September. I own 2 printing presses, a paper trimmer, a paper cutter, and a manual score bar. The presses are both from the early 1960s. My Chandler and Price press is where I do most of my production work, and my Vandercook SP-15 is used to print larger areas, art prints, and wedding invitations.

Behind the Stationery: Steel Petal Press via Oh So Beautiful Paper

Photo by Jennifer Kathryn Photography

On a typical workday, I will wake up between 7-8 am. I try to exercise several mornings a week but this doesn’t always happen. After that, I usually spend a few hours on the computer: answering emails, working on client work, checking in on social media – my tasks vary depend on the day and the time of year. I head to the studio between 11 am – noon and do any number of tasks: working on the press, developing new products, designing new cards, working with custom clients, answering more emails, product photography or more social media.

Behind the Stationery: Steel Petal Press via Oh So Beautiful Paper 187_SteelPetalPress

Photos by Jennifer Kathryn Photography

I have a part-time assistant that helps ship out orders, manages wholesale accounts and inventory, updates my online shop listings, etc. Her tasks also vary depending on the day and the time of year. I also have two interns that come in weekly. I typically go home around 6-7 pm, but have spent my fair share of late nights at the studio working into the wee hours. In the evenings, I eat dinner, read books, watch Netflix, or see friends. Some nights I end up doing more work from home (like tonight, I am typing this at 8:30 pm), but I’m definitely getting better at separating my work from my personal life.

Behind the Stationery: Steel Petal Press via Oh So Beautiful Paper

Photo by Steel Petal Press

A few of my favorite business tools are:
Stitch Labs – for inventory tracking
Trello – for project management
Dropbox – for file sharing
Google Voice – for a business line
Mad Mimi – for newsletter and email marketing
Square – for taking payments on the go

Behind the Stationery: Steel Petal Press via Oh So Beautiful Paper

Photo by Jennifer Kathryn Photography

I am inspired by humanity, connection, friendships, relationships, and communication. My ideas come from things I would want to communicate myself, and those ideas and phrases become the basis of my greeting card ideas. Once I have a list of ideas, I play around with the phrasing and typography to create a design that speaks accurately to what I am trying to say. I’ve found my most successful cards are the most authentic to my own voice.

My wedding stationery designs are more guided by visual inspiration. I spend a good amount of time looking at real wedding blogs and Pinterest. I try to keep up with the wedding trends and create wedding stationery that visually matches what’s going on culturally and in the wedding world.

Behind the Stationery: Steel Petal Press via Oh So Beautiful Paper

Behind the Stationery: Steel Petal Press via Oh So Beautiful Paper

Photos by Steel Petal Press

I really enjoy having both greeting cards and wedding stationery as equal parts of my business. Last year I did just about 60% custom vs 40% retail and wholesale. My greeting cards are my creative outlet, where I really get to experiment however I want. Working on weddings can be very rewarding, but it does have some creative limitations. Both aspects create a nice balance in my business between client work and greeting cards, which I consider my personal work.

Behind the Stationery: Steel Petal Press via Oh So Beautiful Paper

Photo by Steel Petal Press

Behind the Stationery: Steel Petal Press via Oh So Beautiful Paper

Photo by Jennifer Kathryn Photography

I would not be able to balance all aspects of my business without the help of my assistant. She takes on a lot of the wholesale responsibilities, and helps with packaging cards, shipping out orders, tracking inventory, and ordering supplies. This leaves me more time to work directly with clients, to develop new products, to create new card designs and push the business forward.

Interested in participating in the Behind the Stationery column? Reach out to Megan at megan@ohsobeautifulpaper.com.

Quick Pick: Modern Lore

Loving the new Spring releases from Modern Lore! The collection features copper foil stamped text paired with textured paper and contemporary photography from artists like Victoria Smith and Lisa Congdon. You might even recognize a few of the images – I’m beyond thrilled to have a few of my photographs in the collection! And for those of you attending the National Stationery Show you can check the new cards out in person in Booth 1662!

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Check out more over at Modern Lore!

National Stationery Show 2015 Scavenger Hunt!

The annual scavenger hunt organized by Amber of Flywheel Press and Legion Paper is one of my very favorite traditions at the National Stationery Show! This year the scavenger hunt involves postcards! Just visit the booths below – then swing by Legion Paper (Booth 2774 in the Supply Side!) to collect a few postcards contributed from non-exhibiting stationers and a beautiful box to carry them all home!

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NSS-2015-Scavenger Hunt

Farewell Paperie – 2158

Power and Light Press – 1950

Albertine Press – 1762

Sapling Press – 2353

Life is Funny Press – 2164

Haute Papier – 2144

Lady Pilot Letterpress – 1666

Blackbird Letterpress – 2059

Gilah Press – 2575

Smudge Ink – 2635

Bespoke Press – 1329

Igloo Press – 1664

Bruno Press – 1946

Iron Curtain Press – 1952

Maginating – 2863

So fun!

Photo Credits: Legion Paper

Quick Pick: 9th Letter Press

It’s here! The 2015 National Stationery Show is underway – and I can’t wait to share some booth photos with you! But first I wanted to share some of the new Spring releases from 9th Letter Press – who sadly isn’t at the show this year. Instead 9th Letter Press sent an amazing box to retailers across the country with new cards (including copper foil!) as well as gift tags, wrapping sheets and a new calendar!

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More over on 9th Letter Press!

Photo Credits: 9th Letter Press

Friday Happy Hour: The Ramos Gin Fizz

Lots of classic cocktails feel old fashioned but still familiar to a modern palate: the Manhattan, the Martini, the Mint Julep. But sometimes you encounter a drink that’s so archaic, so different from anything you’re familiar with that it feels like a relic from an entirely different age. The Ramos Gin Fizz is just such a drink: unusual to taste, with an odd set of ingredients, that’s almost performance art to make. Weird but delicious. And perfect for brunch. – Andrew

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Illustration by Shauna Lynn for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Ramos Gin Fizz

2 oz Dry Gin
1 oz Heavy Cream
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1 oz Simple Syrup
2-3 Dashes Orange Blossom Water
1 Egg White
Club Soda

Combine all the ingredients except the club soda in an empty cocktail shaker and shake for at least two minutes and longer if possible. Add ice and shake again for another two minutes or longer if possible. Strain into a chilled highball glass and top with club soda. Rinse the inside of the shaker with a splash of club soda and add to the glass. Drop in a straw and enjoy!

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The invention of Henry Ramos, the Ramos Gin Fizz (also known as a New Orleans Fizz) dates back to 1888 and comes, somewhat unsurprisingly, from the birthplace of so many amazing drinks, New Orleans. It shows its age: it’s fussy and a bit odd and requires so much work to make that it really could have only come from a time when labor was cheap (and people were in less of a hurry). All that shaking is necessary to emulsify the heavy cream and citrus. Mixing dairy and acid normally causes the dairy to curdle but lots of shaking can blend the two and give you a custardy texture. Ramos employed teams of bartenders to shake his fizzes in relays for twelve minutes a piece. I doubt anyone these days has the time or the arm strength to manage a full twelve minutes, but you really need to shake this one for as long as you can. So: the perfect drink for shaking with a friend.

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The Ramos Gin Fizz is an odd duck: creamy and fizzy at the same time, tart and sweet and floral too. You really can’t substitute the orange blossom water – the byproduct of distilling orange blossoms for their essential oils to make perfume – with anything else orange. You can find it online or at Middle Eastern grocers; ask at your local Lebanese restaurant if you can’t fine it nearby. The original recipe calls for just two teaspoons of superfine sugar, but I find this version is a bit too sour, so I bumped up the sweetness a bit. Despite that cream – and you really need to use cream here th– e Ramos never feels heavy, thanks to the light floral notes of the orange blossoms and the bubbly club soda.

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A Fizz is properly served without ice, with the understanding that you’ll drink it fast enough that it won’t warm up before you’re done. That goes doubly for the Ramos Fizz, because –unless you’ve shaken it for the full twelve minutes – that citrus is eventually going to start curdling the cream in the gorgeously thick and white foam on top of your drink. You don’t want this. Trust me.

(Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, where we’ve been posting our experiments before they make their way onto this column!)

Glassware by Liquorary 

Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper