From the PNW, Kara and Tess are here to share their story Behind the Stationery at Egg Press! As partners in leading a growing company in Portland, collaborating on all fronts is a key part to their success. Beyond greeting cards, Egg Press partners with local companies, started the Write_On campaign to promote written correspondence, and actively gives back in their new GOODS FOR GOOD collection. Take a look inside their day to day! —Megan Soh
From Kara and Tess of Egg Press: In 1999, Tess left her job as a graphic and surface designer for Nike so that she could be in her letterpress studio more. Her intent was to print custom work for the local design community, but when she took a handful of card designs to a trade show in SF on a whim, Egg Press was born.
Our studio is located in beautiful NW Portland, Oregon on the third floor of the Schoolhouse Electric building, a 1910 brick factory and warehouse. We love coming to this inspiring space every day and of being part of a long tradition of American manufacturing. It’s gratifying to use these old machines (the basic design of some of our presses goes back to the 1800’s) to make wholly new things. We have 12 presses including Heidelberg windmills and Chandler and Price clamshells. They all have different personalities which have garnered nicknames. One of our Heidelbergs may be one of the oldest of its kind still in use. We also have sewing machines, a screen printing set up, as well as old-school gadgets for corner rounding, paper jogging, and notebook padding.
Kara and Tess work in the back office near the train tracks. Conversations are occasionally brought to a stop as loudly whistling train pass by. It’s all part of the charm. Tess and Kara work side by side every day – Tess on the left, Kara on the right collaborating on most everything that leaves the studio.
On a typical day Tess and Kara can be found working on design deadlines, collecting inspiration, creating illustrations for a local grocery chain, taking meetings and thinking about what’s next. The print room comes in early and creates their to-do list, juggling custom printing needs, inventory needs, and R&D for new products or formats. The folks in the office make sure all is running smoothly with accounts, customer service, and orders, while the shippers hustle to get boxes picked, packed and ready for the postman by 3:00pm.
Photo by Micah Fischer
We are still a small enough company to be nimble. While each person has a set of responsibilities and things to do each day, we all wear many hats and are able to come together to accomplish a lot as a team. This means we can respond to exciting opportunities as well as bumps in the road in a timely fashion.
First and foremost, we are inspired by the letterpress process and the technical constraints of designing for it. We love Japanese and Scandinavian design and are also inspired by vintage ephemera, Bauhaus typography, interesting color combinations and word play.
We start by collecting inspiration and with our marketing and sales team, considering needs in the marketplace. Once we have solid ideas that get us juiced up and a design direction established we begin to sketch, draw, paint and compose on the computer. When we have enough contenders we review the designs to narrow down the offerings.
At this point plates are ordered, colors are specified and the cards move to the printing process. This is where the real magic happens. There is nothing better to see the cards come to life fresh off the press.
Usually new formats start with what inspires us. For example, we love textiles, so within our SPK line (Social Preparedness Kit) we offer small batch soft goods, designed, printed, and constructed from start to finish in our studio. SPK also includes stationery products for the desk and other goods that help make letter writing easy.
Another big initiative we design and produce for is Write_On, our annual letter writing campaign. This was born from founder Tess Darrow’s desire to get in the habit of writing more letters. It’s fun to brainstorm products that will inspire folks to write. We’ve created letter writing advent style calendars, totes to carry your materials, and enamel pins to show your support for the cause.
We don’t typically produce a lot of postcards but are excited to heed recent requests for political postcards while raising money for some of our favorite causes. Along with totes and screen printed t-shirts, they’re part of our recently launched GOODS FOR GOOD line in which all proceeds are donated to organizations that are working to better the lives of all people.
All photos by Christa Fowles except where noted.
Interested in being featured in this column? Reach out to Megan at megan [at] ohsobeautifulpaper.com for details.