Pressed Into Beautiful Service

Twin Ravens Press preserves an ancient art

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Anybody with a Pinterest account can attest that the holidays are no longer about giving the perfect gift — they’re about the gift-wrap, tag and greeting cards that go along with it. If the mundane store-bought cards won’t quite make the cut this year, you’re in luck. The beautiful letterpress holiday greeting cards from Eugene’s own Twin Ravens Press, available at Out On A Limb Gallery, are sure to satisfy the inner Martha Stewart in anyone.

“We live in such a mass-produced, bulk-everything society that if people can order something that is small and handmade and not just something you find when you walk into a Hallmark that it makes them feel like it’s more authentic and special,” says owner Kristin Walker, who dabbled in the art of letterpress at the UO during her undergrad years. While looking for a job in photography after graduation, Walker acquired a small printing press and began printing cards and selling them on the online marketplace Due to the overwhelming success of her Etsy sales, Walker decided to open her own letterpress printing business, specializing in wedding announcements, business cards and holiday greeting cards.

The art of letterpress dates back to the mid-15th century as the mode in which the first books were printed. The slow but beautiful process is a form of relief printing in which ink is applied to a raised surface and then pressed against paper. When printing a project with more than one color, a mold has to be cast of each individual shape and must be aligned correctly when printed to create the perfect image. After being replaced by offset printing in the 1960s, craft culture has brought letterpress back for various high-quality artistic projects. Walker, one in a small group of letterpress artists in the Pacific Northwest, owns an authentic printing press from 1912 that traveled from Cleveland, Ohio, to Auburn, Wash., to Portland, finally settling at her backyard studio in Eugene.

One by one, Walker creates the molds and singlehandedly prints individual cards for each member of her growing client base. She has now created custom works for people in all 50 states and 37 different countries. “It’s neat to think that I’m in a 1200-square-foot building that’s basically in my backyard in Eugene, Ore., and there are people from all over the world that are calling me and emailing me, wanting me to print things,” she says.

With the holidays quickly approaching, Walker says she delights in the authenticity that many of her customers’ ideas hold. One woman in Corvallis asked for a card printed with a Beaver-orange Volkswagen van carrying a Christmas tree on top, another prefers sunglasses with the saying “Merry and Bright” and one couple asked that their silhouettes be printed alongside the silhouettes of their four furry pets. Walker says, “People kind of like it when you can get something custom and something that is a little different and unique and has exactly what you want on it.” If it’s really the thought that counts, nothing can be more thoughtful than a handmade holiday greeting made by a truly authentic technique.