"Don’t give up. It’s going to be hard-you will probably doubt yourself and think that you can’t do it but persist and it will get better. The struggle makes you appreciate it that much more when you get there. Eventually you realize we did it, what’s next."
I love the look of letterpress printing. There is something so noteworthy about a beautiful design that is then literally pressed into your paper. Also love me some great paper but that's a topic for a different time...
Tucked away on Fulton Street is the sweetest print shop called Freshly Squeezed. I was able to take in the space and meet the heart behind it: Gracie. She is the hands and feet (literally) behind letterpress business cards, invitations, brochures, and beyond. She takes designs and elevates them into works of art through her old fashion presses. You can see the love she has for the craft through her work and the way her eyes light up talk about it. It was beautiful to hear her describe the development of her skills and the business.
If you have a project and need it finished with the most authentic finish, Freshly Squeezed is your haven. The kindness of the woman behind it all doesn't hurt either.
What led you to letterpress and this whole adventure?
I have been doing this for about six years now. At first I didn’t even know about it. I just started googling…I liked the impression that it made in the paper. I figured out that it’s done on antique presses and fell in love with it. I noticed there was anyone doing commercial letterpress printing in GR so there was definitely a need for it.
How did you find a press?
We started to do some research and found a press right here in Grand Rapids. It was sitting in someone’s basement…was not easy to move. At one point I was like this isn’t going to happen but eventually we got it up the stairs. I bought it now knowing anything about how to use it. This has been trial and error, late nights, trying things out, researching and trying again.
How long did that learning curve take?
It took a solid 6 months before I was really comfortable with printing. I just kept trying new things, learning the press, and eventually felt as though I understood the process.
For people who don’t know what goes into letterpress printing, what are some of your favorite aspects of the process?
The entire press is foot pedal operated. It’s completely off the grid. Each sheet of paper is fed individually and printed one at a time. The paper is cut on old guillotine and all colors are mixed by hand. It’s very soothing…you get into a rhythm as you print. I had a desk job for years and was looking to do something more productive; like I was creating something and using my hands not just sitting there all day long. I like that this is physically tiring.
What has been the most rewarding part of owning a printing shop?
The surprise on people’s faces. They will come in and ask about the machines like it’s a museum. I think they like taking a step back in time. Older people will stop in and share stories about their parents using presses like this. It’s like they come in to ‘talk shop’ which is great.
What are some of your interests/passions?
My daughter keeps me plenty busy (her daughter was roaming around the shop while we were chatting. She is insanely cute). My personal interests have somewhat been put on hold for the last year so that we can focus on her. But, my husband and I like to bike-we are excited about taking her along this summer now that she is bigger. We try to bike as many places as we can…we don’t really like to drive.
What are some of your local favorites?
Marie Catrib’s! We actually have a date night tonight…haven’t been on one in months so I’m excited about that. We love the farmers market and other places here in the neighborhood…this location is super nice. We walk everywhere and love being close to the store, church, family.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to start their own small business?
Rely on a good support system. I would not have done this without my husband encouraging me to take a risk. I am more of a planner…the risk side of things doesn’t come naturally to me. I like to know something is going to work before trying it so people’s encouragement helped me so much. Don’t give up. It’s going to be hard-you will probably doubt yourself and think that you can’t do it but persist and it will get better. The struggle makes you appreciate it that much more when you get there. Eventually you realize we did it, what’s next.
If you would like some printing done you can contact Gracie via email or the contact form on her website. Also, make sure to connect with her on social media!