I’ve always been a note-leaving, card-crafting, letter-writing kind of gal. The idea that a handwritten, handmade creation can brighten someone’s day is thrilling to me. I’m also a bit of a paper dork. I can spend hours in a card store, noting designs, but also feeling the weight of the paper in my hands and running my fingers over letterpress or silk-screen images.
My boyfriend, Eli, is a graphic designer so his appreciation for paper goods and print design
equals mine. Together, we spend hours dreaming up images and phrase pairings for the greeting cards we would make if only we had our own card company. Our fantasy greeting cards would feature classic imagery, humor, and a dose of good ol’-fashioned fun – a representation of who we are and what we would stand for as a company.
Well, one night while playing our routine game, we realize that it’s
time to translate our passion into a business and create our very own handcrafted card company. That night, Eli comes up with the name, aptly called “Of Hearty Stock,” and suddenly, we are business partners.
As the dust of our decision settles and we look ahead at making our dream a reality, we know that a great deal of work stands between us and the collection of cards we can offer up to SF’s print market.
The first step in card making is deciding on materials and process. Our tastes sway toward a vintage, minimalist aesthetic, so we debate between silk screening and letter-pressing our goods. As much as we have dreams of someday owning a letterpress and press printing our products, our background is in silk screening, and the accessibility of the craft here in SF makes it the clear choice for our first run.
Besides having screened in college I’ve taken specialty classes here in the city at Workshop and Ape Do Good Printing, from which I learned where to locally source screen supplies. Arch in Potrero Hill is a great place to purchase quality screens and other pertinent items like squeegees. Artist & Craftsman Supply in North Beach has a great selection of inks. And Anthem Screen Printing in the Mission carries everything one would need to create a home printing studio: hinge clamps, screens, inks, emulsion, etc.
Being such a stickler for the tactile
quality of the card, we have some research ahead of us regarding paper choice. After collecting samples and conducting some blind texture tests, we decide to go with Michigan-based paper company French Paper. We look at sourcing the paper locally but fail to find an SF-based paper company making high-end card stock.
Once we find the materials for our operation and realize it’s going to cost us about $2,500 to create the print studio of our dreams, we decide to look for a partner in crime. We happen to live in a city where the highest caliber of screening is already taking place, so why not take advantage of that? We meet with Anthem, which not only offers screen-printing supplies, but commercial services, too. Eli and I work out a partnership with Anthem co-owners Dave Phillips and David Walker for the print shop to produce our cards for us. With a production schedule planned, Eli and I go home and do what we do best – create the card designs.
We return to Anthem after we’ve created our final designs and put them into press-ready files on the computer. It’s important that the files be 100 percent to size, color separated, and a minimum of 300dpi. Adobe Illustrator files are the industry standard; however, super clean, high-contrast PDFs will do the trick as well.
Dave gives our files a green light and suggests we burn to high 230 mesh count screens. Mesh count dictates the detail of the image and the amount of ink that can pass through the screen while printing. When printing on fabric you generally work with lower counts since the material absorbs far more ink in the printing process. However, with intricate paper prints like our own, you need to go with a high count to make sure the image prints clearly.
The next step is to physically burn the image onto the prepped screens. Anthem owns an exposure unit, which greatly simplifies the burning process. A unit of this kind means that once screens are evenly coated with emulsion and images are printed onto transparencies, they just need to be popped into the machine for 2-3 minutes to have the image branded into the screen itself. Having burned screens with trash bags covering my windows and bulbs hung on spider webs of extension cords, this simplified process is a dream come true. Once the image is burned, we blast the screens with water to get rid of excess emulsion and set them aside to thoroughly dry for the actual screening we have planned the following day.
The next morning I jump out of bed with excitement. I can’t wait to see our designs become reality. I put on my painting overalls and bike up to Anthem to get down to business. Step one is to set up the work space. As unsexy as it sounds, organization and cleanliness are the most important aspects of successful screen printing. Once set up, we head to the printing table, clamp the first screen into the table clamps and mark a jig of where to place our paper so that the cards print evenly and consistently with every pass. We are using water-based Triangle paints that we hand-mixed to the colors we dreamed up in Illustrator.
We’re now ready to get ink on our paper. We start by flooding the screen with an even layer of ink so that when we make our first push with the squeegee the ink is evenly transferred to the paper. Ironically Anthem “pulls” prints by pushing the squeegee up the screen instead of down because this movement is easier on your wrists and allows
you to more evenly distribute pressure during a pass. As Dave finishes demonstrating this technique, he lifts the screen to reveal the first-ever Of Hearty Stock cards glistening up at us. I nearly trip while carrying the sheet to dry on the rack because I’m so pumped to have them in my hand. I head back to the printing table to join the process: flood, push, lift, flood, push, lift, flood, push, lift. The methodical nature is calming and trance like, and slowly conversation halts as we sink into printing.
As satisfied as we are when the cards are complete, we all know that we still need to do some heavy-duty cleaning before we can call it a day. Water-based ink dries quickly so we instantly scrape excess off the screens and take them back to the sinks for a good hose down so that they are well preserved for our next run. Looking back at the drying rack, we all know we’re onto something good.
For 2011, Eli and I decide to go renegade. Of Hearty Stock will release one card a month as opposed to following the traditional card-giving calendar. In our minds, cards are for always and we hope that our designs inspire you to feel the same way.
It’s been a whirlwind to get to where we are at, and we know that a lot more work lies ahead, but every time I get to run my fingers over a card of our own creation, I know it’s well worth the hustle.
Come screen Valentine’s Day cards with Of Hearty Stock! From 7–9 p.m. on February 10, we will be sharing laughs and giving folks a chance to come out and print their own cards at Anthem in SF. For
$20, sip wine and screen up to 18 cards from Of Hearty Stock’s six valentine designs. You’ll walk away with tons of love to spread for the big day itself.