The one tragedy of Lisa Krowinski’s 15-year career in the artisanal letterpressing business is that she can no longer smell the ink. Still, she’s able to live vicariously through her new customers. “There’s nothing better than a client walking through the door and commenting on how great the print shop smells,” she says.
Krowinski has been the owner and lead designer of Sapling Press since 2003. The stationery store specializes in a proudly quaint, analog form of printing known as letterpress, where letters are made by pressing the paper against a raised and inked metallic surface. Think Benjamin Franklin, but slightly more streamlined.
Those looking to breathe in some ink and check out inventive local craft-making can visit Sapling’s new location at 4618 Friendship Avenue in Bloomfield, which opened earlier this month.
“There are so many other ways to print these days, but there is only one true way to create a letterpress printed piece, by using these gorgeous printing presses, some well over 100 years old,” Krowinski says. “I love that it’s a process, and I love that it’s a process that we’re immediately involved in keeping relevant in today’s digital age.”
Speaking to NEXTpittsburgh, Krowinski recalled that since moving the business to Pittsburgh in 2004, she’s moved locations five times, but she foresees the Friendship location as Sapling Press’s final home. The building, over a century old, used to house a soap-making company in the previous century.
Krowinski purchased the building in July of 2017 and spent eight months remodeling it. At 4,800 square feet, the building is double the size of Sapling’s previous Lawrenceville location, and the extra space will allow her and her team to begin teaching open classes on their letterpress machines starting in early 2019.
“Folks will be able to come and play around with the wood type and our over 70-year old presses to create and print something of their own from start to finish,” she says. “Being one of only a few letterpress printers in the area, I’m very excited to be able to open up our shop again to the public. ”
She and her team of seven full-time staff supply orders for clients as far afield as Iceland and New Zealand, and count PNC Bank, Duolingo and regional treasure Rick Sebak among their local clientele.
Her line of minimalist, darkly comic greeting cards has developed a cult following in bookshops around the city. A typical card will include greetings like “So much of life is just pretending you’re ok” and “I may not know what I am doing with my life but I am also very poor.”