We print fine, hand-crafted stationery for print artists and graphic designers. Our unique letterpress printing equipment has been extracted from dusty garages and forgotten industrial zones from New Jersey to New Orleans. These vastly different places were united by the need for the printed page, and we exist to carry on the tradition of craft practiced by those who ran our machines in the decades before us. Letterpress printing exists at the crossroads of art and mass production. We print in relatively small batches, which allows us to practice obsessive attention to detail, and careful control over the process. The result is stationery that is truly unique— both a valuable communication tool and a work of art. Our enthusiasm for our process carries over to our desire to provide value for our clients. We evaluate our success on the achievement of our clients’ goals, and we rely on positive recommendations to win new business.
Rise and Shine Letterpress was started in 2006 by Leslie Graham and Ryan Howell. Leslie is a graduate of Philadelphia University, where she earned a BS in Graphic Design Communications. Ryan attended Rowan University where he studied Advertising and Public Relations. Before starting Rise and Shine, Ryan worked as a copywriter for a few ad agencies in Philadelphia. Leslie worked as a graphic designer at Olin, an internationally-recognized landscape architecture firm.
It started innocently enough. Leslie’s sister sent her a letterpress-printed birthday card. Then she showed it to Ryan. After that, life was never the same. “I wonder if I could build a printing press,” he pondered. Instead, as fate would have it, a retired printer was advertising a 1912 Chandler and Price letterpress machine on Craigslist. Before they knew it, they rented a box truck, filled it with diesel and headed for destiny. The journey was fraught with disaster. First the pallet jack fell out of the truck (Ryan forgot to close the door). Then they couldn’t find the printer’s house. Finally they arrived and saw the beautiful machine in all of its rusty glory. “Surely things will go smoothly from here,” they thought. And they did! It was mostly luck. They were able to find an affordable studio space at Art Making Machine Studios in Philadelphia. And thanks to meeting the right people during an open studio event, they were discovered by a writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer. A Sunday feature got the word out, and they found that Philly was hot for letterpress. Then on a visit back to her hometown of Alexandria, Louisiana, Leslie found the perfect studio space, with a storefront, plenty of room, and an apartment upstairs. They were sad to leave Philly, but Alexandria presented an opportunity that couldn’t be found anywhere else. So they crated up all the machines, and filled yet another box truck with diesel and dreams.
I helped to start Rise and Shine Letterpress because of an overwhelming desire to work with my hands. I had a job in a nice comfortable office working as a copywriter for an advertising agency. For a while, I tried to do both letterpress and writing. Eventually that became a problem for my (very generous and understanding) employers, and they called me in for a sit down. They said I was burning the candle at both ends, and that I had to make a choice. It was a hard decision because I loved my job and I was terrified to go off on my own. But I had no choice but to see it through. That was seven years ago, and I've managed to keep it going ever since. I've been working to guide Rise and Shine into the original vision. Still working on it, of course, but we've accomplished some great things and I'm excited about what's to come.
In 2007, I made the difficult decision to leave my full-time design position in an office that literally overlooked the Liberty Bell to take a gamble on a squirrely little print shop Ryan and I were building deep under the El.
Rise and Shine Letterpress is where prints come alive. We created our shop from the thrill of collecting equipment and stories from printmakers who were losing fingers generations before us. While we work hard to preserve the rich history of printmaking, we also love to move our craft forward with modern designs, the finest milled papers, and experimentations in production.
There is absolutely no better feeling in the world than to look at a final design after it has come off the press, and being able to say to out loud, “We made that.”
I joined Rise and Shine Letterpress in 2012 after earning a bachelors degree in graphic design from the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. I discovered letterpress while working at the campus print shop, Underground Ink. I was instantly hooked when I realized I could be a graphic designer and have an artistic, hands-on experience at the same time. Letterpress now fuels my life. I can't help looking at everything with a strong attention to detail, even when I'm out of the shop. I put tender love and care (sometimes blood, sweat and tears) into the prints that I have the pleasure of printing for our clients.