If you haven’t yet discovered the town of Daylesford in Victoria you’re in for a treat when you visit the region. Wood Duck Press is one business to be situated here, surrounded by the natural beauty of the landscape which is such a source of inspiration for Samantha, the owner of this bespoke letterpress printing service. Creating stationery just the way you dreamed it to be, reflecting you and the style you want for your wedding day, is Sam’s specialty – and who wouldn’t want to receive an invitation that invites you, not only to read it, but to run your fingers over it to enjoy the texture! Here is Sam’s story……

How did your interest in printing and particularly letterpress begin?
Well….. I studied to be a graphic designer and many many years ago, when I got engaged, I felt enormous pressure to come up with something really special for my own wedding invitations, knowing I was inviting five colleagues whom I’d studied with at University.  So it was really important to me that they and all my family and guests received something unique and reflective of the great weekend that awaited them.  I had many a sleepless night worrying about the invitations and had almost given up hope when one day, I was flipping through a pile of wedding magazines from the UK and came across an ad for letterpress stationery.  Well, I fell in love, instantly!  But I’d never seen or head of anything like that here in Australia, and thumbing through the “Yellow Pages” (back then!) I saw that there was nothing under letterpress printers, because back then, modern day letterpress printing simply didn’t exist.  So it became a hobby, which would go on to turn into my career!  Sadly, I didn’t get letterpress printed stationery for my wedding, which is possibly why I love designing and printing such incredible stationery for all my brides and grooms.

Is there a story behind acquiring your antique letterpress machine?
Absolutely!  Years ago these beautiful machines were considered junk and given their heavy weight, no-one wanted to pay to get rid of them so sadly, many of these amazing machines line the ocean floor.
After a lot of searching we finally found an old style press at a machinery auction outside Horsham in country Victoria, which once belonged to the Horsham local newspaper.  We were so keen to attend the auction but it clashed with a friend’s wedding, so we placed an absentee bid and crossed our fingers legs and toes and all that paid off… by the end of the wedding, we were the proud owners of a vintage printing press.
I remember driving to collect it and almost fainting at the sight of it….. it was far bigger and way heavier than I had imagined and I never thought it would actually run, given all the rusty parts.

How did you learn to use it and maintain it?
Back then there was no-one to learn from, as letterpress printing had not hit Australia, so I literally read old manuals that I found and basically it involved a lot of self taught trial and error.  Over the years, I’ve had many broken parts which can be difficult to replace as you can’t pop down to the shop to buy another part!   Luckily my father is an engineer and he was able to help get the machine back up and running again and help repair some broken parts!

How is letterpress printing different from other stationery printing?
Letterpress prints have a textural quality, as the printer punches out an impression – so when you run your finger over the letter or design, you feel as well as see it.  Occasionally letterpress uses a technique called blind debossing, where a plate is made and punches out the design, but without applying any ink, so it’s done purely for its debossing effect.  As the process is very manual, letterpress prints tend to also be as much about the paper stock as the print itself.  We tend to use thick richly textured or heavyweight stocks, as these allow us to achieve the best impression.

What is it about letterpress that is particularly appealing?
I believe it’s the tactile quality and the thick lush papers we use.  We live in such a digital world that we forget how good it is to feel something that has been hand crafted.  I love that the craft of letterpress can’t be replaced or replicated by something that is new, fast and shiny.  For example, when I hand someone my business card, I lose them for a minute.  You see their fingers clasp the card and start to trace over the letters and instantly their eyes as well as fingers are drawn to the card, as their fingers have to play with the impression.

Is there something satisfying about using vintage machines to produce a vintage inspired work, rather than the immediacy of using modern technology?
Absolutely.  I have been using these machines for over ten years and everyday I am still amazed at the quality of printing that can be achieved with such a vintage piece of machinery…. These machines are works of art themselves and like each of us, they are each different and have their own little quirks. I also love that it’s not easy.  Letterpress can’t be produced at a touch of a button, it actually requires skill and patience and tenacity.  I can’t set it to run and go away and do something else.  I babysit each print run and often have to intervene to adjust something.  So, you need to know the strengths and limitations of the machine and design to suit these.

When a couple considers your letterpress stationery for their wedding invitations, what is the process they go through to contact you and design them with you?
Selecting wedding stationery is like choosing a piece of artwork for your wall.  And each letterpress print studio has its own design style and differs in level of quality, so couples select a letterpress printer according to what suits them, the style of their event and their budget.  When they initially contact me, I always recommend that they look at images of my work to see if my design styles suits them.  If it does, I then recommend we discuss their requirements in greater detail.  They then either make an appointment to visit the design studio in Daylesford or if the distance is too far (many are abroad for example!) we can easily discuss over email or phone.

A lot of brides are looking for colours to match their wedding theme. Is the ink and paper you use for your stationery available in colours?
We mix inks to create any colour, so yes we can match exact colour schemes.  When it comes to the paper, it is important that we use a thick soft paper as this allows us to create a deep impression into the paper. At Wood Duck Press we love printing on natural kraft boards and have our own kraft board that has a soft core… it is unique and produces fabulous results.

Are you able to design and print the whole stationery suite – from save the dates through to thank you cards for the bride and groom?
We certainly are and we are often briefed to do just that.  We are very flexible at Wood Duck Press which is important because it means that every stationery suite is designed to suit the requirements of our bride and groom.  If a couple just want Save the Dates, then that is what we create for them.  If they want eight stationery items for their wedding, we create them all.  There are endless variations – these days, some couples want an invitation created and then put all the other information for their guests online, while other traditionalist couples want us to design and print the whole package.  At the end of the day, it is important to us that a couple’s stationery reflect them and their event.

Do you offer any online service?
Currently we do not offer an online service for our wedding stationery and I honestly don’t think we ever will.  We don’t aspire to print hundreds of wedding invitations, that’s what digital printing is for!   Instead we offer a bespoke service that gives and requires a personal touch.  We love to hear how our clients met and how they plan to tie the knot; this provides us with the inspiration we need to design and produce miniature works of art for them and their guests.  Once we have travelled through the design and printing journey, our clients become our friends.  You don’t get that from an online remote service.

The images on your website give the impression that your stationery would appeal to those who love a vintage handmade quality to their invitations. Can you design stationery/fonts to accommodate different styles of wedding?

Yes most definitely, we can design using different fonts, graphic elements, ink colours etc, so no two packages are ever the same.  Every stationery package we design and create is as unique as the clients we have designed them for.  It’s so clever, because by combining computer technology with the age old craft of letterpress printing, the options for wedding stationery and all stationery in fact, are endless.

Where are the stockists of your products situated?
We do not have a range of ‘stockists’, we prefer to deal with our clients directly so we recommend that anyone interested in finding out more, contact us directly via email or phone.  We have a large range of greeting card stationery that is available at stockists throughout Australia, but our wedding stationery is bespoke and tailored to each individual client.

You are situated in Daylesford, Victoria. What inspires you about living in the country, and beautiful Daylesford? How does it inform your work/designs?
I am constantly inspired by the tranquil natural environment that surrounds me. The design studio is literally surrounded by a forest of magnificent towering gums trees and we have natural springs nearby, literally a hop, skip and a jump away.  Seeing nature every day from my studio has definitely influenced my designs and style and you will see that I love to incorporate recyclable kraft boards and natural yarn and string where I can which is one way of bringing nature into my work. Daylesford itself is tremendously beautiful, and it has a laid back peacefulness to it, with its luxurious B&B’s, great places to eat and spas to unwind.  Everyone that visits the region, loves it, and many tourists become locals before too long!  I love the relaxed lifestyle and when people say hello and “how are you” you can tell they genuinely mean it.   When you pop into the local store you know you run the risk of seeing people you know, so oftentimes a quick trip to the shop takes hours!

What are your dreams for Wood Duck Press?
I am honestly living my dream.  I work in the most beautiful location doing what I love…. Designing and Letterpress printing for amazing people who appreciate the craft of letterpress printing.  What more could a girl ask for?  🙂

Thank you Samantha for telling us your story. To find out more about Wood Duck Press please visit the website.

Images courtesy of Wood Duck Press