Today's Q+A is with Laura Wentzel from Bears Eat Berries, an independent letterpress design studio newly relocated to the East Valley of Phoenix, Arizona. A graphic designer by trade, Laura’s work is recognized by its clean typography, graphic illustrations, nature-inspired patterns, and folk motifs. Her passion for real, touchable and beautifully designed paper products inspired her to buy a half-ton printing press from 1911… breathing new life into a trade that has remained unchanged for over five centuries. Recently we sent her a few questions and she was kind enough to also send a few pictures to share here. Here's what she said.
Tell us a little bit about you. Where did you train or study and what led you to the path you currently are on?
Even at a young age, I was drawing and creating. Mostly animals. In college, I waffled back and forth between wanting to be in wildlife management and wanting to design. Eventually, I graduated with a degree in Art History and followed my passion towards graphic design (and I was no good in Biology anyway).
Prior to launching my business, I was a graphic designer for a major agency and then a national nonprofit. My eyes grew tired of computer screens and my hands grew itchy to create. When my sister wanted letterpress wedding invitations, I jumped at the opportunity to create for her. I drove up to NY from PA and bought a small antique printing press, ignoring the fact that I never operated one before. I spent the next few months experimenting, Googling, crying, swearing in front of my mother, bleeding, and ultimately jumping in triumph.
What's your main focus currently and/or how would you describe your current design aesthetic?
I've been focusing on designing specifically for letterpress (getting bored of white backgrounds!) but I'm also interested in going back to the basics and start designing/illustrating for other products beyond letterpress or using the letterpress process in a non-traditional way.
My design atheistic often articulates quirky animals, simple graphics and patterns, and nature-inspired imagery. It's listening to these creations and following them as I grow my business.
Love your work - can you explain that design process?
Through my work, I became obsessed with the tangible product–from the idea in my head to a packaged product ready to send all over the world.
Once I have a design in mind, I'll send away my digital designs and receive a plate of the design that adheres to the press. Each piece of paper is fed into the press and each color is printed one at a time. All powered by my foot, a pedal, and a half-ton of metal. Every time I pull a piece of paper from the press and run my fingers over the impressed design, I fall in love all over again.
What designers/makers/architects, etc do you look up to, are influenced by or inspire you?
Edward Gorey (surrealist & cheeky illustrator)
Nikki McClure (paper-cut artist who shares her world in small moments)
Anna Bond of Rifle Paper (every illustration melts my heart)
Studio Ghibli (creators of Totoro and other Japanese anime films founded by Hayao Miyazaki)
Where else do you pull inspiration from?
Children's picture books, Japanese design, traditional folk motifs from around the world, and any great use of white/negative space.
Any sneak peeks or plans you can share of new or future things on the go?
I’m growing my greeting card line and I’m also expanding my product offerings to reach customers beyond letterpress so that more people can experience my designs and illustrations. I’m always open to new creative outlets for my work, and I hope to continue expanding my brand into multiple design mediums, from wrapping paper to textiles.
Bears eat Berries if offering 15% discount this week at her Etsy shop (until Friday May 3) with coupon code POPPYTALK.
Website url: http://www.bearseatberries.com
Shop url: http://www.bearseatberries.etsy.com
Blog url: http://www.bearseatberries.com/happycamper