I’ll admit it: I’m basically addicted to beautiful paper. I’m a sucker for a gorgeous notebook, greeting card, or notepad. I looooove thick card stock sporting the telltale imprints of letterpress. Foil, dip dye, die cutting, watercolors, you name it, I like it on stationery. I was lucky enough to be able to work with two of the most talented ladies in the stationery industry, Samantha and Whitney of Gus & Ruby Letterpress, to design my business cards, and today I’m giddy to introduce you to them and let you discover all of the beautiful items their team is responsible for designing and creating. Made + Remade readers, say hello to Gus & Ruby Letterpress!
1. Hi Sam and Whitney! Thanks for answering a few questions to let the Made + Remade readers get to know you. Will you tell us a little bit about yourselves and Gus & Ruby Letterpress? Hi Made + Remade readers! So nice to virtually meet you. We are Samantha & Whitney of Gus & Ruby Letterpress – a custom design and letterpress print shop out of charming, historic Portsmouth, NH. We’re a full service design studio and print shop and also have a brick & mortar retail paper boutique where we sell all sorts of gorgeous stationery and gifts for the home & office. Samantha grew up in the beautiful coastal town of Marblehead, MA and graduated from Boston University with a degree in graphic design & communication. Whitney grew up in the beautiful summer resort town of Wolfeboro, NH and graduated from Plymouth State University with a BFA degree in graphic design. Both of us love being active (Whit skiing and doing yoga, Samantha riding horses and running) and are so happy to call the Seacoast home.
2. Let’s talk history – tell us a little about how you met and came to launch Gus & Ruby. We met while working for a small advertising agency several years ago; and, while it was our shared biting sense of humor and passion for good creative that drew us together, it was our wily pups, Gus and Ruby, that truly fostered a lasting friendship. We spent many evenings taking the pups for strolls and talking about our shared dream of opening our own studio – an endeavor that utilized both Sam’s entrepreneurial aspirations and Whitney’s family history in the printing industry. What started out as a shared passion project quickly turned into us moving into design and printing full-time and opening our shop. We feel so lucky to get to do what we love each day – we’re truly working our dream jobs.
3. You ladies and your team do the most UNBELIEVABLY gorgeous letterpress. How did you get into design and the art of letterpress? We both have always had a passion for designing for people – especially in the wedding world. So, we started out designing for friends and family just as a side passion-project. We love being a part of a couple’s big day and helping them set the tone for their event – it’s such an honor and joy. As more and more people because interested in what we were doing, we realized we were on to something. As for the printing, Whitney is a 3rd generation printer – believe it or not – and originally learned how to print on a Chandler & Price press from 1896 that had previously been owned by her grandfather, Pop. We have a serious obsession with the deep, rich impression of letterpress printing and the tactile experience produced by this artisan technique and knew early on that that was the process for us. We appreciate the time and craftsmanship that each piece requires and how everything that comes off our press is truly a piece of art that has been lovingly printed by hand on an antique press.
4. Your print studio is one floor above my studio and every once in a while, I hear what sounds like very large and heavy machinery moving. And now I’ve seen it first hand – it’s crazy beautiful. Will you tell our readers more about the letterpress process? Letterpress printing is a centuries-old printing technique in which raised plates (traditionally wood-backed-metal, now often photopolymer) are inked and depressed into a fibrous paper, creating a relief or depression. While purist printers will tell you that the ideal in printing is to just “kiss” the paper, many people today relish a deep rich impression that you can see and feel in modern letterpress printing styles.
5. I’m just going to go ahead and cop to the fact that I follow you guys on Instagram, and even your DOODLES are beautiful. Do you often start on a design with a good old fashioned pen and paper? It really depends on the project, but yes! Often Whitney (the designer) does start out sketching designs, hand lettering and generally “doodling” to get ideas flowing. There is something about the act of sketching that allows for more creativity and experimentation as it doesn’t feel so permanent. You can fill and entire sketchbook with ideas and jump from one to the next – sometimes its harder to do that on the computer and within the bounds of design file. Things feel more permanent on a screen.
6. Let’s talk wedding invitations for a hot second. How long does each invitation suite take to design, create and process? There really is no easy answer here as each and every project is so different. We’ve had projects that take only a few weeks to complete and other projects that take 5+ months of design, back-and-forth and production. On average, I’d say modified custom projects (meaning clients who are working off of one of our existing designs or who have a clear vision) take about 2 months from the beginning of the process to delivery of printed pieces. Truly custom design is usually closer to 4+ months from beginning to end.
7. Your print studio is in Dover, but your boutique is in Portsmouth, and it’s so lovely; filled to the brim with gorgeous paper goods, gifts, beautiful home decor, and even my most coveted bags made by Forestbound. How do you decide what to carry in the store? The easy answer here is that the store is full of products that we personally love. We are VERY discerning and passionate about what we carry. Every product that we have in-store had to pass through our checklist for quality, great design, craftsmanship and whether we have an overall good gut feeling. Sometimes we joke that we belabor the buying process (we spend hours and hours reviewing catalogs, walking buying shows, debating color stories and the minutia of so many aspects of a product), but we really care about what we have in the shop and where each of those products come from. We want to showcase artistry, innovative design and real craftsmanship. We value artisan production, hand-craft, and personal care and love being able to represent other makers who put as much into their work as we do into ours.
8. Your windows at the boutique in Portsmouth are STUNNING. How do you come up with ideas for each concept? Thank you! Oftentimes, the ideas start with either a craft or piece of installation art that we’ve all been dying to try (like the giant paper pinwheels we made for our summer window last year), a color story we want to work around (like the gold foil window we did a few years back for New Year’s) or a specific product that we want to showcase (like the fabulous window of hanging Pantone mugs!). It’s a group effort and we’ll trade long descriptive emails back and forth about ideas, have brainstorming sessions to talk through logistics and review sketches of the overall concept. From there, it’s a matter of bringing the idea to life and oftentimes we make adjustments to the displays once they are installed.
10. Gus & Ruby continues to get more and more national recognition for your beautiful work. With all of the deadlines and heavy workload, how do you avoid hitting a creative brick wall? Or, when you do, how do you shake the “writer’s block” loose? Like any work and with any art, of course we get “designer’s block” or a dip in inspiration now and then - whether it’s in actual design, sourcing new products for the shop or planning fun in-store events for our amazing customers. But, we’re fortunate in that each and every one of our clients’ have a different story to tell – different events, love stories, goals and personal aesthetics that we get to draw from. We look for inspiration everywhere from a groom’s favorite craft brew to the bride’s family summer home. So, each project really does have a new feeling that prevents us from getting stuck in a rut too often. When it does happen, though, we’re big on group brainstorming sessions. Whitney and I will go back and forth about ideas – she’ll send rough drafts of things that she’s stuck on, I’ll make wild and crazy suggestions that drive her nuts and then we land in the middle with something fabulous that gets shaken loose from the back-and-forth.
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