Self-taught let­ter­press mas­ter­mind David Lewis is the owner of Cherry Press, a de­sign stu­dio and shop he runs with wife Amie

Mollie Makes - - Santa's Been! - Words: LOTTIE STOREY Pho­to­graphs: FIONA MUR­RAY

After an ill-timed re­dun­dancy, David Lewis de­cided to switch tack and start his own let­ter­press busi­ness. Partly planned and partly serendip­i­tous, a re­quest to print his sis­ter’s wed­ding sta­tionery led to more and more com­mis­sions, and David was fi­nally able to launch Cherry Press in his home­town of Chip­ping Cam­p­den two years ago.

A de­sign stu­dio and shop, Cherry Press o ers wed­ding, busi­ness and gift sta­tionery col­lec­tions as well as a be­spoke de­sign ser­vice. And now, it’s a fam­ily busi­ness. David’s wife Amie works along­side him in the shop, with a flex­i­ble ap­proach al­low­ing the cou­ple to work around their two chil­dren, Casper and Nancy.

Their vin­tage-in­spired stu­dio is home to the beau­ti­ful ‘Marigold’, a Hei­del­berg 10 x 15 Wind­mill press, and ‘Martha’, a splen­did Crown fo­lio Arab. Both David’s pre­cious presses are true works of art, and are fondly cared for to safe­guard their orig­i­nal con­di­tion and her­itage.

We caught up with David in his in­dus­trial workspace to chat about his cre­ative prac­tice and in­spi­ra­tions. Can you de­scribe your style in just three words? In­dus­trial, tra­di­tional and fun. What does a typ­i­cal work­ing day look like for you? We start our day around 7.30am. As soon as I get to the shop I check and re­ply to emails, and look at what’s on for the day. Then work be­gins on the presses. I line up the plates, mix inks, then fire up the old girls! Ink­ing up and set­ting up takes a while, so I try to print a batch of the same colour if I can. With a batch be­ing printed, I get on with trim­ming and wrap­ping, as well as sort­ing postage. Then there are the cus­tomers who pop into the shop and need serv­ing. I usu­ally fin­ish at the shop around 4-5pm, then pick up ad­min again at home later in the evening. Was let­ter­press an in­dus­try you al­ways wanted to work in? No! I have worked in a few in­dus­tries though, and learnt many things in them that guided me to where I am now. I was in the mil­i­tary for five years, which in­stilled rou­tine, a strong work ethic, and com­mit­ment. I stum­bled across let­ter­press about seven or eight years ago and im­me­di­ately fell in love with the process. I used to work as a sales man­ager in a com­mer­cial print and de­sign com­pany

where I learnt a lot about pro­cess­ing jobs, pa­per and print-mak­ing. When I was made re­dun­dant from that job I found my­self at a cross­roads. I looked at the pos­si­bil­ity of open­ing my own dig­i­tal print stu­dio, but ev­ery­one was do­ing that, so I ex­plored other op­tions. A friend sug­gested let­ter­press, so I bought a small press, be­gan ex­per­i­ment­ing, and fell in love with the medium. Then I bought a slightly big­ger one, large enough to print my sis­ter’s wed­ding in­vi­ta­tions, and the whole thing spi­ralled from there. Ex­plain to us how your cre­ative process works. I just love let­ter­press, hav­ing fun with it and us­ing the process to re­ally show­case what it can do. Most clients al­ready have a good idea of what they want by the time they get in touch and will hit us with their ideas, while oth­ers sup­ply us with a full mood­board to dis­sect. It’s the best when you get a client who wants you to test the bound­aries. I love it when I’m asked to pro­duce some­thing blind de­bossed (where the pa­per goes through the press with­out

‘I bought a small press, be­gan ex­per­i­ment­ing, and fell in love with the medium.’

ink) or to ex­per­i­ment with a dou­ble ink over­lay (con­trast­ing inks that over­lap, re­sult­ing in a stereo­scopic print sim­i­lar to 3D). It’s the best. I loved work­ing with the Adi­das logo re­cently when one of their em­ploy­ees walked into the shop and asked me to de­sign his busi­ness card. Busi­ness sta­tionery can be a bit more cre­ative, as peo­ple gen­er­ally want it to stand out more than, say, wed­ding sta­tionery. Are there sim­i­lar­i­ties with the de­sign com­pany you pre­vi­ously worked for? There are more di er­ences than sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween let­ter­press and com­mer­cial print and de­sign. Peo­ple opt for litho or dig­i­tal print­ing as it can’t be beaten for speed and price. Let­ter­press is slow, and an in­vest­ment, but if you want cre­ative print and that trade­mark let­ter­press fin­ish then you only have one op­tion. The old­est press I own dates back to 1892, while the new­est is 1952, both of which pro­duce an end prod­uct you could never recre­ate with mod­ern dig­i­tal print­ing. How long did it take to get your busi­ness o the ground? Just a few months – it grew so quickly through word of mouth. I didn’t re­ally have any am­bi­tions at the be­gin­ning, I kind of took each week as it came. But I al­ways

hoped that other peo­ple would like what I was pro­duc­ing. When I started out, my stu­dio was the garage be­hind my mum’s house. She brought me bacon sand­wiches ev­ery morn­ing, so I strung that out for four years! But no one knew I was there. Rather than just take on a big­ger stu­dio space, I thought I’d do some­thing di er­ent and move onto the high street in­stead. Now I have the shop where passers-by can come in and dis­cover our work, plus the two presses run­ning all day ev­ery day in the stu­dio space out the back. Tell us about the proud­est mo­ment of your ca­reer to date. It has to be tak­ing that leap of mov­ing the busi­ness to the high street. We stock both our own work and other de­sign­ers’ pieces, plus prod­ucts like sewing bits and bobs, hand­made jour­nals, things like that. And, it’s the cus­tomers who con­stantly sur­prise us, too! A cou­ple from Sin­ga­pore came in last year and took my busi­ness card, but it was only last week they emailed to ask me to do their wed­ding sta­tionery. The shop def­i­nitely leads peo­ple to us who

‘My presses pro­duce a prod­uct you could never recre­ate with mod­ern print­ing.’

may not have found us oth­er­wise, and that ex­po­sure is in­valu­able. Plus, it’s a real fam­ily busi­ness in my home­town. My wife, Amie, works along­side me there full-time – we’re lucky that it pays enough to sup­port the whole fam­ily. Our kids – Casper, aged 10, and Nancy, aged 6 – are at school in the next vil­lage, and we pick them up ev­ery day. Be­ing self-em­ployed shop­keep­ers and busi­ness own­ers has its chal­lenges, but we mud­dle through to­gether. It’s a good mix for young fam­ily life. Are there any de­sign­ers or cre­ative he­roes you look up to? There are two gents who spring to mind. The first is a very dear friend, Terry Wright. Terry is known as ‘the man of let­ters’ – what this chap doesn’t know about let­ter­press isn’t worth know­ing! He al­ways has been, and will con­tinue to be, my go-to for let­ter­press emer­gen­cies. The sec­ond is one of the most cre­ative peo­ple I know, Dan Ford of Fords De­sign. When it comes to un­der­stand­ing a client brief and in­ter­pret­ing it into a fully mocked-up de­sign, there aren’t many peo­ple who can do it bet­ter than Dan. Fi­nally, can you share the best piece of cre­ative ad­vice you’ve ever been given? It has to be ‘keep it sim­ple’!

01 03 01 The vin­tage-look shop fea­tures an­tique presses, now used as dis­plays for new sta­tionery. 02 It was a mix­ture of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion 02 and ex­pe­ri­ence that honed David’s sharp eye for de­tail. 03 More let­ter blocks on dis­play hark back to a pre­vi­ous...

01 David lines up one of his beloved presses while Amie stands by ready to lend a help­ing hand. 02 All the inks are mixed by hand then Pan­tone matched. 03 The let­ter­press process is the same as it was a cen­tury ago. 01 03


01 01 The Cherry Press shop, lo­cated on the high street, stocks David’s sta­tionery as well as pieces by other de­sign­ers, plus home­ware and ac­ces­sories.

02 02 David’s com­pany was hap­pily born from mak­ing wed­ding in­vi­ta­tions.

03 Orig­i­nal wooden let­ter blocks fea­ture heav­ily through­out the shop and stu­dio. 03

02 Cus­tomers can buy off the peg or go be­spoke with their sta­tionery or­ders. 02

01 01 David, mil­i­tary man-turned-printer, now runs the fam­ily busi­ness from his Cotswolds home­town.

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