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