Kate Lucas-Falk is artist and owner of katydid, a letterpress business based in Chicago, IL. With a little humor and a lot of Hoosier pride, she created some of our most popular letterpressed designs including the lighted monument ornament. Learn more about what it takes to bring her ideas to life and what its like to be a letterpress printer.
1| How do you describe your work to people who don’t know anything about crafting/art?
We create cards, prints, and coasters combining my own drawings with letterpress printing. Most of our goods begin with an old-fashioned pencil drawing on paper. Computers allow us to digitize the drawing and translate it into a polymer plate. We then use that plate on either our very old (1890s!) printing press, or our relatively old (1950s) printing press.
2| Tell us more about your process. What steps does does a typical run of cards or coasters require?
Typically each product begins with a drawing. The drawing is scanned into my computer, where I prepare it for plate-making. I send that prepared file to a company who translates it into a printing plate I can use on my presses; it’s a nice combination of new technology and old machinery. Each piece of paper is then hand-fed through the press once for each color. So the holiday monument ornaments, as an example, take five separate trips through the press. I also die-cut each coaster and ornament, which I’m proud of, and I print and fold our all of our packaging by hand. I’m lucky enough to have seasonal help with packaging (those ornaments don’t thread themselves). It’s all a labor of love, for sure.
3| Where do you get your design inspirations?
I’m inspired by nature, design, fine art, family, other printers -anything and everything. Imagery that communicates a lot using a little. I love limited color palettes. I love pencil on paper, and repetition. Most of my products are firmly rooting in drawing.
4| Why do you make/design things?
I’ve always been the most comfortable when I’m making things; I’ve drawn since I was a kid. With luck and hard work I’m able to earn a living selling the things I make. But if I didn’t need to make money at all I’d still end up in the studio drawing and printing. It’s hard-wired I think.
5| What do you love about your job?
The old heavy machinery, the endless opportunities to push myself to be uncomfortable, persevere, fail, and learn new things; printing, the feeling when something I make is exactly the way I want it, the feeling when customers love a product so much that they tell me so, printing for the holiday season in the summer, receiving an email from a store that reads “we’ve sold out of your product and we need more!”; working for myself. Hearing my daughter call “Good night mama!” from her bedroom window while I print in the evening.
6| Was being a working artist always your plan or was there an “aha” moment?
Being a working artist has always been the plan, but letterpress printing was a surprise. I studied art and teaching in undergrad and therapy and art in grad school. After school I knew I wanted to keep drawing. I decided to start a wedding invitation business incorporating my drawings, and on a whim I took an introductory letterpress workshop thinking it might be useful. I fell in love immediately. Most printers will tell you a version of this story – that they fell in love hard and fast. And before they knew it they were half-way across the country buying a two-ton printing press and justifying it to their mystified loved-ones.
7| How do you work, and where?
I currently work in my garage in Chicago. After ten years I moved from my old studio space in New York. I miss that space, but can hardly argue with my current lack of overhead and lovely commute. I’ll probably be moving my heavy machinery to another studio this coming spring.
8| If you could swap lives with another artist, who would that person be?
What a question. I wouldn’t. I like and enjoy my own artistic headspace. I’d love to have coffee with Gerhard Richter or David Hockney though.
9| What makes a handmade object valuable?
The fact that it’s hand-made, that it’s singular. A real hand-made object springs from the brain of it’s maker, and in this way it can’t ever be duplicated. When you buy something that’s handmade you know that the object and the maker have a relationship.
10| Using that definition, what’s the most valuable object you own?
My daughter. And all of her drawings and paintings.
11| Tell us one true thing about yourself that people don’t believe when you tell them.
I’ve had mild depression since I was kid. I’ve managed it for years with therapy, medication, exercise, diet, and meditation, and lead a very good life. Not something I share very often, but wanted to be honest in case it helps someone else. (Stay strong and get support people with mental health issues! You ain’t alone.)
12| Give us three more non-crafting-related details about you or your life.
I am a licensed mental therapist. I spent fifteen years practicing family therapy in New York, and I miss those little faces. I love plants, have too many plants, and mostly keep them alive. I have been an extra in two major movies and one network television show. No, I will not tell you which ones.
13| Any new products on the horizon?
Yes! Referring to the inspirations above, I’m planning on opening another stationery company in 2018. It’s been so fun drawing and printing the Indiana pride products, but I’m ready to explore different imagery and ideas. Excited to share those new products in the future.
For more katydid follow her on social media @katydidletterpress or visit her website. Or for a more tactile experience, come visit us here on Mass. Ave. and we’ll be happy to show you her beautiful work in person.