French Press is a design and printing boutique Shelly runs here in Buffalo. If you want business cards, posters, custom stationary, or wedding invitations, simply get in touch with Shelly, and she'll design you a package that will impress your clients or invitees. The only design/press boutique close to hers is in Rochester.
I wanted to learn more, so she invited me to French Press headquarters at the Tri-Main Building, where I saw her impressive operation.
"I started the business two and half years ago as a merger of my love of design, which I earned my degrees in, and printmaking, which I studied in the South of France. I came here to take a job at Righteous Babe Records as the art director, and I realized that even though I grew up in Rochester I'd never been to Buffalo," Shelly said.
Coming to Buffalo was huge for Shelly, who immediately cites the low cost of living and the cost of running a business in Buffalo as very enticing for someone starting up on your own. And despite being located outside of places like Boston, New York, or LA, French Press hasn't been lacking clients. I had to know how far away her furthest client was. "Ireland," she said. I was expecting California, so that was a huge surprise.
And people come to her from in the US as well. She regularly gets requests from people in Boston, New York, California, and all over.
"Everyone gets married," she joked. What makes me different is that I'm a lot cheaper than the big cities because my overhead is so low. I can offer someone an invitation set for a wedding, for example, at a much lower cost than most places."
The letter presses themselves are big, metal, and precise. While they might appear clunky, they're designed to perfectly press ink onto paper without bleeding or mess. Like any skill, it takes quite a bit of practice to perfect your hand on the craft, but the results are obvious. Shelly, with her years of experience, clearly knows her business as she expertly changed plates and printed off business cards, all the while explaining the process of the machine. I tried it myself and needed a bit more concentration.
As I said before, the finished product is noticeably different than something you might find at Kinko's. While each print runs over the same press plates, the ink never transfers the exact same way twice, giving each piece a personal touch.
"Sometimes you see fonts that are messy on purpose, letter press doesn't have to try to attain that look," Shelly said.
Shelly operates the Clamshell Press.
The Platen (Clamshell) Press seen here is a 1921 model from Chandler and Price.
Shelly operates the Vandercook Proof Press from 1954.
Close-up of a finished product.
French Press headquarters.
"Buffalo is a great place to start a business," Shelly said. "There's been so much support from local artists and other people who are willing to pass my name along. In other cities I think it's a lot more cut-throat, a lot of individual pride, but here there's a sort of community pride that makes it great."
For more information, check out her blog, or send her an email at email@example.com. She's always looking for interns! Also, you can also stop in for an open house on Saturday, September 12 from 7 PM to 10 PM (Tri-Main Center, 5th Floor, Suite 507). Shelly will hold demonstrations, sell some of her work, and of course, offer free food.
There's also a workshop on September 26th, 10 AM to 4 PM. For $75, Shelly will teach you how to use each press, mix inks, select paper, setting types, and more. Each student will take home 10 pieces of their own, plus another piece from each other student.
Definitely check out French Press if you're looking for a cool set of business cards, stationary, wedding invites, or posters!