We’re thrilled to welcome Laura Wentzel of Bears Eat Berries Press to the site today, to talk about her passion for antique letterpress printing and how the library has influenced her design aesthetic and creative curiosity. Don’t miss her fascinating description of her ideal library! Enjoy. ~Erinn
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
My first greeting card company was established when I was seven. I called it “Laura’s Pawin’ Co” with a little dog paw print as a logo. Not much has changed since then. My business now is Bears Eat Berries Press. I design/illustrate greeting cards and other letterpress ephemera. My projects often articulate animal motifs that have inspired me throughout my life.
Prior to launching my business, I was a graphic designer for a major agency and a national nonprofit. My eyes grew tired on computer screens and my hands grew itchy to create. When my sister wanted letterpress wedding invitations, I jumped at the opportunity to create for her. I drove up to Syracuse, NY from PA and bought a small antique printing press; ignoring the fact that I never operated one before. I spent the next few months experimenting, Googling, crying, swearing in front of my mother, bleeding, and ultimately jumping in triumph.
Through my work, I became obsessed with the tangible product–from the idea in my head to a packaged product ready to send all over the world. Each time I pull a piece of paper from the press and run my fingers over the impressed design, I fall in love all over again.
What are you working on right now that you’re excited about?
This is the second year of Bears Eat Berries Press and I’m excited by the new lines of business that I will be opening up. In my first year I focused in on custom wedding invitations as well as my greeting cards. This year I’m doing a few exciting things. I’m growing my greeting card line, and I’m also expanding my product offerings to reach customers at a variety of price points so that more people can experience my designs and illustrations. I’m always open to new creative outlets for my work, and I hope to continue to expand my brand into multiple design mediums, from wrapping paper to wall paper.
Have libraries informed your creative work? Tell us about the first library you remember playing a part in your artistic development.
Yes, resoundingly so. The first library that I remember vividly is the library I frequented as a child in my small town. It was just in an old house with creaky, worn wooden floors and poor lighting. Books were stuffed in every square inch of the house so you could cozy up next to them in a dusty, dark corner and get lost in a book. It was quite romantic.
That library turned me into a voracious reader and lover of libraries. While in college, my mother even suggested I get a degree in library sciences. She knew that many librarians were also artists themselves. There’s a connection between the two.
Libraries play a very important role as a creative. As a visual creative, book cover designs spark new ideas. As a reader, I conjure up imagery in my head from the words on the page. Books take me to new places and inspire me. The raw, intricate characters described by Steinbeck; the fantastical worlds brought to life by Dahl; and the tongue-and-cheek-ness of Twain all find their way into my designs.
Can you describe a particular library-incubated project for us?
I own a few very old books that I cherish. When I run my fingers across these old texts, it’s clear that these were printed on antique presses using the same methods that I employ today. Each of my pieces pay homage to the original means of book production. Even before I realized it, I was influenced by the tangible product of a book that was produced by hand from the painstaking work of a professional printer. My love for books (many of which I have personally encountered in the rare-book section of the University of Delaware library), inspired me to revive the practice of letterpress printing through modern design.
As an artist, what would your ideal library be like? What kinds of stuff would you be able to check out, and what could you do there?
My ideal library would have themed, collected rooms. For example, one themed room would be titled, “Japanese folk”. You would walk in and everything you want to know about Japanese folk would be there. And you can leave something behind in that room that reminds or inspires you of Japanese folk for others.
My ideal library would have books to the ceiling. There would be dark corners with overstuffed worn leather chairs that would always be open. There would be a constant brewing of fresh coffee and sweet treats would abound. There would be no clocks so I wouldn’t feel guilty about losing a day sipping coffees and reading all the great works that would take a lifetime to read.
- Visit Bears Eat Berries Press online & shop the Bears Eat Berries Etsy Shop.
- Check out Laura’s Happy Camper blog for more design inspiration.
- Follow @BearsEatBerries on Twitter and Pinterest.
Laura Wentzel is the founder of Bears Eat Berries Press, an independent design + letterpress studio newly relocated to the East Valley of Phoenix, Arizona. A graphic designer by trade, Laura’s work is typified by clean typography, animal illustrations, nature-inspired patterns, and folk motifs. Her passion for real, touchable, and beautifully designed paper products inspired her to buy a half-ton antique printing press from 1911… When she is not designing and printing, Laura also has passions for traveling, wandering in nature, designing the interior of her home, and playing with her pup, Bandit. She hasn’t learned to surf yet… but that’s next!