Tell us a little bit about ilfant press. When did you start it and what were you looking to create? What got you interested in printing?
ilfant press has morphed a bit since its inception. I created a business name, “ilfant” as a sort of transmutation of the word “elephant” while I was in undergrad because elephants were featured so often in my prints. Later I added “press” to it when I started making artist’s books. In the last several years I have settled more into letterpress and stationery items so the name still fits.
Printing has always been my destiny. When I was little my dad lived at a hippie camp where they had a mimeograph machine and it was *awesome.* I found out about printmaking while I was in high school and knew that was my next path. One year at Bumbershoot (a really long time ago when they still had the small press fair) there was a guy who brought a little table top letterpress and I fell in love with that. Once I found out there was a thing called letterpress I knew I had to learn more about it.
Your nostalgic stationery sets and notepads are especially popular with our most creative customers. Why do you think they are so popular?
Honestly I’m not sure; it’s something I have also wondered. They are pretty different from other things out there. Perhaps because visual people have more of a need to write things down; that is, to visually express thoughts. I am a die-hard note-taker and I can’t function well without notepads.
You work in a Queen Anne print shop called A&A Printing and teach at Pratt! How do you juggle ilfant with your other two jobs? Do you ever feel too thinly spread?
Since Pratt and ilfant are both part-time (I usually only teach one or two nights a week) and I absolutely love what I do, it works out pretty okay. Each job fulfills me in different ways, so I’m not sure what I would do if I didn’t have so many things going on. Eating and sleeping sometimes get in the way of work (I am actually not kidding) but I am pretty adamant about giving myself weekends off for the most part so I don’t go too crazy.
Do you have any projects coming up in the future that you're excited about?
Nothing in particular, but I do have an artist’s book I’ve been working on for too long that I would really like to complete this year. It will be completely letterpress printed from handset type and rule (only one other book is all letterpress) and that’s the kind of thing that makes me really happy.
What does your design to print process like?
It depends on the project, of course. Some things, like the ruled postcards, I print intuitively while in the studio. I’ll put some rule (strips of lead that print different types of lines) together and change it around until I’m happy with it. If it’s something really complicated that uses handset type I make proofs (really quick prints) and then scan them into the computer to play around with the design and color, which is kind of odd mixing old-timey lead type with modern-day computer design. In most cases I think about it for awhile in my head and then make notes and drafts in my sketchbook.
We met you at Urban Craft Uprising where you were one of our favorite vendors, along with a personal friend of yours, (and fellow Favorite Friend), Emily Baier of Tako Fibers. What have you learned from the experience of selling at Craft Shows? What are the upsides and the downsides?
People are generally not as excited about the same things I am. I am a huge print nerd and most people aren’t, so while some might appreciate the fine printing and typesetting or the fact that the envelopes in my stationery sets have printing on the inside, it’s pretty rare for someone to say, “WOW! You brilliant print goddess! How on earth did you ever create that wonderful piece of printed perfection?” Okay maybe that hasn’t actually happened at all yet.
What do you like to do in your off-time?
I read, eat, cook, and spend time with friends.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Truly it would be here or Portland. The Pacific Northwest is the greatest. I went to grad school in Philadelphia and I couldn’t wait to get back here.
If you could eat at only one local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Purple. Man I love that place.
What's your dream job, besides what you are doing now?
I would love to have my own shop; part retail and part custom printing. And teaching… basically what I do now, but tidier.
You get to organize a dinner party, who is there?
This question would take far more thought than I have time for.
If you could have a super power, what would it be?
To manipulate time. Duh. And also fly.
Any new years resolutions?
Yes - finish that artist’s book I mentioned!
See Lisa's beautiful stationery sets in our online shop.
Images: ilfant press & Assemble Shop & Studio