Lynn Jones from Just My Type Letterpress spent a morning with Fern & Fog sharing her story, her studio and little pieces of advice she has gathered along the way.
Letterpress has come back with a vigor in recent years. We talked about the beginnings of Etsy and how social media has changed the way customers find the products they seek. It was heartening to hear that as customers have more options and are becoming more sophisticated in finding their products, they choose products that require significant craftsmanship and artistry.
Lynn credits social media for her business' visibility in the last year. "I realize I am much better at networking than I thought. Social media has taken me to potential customers that I could never have reached before."
Though social media has made Lynn's life a little bit easier, her work is still a layered and intricate process. You cannot recreate letterpress without the skill to maneuver a press. You cannot be successful with your letterpress designs if you cannot artistically design an invitation, poster or calendar. It is a difficult art to choose, but someone has to do it.
I was blown away by the letterpress process Lynn showed me. Each step she takes to make even one business card. There are several steps before she gets to the printing piece as seen below:
Lynn answered some of our most pressing questions about business, life and being a Maker.
Were you always hands on when you were younger? What clues did you have about your natural tendencies that led you do be a Maker?
I have always been hands-on. I loved whatever kind of art project we worked on in class and usually tried to bend the instructions a little so my product would be a little different. For example, in high school Ceramics class, the assignment was to hand-build a fish. I built a lobster.
When did you decide to start your own business?
In 2000 I started printing wedding invitations for friends. More friends kept getting married and asking me to print for them. I went through the Women’s Initiative for Self Employment program in Oakland, and thought that I might actually be able to turn my small-time printing operation into a business.
How did you decide on letterpress and design as your business?
I was studying Graphic Design at Humboldt State University from 1996-2000. I had gone on a field trip to SF and Berkeley with my class in Spring 1999, and we went to the studio of David Lance Goines. His studio encompassed (and still does) design, drawing, photography, learning, typesetting, hand-lettering, printmaking, offset printing, letterpress, etc. It was fascinating. He offered me an internship for the summer and I couldn’t refuse. I learned about letterpress from him, as well as so much more. It changed my life.
What was the best piece of advice you were given as you were starting out?
I had just graduated from HSU and had moved all my stuff to my parents’ house in Martinez, CA. Three weeks prior, I started dating a guy back in Humboldt. We had agreed to try the long distance relationship thing, but after 3 days living with my parents I emailed my employer/mentor, Mr. Goines, in the middle of the night. I told him that it didn’t feel right to leave this relationship to chance and I needed to go back to Humboldt to see if it was going to work out. He replied, “Follow your heart. If you don't you will always regret it.” I did move back to Humboldt soon after. And now, 14 years later, that guy and I are married with two kids. Life is good.
What do you do behind the scenes?
In my work time or personal time? Work time: I sketch for clients, refine sketches in Adobe Illustrator, cut linoleum blocks, print, procrastinate… Personal time: Try to keep my 6 year old daughter and 3 year old son from hurting themselves/each other/other kids, and sleep.
What is your inspiration for your work?
I am definitely inspired by the natural world, and here in Humboldt County natural beauty is easy to come by. I am also inspired by other talented artists, designers, illustrators, printers and letterers. The work of Dana Tanamachi, Jessica Hische, David Lance Goines, Clawhammer Press and Hatch Show Print come to mind, to name a few.
What is your goal during each project?
If it’s work for a client, I’d like to meet their criteria while remaining true to my aesthetic, and get paid. If it’s my fine art prints, I like to make something beautiful, as close as possible to what I see in my mind, and try new techniques. I’d also love to sell all of the prints in a limited edition. That would feel awesome.
What are a few things people don’t know about you?
If I could eat nothing but ice cream for the rest of my life (without the consequences) I’d totally do it. I can’t commit to a favorite color. I can spot a typo from 1000 yards away (usually). We have 4 chickens in the backyard, but don’t eat eggs very often. We have a cat, but I’m allergic to her and just about everything airborne.
Lynn adheres to the practice makes perfect policy, "If you have the passion for something keep doing it. You don't have to put it out there, and you probably shouldn't, but keep creating your art. Be patient with yourself."