Shelley Barandes operates one of her printing pressesFor the discriminating bride, Shelley Barandes of Albertine Press is a godsend. She (literally) cranks out custom-made invitations on old-fashioned printing presses. She also designs stationary and journals and produces menus for local restaurants. We caught up with the former architect to learn more about her beloved Vandercook proof presses and how she helps her clients come up with the perfect design. Albertine Press can be found online, at boutique stores and on Esty

How does one go from being an architect to running a printing press?

I studied printmaking in college as well as architecture. I never stopped printing (mostly linocut and silkscreen) and eventually took on some commissions for friends’ wedding invitations, and then our own. I decided to learn letterpress to add to my repertoire, and that was the beginning of the end of my architecture career. A half dozen presses and two studio spaces later, Albertine Press was my full time job.

I understand you have multiple printing presses at your shop. Tell me a little bit about the differences and what you use them for?

Yes, there are many presses in the studio. Our everyday presses include two Vandercook proof presses (worth their weight in gold!) and two Chandler & Price platen presses. The Vandys need to be hand cranked — one sheet at a time, one color at a time — so we really reserve those for jobs with smaller run size but in need of particular attention to detail, like most of our wedding invitations. 

The C&P’s are manually fed, but have an automated action, so we turn to those for larger scale project, including our greeting card & journal lines.

There is also a small collection of table top presses that I use for demonstrations and workshops. It is bittersweet that we are just too busy in the shop these days to clean up for weekend workshops.

Let’s say I’m a small business owner of a restaurant, and I want something special for my menus. Walk me through the process.

It’s pretty much the same for any custom design and print project. First we meet, talk about what your needs are, what design direction are you headed in. Will we design for you or are you coming to us with something print-ready? We take a look together at paper choices, ink colors, etc. Once we nail down all of the moving pieces we go back and forth digitally with mockups until the client is happy with design. Finally, we order up some plates, paper and print.

Finally, I have to ask, how many of your products have birds on them? Or, what are the hot trends you’re seeing your customers go towards?

Ha! Not too many birds. We’ve done only two or three invitation suites ever with birds on them, and I think maybe we have about two greeting cards (out of nearly 200 designs) with birds.

In terms of wedding invitations, it really varies by season. Right now we’re printing a lot of trees, which is pretty a pretty common wedding theme, but also lots of hot pink and gold this season (though not in the same suites as the trees).

For greeting cards, I stick to my signature style of designs — simple line drawings and hand-sketched cityscapes. It works, so I don’t change it up year to year other than to add new designs into the mix.


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Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!

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