The Paper Elephant letterpress team

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The brains
Together we are a husband and wife team with a goal to create well-priced, unique and luxurious stationery. We love spending time in the studio, the soft touch of lush cotton papers and the historic feel of moveable type. Together we share a passion for beautiful design, good wine and fabulous food (not necessarily in that order).

Nykke is a designer with over 15 years experience in the world of advertising agencies, publishing houses and boutique design studios. After many years of running her own design studio she yearned for something more tangible, something to call her own. Stumbling across other letterpress printers many years ago led to a search for the right equipment to make it all a reality. Today, she likes nothing more than to head to the studio, mix ink and create something beautiful. Nykke admits to an addiction to home decorating magazines, intervention may be required.

Also a designer, Troy is the pen behind some of our quirky illustrations. He’s also the human muscle for all the demanding work that goes on. (Trust us, some of this is pretty heavy stuff.) He finds the old fashioned moveable type the most appealing and is constantly on the search for more to add to our collection. Troy also reviews games on the side, so it is occasionally required to convince him that a zombie invasion is not imminent.

We share our little mountain world with two small and noisy children, one neurotic cocker spaniel and a crotchety old moggie. (There is also one older child who, mid-2015, left us behind to live his dream in Canada. But we can’t leave him out, since we appropriated his room as our new and spacious office.)

The muscle
Our Nellie is an original 1963 Heidelberg Windmill Platen Press, a letterpress workhorse (or elephant). But in layman’s terms she is one huge hunk of cast iron. It is an unusual name I know, especially since most people name their presses something indicative of it’s origin, so a Heidelberg Windmill is often named things like Heidi or something German in origin. And I have to admit to briefly considering calling her Broomhilda, it just seemed to embody (pun intended) the ample proportions of this lovely lady. And before you ask, yes I do think of this looming beast of a machine as a female. It’s one of those things that’s inevitable when you work so closely with something. She deserved a name so therefore, in my opinion, had to be given a sex.

But back to the name Nellie, which is a bit of a combined story as to how we came up with the name Paper Elephant. Way back in 2004 Troy and I travelled to Thailand for our honeymoon. We made our way to Chiang Mai to spend three days training as a mahout at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center. It was an amazing experience and after spending all day every day with these majestic animals it’s hard not to be moved by the experience. Especially when a 200kg+ baby elephant sucks on your arm for around ten minutes. So elephants have a special place in our hearts.

And Nellie is a trooper, she keeps the ink flowing and delicately feeds the paper through. But like any girl, she has her ‘bad-hair’ days when she just needs that little extra love and attention (ie. more oil, a few tweaks and a good rub).

Rusty is our faithful antique Chandler & Price guillotine who keeps Nellie company. He’s old and grumpy, but super sharp, so we keep our fingers to ourselves.

The history
Now for a little history lesson if you are interested. Letterpress printing originated in the mid 15th Century where moveable type was used to create books, newsletters and posters among many others. Ink is applied to the raised surface and paper is then pressed to the type which transfers the ink and creates a delicate impression on the paper. It was a form of printing that remained in use for over 400 years but saw a decline with the introduction of larger offset printers, and later digital printing, that enabled a faster turnaround and higher quantities.

In recent years letterpress printing has begun to regain its popularity through small boutique print studios around the world. Some remain faithful to the original form using only moveable type, some have embraced the wonders of modern technology and use photopolymer plates, while others use a bit of both. The process remains as it did hundreds of years ago. Each colour is printed individually before the press is cleaned down and the process begins again. The result is delightful.