like process,” says Rachael Hetzel, owner of Pistachio Press, her 9-year-old custom letterpress business inside Essex Studios in Walnut Hills. “I like that printmaking takes a while. Each step is really deliberate.” For Hetzel this applies not just to her cards and wedding invitations, but to the physical space in which she works; love of process came in handy when she and her husband moved, along with four one-ton letterpresses, from Rochester, New York, to Cincinnati in 2015.
Hetzel’s self-described “sweet and snarky” style and deployment of salty bon mots in her line of text-based greeting cards are a refreshing break from the earnest sentiment that permeates the maker scene. “There’s humor, they’re fun, they’re cards I would want to send out to people,” she says. Many of her themes are autobiographical. When she met her husband, Hetzel made a line of new love cards. Being pregnant with her first child led to designing a series of baby cards.
Hetzel earned a bachelor of fine art from the State University of New York, Brockport, an MFA from the University at Buffalo, and taught at the University of Rochester for 10 years, working her way up from visiting assistant to lecturer. On the decision to hang out her shingle, Hetzel laughs, “I thought that having my own business would be more stable.”
Many letterpress printers use lead or wood type, and give the page a mere kiss of ink so as not to damage it, but Hetzel’s designs start on the computer and then become photo polymer that she uses to print cards on one of her vintage Heidelberg or Vandercook letterpresses. “It’s like a glorified stamp, but with a lot more pressure and precision,” she says.
Hetzel is drawn to the deep impression that can be made with a polymer plate on paper that has high cotton content. “I like the tactility of it,” she says. “It’s different from other processes in that you can feel it a lot more. Letterpress has had a resurgence because of that quality.” She has also noted an uptick in paper correspondence from a surprising customer category: millennials. “A lot of my client base is younger,”she says. “It’s a backlash from technology. It’s a treat when you get a handwritten note.”