Bold type, letterpress and hip hop go together like Pete Rock & CL Smooth, like Eric B & Rakim, like Q-Tip & Phife. Founded in 2009, Paper Jam Press is about typography, a strong design aesthetic, music and truth. It’s about making people smile and inspiring through a few carefully selected words. With a series of letterpress posters featuring song lyrics like “Everyday I’m Hustlin”, “Give It All You Got”, and “Today Was A Good Day”, Paper Jam Press provides inspiration and makes your walls look good (like, really good). I was hooked as soon as I saw the Paper Jam Press Instagram feed and had to reach out to designer Arianna Orland to learn more about her creative process.
Q: What inspired you to create Paper Jam Press?
It was a confluence of things. In 2009, I found myself spending more and more time doing computer-based client work and although the work was satisfying, it also left me longing for a way to feel truly connected to the graphic design practice. I missed making things.
At the advice of a former boss, I decided to take a letterpress class. That’s one of the moments in the creation of Paper Jam Press that really stands out. After you learn the basics in class, the instructor says, “Okay, it’s your turn. Go ahead and print anything you want.” I immediately thought of an anonymous street artist I had been following at the time. The artist stencilled phrases on the sidewalk that I’d encounter as I walked around the neighborhood. It was kind of like a public long form poem to a lost love. One of the phrases was “love me til my heart stops” and when it was my turn to print, that’s what I printed. I realized right then how powerful a few well chosen words could be.
I had a strong desire to make an object, a thing, that I could hold in my hands and perhaps give to another person. I wasn’t interested in large system design or scale which was the focus of most of the commercial digital expression I was working on for clients. I was instead interested in intimacy, quality and what happens when you make a object and another person agrees to take that object and make it part of their own lives. I thought, let’s do more of that, that feels really good.
Q: Please tell me what about letterpress appeals to you.
The simplicity, the craft, the practice. The quality of the materials, the machines, the tools and how highly specialized they are. The wood type and how each letter was carved by hand. The fact that the craft is both mathematically precise and filled with inaccuracies. The way it feels to physically move your body in the act of creating work. The community of letterpress printers and makers all over the world that choose to print this way.
I think we forget that letterpress printing was the normal way of printing from the 15th century well into the 20th century. In fact, there was even a time that press ownership was regulated by the government. Now we just hit a button on a keyboard and anything we could possibly want to document, express or share comes out, but it wasn’t always that way.
Q: What next for Paper Jam Press? Any dream projects or collaborations (in addition to those you’ve already done – Blik, Tattly, etc.)? Side note: I can’t be the first person to suggest stationery, can I? A line of Paper Jam Press cards would be so awesome!
In terms of what’s next, we’re thrilled to announce we just launched a new collection with our friends over at Blik. We have a line of 9 clocks and 8 wall graphic in our favorite color, black – of course – plus they’re available in fresh colors for summer. We’re also in talks to do a card line/collaboration with one of our favorite presses. Can’t share much more about it until the ink is dry (ha!) but it’s going to be awesome.
Dream projects are:
- Oliver Jeffers dipping our prints, or even better we paint the phrases and he dips them
Collab with Converse on a line of Chuck Taylors
Large wheat paste mural on any wall that will have us. Seriously we want to hear from you.
Q: What appealed to you about creating a series of posters inspired by music? How do you select the lyrics that you print? I love that the words can stand on their own, even if the viewer doesn’t have a reference point for the words as lyrics.
The music is stuck in my head from high school and still makes me want to move. As far as the phrases go…I keep long lists of possible poster ideas. Whenever I’m considering a new batch, I share the list with my boyfriend. We debate the list until there’s a solid batch of contenders and that makes the next edition.
I like that they stand on their own too. Funny story. A close friend’s parents have “Today Was a Good Day” on the wall in their bedroom. The reference it lost on them and it doesn’t matter. The poster makes them happy, and that’s the point.
Q: What is on your playlist?
On permanent rotation, Beasties, Tribe and LL for sure. And when I’m feeling emo, I love Bon Iver on repeat.
Q: Please complete the sentence: Letterpress is….