Slowly does it

WORDS Nikki Benatar

By paying homage to the golden era of handmade exquisitely crafted printing, Essie Letterpress is putting the cool back into stationery.

If you’ve ever held a letterpress print in your hands, you’ll understand what all the fuss is about. This time-honoured printing tradition – outmoded in the 1950s by bigger and faster offset machines – punches a design into paper to create a debossed image with a rather special, old-worldly feel.

It’s a labour-intensive process, requiring patience and precision, which is what husband-and-wife team Ben and Vanessa Grib have in lorry-loads. “There’s no substitute for perfection,” says Ben, who handles the design side of the business, while Vanessa does the printing and runs the day-to-day affairs. All of this happens in a farm shed in Citrusdal, where the couple moved when they grew weary of city life about four years ago.

Designed and printed on a 1964 German proofing press, Essie’s graphic and nostalgic prints reflect the couple’s design philosophy: “The simpler, the better".