Creating Art with Letterpress
After finishing her fine arts master’s degree, Eva Jorgensen envisioned teaching art. Jorgensen’s artist mother taught her how to paint as a child in the 1980s, and Jorgensen’s goal was to become a college art professor.
Her graduation, though, was during the Great Recession when most universities were on a hiring freeze. Jorgensen was working at a stationery boutique, discouraged about future job prospects, when she found an old letterpress. She had a feeling that the lost art of letterpress — the technique of printing texts and images using movable type on a printing press — would experience a renaissance. Jorgensen bought the letterpress and began designing cards.
“I thought it would be a side business that would keep me going until I found a university job,” Jorgensen says. “I started doing my drawings, making them into cards, and they were so different from what others were doing at the time. There were a few indie letterpress companies, but no one in stationery was doing hand-drawn illustrations or hand lettering. We didn’t know it then, but we were at the front end of the letterpress movement.”
Sycamore Street Press
Jorgensen started small, launching an Etsy shop in the fall of 2007. She named it Sycamore Street Press (sycamorestreetpress.com) after the charming German village in Ohio where she was living with her husband, Kirk. The couple started driving to craft shows across the U.S., carrying new batches of cards. Inspired by vintage illustrations and her Scandinavian roots, Jorgensen’s letterpress illustrations were charming, nostalgic and fresh. Kirk began managing the business operations full time.
The industry took notice. Soon Anthropologie and Paper Source stocked her stationery line, and Jorgensen was voted one of the “Top 10 Designers to Watch” by Stationery Trends magazine.
“We’re grateful to be in some of the best stores in the country,” Jorgensen says of Sycamore Street Press’ booming popularity. “The millennial generation grew up with the DIY, back to your roots movement of the 1990s and early 2000s. People want to get back to these skills and craftsmanship that we have kind of lost. Letterpress cards are a part of that.”
Since 2009, the Jorgensens and their daughter Ingrid and son Lars call the mountains of Heber, Utah, home. Their country property borders the woods where deer and fox dart through the yard.
It was in her home, surrounded by pieces of her grandparents’ vintage French furniture, that Jorgensen imagined her next project. Next spring, Abrams Books will publish “Paris By Design,” a coffee table book and travel guide to the creative side of Paris. Jorgensen served as the book’s editor and creative director. It’s a passion project for Jorgensen, who minored in French, studied abroad in the country and served a Latter-day Saint mission in Northern France.
“I’ve always loved the language, the people, the culture,” Jorgensen says. “I’m a complete Francophile.”
“Paris By Design” is also part of the Jorgensens’ work as a creative studio. Through the years, the Jorgensens have been quietly collaborating behind the scenes with clients Shopify, Fossil and Old Home Love. This year they relaunched Sycamore Street Press as Sycamore Co., working with brands to create video productions, identity design and photography.
“I’ll always love letterpress,” Jorgensen says, “but now I can continue doing what I’m passionate about — creating beautiful things in different formats.”