By Natalie Walker
This past summer, I spent 2 weeks road-tripping up the west coast to Washington. Along the way, I explored some amazing cities. One of these was the thriving city of Portland, Oregon. I loved exploring thrift stores, eating delicious food, and taking in every sight. While we were walking down the street, We noticed a table with a typewriter on it. We decided to sit down at the table and realized there was paper in the typewriter, inviting everyone who passed by to type something. We make a shopping list for our camping supplies for the next few days and took our souvenir with us. Above our breakfast items, the paper read, "Oblation Papers and Press." (as you can see below!)
We walked into the store and were overwhelmed with the smell of fresh paper and the towers of displays. Delicate handmade greeting cards, notebooks, and art entranced me. However, nothing in the shop was more fascinating than the girl making prints on an old fashioned press. I had never seen a letterpress machine before, and I didn't realize that there were retail stores that still used them.
It was after visiting Oblation Papers and Press. that I was inspired to take this class, so I thought I would pay homage to Oblation Papers and Press for this project.
Oblation Papers and Press was founded in 1989 by Rob and Jennifer Rich. They began making their own papers in their blender! They began selling their handmade books to markets and galleries all along the west coast. With the addition of a letterpress machine, they were able to create custom wedding invitations and eventually opened up their studio and retail store.
Not only is Oblation a letterpress studio, they are also a paper mill. The skilled papermakers at Oblation use traditional papermaking techniques using cotton to create their sheets. Interestingly, the cotton used for their paper comes from recycled clothing garments. While this is their specialty, they also produce different types of paper, such as museum board, 100% pcw papers, and bamboo paper.
Oblation values the history, craftsmanship, romance, and beauty of traditional letterpressing techniques. All of their pressed products are produced on cast-iron platen presses. Some of their presses date back 100 years! With each piece they create, they are putting a little bit of history into it. They produce anything from calendars, notebooks, ephemera, custom event invitations, and most famously, custom wedding invitations. There is something special about knowing that each piece of paper has been crafted by hand- from the paper- to what is printed on it.
In addition to these handmade creations, Oblation also carries papers made from all over the world. Like any letterpress studio, Oblation clearly values the techniques of the past. They also sell French wax seals to perhaps put an even more personal touch to a letter written on handmade paper.
Oblation has a green approach in everything that they do, which is another tiny tidbit that makes them amazing. Alongside their recycled cotton, Oblation also takes unwanted paper products and turns them into a pulp that can be used to make new paper. Oblation also uses wind energy to power their shop. The balance of an old process with a modern green approach is very cool!
Oblation means, "a gift or offering." This is a proper name for something that is such a gift to all of us! I feel that simply visiting Oblation Papers and Press was a gift, as I was introduced to the process of letterpress and have come to appreciate the art. I hope to visit more letterpress studios and hopefully will continue to be inspired!