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Leaving an impression

Chantal Bennett-Kimmel and her husband Joel Kimmel still “mind their p's and q's.” At least they do when they're working on their letterpress.
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Joel Kimmel and Chantal Bennett-Kimmel use a letterpress printing machine built in the early 1950s to make artistic stationary. Photo by Jenny Jelen

Chantal Bennett-Kimmel and her husband Joel Kimmel still “mind their p's and q's.”

At least they do when they're working on their letterpress.

The owners of Papillon Press Studio said the well-known expression came from workers who used to regularly use a letterpress to publish newspapers. Since letters had to be put on the press in a mirror image of what the final result should look like, Kimmel said it was easy to mix up the p's and q's.

While newspapers aren't printed this way anymore, the couple still use the machine, built in the early 1950s, to print wedding stationary, business cards and other luxury paper items.

They occasionally use individual letters to put together words, but more often they print off “polymer photos,” or sheets manufactured from digital programs.

Polymer photos still give the elegant look of raised printing of the traditional methods, but it allows more creativity and freedom for the husband and wife. “It's all extremely custom, because it's drawn by us,” Kimmel said.

The couple, who are both illustrators by trade, use their own elaborate designs and images to complement computer-generated text on their products. “It's a really satisfying marriage of skills,” Bennett-Kimmel said.

Bennett-Kimmel, who went to Parsons Design School in New York, stumbled across the letterpress machine when she was searching for letterpress workshops on Kijiji.

All the equipment, that now occupies her basement, once belonged to a newspaper in Cornwall, Ont.

Since owning the letterpress, the couple has designed custom wedding invitations for people around North America, and have had their creations displayed in wedding magazines.

Letterpress stationary has become quite popular in the United States, but the trend is only emerging in Canada, Bennett-Kimmel said. “It's part of the handmade movement,” she said. They are the only ones who practise the art in northern Ontario.

On March 5, Bennett-Kimmel will open her studio to the community. The full-day workshop will teach individuals how to make their own stationary on the antique equipment.

Bennett-Kimmel said she has taught workshops before, and they have been attended mostly by southern Ontarians.

She said she hopes to attract some locals this time.

After using the equipment and learning the techniques of letterpress printing, people taking the course will have a “keepsake” to take home. In the past, Bennett-Kimmel said people have made their own business and greeting cards to take home.

Registration for the workshop costs $150, and space is limited. For more information, visit www.papillonletterpress.com.