All about Letterpress Part 2: An Interview with Dogwood Letterpress

Welcome to the second part of our interview with Dogwood Letterpress! In case you missed it, you can find part one here!

What is the process of making a letterpress print?

Our concepts always start with hand-drawn sketches: pencil, pen & paper! Depending on the project aim, a sketch might be transferred to a linoleum block, and carved. When you carve in lino, you must think in reverse: carve away the area that does not print. Sounds easy, right? It takes a little practice. [SIDE NOTE: If you feel inspired to try it out, please do remember the cardinal rule is to always carve AWAY from yourself, and never put your free hand in the way of the tools!] Linocuts tend to flatten & wear rather quickly with deep impression work, so we often do a clean black print from the linocut that can be scanned & turned into a photopolymer (UV-exposed plastic resin) plate, allowing for longer print runs.

chickadee cut.jpg

In the case of type, we love hand-setting metal type whenever possible. The type case is opened, and we create the text letter by letter using a composing stick, furniture and quoins to hold it all together. On metal type runs, we reduce the impression to preserve our type, or, sometimes we will set type digitally and have a photopolymer plate made, as described earlier with respect to linocuts. The beauty of the letterpress process is that you can combine a variety of plate types (metal type, or photopolymer, or lino, or wood type) into one print job.

Once your plate is ready, you must make sure that the form (the assembly of relief surfaces that are to print) is even, flat, and locked into a chase (a metal frame that holds all of it together), and ready to be put on press. Makeready includes a variety of preparations to make sure the form prints evenly with appropriate pressure, the ink is applied, and guides are in place to position where the paper is fed.


The actual printing of the piece with the press running takes less time than the creative, preparation, makeready & clean-up involved with a particular print job! But once everything is in place, you can begin the print run. Multiple colour pieces will involve a set up & print run for each colour that you print.


How do you choose your materials?

We choose based on the quality of the material, and concern for waste & sustainable production. Paper mills are surprisingly mindful of environmentally-sensitive practices these days. We buy only from mills that use certified, sustainable processes, and we buy Canadian as often as possible. Our materials & parts suppliers are based in Canada & the USA.  


What vision do you have when you create your designs?

We imagine the end user of our stationery products penning a hand-written message to a colleague, friend, or family member. We try to create designs worthy of a message that will be appreciated & saved by the recipient for possibly years to come. We hope the enjoyment is two-part: the physical process of the pen gliding across cotton paper, and the opening of an envelope and reading of a message. Hopefully the texture and design details add something special to the exchange of handwritten notes that’s becoming increasingly unique in our digital world!

Tell us more about Dogwood Letterpress. How did it start? What is it like to work there? Where do you see yourselves in the future?

Dogwood Letterpress started out of passion for the texture of letterpress printing, and love of written communication. There’s quite a movement to keep the written word alive & vibrant, with all sorts of thriving pen-pal networks, greeting card sections in all sizes of stores across the country, and lots of great Canadian companies producing products that encourage people to WRITE! We are passionate about how the texture of letterpress printing and written communication provide a welcome break from the digital world.

We are a small company, but growing. At the moment, our cards can be found in shops across the country, as far East as Saint John. Recently, we created our first French greeting card for a Montréal stockist. I think what we relish most is the relationships that evolve out of running a growing creative business that specializes in human communication: we love meeting new people.

My day at Dogwood Letterpress is likely typical of that of the Canadian small business entrepreneur: lots of hats to wear! A little business-building; some design; some production (printing, finishing, packing); some shipping; a bit of accounting; some email; a dash of social media; and an effort to keep the big picture in mind, which is that our product must be worthy of people’s time & money. We want our product to be of the finest quality we can possibly offer: you’ve decided to make somebody else’s day with a hand-written note, so our product should be worthy of your effort.

We are hoping our future includes more of the kind of creative and printing that we do today, with more Canadians writing notes on letterpress cards made by Canadian printers in an industry that is alive and well!

Thank you, Dogwood Letterpress, for your insight into the world of letterpress!

Blog by Christine Wiebe

All about Letterpress Part 1: An Interview with Dogwood Letterpress

Dogwood Letterpress is a local Vancouver company that we proudly carry at Paper-Ya. Read on to learn more about the beautiful Letterpress technique in Part 1 of our interview!

Dogwood Letterpress Studio

Dogwood Letterpress Studio

What is letterpress?

Letterpress is the use of a relief (a raised surface) to transfer ink from that surface onto paper in order to create text. Though often credited to Johann Gutenburg (c.1450), the roots of relief-printed communication are in Asia. These early methods often employed carved wood for printing


Contemporary letterpress is noted for the deboss (impression) created in the paper: a lovely textural effect that so many of us have fallen in love with in this age of the flat, digital screen. Ironically, master printers originally aimed for an impression-free print on the paper, termed  the “kiss impression” — a very difficult thing to achieve. Imagine heavy machinery, metal and wood hurtling at high speed toward a thin piece of paper, and hitting it perfectly level so that the ink is even, and the paper has no indentations! No small feat.

Letterpress shops like ours, however, are often asked for deep-impression printing on soft (often cotton) paper that people can feel, and see. Admittedly, we generally aim for deep-impression results. It’s worth noting that, not surprisingly, deep-impression printing has an impact on the old machines and on the relief materials (it can flatten your metal type). This is the dilemma of contemporary letterpress. We want to preserve the old machines & media, but we also want to produce results that keep people passionate about letterpress.

*Maravelas, Paul. Letterpress Printing, A manual for modern fine press printers
[photo of Chandler & Price press c. 1912]

How long have you been doing letterpress? What got you into doing letterpress?  


As a teenager I first became acquainted with printing and graphic designers while working in our small family offset print & copy shop. I have a memory of my Dad explaining how to convert a drawing into two printing plates (red & black) for a family holiday card when I was nine years old. Apparently family involvement in the printing industry goes back four (possibly five) generations in my family – something I don’t think I appreciated early on.


The graphic design path took me to New York, and as an intern at Print Magazine, I lucked into mentors there who were passionate about the written word, design & typography. The late Andy Kner, an accomplished art director (and very patient, generous teacher), was art director at Print at the time; he had his own press, along with a selection of beautiful old Hungarian blocks and type that he would use to print personal projects — often cards. The letterpress process was still mysterious to me as a computer-based graphic designer, but like so many of us when we first see letterpress, I wanted to learn more.


Several years later I took a workshop in Marcham, UK and that was a turning point for me. Shortly after the workshop, I bought a small desktop platen press (C&P Pilot) and about 300lbs of lead type from Don Black Linecasting in Toronto! In 2015, my husband & I bought our first large press, (a 1,000lb 10x15 Chandler & Price platen press) and since then we’ve acquired a few other pieces of vintage printing equipment that we’ve put to work, including a C&P from the century-old Vancouver Chinatown print shop Ho Sung Hing, which closed in 2014. The old machinery is a joy to work with, and the pleasure that the textural printing seems to bring to others keeps me completely in love with this medium.



What is the most unique aspect of letterpress?

It’s hard to pick just one aspect! I think the easy answer would be the resulting print (each one is unique as it comes off of a hand-fed platen press). But where it concerns the process of printing this way — I’d have to say it’s the dimensional problem-solving.

With letterpress, the designer/printer is strategizing how to physically create a dimensional structure (the relief) that will print, often using disparate media: wood, metal, resin, ink, cotton, etc. There are many moving parts that must fit together, lock into the press, transfer ink from rollers to paper in a symbiotic way. The process of design, assembly, leading up to your ideal print is filled with intriguing puzzles that are of the three-dimensional, physical world. This is a special, tactile treat, both in process & result, compared to the contemporary digital realm where we spend so much of our time.

To be quite honest, there are days when it's frustrating having so many moving parts when a particularly sticky printing problem occurs! I don't want to imply that it's all unicorns and rainbows of inspiration!

It’s important to note that we here at Dogwood Letterpress are far from being masters of this medium. It’s a process! I think you could print for a lifetime and still have so much to learn. For an example of some of Canada’s most experienced and finest letterpress printing right here in our backyard on Granville Island, look no further than Blackstone Press! Granville Island is also host to many other printers, some of whom can be found at Dundarave, where you can take workshops, and learn about the wide variety of relief printing that’s out there (not just letterpress).  Emily Carr has a room full of press equipment, and hosts letterpress workshops from time to time.

Thank you for reading Part 1 of our interview with Dogwood Letterpress. Stay tuned for Part 2!

Blog by Christine Wiebe

Back to School at Paper-Ya

School is just around the corner! Whether you're excited or dreading it, we've found everything you need to make your school days just a little bit brighter.


If you have to look at an agenda every day, you might as well make sure it's one that you love! 


Agendas come in all types of sizes, covers, and designs. You can choose larger ones that stay on your desk, or little ones that fit in your pocket.


Once you've decided on the size that you want, the next step is to choose what type of interior layout you want. Monthly, weekly, and daily agenda allow for various levels of detail in your planning. 

The most fun part is, of course, choosing the cover! 



There are hundreds of notebooks out there, but we've narrowed down our in store selection to some of the best.  We carry blank, lined, dot-grid, and gridded notebooks in all different sizes!

Decomposition books offer fun covers and plenty of pages for all your notes. 


If you prefer to use gel or fountain pens, we recommend notebooks with thicker paper such as our Rollbahn journals.

Pens and Pencils 


We all have our favourite pens and pencils. If you ask any of us who work here, we will happily point ours out.

We have so many different kinds that we recommend simply coming in and testing them out to find your favourite! 

Pencil cases 


Do you carry just a couple basics or a whole assortment of pens? We have all different sizes that allow you to carry as many - or as few as you would like!



Binders, folders, and desktop accessories help keep all your notes and ideas in one spot. Because there's no such thing as being too organized!

And finally, we have bags to help you carry everything from your lunch to your textbooks!

We wish you all a very happy back to school! And if you're not going back to school... well, one can never have too much stationery... 

Blog by Christine Wiebe

Handmade Beauty by Lowell

Lowell is a Canadian brand that we are proud to carry. It is a company started in Montreal by Rachel Fortin and Mathieu Mudie with a "simple, urban, and dreamy" aesthetic. We love the way they blend quality, style, and functionality together to create these incredible pieces. A bag from Lowell is a bag for life.

IMG_7768 edited 3.jpg

Lowell uses full grain leather that is ethically sourced from small farms across the USA and Canada. The quality material gives each bag a unique look and it ages with a ruggedly natural beauty. 

Thick leather gives structure and durability to each bag. It softens with age and over the years the natural patina that emerges will give it a personality of its own.

Each piece is made from start to finish by a single worker in their workshop in Montreal, and the larger bags come personally signed.

They have everything from small, daintier purses to large backpacks and totes. The classic styles allow you to dress them up or down, giving them more versatility in your wardrobe.

Next time you're on Granville Island, swing by Paper-Ya and take a peek at what we have!

Blog by Christine Wiebe

Snapshot Interview with Local Paper-Ya Regular: Cassie!

Cassie is a local Vancouverite and a Paper-Ya regular who used our paper for her home project! We took this opportunity to interview her on her process and results!

1. What was your inspiration for using paper for your lampshade? Did it turn out as you expected?

I decided to use paper for this project because I love the way it diffuses light. I think at some point everyone has owned that one tall IKEA paper lamp, so I wanted to copy the basic design of that, but use a more interesting type of paper that had a bit more texture to it. I really like the way it turned out. Because I used the washi, it's more of a nice ambient light, and the fibers in the paper give off a really interesting effect when the light shines through it.

2. Have you done projects like this before? What did you find most challenging about it?

I've never really made a "functional" piece out of paper before - I'm usually drawing or painting, so this was a first for me. The hardest thing about it was dealing with how delicate the paper was. It was tricky to get it to do what I wanted without it tearing, so if anything, I just had to take my time with it to make sure I wasn't going to waste a really nice piece of handmade paper.

Here are some of our other papers that filter light beautifully:

3. What did you enjoy most about this project? 

What I enjoyed the most about it was how satisfying it was when it came together at the end. I had a string of firefly lights that I wasn't using for anything, so I ended up wrapping them around the lamp just to see what it would look like. I ended up keeping them there as an accent and I think it was a really nice finishing touch.

4. What materials did you need for this project? 

The materials that I used were: One old IKEA lamp base, some armature wire from Opus to make the frame, Paper-Ya washi paper, a glue stick (this is the easiest way to get the paper to stick) and firefly lights. All in all I only spent about $20-$30, not including the lamp base.

Different colours of paper would create unique moods for your home:

5. Have you bought paper from us before, or was this your first time?

5. I'd say I'm a pretty regular Paper Ya customer! I always stop by if I'm in the area to have a look at what new stuff you have. I'm into calligraphy too, so I buy fountain pen ink quite frequently!

6. Would you do more projects like this in the future?

I think I'd definitely be into doing more projects like this in the future. I'm thinking about incorporating origami into a lamp design at some point, so we'll see how that goes.

7. Bonus Project! 

When I was buying the washi for the lamp, I came across a cute paper design with some birds on it and decided to frame them. I went to Opus and looked for some interesting looking pre-made frames and put them together in the store. 

Thank you, Cassie! We love to see what people do with our papers.

Blog by Christine Wiebe

150 Years Young, Canada!

Canada's 150th birthday is just around the corner!

As proud Canadians, we are celebrating the incredible talent that we bring in from all over our country!


Some of the most beautiful papers we have are sourced from Montreal, Quebec. These handmade papers have stunning textures and details that make them incredibly unique to work with - or to frame on your wall!


Handmade on Vancouver Island, these leather-bound journals are made using traditional binding techniques. We always get excited when we see the newest colours!


Many of our cards are sourced locally from artists such as Dogwood Letterpress, Regional Assembly of Text, Quirky Paper, and more!

We also bring in cards from Edmonton and from as far as Nova Scotia.



Much of our jewelry comes from local artists and designers who use various materials - metal, bamboo, or glass - to create pieces we love to show off.

BC is known for its trees, and to celebrate this we carry locally made wooden watches that show the beauty of nature.


Okay, we admit it - we love bags. 

These lovely ones here are handmade in Toronto and Montreal. We fell in love with the detail and care put into every stitch.


Food for the soul - creative fun for you or to share! These staples are just a few beloved favourites.

These surreal scenes printed on soft pillowcases add whimsical nostalgia to your home.

These letterpress coasters add a touch of Canadian to your home - because who doesn't love maple leaves?

Okay, it doesn't have any maple leaves on it but it does have a cat!

Thank you, Canada. Here's to the next 150 years!

Blog by Christine Wiebe

Snapshot Interview with local glass artist Minori Takagi

Minori Takagi is a local artist who makes beautiful pieces of glass jewelry. You may recognize some of the pieces that we carry here at Paper-Ya! Here we explore her art and the process that goes into each piece.

1. What made you decide to make jewelry and to work with glass?

I have loved crafts since I was a little girl. I tried many different crafts such as Origami, sewing, knitting, ceramics, and Kumihimo braiding.. but glass was special. The molten glass is a material that you can't touch directly when you are working with it. You have to use tools to shape it. It's challenging but you will get better as you practice.  I think that is why I have worked with glass for 20 years.

Minori at work

Minori at work

2. What is your favourite item to make?

I love working on new pieces. Experimenting with new work is exciting. I've been working on a new product called "Circle Chain". It's a textured circle chain so it reflects the light very well. I also enjoy making unique items. Something like my "eyeball necklace" or "tooth necklace". They are a bit creepy but cute, and definitely fun to wear. I hope people enjoy them as much as I do!

3. How has your style changed over the years?

When I started to make glass beads, I learned the traditional method to make Japanese glass beads called "Tombodama". People collect them or wear one bead on a necklace in Japan. I loved learning techniques and working on the details. But after I moved to Vancouver, people often asked me "it's beautiful but what is this for?" I realized that people are looking for a finished piece of jewelry. Now I am into a modern glass jewelry designs that are "clean+simple". 

4. Could you explain a little bit about the process that goes into making a piece of jewelry? 

My works are all done by torch. It is called Lampwork. I work over the torch to melt glass rods. Flower patterns on/in the beads are also hand made. I make them separately, cut them into small pieces, then melt them into the molten glass bead. 

Next time you're in Paper-Ya, be sure to take a peek at the Minori Takagi pieces that we carry!

You can see more from Minori on her website and instagram.

Blog by Christine Wiebe