Meet Dutch Door Press, The Upper Haight's Own Letterpress Studio

Meet Dutch Door Press, The Upper Haight's Own Letterpress StudioPhotos: Camden Avery/Hoodline
Camden Avery
Published on March 26, 2014
After walking by their studio and admiring their work for years, we finally sat down with Anna Branning and Mara Murphy of Dutch Door Press and had a chat. We're here to share Dutch Door, and their work, with you.

First, what is letterpress? Letterpress is a sexy, newly-resurrected, old-timey method of printing that uses engraved plates pressed individually onto sheets of paper to transfer color and shape (you can feel it).

How long as Dutch Door been around? How did you both meet and decide to get together to do this?
We met while working together at Paper Source on Fillmore Street in 2002. We both loved letterpress and took printing classes (at different times) at San Francisco Center for the Book. Later, when we both felt it was time to venture out on our own, we decided to do it together! We started Dutch Door Press in the lower level of a Victorian house on Page Street in 2006 and have been there ever since. 

Your style is modern but folksy, clean but rustic. What are your main artistic influences? (We're thinking Scandinavian? Maybe?)
The name of our press came from the actual architecture of our space—we have a dutch door as the entry way to our studio. Coincidentally, we were both attracted to the aesthetic of northern European folk art which ultimately became our main source of inspiration. Dutch Door, folk art, perfect! We look at vintage textiles, folk stencil art, children's books, and of course, nature.

What's your process for creating prints? 
Letterpress is similar to printing from linoleum blocks in that it is a form of relief printing. The difference is instead of a carved block, we use photopolymer plates (plastic, adhesive backed plates that are light sensitive), with a different plate for each color that we print. We start with a sketch which is turned into a digital drawing. The digital art is printed onto a film negative which we use to create the plate in a UV light unit designed specifically for this purpose. Once our plates are developed, we can print! The adhesive back sticks to a base in the bed of the press and gets inked by rollers that pass over it. On the presses we use (a Vandercook SP15 proofing press and a Chandler & Price 8 x 12 platen press) the paper is hand-fed into the press. So, it's a very hands-on process.

You've worked in letterpress prints, cards, textiles, and wrap-size paper. Are there any other media you're thinking of branching out into, or new projects in the works?
It's true: we have tried many different media with our designs, but I think our true love is printing. We adore the physical act of making our art, holding the paper, getting ink on our hands. So, in our latest endeavor we are going back to our roots and are working on a new series of broadsides (large, poster-sized prints) based on memories from childhood.

Thanks to local printers Anna and Mara for chatting with us, and remember to keep an eye out for Dutch Door Press, especially after they complete a remodel of their studio space.