Founder and Letterpress Print Maker of Uppercase Press
Letterpress Summer Notecards (on sale!)
Here’s your chance to get to know Lu Mascaro, the one-woman show behind the Uppercase Press studio. We’re not only inspired by her work, but her entrepreneurial spirit and courage to turn a passion into a career. With a BA in Marketing, and 15 years experience in business, she left her day job to run a letterpress studio full time out of her home in Edmonton, Alberta. With our shared belief in thoughtful design, careful craftsmanship, and human connection, collaborating with her was a no brainer.
Watch a behind the scenes video of Lu creating our notecards below, plus read on to find out more about the art behind print making, crucial tips for working with the press and ink mixing, and how you can get in on a letterpress workshop of your own.
What sparked your interest in letterpress?
My grandfather used to be a letterpress print maker in Italy for 30 years. He used to work with a press very similar to mine, and used to print all kinds of things, from wedding invitations to bus tickets. He has amazing stories to tell. Letterpress has changed so much in the past decades; it is really interesting to share the difference in printing techniques with him. For example, nowadays, when it comes to letterpress, people are looking for texture, and deep impression. During his print making time, letterpress was the norm for printing, so the type was just supposed to kiss the paper lightly. He has a hard time liking the new style, which is super fun to watch.
Why do you love letterpress?
Sigh… SO many things… What I first loved about letterpress was the feel, the texture, the paper. Then, I fell in love with the machine. Have you ever heard its sound? And now, what I love most about it, is that I can hand print beautiful things on a blank piece of paper. My work creates happiness, emotions, love, memories, smiles, and I love that. It can be a fun or loving card, it can be wedding news, or a baby announcement. It’s a vehicle for happiness. And I feel honored and blessed to be able to be the artist who prints this news.
Why do you love sending snail mail?
I’ve always loved snail mail. I was a Pen Pal when I was younger! I used to write 10 page letters to my friends, and I still have them. Growing up, there was no Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, so snail mail was an important part of keeping in touch with my friends. And I’m glad I grew up in this environment. Now, every time I find these letters, it’s pure joy. I love remembering everything we were going through, and the bond we were creating through them. The joy when remembering all these things is the greatest thing about snail mail.
When did you move to Canada? To Edmonton?
I moved to Ontario, Canada 6 years ago from South America. It has always been a dream of mine to have an international experience, and in 2008 I decided I was going to apply for the immigration process to move to Canada. It took me almost 3 years to get the Visa, and it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I’ve been in Edmonton for a little over two years now, and really liking it so far. Ontarians have so much to learn about Edmonton. I didn’t come with high expectations, but I was very positively impressed when I arrived here. There are lots to do and see. Of course I wish the winter was a little shorter, but that’s ok…
When did you decide to leave your day job and launch Uppercase Press? What was your day job prior to this?
When I moved to Edmonton in 2003 I decided it was time to give the big step, and try to live my dream. It wasn’t easy, but I came across this quote the other day that couldn’t be more perfect to what I felt that time: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was greater than the risk it took to bloom” Anais Nin. I know my journey has just started. I’m my biggest apprentice, teacher and critic, but I am ready and open to take the challenge. Before that decision I worked for years in the IT industry with Marketing. My routine was the normal 9-6, Monday to Friday routine. I miss some parts of that, but not enough to make me want to go back. I think IT was just not my thing. Maybe I would be happy with that routine if I had had the opportunity to work with something related to arts.
Describe your typical day at Uppercase.
I don’t like to print with artificial light. So my summer days are different then my winter days. In the summer time I usually get computer work done in the morning, and print in the afternoon as it gets darker later. On winter time it’s the opposite. I leave folding, scoring, cutting, packing, and writing notes for later, so I can do that in front of the TV, drinking a glass of wine.
How often do you do workshops? How can we get in on one?!
I try to offer two workshops a month. I love the workshops. I started offering them when I arrived in Edmonton over two years ago so I could meet people. And it worked. I made amazing connections through them. To register is super easy, just email me at lu@uppercasepress,com. All the dates are posted on my website: uppercasepress.com.
What are three key things to remember when working with a printing press?
Oh there are so many details, but I guess my three main things would be:
- Follow the grid: It’s crucial to have a clean, nice positioned grid on your press. It’s so frustrating when I print something and it gets a little crooked. It happens sometimes, and it’s NOT great at all.
- Less (ink) is more: workshop participants always get impressed how much little ink is needed to print a whole bunch of cards. The main reason for that is that what print makers aim for is for a crispy and clean impression. If you put a little too much oh ink the impression will bleed and look really ugly.
- Watch your hands: when printing presses started to be built, there was no such thing as health and safety. Even the smaller presses can cause a lot of damage. It’s important to remember to keep your hands where you know it’s safe.
What can you tell us about colour mixing? What are three key tips to remember when colour mixing?
Ink mixing is a very challenging stage of the printing process. There are a few things I try to do when I’m mixing ink to try to get as close as possible to the colour required:
- Natural light: I don’t like to mix ink with artificial light. I find it changes the tone of the colour. I even avoid mixing ink on cloudy days.
- A white surface is crucial: No light cream or light grey surfaces. A clean white surface is essential to give you the best results
- Start mixing just a tiny bit and add transparent white after you get to the right colour: if you start adding lots of ink, every time a drop is added to the mix, it takes a while to completely mix it. Working with small amounts is faster and avoids big wastes of material. Transparent white works great when added to the mix just to add volume, without changing the colour.
There are “rules” you must follow in order to get the best end-product (sizing, lines, paper etc.) How do you take an idea from a client and apply it to letterpress, making it original each time?
For sure there are some rules to get the best end-product. As mentioned before using the right ink amount and following the grid are two very important ones. There are two more I would like to add:
- Respect your press: there are lots of different models of letterpress out there, and they will all give different results too. My press for example is a press built for small jobs. Even though sometimes I would love to print bigger pieces, or pieces with bigger and bolder art works, I can’t. I have to respect the size of my press to make sure I will get the best from it.
- Set up properly: preparing the press, and setting it up properly can be very challenging and time consuming, but it’s crucial to a good result.
My aesthetic is very simple. I am a big type fan, and I like simple lines. When I work on applying a client’s idea to letterpress, the first thing is to make sure that the client likes my style. It can be disappointing for both of us if I work on something, and when I share it with the client, he/she was expecting something completely different. So if they are happy with my aesthetic, then it’s already half way through. There are a few tips to applying an idea for letterpress, and being the print maker definitely makes it easier when creating the art. Things like positive x negative, line stroke, the space between shapes, and tons more of small things to take into consideration.
Based on the inspiration behind our collaboration, what’s your favourite summertime escape?
I don’t have one yet. When I have travelled to at least half of the world maybe I’ll be able to choose one. I’ve had the opportunity to travel quite a lot, and of course there are places I remember so fondly, and I would love to go back. But I am so curious that there is something in me that always takes me to places I’ve never been before. So for now, I’m happy with anywhere that will show me a different perspective of life, and if I can be with people I love, and have a good glass of chilled white wine, then it will be definitely be my favourite, at least for that day.
What’s your one must-have item when traveling?
A universal charger adapter.
You can purchase a @PoppyBarley x @Uppercase Press Summer Collection notecard set (now $32) here.