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Conversations with Erica Howard

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erica Howard.

Hi Erica, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I am the owner, designer & letterpress printer of Ruthie and Oliver Letterpress.

I’ve always loved paper. But I guess it truly began when I used to create handmade invitations for friends right out of college (I did NOT major in graphic design, FYI!). That turned into learning the art of calligraphy and hand-lettering. That led to addressing thousands of envelopes for weddings of friends. Word of mouth began spreading and I began lettering for clients I did not even know. Mind you, this was still just a side hustle at the time. So I was busier than I knew what to do with!

As I spent time in the “wedding industry” addressing clients’ invitations, I began to dabble in the design side of invitations again. I have a friend, Anna, that did letterpress during this time; she was amazing at her craft. I just adored all of her letterpress pieces. I become very interested in it and Anna shared so much knowledge with me, even helping me find my letterpress. Her help was truly invaluable to me! And I wouldn’t be in the same place I am today without her help at the beginning.

In saying all that, my husband, Jeremy, and I bought my first letterpress (a Golding Pearl no. 11, circa 1908) in early 2016 on a whim… I didn’t even know how to use it! Everything I know has been completely self-taught through lots of trial and error. LOTS of errors, ha. After we had my son, Oliver in mid-2017, I started doing letterpress/stay-at-home-mom life full time.

My growth with letterpress has been a gradual process. I’ve taken some online classes, even classes to help with the graphic design side of things. Designing for letterpress is a learning process in and of itself. I’ve created everything from greeting cards to wedding invitations.

Today, I work with brands, brides & mamas on party invitations! Each piece is an art that you can touch, and I very much enjoy my “job”.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Smooth road… no. More like a bumpy road with some curves! Ha.

But I’ve truly worked with the greatest clients over the years, and I’m so so thankful they’ve given me a chance! I look at my portfolio from five years ago, and I cringe slightly. I can see my growth in my abilities. I’m sure other creators/designers/artists feel this way at times too!

Learning how to operate a press, challenge #1. Learning how to mix letterpress ink, using a Pantone guide, challenge #2. Learning how to use graphic design software, Adobe Illustrator, for example, challenge #3.

(Remember, I did not learn any of this until AFTER buying a letterpress – and I taught myself). I letterpress using polymer plates, the more modern way to letterpress. I don’t set type. Everything is taken from the computer, broken down into colors, and created into polymer plates that I use to press with. This gives you so much more freedom in text & design.

I could truly keep going on the challenges in letterpress printing. The machine I’m operating is more than 100 years old, so it can challenging some days to get it to press with an even impression.

But more than anything, balancing work while also being a full-time mom was and still is the biggest challenge. I won’t call it a struggle. We get it right most days. But some days, I’m left working late, while also feeling like I didn’t spend any quality time with Oliver.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I mainly focus on letterpress for weddings & brands. I also design & press personalized stationery, birth announcements, and party invitations. I’ve worked on a few larger corporate charity events.

I’ve created some greeting cards that have been sold in local shops in the Nashville area. I have a small Christmas gift wrap line that I designed a few years ago that I’m proud of. It’s always fun to sell at Christmas!

In the fall of 2021, HGTV Magazine reached out. I had one of my Christmas gift tags featured in their December issue. That was so fun to have something I created in a national publication! It felt surreal picking up an issue at the grocery store and seeing my work! My son, Oliver thought I was the coolest.

My work stands out because it’s unique to each client. Everything is one of a kind. I like to use lots of colors & bring personality to paper.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Shots by Cheyenne

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