Category Archives: business

Watercolor + Letterpress Invites


Over the years Rachel has come up with some pretty ambitious designs that always end up causing me a fair amount of stress. The payoff though, is that they always turn out really great! The same goes for her most recent wedding invite design. The design consisted of three very labor intensive elements; hand drawn flowers and leaves, watercolor, and of course letterpress printing.

Normally, the thought of watercolor painting 150 invites would be daunting, but fortunately the bride and groom were excited to get involved in the creative process and get their hands dirty. So Rachel and I, along with the bride and groom, and our close friends Liz and Eric (the groom is Eric’s brother) spent roughly three and a half hours painting the watercolor portion of the invites.

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In order to get the water color portion to ultimately line up correctly we used stencils made from test prints of the invites. The night before we painted, Rachel cut out the stencils and I painted them with clear nail polish to keep the paper from deteriorating when wet.


At first it was a litter nerve-wracking having five amateurs doing so much of the painting, plus having the bride and groom there. But we quickly learned that the bride and groom were very go-with-the-flow and the painting turned out wonderfully.


The final step was to do the letterpress printing of the design on the top of the watercolor. I had a small margin of error since we only painted 160 invites and needed 150. I had a few hiccups along the way, but in the end they turned out better than I could have expected. Once again, one of Rachel’s ambitious designs paid off!

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And here is the final product! What do you think of the watercolor letterpress combo?


Why Letterpress?

I thought I’d give a brief background as to how we decided to get into this whole letterpress business, but first off you might be asking yourself, what is letterpress? Letterpress is an antiquated form of printing. Before the digital age, all print media was printed on printing presses. Fonts were made up of individual letters and characters cast in lead or carved from wood. Each letter had to be set one at a time to form words, sentences, and paragraphs, which would then make up an entire book, newspaper–  you name it. Though printing this way has now become obsolete for mass production, letterpress has had a resurgence over the past few years in the stationery market due to its tactile appeal and aesthetic.

I became aware of letterpress through Rachel. She would point out cards and various other media printed via letterpress and point out the unique characteristics. Throughout our relationship Rachel has taught me a lot about art, design, beauty, and aesthetic. She’s helped me fall in love with a world I was never aware of before and like many other things I fell in love with letterpress. However, at the time neither of us knew much about the letterpress process. That all changed on a trip to Half Moon Bay, California where we stumbled upon a stationery store who’s owner dabbled in letterpress. We got to talking to the owner and he demonstrated the process and even let us try out his table top Chandler and Price platen press. The letterpress seeds were planted!


DSC_0595The trip to Half Moon Bay was almost three years ago and in the first couple of years since we causally threw around the idea of starting a letterpress business. Rachel had here own graphic design business called Birdy Blue for a couple of years and we thought maybe we could do something similar, but with letterpress, but it wasn’t until our son Archie was born two years ago that we really started talking about it seriously. I was starting to get sick of my line of work and corporate life and we desired to spend more time together as a family. Rachel coming from the design back ground and me coming from an engineering background and being pretty handy mechanically, letterpress just made sense.

In the past year and a half I’ve taken a letterpress class at Minnesota Center for Books Arts where they have a great letterpress program and studio. I’ve also been spending my Tuesday nights there at their open studio getting my hands on the presses as much as possible. I’m taking another letterpress class this summer and about a month ago we bought our own press, a little table top Kelsey platen press. We’re pretty much covered in the design department with Rachel at the helm, and I’m becoming increasingly competent as a press operator. Our main push lately has been figuring out the business side of things, which is definitely a challenge, but the big picture keeps us motivated. We hope to have Paravel Press officially launched as early as this fall, so stayed tuned for more to come!

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What You Can Expect

If you’ve had a chance to read through some of our earlier posts or our About page you may have noticed a theme in terms of what this blog is about. We want to give a glimpse into our slightly chaotic lives (I [Darren] am currently working full time, Rachel is a full-time Mom at home with Archie, we’re currently living with Rachel’s parents, we’ll be selling our house soon that we are renting out for the year) as we start a letterpress business. It’s a lot to balance and our hope is that it’s a compelling story for you to be apart of as it unfolds.
We also like the idea of doing this blog together, for practical reasons and because we each have a unique perspective to bring to the table. That being said, there’s more to our lives than just work, parenting, and starting a business. We’re also planning to post about things we love, things we’re passionate about, things we’re thinking about or wrestling with and maybe just simply posting a picture or quote.
You can expect posts on anything from art, design, food (we really love food!), nature, music, marriage, faith, travel, funny stories, crafting, books, culture, and whatever other crazy things pop into our heads. Thanks again for checking us out, we hope you stay awhile 🙂 And we hope to meet others through this process…community can be found online (even though it’s not quite the same)!

Q & A time


We thought we would do an old fashion 7th grade style Q & A, cause they are always fun to read, right? (These are also all listed on our about page).

  1. What are some of your favorite books?

    Rachel: Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry, The Great Divorce by CS Lewis, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, Zeitoun by Dave Eggers and The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry.
    Darren:  Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller, Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour, Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling, CS Lewis’ Space Trilogy, and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.

  2. What’s your favorite kind of day?

    Darren: A summer day spent with Rachel and Archie doing fun adventurous things and eating good food.
    Rachel: Eating, exploring in the sun, laughing, and resting.

  3. What makes you laugh the most?

    Darren: Rachel and Archie both make me laugh a lot and poop jokes.
    Rachel: Darren and Archie.

  4. Where did you grow up?

    Darren: I moved around a lot growing up, but spent most of my childhood in Montana. My family has been in western Montana since I was in the 8th grade.
    Rachel: In a Southwest suburb of Minneapolis.

  5. What is your favorite movie?

    Darren: Into the Wild.
    Rachel: Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.
    Darren and Rachel: Nacho Libre

  6. How do you take your coffee?

    Darren: I recently started drinking coffee for the first time in my life. That being said, I take 2-4 raw sugars depending on the size and a little cream.
    Rachel: I recently started drinking coffee too because I am not a morning person, but was forced to wake up early with Archie. Haha. I like my coffee black.

  7. Favorite things to do in Minneapolis?

    Darren: Biking/walking/running the many trails, going to concerts, eating at the many great restaurants, exploring new areas.
    Rachel: Walking on the Stone Arch Bridge, the Mill City Farmer’s Market, going to the Salvation Army/Target Thrift store, driving along the Minnehaha Parkway and Birchwood Cafe.
    birchwood cafe

  8. What are some of your favorite bands/artists?

    Darren: Thrice, blink-182, Brand New, Bon Iver, Jonsi, Eisley, Prissy Clerks, Jenny Lewis, Sufjan Stevens, Laura Marling, Jon Foreman, Page CXVI.
    Rachel: Bon Iver, Jonsi, …pretty much all the bands that Darren listed minus Blink 182.

  9. Where did you go to college?

    Darren: I went to Montana State University Northern in Havre, Montana.
    Rachel: Northwestern College, St. Paul, MN.

  10. Name a favorite place you liked to visit growing up.

    Darren: I loved going to my Grandparent’s farm, I still do.

  11. Siblings?

    Darren: I have one sibling, my sister Stephanie who is eight years younger.
    Rachel: I have two younger brothers.

  12. What’s your favorite way to wake up and what’s the first thing you do?

    Darren: I like to wake up on my own and the first thing I do is go pee… then find some food.
    Rachel: I like to wake up after having good dreams, and the first thing I do is put lotion on my hands.

  13. Your favorite item of clothing and why?

    Darren: I have black Further Seems Forever hoodie with a red butterfly on it. I don’t know why I like it, I just do… it’s me.
    Rachel: Currently my one pair of skinny jeans that fit really well. Lately I have been wearing them like 4 days a week.

  14. What’s your favorite sport to watch?

    Darren: Tennis.
    Rachel: Downhill Skiing

  15. What’s the best live concert you’ve been to?

    Darren: Here are a few, Anathallo at the Varsity Theater in Dinkytown, Jonsi at the Pantages in Minneapolis, Bon Iver at the Orpheum in Minneapolis. Other great live bands I’ve seen: Thrice, Jimmy Eat World, Manchester Orchestra, Brand New, and mewithoutYou.
    Rachel: Pretty much what Darren said 🙂

  16. What’s your favorite mode of transportation?

    Darren: I don’t really enjoy driving and hate flying. Biking and walking are nice and I like trains.
    Rachel: Hmm, biking is most ideal, but I drive most of the time, and have realized driving more than 10 mins stresses me out.

  17. What’s your favorite season?

    Darren: I like them all, but I’m partial to summer.
    Rachel: Fall, if only it could last a smidge longer each year!

  18. If you could have any animal as a pet what would it be?

    Darren: If they were completely tame as a dog I’d love to have some sort of bear as a pet. Polar bear, grizzly bear, panda, etc…
    Rachel: I’m not a big animal lover, so that wouldn’t be very fun for me, mainly because I am allergic to a lot of animals.

  19. Who inspires you creatively?

    Darren: Growing up my Mom was a big inspiration creatively. Design wise Rachel is a big inspiration, I love her design and she’s a big encouragement to me as I explore my creative side. Some other designers and artists I’m inspired by: Ben from Studio on Fire, Jessica Hische, Jon Klassen, CB Sherlock and Jon Contino.
    Rachel: Children’s book illustrators from the late 1800’s, Katie Daisy, old floral fabric, nature, and Alicia Paulson.

  20. Why are you getting into letterpress?

    Darren: I’m a detail-oriented person and tend to be mechanically minded. I enjoy working with my hands, fixing things, and problem-solving. Additionally I have a creative side and have had a desire to express that more. Letterpress is a perfect mix of my mechanical side and my creative side.
    Rachel: It’s neat to work with something so tactile in the Digital Age. I love combining the old with the new. I am not a purist…I like that we are able to make plates from designs made on the computer and then make something super tactile and beautiful from that process. And more than anything I like the fact that we have found something to share and hopefully build a future with. The goal of letterpress is to build a more seamless life, where our work is our life and our life is our work.

    Thanks for reading our Q & A! Are their any things that we mentioned that are your favorites too? Is so, please share!