Photography by Porter Loves.
“Using handset type is a way of preserving this age-old craft. It’s a way to preserve history while still making contemporary things that apply to daily life,” says Lindsay Schmittle.
With techniques that date back to the 15th century, Gingerly Press founder Lindsay Schmittle uses handset type to create letterpress prints and products. Lindsay pairs the traditional technique with modern form by crafting her notebooks, recipe and note cards, and art prints with geometric shapes and an earthy color palette. Since the business began in 2013, Gingerly Press has become a notable presence in the letterpress community and creates beautiful goods for everyday life.
Every letter, line, dot, and tree on Gingerly Press products are made possible by wood and metal type that Lindsay manually sets in her press. Lindsay doesn’t use digital illustrations to select fonts and colors; instead, she pulls from cabinets full of type in her studio. Over the years, her collection has grown. Retired printers and artists pass their equipment to her in order to keep the medium alive.
Many of Gingerly Press’s products are inspired by nature and capture glimpses of the outdoors. Lindsay has a niche audience of nature lovers, which bloomed after she published The Printed Walk series. The series reflects on moments from Lindsay’s thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, designating one print for every one-hundred miles. The prints point to and highlight the beauty in the mundane. A copy of the collection is now stored in the Library of Congress.
As a small business partner of the National Forest Foundation, Gingerly Press also donates funds to plant trees every year. Lindsay factored in the one dollar it costs to plant a sapling into her products. Now, her customers are also actively supporting healthy forests with every product they buy.
When clients commission Gingerly Press for a project, Lindsay works with them collaboratively. She gathers insight into their aesthetic and goal and pulls from her large collection of type to create a truly unique piece of artwork. Lindsay has also developed a way to digitize her proofs, saving time and energy during the process.
Duolingo, the language-learning website that is headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, commissioned Gingerly Press to re-invent their logo for a greeting card. With full creative freedom, Lindsay used her own color palette and geometric shapes for the product, which the company sent to 300 employees.
Getting to this level of success as an artist and business owner developed over time. In 2013, Lindsay bought her own letterpress and started her business out of her parents’ garage. She didn’t have any business training but learned skills along the way. Some podcasts and books that have been particularly helpful to Lindsay are Being Boss, The Goal Digger Podcast, Creative Pep Talk, Art Inc., and You Are a Badass At Making Money.
One of Lindsay’s biggest learning curves was learning how to produce dozens of prints consistently. Before, Lindsay spent a lot of time creating challenging lockups for prints that wouldn’t turn a profit. To create a viable business, she simplified her designs and re-evaluated her production process based on how much she would ultimately sell her product. She also established administration and bookkeeping systems and learned how to cohesively assess her labor, cost of raw materials, tax, overhead charges, and wholesale profits.
When Covid-19 forced small businesses in the Pittsburgh region to close, Lindsay lost access to her studio for two weeks. She had also been creating BYOB workshops at her studio and was prepping for craft fairs. With two income streams cut off this year, Lindsay pivoted to focus on her website SEO, online marketing, and digital sales.
“It’s been great to see how my audience has stepped up to help get us through this time. Losing craft fairs is such a big chunk of income. As a self-employed person, I’m also allowed to be on partial unemployment. That’s my safety net right now, which has allowed me to keep creating products and launch them online to keep sales coming in. I’m very thankful for that.”
Lindsay has also found ways to collaborate with other artists and create garage-sale style pop-ups so she can meet customers in person. On December 12, 2020, Gingerly Press will be selling some products at Adda Bazaar on Penn Avenue, where folks can grab a hot beverage and shop.
Throughout her eforever membership, her peers have helped her stay accountable to her business goals.
“The best part of the group is the accountability that comes from meeting with awesome people every month and sharing your goals. I’m definitely somebody who overloads my to-do list. It’s been a good way to be reasonable about what I can get done, which helps me with my own self-worth and mental health.”Lindsay Schmittle
In the spring, Lindsay developed a financial assessment tool with her mom and shared it with her group. The tool allowed Lindsay to evaluate every cost that went into each product and calculate what she should charge to reach her desired profit margin. With the tool, she realized that she was spending three dollars per large journal to get gridded interior pages outsourced at Kinkos. With the amount of money it took to produce 80 notebooks, she bought a laser printer and now prints the pages herself.
“I now save myself three dollars on every single large journal. I never would have had that mindset if I wasn’t looking at the numbers really intensely. I felt like I had a wealth of knowledge that I needed to share with these other women. We were talking about money anyway and it’s applicable to everybody.”
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