Letterpress revival in modern times.
This month we're Runaway with Michelle, owner, designer, and creator of Runaway Press.
The magic of letterpress is that it is nearly a fully, handmade process. Michelle's card/print business Runaway Press has a unique ability to balance an earthy vibe with modernity. Juxtaposing antique type with modern sentiment. Whether you're looking to wholesale or pick a print up for yourself. You'll want some of these.
Michelle was gracious enough to speak with me bout some of her experiences being a business owner and creative. So let's jump in!
What's your name and what's your business?
Hi, dear friends! I'm Michelle of Runaway Press. Some folks call me Meesh!
Was there a burning bush moment or pivot that made you go after this as a business or side-business?
I had been working on art/letterpress/printmaking as Runaway Press as my side-hustle since 2010, but it did not become an actual full-time focus for me until 2014.
In the Fall of 2014, I was sitting at a cubicle computer, working away on a new product launch. I was a graphic designer/product designer for a corporate company in Grand Rapids, MI.
Michelle & her daughter supporting the USPS
It was 9:48pm on a Sunday. That was not an uncommon scenerio. I was a salaried employee and in the office 55+ hours about half the weeks out of the year and about 45+ hours a week the other half. It was creatively, mentally, and emotionally draining. I had been feeling abused for over a year and sitting down staring at a screen for most of my waking hours was really unhealthy for me.
I wanted to actually make something, with my hands. I wanted to get dirty and move my body in new ways. I wanted to work with new materials and mediums and make mistakes that couldn't be reversed with "command Z."
I wanted to learn something new every day. I was ready to jump ship from my safe world of weekly paychecks and dive down into the art of printmaking and being involved in the community art scene. So, I started taking steps toward the end of the plank by planning out my next 6 months. I bulked up my savings account, I built up my inventory on the nights I had off, I got involved with community art projects/installations, and I had a lot of fun experimenting with different ways to express myself, through printmaking and other mediums. When I felt like I had enough guts, I jumped. After I left, it became clear that I did not belong in a corporate world. It felt good to have self-realizations and become better acquainted with 'me,' and know my potential regarding how/what I could contribute to my community.
Photo via instagram, credit : @runawaypress
You're style is very unique. How, as an artist, do you define your point-of-view aesthetically?
I think I classify my style as historical, meaning I use all antique wood type, metal type, printers cuts, and antique characters. I let my tools/materials guide my style. All of the pieces of my compositions have been passed down through many eras, my printers, many projects. Each letter I use holds a story and a history.
All the pieces I use are imperfect, which allows room for imperfection in my own interpretations and use of those characters. Some are worn down in spots, some have dings, and it makes the final prints so interesting. No two letter As look the same when they are printed and I adore that. I believe in the Japanese idea of Wabi-Sabi. These two words come together to define a simple, humble way of being: Appreciating the things around you, finding beauty in the imperfection, and understanding the world's impermanence.
The term works as both an aesthetic and philosophy. Wabi embraces what you have and who you are and alludes to intentional simplicity, humility and being one with nature. Sabi refers to persistence, longevity and the beauty that comes with age. Applying to both things and people, it reveals the earned qualities vs. fabricated qualities.
Photo via instagram, credit : @runawaypress
Show em' how it's done Meesh.
More often than not, we have to hustle to survive and have several irons in the fire at once, what's something you do to keep yourself organized and motivated to keep making?
I'm a full-time mom of a toddler and that makes running a business on my own very challenging. Many days I simply have to choose between sleeping and working on Runaway Press projects. Printing has become kind of an active therapy for me. It's time I have to set aside just for me where I'm in control and have the freedom to express my ideas through printing and composing. So to answer the question, for me to continue on as an artist is essential for my health and mental/emotional well-being.
What's your current muse?
My current and constant muse is nature. Her shapes, her lines, her stories, her knowledge. I'm so in love with Mother Earth.
What's your goal for the next year business-wise?
This may sound silly, but my goal for 2021 is doing the best I can each day and not having goals. Haha!
Lastly, pretend you have an all-expense-paid AirBnB ttay. Where'd you go?
Greece. My Grandma came over from Greece with her family when she was 16. She said almost all the days she remembers are 70 degrees and perfect.