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Personalized Printing

The unique process behind beautiful invitations

By Lena Ellwanger

Photos By Arden Haley

Stationery may not be high on your list of wedding-planning priorities, but it is of utmost importance to your guests. After all, a save-the-date gives them the first glimpse into your big day. And the much-awaited invitation reveals all of the delightful details.

W hen you take extra time and care with the selection of these paper mementos, it will be noticed.

Jodi Bortz, owner of Blue Canary Letterpress, offers an especially unique printed product — with each piece individually created on a 1921 Chandler & Price letterpress, using paper she has cut by hand.

Here, she fondly describes her work:

Can you explain the process of letterpress printing?

Letterpress printing is an old style of printing where raised type or images are pressed into paper to create a design. You can only print one color of ink at a time, so if there are multiple colors, you have to press each page individually as many times as there are colors. Originally, letterpress printers used metal type lined up one letter at a time to create text. Images were created using wood cuts or copper etched plates. Today, I create my designs on a computer and have the plates developed on a photopolymer plastic that takes the image and creates the raised type and imagery. I use this to transfer the image onto paper.

How did you get into it?

I was working with friends at their independent publishing company, helping out with their holiday rush. It was such great fun working together, we thought we should continue with something we could do together. The idea of letterpress printing came up because they are fans of the medium. My dad was a printer — he did offset printing which is a different process — but it seemed like an opportunity to follow his lead. I still use his ink knife to mix my colors. Our first printing business was Haywire Letterpress, which focused on lovingly printed irreverent greeting cards. My friends were offered a great opportunity, so I bought them out of the press and rebranded as Blue Canary Letterpress. My focus now is on custom design and printing such as weddings, event invitations and business branding.

Are the designs limited because of the process?

I think the limitations are something that makes the work unique and beautiful. Letterpress works best with line drawings. It’s also best to keep the number of colors limited. Colors are pressed one at a time and have to be lined up each time. The more colors, the more difficult the design is to press.

What are the advantages of letterpress? Letterpress is timeless. It shows quality and attention to detail. Letterpress paper usually contains cotton, so you can feel the texture and the weight of it. Letterpress can be classic or modern.

Can you physically see the difference?

You can feel the texture of the letters and the designs in the paper because of the process of pressing them into the paper. Letterpress invitations are not only beautiful to look at, but beautiful to touch.

How often do you do save-the-dates and invitations for weddings?

I work with several couples every year. I only work with one or two couples at a time so that I can work closely with them through the process and give their invitation suite the attention they deserve. Sometimes a couple just needs an invitation and RSVP, but sometimes the invitation suite can include save-the-dates, destination maps and accommodation cards, or other unique pieces. I like to spend time getting to know the couple, their wedding plans and their style so that I can come up with a design that fits them perfectly.

How far in advance would someone need to contact you if they wanted personalized invitations?

For destination weddings, I definitely recommend sending save-the-dates as soon as you know when and where it will be so that friends and family can make their arrangements to be there. For traditional weddings, it’s good to have the initial consultation about six months to a year in advance. I work with each couple to develop a timeline of what they will need, working backward from the big day. ... Every couple is different and every wedding is different.


Blue Canary Letterpress is located in Chestertown in Kent County.

Email for inquiries.

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