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Meet Julie Karatzis of Cartoules Press in Long Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Julie Karatzis.

Julie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve always loved paper and stationery, and had a special interest in letterpress. I love moving between graphic design and getting my hands dirty. Around the time my fiancé and I were engaged and were planning our Greece wedding (where we’re both from), I took a few printing classes at a local museum for fun. I love the tactile and handmade feel of letterpress – it’s so delicious. Our invitations needed to be bilingual (Greek and English) and of course unique, so I designed them myself, and with the help of the instructor, my fiancé and I printed them together. I was also recently out of grad school, and trying to find work right in the middle of the 2008 recession, so working for myself seemed like the logical next step. I started out doing projects for friends and family – and of course one job lead to another, and I found myself working with clients from all over the world!

I find it thrilling that what I create here in Long Beach gets shipped to one person across the globe, then each of my individual creations are exponentially sent out once again. I feel like each piece that I create is a little bit of art that I get to share.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Creativity is a funny thing – mental blocks can be challenging, so getting out of my element and looking for inspiration is something I’m always working on. Also, these old beasts are high-maintenance and require daily attention. Over the years, I’ve acquired and sold many presses, but currently I work on a 1923 Chandler and Price press. I can’t Yelp a “letterpress repairman,” so it’s up to me to make sure my equipment is running smoothly, that my rollers are in great shape, and when something goes off kilter, I’ve got to troubleshoot it myself. I’m always fixing and tinkering with something on the press.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Cartoules Press – what should we know?
Letterpress printing is an artisanal craft that requires lots of detail and attention, and it’s the original form of printing. Originally wood and metal type were set into the press to achieve the layout and design, but today everything I do is designed on the computer. I take digital files and produce photopolymer plates. These plates are then mounted to a base and loaded into the press. The plate is inked and stamped directly into paper to transfer the ink and impression. This impression is what gives letterpress its unique tactile qualities. Each color in the design gets its own plate and run through the press. So basically, for each color, plates are changed and hand registered, the press is cleaned and re-inked, and the machine is reconfigured for the new color.

I work with all types of clients, mostly brides, and my specialty would be in bilingual invitations. As I mentioned, I started Cartoules Press because I, myself, needed bilingual wedding invitations. I started out doing Greek/English invitations, but have also worked with brides who need other languages as well, including Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian and Dutch. I also create art prints and greeting cards.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Patience and determination. I’ve been tested every day working with these old presses throughout the years, and have faced many mechanical challenges. I also feel like having patience when working with a client who is trying to find their look is important in creating successful relationships too. Guiding a client through the process can be overwhelming for them at times, especially if they come to me not knowing yet exactly what it is they’re looking for. I enjoy asking the right questions to help them get to the invitation suite they’ve always envisioned for their big day. It’s fun to see that light bulb go off for them when they finally know what direction we should go in, and I appreciate that journey we’re on together.

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