“As of this summer, Egg Press lives on the 3rd floor of the School House Electric & Supply Co. building in Portland, OR. Built in the 1910’s our presses fit right in with the vibe of the space. The walls are brick, the floors are wood, the ceilings have huge beams an in some random spots, ornamental tin ceilings. Our offices are separated from our print room by a wall of windows. Our furniture is a mix of mid-century office and industrial with a custom white oak conference table which was designed and made locally. We have nice light from the south and west and directly to the east the trains go by at least 10 times in a day. The Schoolhouse Electric showroom is on the ground floor and it’s great to be surrounded daily by such rich offerings.
We begin in the design offices where Kara Yanagawa and I (Tess Darow) spend most of our time designing. We sit side by side in older Herman Miller office chairs (ah, the Equa.). We have an inspiration wall that has both magnetic paint as well as chalkboard paint – it was freshly painted at the time of this photo, since then it’s become our central list keeper which helps us schedule and prioritize deadlines. When we start a new design project we often spend time looking through books and brainstorming ideas. We love going to our central library and to the Kinokunia book store for inspiration. Our print room offers inspiration too. From the old presses to the colors that we mix, sometimes it’s nice to spend time in there with the printers watching designs come off the press.”
-Tess Darro, Founder, Egg Press.
Tess Darrow started Egg Press in Portland, Oregon as an outlet to combine her passion for graphic design with her degree in textile design from the University of Washington, where she began letterpress printing. Tess heads the Egg Press creative team and works closely with Kara Yanagawa to design 100+ card styles per year. Egg Press is often called upon by some of the world’s leading companies (Herman Miller, Intel, MoMA, Nike, Adidas, Mercy Corps) to help with specialized communications projects. Collectively the Egg Press team is adept at maintaining their creative entrepreneurial spirit while understanding the product creation timelines of large multi-national corporations. They do this every day for their 1000 plus boutique retailers. (Photos of Egg Press space by Shelly Sjogren)
FROM THE DESK OF: How do you work?
EGG PRESS: In all, the shop is very collaborative. All the printers weigh in on new designs, and for the most part we all know what the others are working on. Kara and I design together and are joined at the hip. We tried sitting in different offices in our new space (because we suddenly had so much more room) but we lasted less than a week. As inefficient as it sounds to work together on most design work, we fuel one another and have such a good time that it shows in what we do.
One has to wonder if the passion for the tactile medium is a reaction to everything now being online.
FYD: What is your favorite sentimental object at your workspace and why?
EP: One of our favorite sentimental objects is a painted (faded red) wooden script “cards” cut-out sign that was a gift years ago from a friend. He found it at a vintage shop in Portland. It’s pretty huge in scale. It looms over the doorway from the print room to the offices and is a reminder of what we do.
If only there was more time to think about color…
FYD: What is your favorite work tool?
EP: We couldn’t do anything without our sumi brush pens and our favorite Craftsman press. And Macs, too. Plus our Tivoli audio. Is chocolate a work tool?
FYD: When did you see a shift in traditional invitations to more boutique, personalized cards like yours?
EP: Because my background was in textile design, I was initially looking for quick ways to print pattern, and sort of stumbled into letterpress. This was in 1995. Very few card lines at that time, if any, were making letterpress cards with allover pattern. In the last six to eight years, there has been a flood of letterpress cards using allover pattern, and an increased interest in the medium in general. The resurgence of letterpress printing has coincided with the increase of digital communication. One has to wonder if the passion for the tactile medium is a reaction to everything now being online.
FYD: Over the 10 years plus you’ve been operating; how has the work at Egg changed?
EP: It’s changed more than I can say. We are getting more efficient with our systems and more specialized in our tasks. Many of us have worked together for so long that we have a great sense of how to work with each other. We have also gotten nimble in ways that allow us to (sometimes) look a bit beyond the tasks at hand.
FYD: How did your collaboration with Angela Adams come about?
EP: It was such a flattering proposal she (Angela) approached me. Though that kind of collaboration wasn’t something we’d been planning to do, it happened very naturally. I love how down-to-earth Angela is and after years of admiring her work, it was at first sort of a trip finding myself exchanging emails with her.
FYD: What is your short list of textile designers would you like to collaborate?
Is chocolate a work tool?
EP: I am attracted to colors that at first glance seem a little off but paired with just the right thing end up being incredibly rich. We find color inspiration everywhere – from from vintage paint swatches and textiles to industrial buildings and the local yarn store. When we were a lot younger, my best friend and I would talk on the phone about color. We still love to talk about color and at one point her husband called that kind of esoteric talk “curtains and emotions”. If only there was more time to think about color…
FYD: Talk about your printing press process. Does the old school use of employing machinery and metal keep your prints authentic?
EP: The process is weirdly slow and fast and both technical and magical at the same time. Setting up a job can sometimes be tedious and time-consuming, but the minute you see a finished product, this feeling of excitement comes, and the labor in getting there is forgotten. We design on a fairly short timeline, sometimes designing cards only two months before they are printed and sent to stores and reps.
FYD: What’s currently inspiring in the design world?
EP: I am always attracted to textiles, whether it’s in textiles old and new, or exploring knitting on my own. I love knitting because it’s an introspective time to think about design and color and is very different from paper. Right now, I feel most inspired by the craft movement and am impressed by how many young people are mastering practical skills and becoming craftspeople. That’s inspiring on so many levels.