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Meet the Maker: Elizabeth Weil of Paperwheel Press

One of the best parts of my journey with Brit + Co. so far has been the opportunity to discover so many talented makers. Along the way I’ve seen everything from beautiful handmade jewelry to 3D-printed baked goods. I’m constantly inspired and humbled by the people who are redefining what it means to make every day, and we’re excited to continue featuring the experts who have really stunned us with their creative skills.

Elizabeth Weil is one of these makers. She founded Paperwheel Press, a letterpress company in the Bay Area. By day, Elizabeth works in technology in Silicon Valley. By night (and on weekends), she combines her passions for hand-crafted tactile letterpress printing and the art of the handwritten note to create simple but beautiful cards and stationery. She’s also known for printing designs that feature your favorite tech (think your iPhone) in incredibly clever ways. Today I want to share a little bit more about Elizabeth and her work. Stay tuned at the end of the interview – she has a special surprise exclusive to Brit + Co. readers over in her swoonworthy Etsy shop!

Give us a brief intro of yourself.
I grew up near Sacramento, California. My mom is a 2nd grade teacher and my dad, a marine biologist. I started a woodworking business when I was 9 and was one of those kids that saved every penny. I came to Stanford and majored in Economics and got my masters in Engineering. I never left the Bay Area after that. I started my career in tech startups, then venture capital. When Twitter started taking off, I jumped to start the CorpDev team there in 2009. Recently, I came back to the venture capital world, where I’m currently a Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. I started Paperwheel in 2006 when I could feel the right side of my brain yearning to build something and create. My letterpress business now provides the crucial balance I crave.

How did you first get started with letterpress?
It all started with a single business card. I was at a business lunch, and someone handed me their card. I noticed the unique beauty and asked what type of printing that was. The person said it was “letterpressed” and then I tucked away the card. I remember getting home and looking up everything I could about letterpress, the history, how it is done, and why it is so unique. Over time I started hunting for a press and found an 85 year old man selling his. It was still covered in red ink, but my husband knew me well enough to force me to purchase it–saying I’d regret it if I didn’t. That started it all.

What kind of press do you use?
I print on a 1923 Chandler & Price letterpress. A “C&P.” It weighs about 1600 pounds. I hand-feed each individual piece of 100% cotton, thick paper into the press by hand.

How do you come up with your witty designs? Do you design them yourself?
Everything is designed in-house! My best designs have actually come from cards that I’ve wanted to send someone. For example, the “I love you more than this: [iphone image]” card was actually something I designed as a joke. I printed it and told my husband that I thought he should give it to me. He tweeted a photo of it, and the demand started to fly from there. :)

Which project are you proudest of?
I love the wide swath of work I’ve done for both well-known tech companies on their corporate printing, as well as for individuals that take pride in having exquisite personal stationery to write handwritten notes. I love when these relationships start with one project, and then continue on to personal wedding invites, then baby announcements, party invitations and more.

How do you maintain a side hobby and a full time job?
Less sleep, focus on efficiency, and always feeling like I’m doing a bad job at everything. :) Oh, and lots of list making. The busier I get, the more I weed out what isn’t important. I don’t watch any of the random YouTube videos my husbands sends me. I also find it amazing how much one can cram in each day, when you just know it has to get done.

What other creative hobbies do you have?
I’m an ultramarathon runner, so I’m not sure if that is creative, but it does provide a good “away” outlet where I can think. Some of my best design ideas have come from the middle of LONG runs. I do love to cook and entertain. At Twitter, I was fortunate enough to be able to focus on employee experience design. I love thinking through the “little things” and the ways we can charm and delight people in unexpected ways.

How do you think the analog world is changing as the digital world continues to boom?
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the art of the handmade. I’ve always defended my need for essentially two careers because of the right brain/left brain balance it provides me. I think this translates to a balance that people so digitally connected are finding that they crave. As technology takes over nearly every area of our lives in some way, I find that people start to appreciate the time, quality, and care that goes into making something by hand. I even look at it like a badge that shows that you have awesome taste, and are cool enough to have slowed down paid attention to detail. :)

Now we’re on to the best part! Elizabeth put together a Geek Letterpress Bundle exclusive to Brit + Co. readers. For just $24 you can get 5 of Paperwheel’s cutest and geekiest cards. That’s 5 cards for the price of 4. We highly recommend heading grabbing this bundle before they’re all gone!