The Papersmith Series - Andy and Jane Shannon | Minneapolis

The Papersmith Series - Andy and Jane Shannon | Minneapolis

Bench Pressed cards are the ones we collect in bulk with no particular occasion in mind, saving them up for a rainy day, for any moment to put a smile on someone’s face.*

Andy and Jane are the husband and wife team who own and operate Bench Pressed. The letterpress business was born out of their mutual love for stationery, illustration and design and was officially launched in 2013. Their hand-printed greetings cards are defined by hand-printed type, vivid colour, and above all, a big bundle of wit. This playful and authentic aesthetic comes as a result of hours of doodling, inspired by notes taken from the everyday things that make them laugh.

A handful of years on, and they are still both as excited about the creation process as they were when they began. We caught up with Jane to hear all the ins and outs.

Hello Jane and Andy. Tell us about how Bench Pressed came to be. What are your backgrounds, and your roles within the company today?

Hi! Bench Pressed is a small letterpress and design company based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We, Jane & Andy are the owners and operators of Bench Pressed.

Andy has a background in illustration and design and Jane has a background in retail, specifically in stationery. The two of us started throwing around card ideas that made us both laugh, and that’s when we looked at each other and realized that we could actually do this! Bench Pressed began when we bought a small table top press and put it in our spare bedroom in 2012. Bench Pressed has grown very organically since then. We don't have titles, but Andy is in charge of design and illustration and Jane is in charge of day-to-day, while we both work on concepting and art direction.

You’ve set up shop in Minnesota. What hidden gems do you like to visit in your neighbourhood?

We are located in the Seward neighborhood in South Minneapolis. This is a great and exciting neighborhood because there is always something going on. Our favorite hidden gem is a little ramen spot with only a few tables inside of a Asian grocery store. It's delicious!

How do sketchbooks, notebooks, pencils and stationery play a part in your creative process? Do you have any favourite tools for creating (and tell us about your beloved printing presses!)

Our presses are the foundation of our business. We have three large presses, two Heidelberg Windmills and one Chandler & Price. Day to day we use the Heidelbergs because they can handle more production. We still have, and use, the small table top press for demonstrations.

All of our artwork is done by Andy, by hand. He uses pen and pencil on paper which we then scan into the computer. He's tried using a tablet and other digital tools, but he really needs the physical tools to get the ideas out of his head and onto the paper. He uses Pentel brush pens, Pentel sign pens, Micron fat-tips, a Japanese Brush pen and whatever mechanical pencil that he hasn't lost yet. We go to our favorite art supply store in the Twin Cities, Wet Paint and buy these pens by the handful. That way, when one gets lost or accidentally is left without the cap, he can continue to work and we don't have to go back to the store each time.

We really really want to take a peek into the many Moleskine notebooks in which you doodle. What’s tickled you lately and made it onto a card?

Most of our cards come from us doodling and talking about it. Sometimes I'll go through Andy's notebooks and find something that sparks an idea. Recently I found a little drawing of a mouse that said house mouse - which became our new New Home card, ‘New House, New Mouse’.

This year, we’re making an effort to write more letters! We’re going to send love letters to all the outstanding people in our lives more regularly. Have you sent or received a special letter recently?

I haven't received any letters recently, but I did just rediscover a letter that my late grandfather wrote to me. When I was young, I loved writing letters. My grandfather not only humored me but encouraged me and became my pen pal. He would write to me on his typewriter and sign the bottom with a heavy fountain pen. I love that I have these letters that he wrote to me especially now that he's no longer with us.

The Get Heard postcards are such a fantastic idea. What spurred this on?

Thank you! We made the Get Heard postcards because there is something really intimidating about starting a conversation with someone that you don't know. Especially with someone who is (hopefully) an expert in their field. We wanted to come up with a way for everyone to start the conversation and still make it very personal for the person writing. Because for a real democracy to work, everyone needs to have their voice heard, especially those that have systematically been left out of the conversation. We've been trying to get these out into the world as much as possible, which is why they come packaged with stamps -- so that there is no excuse not to send them.

How do you both enjoy a day off?

On a perfect day off we would take our dogs and our son Aaron to our favorite outdoor restaurant in Minneapolis, Sea Salt, which is located inside a public park next to a waterfall. We'd sit outside in the sunshine and eat oysters and drink beer. But, right now there's snow on the ground in Minnesota so i think our perfect day would be curling up on the couch with take out and watching a Netflix marathon.

Thank you!

Follow Jane and Andy on Instagram.

Images © Bench Pressed and 2nd Truth Photography 2018

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