Contact Us

If you have questions about our products, custom work, or if you have general questions about bookbinding, letterpress, or toolmaking we would love to hear from you!


Nashville, Tennessee 37211

Crowing Hens Bindery is a one-woman bindery and letterpress print shop, selling handmade blank books, letterpress printed stationery, limited edition fine art prints, unique book jewelry & letterpress printed decorative papers. As the owner of a Nashville-based private business, I do my best to honor the heritage of fine craft and art that saturates my community and region. All of my products are designed and made by hand in Nashville, Tennessee from high quality materials available using traditional bookbinding techniques. I aspire to create beautiful, useful work that becomes a part of your everyday life.

I am no machine.

Blog

Bookbinding, printmaking, and toolmaking are elements of my business and my profession but they're not necessarily in step with today's fast paced digital culture. 

This blog, "Meet Mary" will be an opportunity for me to demystify my work and allow me to describe my products and their manufacture in greater detail. Whether I'm working on a production run for a new run of springbacks, developing a new line of decorative papers, or experimenting with new techniques or materials for boutique tools, my goal is for you to be able to see my work in progress and get to know me as a person, craftsman, and small business owner.

I am no machine.

Mary Sullivan

When accurate registration is vital & because nothing is ever perfectly square, flip your paper.

Occasionally it occurs to me, especially after craft shows, that most people automatically assume that the paper products that they buy, say postcards or greeting cards, are printed from precut sheets. This is a half truth.

The sheets do come precut, like these 26x40" #mohawkvia sheets from @mohawkpaper cut from massive rolls & in order for me to use them for cards, they need to be cut down into smaller sheets & accurately. Because I'm no machine & I have no large pneumatic monster guillotine this means cutting down the sheets by hand. 

Paper comes in standard sizes depending on the weight of the paper and the manufacturer's specifications. Almost always it will need to be cut down before it can be used in a bookbinding or letterpress printing application. This is my latest order from Mohawk Paper. I use their papers exclusively, with only a few exceptions.

Paper comes in standard sizes depending on the weight of the paper and the manufacturer's specifications. Almost always it will need to be cut down before it can be used in a bookbinding or letterpress printing application. This is my latest order from Mohawk Paper. I use their papers exclusively, with only a few exceptions.

The thickness of the paper also limits how many I can cut at a time. In this case, the sheets are rather thick & my Kutrimmer blade can only handle 3 at a time. For postcards, each of these large sheets will need to be cut a total of 6 grain-short & 6 grain-long, for a total of 42 individual cuts per sheet.

Every printer, like me, has to make these cuts & while some are blessed with huge behemoth guillotines, many of us are cutting them like this. Likewise, letterpress printers will be using the 42-times-cut-smaller sheets to print cards one at a time, one color at a time by hand using nothing more than muscle, a press & ink, or if they're lucky they'll be assisted by a treadle or an outdated noisy motor.

Things like treadles or heavy motorized equipment don’t make the job of cutting or printing an effortless process, mind you. They can make it a little easier, but what these conveniences really offer is efficiency. However, with these conveniences and efficiencies come something that seasoned printers and bookbinders know all too well, an exponentially greater likelihood of accidents. Ask any job printer in their 50’s or 60’s to show their hands and you’ll likely see a mangled finger or a digit missing a knuckle and probably a colorful anecdote to go along with it.

The point is that no matter the equipment that a printer or bookbinder is blessed with, every stage of the process takes significant effort, attention, skill, and patience. There is no easy way out with this kind of work.

Letterpress printed cards are printed one at a time, one color at a time. This is the first color for my Gnome Birthday card, which, in completion, was printed from three different linoleum blocks that I carved by hand from an original drawing. For linoleum blocks, just like metal or wood type, everything is backwards.

Letterpress printed cards are printed one at a time, one color at a time. This is the first color for my Gnome Birthday card, which, in completion, was printed from three different linoleum blocks that I carved by hand from an original drawing. For linoleum blocks, just like metal or wood type, everything is backwards.

I say this because it is important to me for people to know why I do what I do the way I do. I love the process. Every part. Enough so that I am totally unaware of that stupid tongue thing I'm doing in the video above. I do it because I respect the work that it takes to do it well and the equipment I depend on enough not to cut corners.

I don't say these things to criticize consumers on their biases regarding the prices of goods and services. What I do realize as a small business owner and someone who makes all of my goods by hand is that there is a colossal disconnect between the things that people buy and the curiosity or knowledge of where their things actually come from. Don't get me wrong, even as a maker I am guilty of raising my eyebrow at hefty price tags for "artisan" goods, but mostly because I live on a modest budget and my understanding of most other skilled trades is woefully limited. This is where education and appreciation plays a major role.

Part of my business as a bookbinder, printmaker, papermaker, and jeweler is in the making of tangible goods. Another part of my job as an entrepreneur is a responsibility that I feel to educate my customers about how things are made, where they're made, and who makes them. That is my ultimate goal. I want to build an educated and appreciative clientele that recognizes the effort that goes into producing the items that I make and acknowledges that the pricing of that item reflects the effort it took by one woman in Nashville, TN to bring that object into being from conception to the shelf.

So consider this the next time you visit a stationery store or a letterpress shop & balk at a $5 price tag for a #letterpress printed greeting card or a $2 postcard. Think of this video & the unseen paper cuts, bruises, torn rotator cuffs & missing or mangled digits sustained by the printers on the other end of those impeccably printed cards. We're not doing this to get rich. We're doing it because we can't stand to do anything else. Because we love the work. And I hope you love it too!

*My online store will soon be flooded with a slew of new stationery items including postcards, greeting cards, and mini cards so please check back soon or subscribe on my home page to receive updates on new products, as well as coupons and where I'll be selling my goods around Nashville, TN. Follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and for the most up-to-date in-shop activities and process videos and photos.

In the mean time, enjoy 20% off of all orders of stationery $35 or more by entering WRITEON16 in honor of National Letter Writing Month, The #Write_On campaign, and #NatStatWeekUSA! Offer ends 4-30-16 so don't miss out!

 

Google+