At Work: Handcrafted Printing at Igloo Letterpress

Walking into Igloo Letterpress feels so inspirational. On the day I went to chat with Allison Chapman about her business, I sat there thinking of all of the projects in my head that would be so much fun to finally get made.

The large space, filled with lots of natural light and high ceilings, offers plenty of room for big worktables and all her presses. At just over 1,000 square feet, it was the perfect space for her studio. It was the dream she always had in mind− being in a neighborhood where people could come in and work on their projects. She loves being part of a culture that values things that are handmade.

Chapman started Igloo Letterpress in 1996 in her home in Minnesota. When her husband received a wonderful job offer here in Columbus, they decided they would move here business as well. Finding a beautiful home they liked in Old Worthington wasn’t too hard. Finding a business spot for Igloo was a bit more complicated.

She had ideas for the perfect studio, but she also had practical needs, such as being able to roll all her very heavy presses right into the space, which had to be able to structurally support 13,000 pounds. She looked all over town. Finally, she settled on a space in the Millworks Art Community where she met great people like Alex Bandar who was starting the Columbus Idea Foundry there.

That space worked well for her for awhile, but she was wanting something of her own. She found her current workspace in Old Worthington in 2009 and really enjoys being there. Plus, being a short bike ride away from her home is a great perk.

A few of the presses at Igloo. The green one in the middle belonged to Chapman’s granddad.

Igloo Letterpress is a member of the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce. Chapman hopes to take advantage of some of its benefits, like employee health insurance, in the near future. She currently employs three part-time workers as production assistants. One of the challenges she faces with staff is the huge learning curve that letterpress printing has.

“Everything is made by hand,” says Chapman. “Ink is mixed by hand and it’s applied by hand. When hiring employees, I underestimated the time it would take to get them printing things on their own.”

Liz Jones printing on a Pilot Press. She also creates her own designs for Poshta Design.
Drawer of type.

However, she has found a good team to help her. She hopes to soon achieve the perfect balance between working on wholesale projects under the Igloo brand, printing for businesses and printing her personal projects.

She has been very appreciative of the business culture here. Steve Weaver of The Candle Lab and Anita Bowman of Sew to Speak provided wonderful mentoring, which helped her grow the business out of Millworks and into its own space. When she first came here, she also utilized SCORE to help get her business plan going. She found SCORE to be a good experience.

“But then I got busy and never followed up,” she adds.

A printing plate.

The crafting community in Columbus has been easy for Chapman to get involved in and she found it easy to build a network. She lived in Columbus for a short time when she was in ninth grade, but no longer knew anyone here. She loves the “independent business attitude” that is everywhere in Columbus.

“I feel like I dropped into a community of people doing things and the community values that,” she says. “It’s a wonderful feeling. I like having my kids see us trying our best and working hard, and having it be rewarded by the community. We thought Columbus would be a five-year stop, but now we are really planning on staying here.”

Igloo Letterpress is located at 39 W. New England Ave., Worthington, Ohio 43085
It is open Tuesday-Friday: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.; Saturday: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; or by appointment.
Phone: 614-787-5528

Visit them on the web, Follow them on Twitter and Like them on Facebook.
View upcoming Letterpress Classes here.

Visit Poshta Design or follow her on Twitter.

All photography in this story by Adam Slane.

Do you know of, have, or work in, a creative workspace and would like to be featured in this series? If so, please contact Anne Evans.