EUGENE, Ore. - When I searched the web looking for unique invitations for an event, there weren't a ton of options - until I landed on Twin Ravens Press of Eugene.
I found a young woman who's spent 10 years refining an art that isn't readily taught - and many consider a dying art.
Kristin Walker serves customers from around the globe from her studio in Eugene.
"You get to see a lot of different people's styles and where they happen to be in the world along with the event their celebrating which is kind of neat," she says.
"You get a nice even coat of black ink," Walker says as she shows us around her business.
She turns on a large, bulky piece of metal and wheels turn, levers pulling and pumping, the hum of gadgets warming up.
"Putting a really thin layer of ink on the surface of that plate," Walker says, showing us how she makes her wedding invitations.
The machine begins to move and breathe.
This press was made in 1912 and is the oldest in Walker's studio.
"All World War II era though or earlier, which I think is pretty cool," she says of her equipment.
Learning the Art
Walker owns a successful letterpress business she started when she was 23 years old.
She contacted a local printer after graduating from the University of Oregon and met Bob Giles.
They live close to each other, Walker says.
"He bikes down River Road and comes to say hi to me periodically."
For a year, Giles passed down his knowledge of working with these large machines.
The ink is in his blood.
"I'm a third generation printer," he says. "My grandfather was a printer at a newspaper in South Dakota and my dad learned the trade at his newspaper."
Giles had to adapt to the changing technology, while never losing his love for the bulky, metal presses.
It wasn't until Walker came to his house that he was able to share that love.
"I hadn't had that experience with my kids wanting to pass this on to them because they had other interests. But when Kristin came, it was kind of a spark for me and I just felt like I could teach her something," he says.
When Walker lost her University job, Giles suggested she start her own business.
It's not something many twenty-somethings would do, but she used her savings to buy an obscure machine.
And so it began.
"I'd make some cards and sell them and I'd have a little more money, then I'd make some more and I think it really only took a year before it was paying for itself," she says.
"Kristin has this tremendous gift of being artistic and creative," Giles says. "She took this and turned it into a business, a viable business, in today's market."