Tag Archives: Railroad Square

Southern Makers: Paper Works Press

I recently spent a rainy Saturday morning with Alicia and Sheri, the two gals behind Paper Works Press.  I arrived at the studio they share with their mentor, photographer and letterpress guru Mika Fowler, around 10:30 a.m. where I was immediately handed a delicious chocolate-sea salt cookie for Mika’s birthday.  After some quick introductions, we got started, and I knew right away that I liked these ladies.

Paper Works Press, Tallahassee, Florida | Oysters & Pearls

A little more on the folks behind the cards:

Sheri and Alicia, the Ladies Behind Paper Works Press in Tallahassee, Florida | Oysters & Pearls

Alicia, one half of Paper Works Press, is a Tallahassee native and a photographer by trade.  You can find her beautiful work over at Alicia Osborne Photography.

Alicia Osborne Photographer, Tallahassee, Florida | Oysters & Pearls

Sheri came to Tallahassee to study art, education, and printmaking at FSU.  Now she makes up the other half of Paper Works Press while also teaching high school art.

Paper Works Press Letterpress Coaster | Oysters & Pearls

Mika Fowler, who isn’t officially a part of Paper Works Press, plays a very important role in the business nonetheless.  He is Sheri and Alicia’s mentor and shares his studio with the duo.  He is always there offering quiet advice and recommendations and is a constant source of information.  He also offers letterpress printing, photography, and letterpress workshops.  The studio is full of his work and inspiration.

Mika Fowler Letterpress, Tallahassee, Florida | Oysters & Pearls Mika Fowler's Studio, Shared with Paper Works Press | Oysters & PearlsMika Fowler Letterpress Workshops | Oysters & Pearls

All three operate on a letterpress belonging to Mika, which hails from the year 1949.

Paper Works Press | Oysters & Pearls

Letterpress, a form of relief printing, began around the early 1800s, and is still just as popular today as it was back then.  Traditional printing back then used hand set wood and metal type.

Vintage Letterpress Letters in Mika Fowler's Studio | Oysters & Pearls

These days, thanks to computers, technology, and polymers, a photo polymer plate is used for printing instead.  Designs have become much more involved and embellished, but printing is still done one piece of paper and one color of ink at a time.  Sheri and Alicia can have a polymer made of an image you send them, but  they also draw many of their designs by hand.  My logo is one that I drew, which my friend Nikki Rich (of Rich Designs in Bainbridge) turned into my logo, and Sheri and Alicia turned into a polymer printing plate.

Modern Day Letterpress Printing | Oysters & Pearls

The most time consuming part of letterpress printing, as Sheri and Alicia tell me, is the set up.  Figuring out where you want the press to print on the paper, then translating that location to the plate, and then making sure the polymer is inked correctly makes up the majority of the work.Paper Works Press | Oysters & PearlsInk is smeared across the press.  If too much ink is used, the print will be sloppy.  Too little ink will result in a faint print.Letterpress | Oysters & Pearls Mika Fowler and Sheri of Paper Works Press | Oysters & Pearls Sheri of Paper Works Press  | Oysters & PearlsOnce everything is set, printing starts.  The press can be hand cranked by turning that large wheel (I’m sure I’m using all the proper technical terms) or if the motor is turned on, printing goes much more quickly.

The Ladies of Paper Works Press, Letterpress in Tallahassee, Florida | Oysters & Pearls

Printing can be paused by pushing that lever that Alicia has hold of forward.  There’s even a foot brake to slow things down a little, but the person running the press has to stay pretty nimble.  Paper Works Press Ladies, Tallahassee, Florida | Oysters & Pearls

We started out with black ink for the notecards that Sheri and Alicia printed for me.  I emailed them my logo ahead of time which they had turned into a polymer plate.  Now that it’s on file, they’ll keep it for future orders, which reduces the future cost and time involved.Letterpress Note Cards by Paper Works Press | Oysters & Pearls

Sheri & Alicia, Paper Works Press | Oysters & Pearls

After the black ink, we took a cookie break and they cleaned the press.  They had just gotten in some gold ink that they wanted to experiment with, and I was a more-than-willing guinea pig.

Gold Ink for Letterpress | Oysters & PearlsLetterpress by Paper Works Press | Oysters & Pearls

Oysters & Pearls Logo in Letterpress by Paper Works Press | Oysters & PearlsLetterpress Note Cards by Paper Works Press | Oysters & Pearls

The gold looks amazing on the kraft paper, and I’m so glad they experimented with my note cards.  I am thrilled with how they turned out!  And so grateful they allowed me in their studio to watch them be printed.  I learned so much from these ladies, and I’m always excited to support some creative lady entrepreneurs.

Sheri and Alicia, the Ladies Behind Paper Works Press in Tallahassee, Florida | Oysters & Pearls

The sweet, awesome gals of Paper Works Press can create custom letterpress wedding invitations and stationery sets, coasters, business cards, note cards, thank you notes, or just about anything you can dream up!  Visit their website for more information and examples of their work, and expect to see more of it at Maiden South in the Fall.

Paper Works Press on Facebook
Paper Works Press on Instagram
www.paperworkspress.com

Shop this post:
custom letterpress printing (Paper Works Press)
letterpress printing and photography (Mika Fowler)
photography (Alicia Osborne Photography)
Paper Works Press letterpress cards (Maiden South)

You may also like:
Southern Makers Series
Due South Makers Market
Anhaica Bag Works

Until Next Time

Southern Makers: Anhaica Bag Works

THE NAME

Anhaica was the capital of the lands the Apalachee Indians occupied, where the present-day capital of Florida now sits.  Anhaica Bag Works is also located in Tallahassee, where Marina Mertz makes really sweet bike bags and other waxed canvas goods.

Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls

Marina's Bike, Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls

Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls

THE PLACE

I first met Marina in person a few weeks ago at Due South, but I “met” her on Instagram even before then.  Marina is such a sweet, kind person, and the care with which she makes her hand-waxed canvas bike bags and accessories is evident.  I fell in love with her bags and the faint, sweet smell of honey that comes along with them immediately, and we immediately made plans for me to visit her in her Tallahassee workshop.  Housed in her parents’ basement on the north edge of Tallahassee, Marina, joined by her family dog, Max, her cat, Today, and her part-time employee Adriana, crank out an impressive supply of Anhaica bags.

Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls

Max, Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls

Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls

Though filled to the brim with canvas, nylon webbing, thread, sewing machines, flowers, bags, and more, Anhaica doesn’t feel the least bit crowded.  It’s full of odds and ends and beautiful things.  It feels collected, not cluttered.

Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Cover, Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls Snaps, Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls Vintage Sewing Machine at Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls Fresh Beeswax Cakes at Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls Sewing Machines at Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls Sewing Machine at Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls

THE PERSON

Marina started out selling her bags by opening a small sewing shop called Community Fabric out of a warehouse in Railroad Square a few years ago.  Fresh out of college, she sold needles and thread, taught sewing classes, and made all manner of bags.  Her bike bags really started to take off, so she shuttered her little shop and began sewing bike bags full time.

Encouraged and inspired by long-time boyfriend, Justin of Old Field CyclesAnhaica Bag Works was born and Marina has never looked back.

Marina Mertz, Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls Today the Cat, Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls

Marina Hand Waxes Her Own Canvas at Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls

THE PROCESS

Marina and Adriana, first cut bag patterns from cotton canvas and wax them.  Marina purchases her canvas locally, and she sources her beeswax locally, too – from my parents’ neighbor in Bristol, who also owns The Bee House where I get my beekeeping supplies.  It’s a small, small world.
Marina recycles as much as possible for her shipping materials, and she frequents The Sharing Tree on Railroad Square for both supplies and inspiration.

Waxing Canvas, Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls

The beeswax is melted in a pot and brushed on the canvas with a paintbrush.  Then a hot iron is run over the wax, melting it deep into the fabric. The beeswax makes the canvas water-resistant while smelling sweetly of the honey bees who made it.

Waxing Canvas at Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls Waxing Canvas at Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls Waxing Canvas at Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls

Waxed Canvas, Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls

Once the pattern pieces are waxed, Adriana “re-squares them,” as sometimes the waxing process causes them to be a bit misshapen.  Then, Marina begins sewing.

Adriana, Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls Sewing Machine, Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls Marina Sewing at Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls

Marina waxes first, then sews her bags together.  She double stitches everything and takes care to test all her prototypes rigorously before offering them in the shop.  She is meticulous and painstaking and it shows in her work.  And sometimes it makes her a little crazy – especially when it comes to a certain bag.

She tells me that her most popular bag is actually her tool roll, and I can see why and at least eight different reasons I need one, too.  I can also see why stitching those small pieces of velcro over and over and over might make one a bit crazy.  It makes me appreciate her work (and the tool roll) that much more.

Tool Rolls Being Sewn at Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls Bags in Various Stages of Progress at Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls Tool Rools, Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls

The final step on every bag is to stitch on a hand-printed Anhaica tag.

THE LIFESTYLE

Making bike bags isn’t just a livelihood for Marina – it’s a lifestyle.  She doesn’t own a car, and she commutes across Tallahassee daily to her workshop on her bike.  Her bags stand the test of time because they have to.  

Marina is passionate that biking could change the world if we’d just let it, and her enthusiasm is contagious.

The Bicycle is the Most Efficient Machine Ever Created, Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls

I rode my bike almost exclusively when I was in college in Gainesville, and it was so liberating (not to mention, figure friendly).  I obviously can’t bike from Bainbridge to Thomasville for work, but listening to Marina preach the virtues of bicycle culture made me want to try.   Her line of bags would sure make it an easier – or least, better looking – commute.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to ride my bike to work again.  I look forward to the day I need one of her backpacks.

Backpack from Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls Messenger Bag, Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls Backpack, Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls

And she doesn’t limit herself to bike bags (even though they are her thing).  She is having a limited run on some amazing bucket tote bags at the moment, and she makes the occasional tote, purse, clutch, and wallet.  The flap cross-body purses pictured below aren’t online, but actually may still be available – email Marina ASAP if you want one!

Limited Release Purses, Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & PearlsBucket Bag from Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls

Anhaica Bag Works Tote with Matching Change Purse | Oysters & Pearls

Anhaica Bag Works Tote with Ikat Lining | Oysters & Pearls

THE SHOP

Even if you don’t ride a bike to work every day, you can appreciate the high quality of Anhaica Bag Works.  The waxed canvas ages beautifully – I can fully vouch for that, as that last tote bag came home with me.  They are just as stylish as they are hard-working, and they will see you through bike rides and road trips and everything in between for years to come.

Anhaica Bag Works | Oysters & Pearls

Visit Anhaica Bag Works over on Etsy, where she was the featured Etsy seller on May 16!

Anhaica Bag Works on Etsy

Anhaica Bag Works Website

Anhaica Bag Works on Instagram

Anhaica Bag Works on Facebook

Anhaica Bag Works on Twitter

Shop Local. Support Small Businesses.  Ride Your Bike.

Until Next Time