By Lindsay H. Parton
Photos by Oliver Kish
We formed a friendship with our Traction Avenue neighbors, Riitta and Alan, a few years back. They are the Old World-style operators of Traction Press and have been responsible for creating all of our stationary, along with working some rather distinguished Los Angles clients like MOMA and MOCA.
After being established in the Arts District of Los Angeles for over ten years, Riita and Alan are pleased to share the story of what has kept their letterpress and printing business unique and fresh to their clients. Alan shares that it boils down to having product that speaks louder than the process and, in the end, also displays creativity and heritage. They openly share their perspective on the lack of individuality in business these days and the danger of falling into the mindset of creative apathy.
Riita, who was born in Finland, lived in Japan for seven years and, during her time there, she took classes and discovered the art of card making and attaching trinkets and ribbons to cards. Once she moved to Los Angeles, she sold small batches of them, on foot, out of a small box to local stores and eventually grew her business to supply 1,000 stores worldwide, including large national chains. Alan was also entrenched in helping her and they ultimately returned to the original reason why they were making cards and stationery and began down a new path of more specialized services with closer relationships with their end client. At this time, they were also introduced to the process of letterpress and have since added the methods of foil, engraving and dry offset printing to their extensive repertoire.
They have stopped looking to their competition to find out how to make their items more unique as Alan thinks this is a reactionary way of doing business. He would rather have confidence in his trade and reconnect to the art of printmaking, choosing instead to make handmade specialty items - their pride and joy. As a team, Rita and Alan are both humble and passionate about the lost art of letter writing and their belief that tactile and visual experience is so much more striking than our digital interactions of emails and photographs, which do their product no justice. Their creative space is surrounded by machines that range from the 1800s to modern times - all of which are used for different tasks in the larger scope of their printing business.
They take a few minutes to hand letterpress each of our gift vouchers. Their beautiful design, imprinted on thick pulp card, gives each individual item a sense of weight and artfulness more suited to be framed than simply redeemed online. Traction Press is an inspiring local business and we are proud to be working with them.