The Letter Press
After a short trip to Spokane, I gained a whole new appreciation for the way DOMA chooses to print the bags their coffee comes in. All different sizes, with all different designs and various colors, the coffee bags are pretty awesome, whatever way you slice it. What makes them even more special and unique compared to any other coffee bag you may see in the grocery store, is that all of the bags are letter pressed, on an ancient Chandler Price press, by Chris Dreyer.
Dreyer Press is located in the basement of a building so confusing you practically need a tour guide to find your way through it, the artisan mastery takes place in a cave well guarded against the heat of summer. Walking into the room, there are two sections, one with old poster prints, a vintage clock and even a 1930s era Corona typewriter and the other side in which stands a huge cast iron press; the machine where magic happens.
Before doing anything, Chris takes time to prepare the press. First, this means choosing the correct dies(s) for the bags he’s pressing, then carefully placing them/it into a square window frame type thing with blocks to secure it into place. Each block is carefully tightened to ensure nothing will fall out. It’s like a puzzle, but imagine all of the pieces don’t fit together on their own and need to be tightened to make the right picture.
Next comes the colors. You can only do one color at a time so for something like La Bicicletta, every bag is run through the press multiple times. One color is first chosen and placed as a blob on the edge of a large metal circle about the size of a crêpe pan. This disk spins on a regular basis and has rollers gliding up and down to spread the ink blob all across the palette into a smooth coating.
When in full action, Chris seems to become one with the machine, he is the other half necessary to create magic. He gets into a rhythm that seems like it shouldn’t ever stop. The big wheel whirls to make the rollers roll. The disk spins and the ink spreads. Then a bag is placed in a slot. The handle is pulled and “chunk-chunk” a bag is printed. Chris’ hands glide in and out quickly (so much you’re worried they’ll be smashed, but we later learned there’s just enough space he won’t break any bones). What I saw was pretty amazing. This time, his expert eyes pulled out the bag to scrutinize the ink and comment, “look, you see here? There’s too much ink on the press so the letters are a little blurred. In a couple more bags it’ll look better.” Then he continued on his way…