After working several years for a dot.com company that eventually went bust, Annika Buxman decided to return to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, where she had previously taken a class in letterpress printing. She enrolled in several courses and discovered she had a real knack for working with a letterpress, which led to eventually getting a press of her own.
Buxman opened De Milo Design Studio & Letterpress in Old Pasadena in 1998, before relocating to her current studio in South Pasadena, where she has been since 2010.
“I thought as long as people kept calling, I’d keep doing it,” said Buxman. “That was 20 years ago. I mostly did invitations for the first 15 years or so, and then about 10 years ago, I started the Fair Trade marble line with some women that I got connected with in Bangladesh. They’re Fair Trade artisans who are the only income providers for their families. I’ve gone to visit them several times and it’s been really great.”
Buxman got connected with the artisans through Ten Thousand Villages, a shop on Lake Avenue in Pasadena that sells Fair Trade crafts and housewares from around the world. De Milo Design offers more than 30 colors, ranging from rose gold to black, in its marble paper line—which is handmade and hand-marbled by the women in Bangladesh.
“The area is so rich in letterpress companies but we each have our own specialty,” said Buxman. “Mine is the handmade paper and the marble paper. I just love how they look.”
In the front of her studio, Buxman has two letterpresses: a Gordon Franklin (circa 1870) for smaller projects, and an Original Heidelberg Windmill (circa the 1960s) for larger projects that require more than 50 copies. In the back, she also has a Chandler and Price (circa 1895) and a Vandercook SP15 (circa 1950), which she uses for various other projects, as well as two tabletop Pilots (circa 1910), which she uses when providing instruction in letterpress printing—another service offered at De Milo Design.
In addition to invitations, Buxman makes custom business cards and holiday cards. She can even create new marble paper colors upon demand.
“My customers are really good at telling me what they want,” she said. “Our black marble paper was requested by a customer in New York, and it’s been really popular. Another customer asked for dark chocolate brown, so we’re giving that a try.”
Another fun way that Buxman shares her passion for letterpress with others is through her Poetry Post, which is similar to the Little Free Libraries located outside participating homes. She often features work by local poets such as South Pasadena resident Dana Gioia.
“While walking through neighborhoods in Portland, I came across several Poetry Posts made by local artist Doug Trotter,” Buxman said. “I love the idea of sharing poems with my community and asked Doug to make a Poetry Post for De Milo Design. The poems are updated regularly and letterpress printed on our antique presses with extra prints free for the taking. Let’s enjoy our passion for poetry together!”
When Buxman isn’t in her studio creating custom designs, she can be found at events like the National Stationery Show, which she will be attending this February. She does wholesale orders as well, and her website has an online estimation tool for those interested in getting a quote for a custom project. Prices can vary widely, depending on how many colors of ink are used, the type of paper printed on, and so forth.
“I really enjoy what I do,” said Buxman. “I just love the tactile aspect and working with materials. I love deciding which paper is going to work best for the press and design that I’m working on. I create my own designs and people can bring their own in as well. We do it all here in-house, and whatever you need, we can make it.”
De Milo Design Studio & Letterpress is located at 1401 Mission St. in South Pasadena. It is open by appointment only. For more information, call (626) 403-0317 or visit demilodesign.com.
De Milo Design Studio & Letterpress Business Spotlight appeared in the print edition of the South Pasadena Review on 11.23.18. Support Local Business.