Hobbyist Seeks Biz Idea Advice

Hello all,

I’m a hobby printer, slowly growing my collection of type, presses, tools and everything in between. I have a background in graphic design, and really just enjoy the process of printing, and find it very therapeutic. I enjoy disappearing into my “print studio” and getting lost in my C&P, type, the smell of the ink and the feeling of the paper. I warn that this post will be a bit long, but I want to be detailed enough to explain the concepts as I’m looking for guidance, advice, tips etc.

I live in a small, artsy town that sees an explosion of summer tourists each year to visit historical landmarks, arts venues, small music festivals, art fairs and to take in the many biking, hiking, canoeing and scenic offerings we have here in Wisconsin.

I’ve been kicking around thoughts of starting a small card line focusing on these local attractions/ offerings and doing consignment sales in local shops. I’d offer individual cards, and packs of perhaps 3 different cards, all sold with envelopes. Perhaps I would also do some 8x10 lino-cut art prints as well.

For the small music festival, I’m thinking it could be fun to work with organizers to design a 2-color poster for which I would pre-print the first color, and then sell the posters in a pop-up tent during the festivals and allow the buyer to print the second color on their poster using the Line-O-Scribe 1422. The other cards and art prints would also be available for sale.

For the art fair, I’m thinking about making a small letterpress bicycle or cart (or using the pop-up tent again) for the Line-O-Scribe and offering short “workshops” where people can learn a brief history of letterpress before pulling a small postcard print to take with them. The hope is that it would draw some interest and potentially lead to some paid letterpress workshops for kids, if there is enough interest, which would be a great way to keep me active during the cold months here.

I’d be open to a future goal of renting an actual space IN the art fair to sell cards, lino-cut prints etc. once I feel like I have enough quality designs to justify it, but it’s too early for that right now. Curious if others have had good experiences doing this, and if it’s even worthwhile?
There’s also the future possibility of renting/buying a small storefront with living space above on the small Main Street in town. I’d set it up as a mixed print/retail space as I think the presses and old machines are really what draw people in.

I’m perfectly ok with it being a seasonal type of business, and would prefer to do the majority of the printing/ prep work during the cold months and then do a spattering of events throughout the summer while having the shop open.

What I’m not interested in doing is:
Custom design and print work for others, such as wedding invitations or baby announcements. I know this is where a large amount of the money is, but I really want focus on featuring my own creative work, rather than simply being a printer for others. I did that as a screen printer for several years, and it’s not the route I want to take with letterpress. I figure since I’m doing this for enjoyment rather than to make a livable income, it’s probably ok. I may decide to take a few of these jobs on for friends, family of the occasional really cool/fun concept.

What I’m seeking:
I’d like feedback on the ideas. Thoughts from the group and those that have done similar things. What worked, what didn’t? Any potential pitfalls, or areas I can improve the concepts and make them really strong? Any other tips or advice?


Tldr: Small town hobby printer is seeking feedback on designing and printing cards focused on local attractions to sell on consignment, and offering letterpress workshops to kids.

Log in to reply   10 replies so far

Yes I think that’s a great idea. It gets letterpress out in your community where folks can see it, so that’s good. It might be a good idea to work alot on your designs and the things that you enjoy making now so that you establish a style and create a stock of products that you can show and hopefully sell. That might take some time to build up. There are a lot of art and craft fairs around the country and people with really good design ideas can make very good money. Alot of people make that their life and go to their favourite fairs year after year. When you start showing your work you will start to get an idea of what people are willing to pay money for and where you can focus. When your talking about selling packs of cards or creating prints at the show, the design is going to be what grabs people’s attention. Also, make some tests to see if you can print a sheet at the show and then hand it to someone and they get it home without it smudging.
Good luck

Ask your insurance company what they have to say about you offering workshops.


Sounds like a grand idea! I’d try to get out and see some other similar shops if you can (and pick the brain of the owner). If you’re in Wisconsin, Mayday Press is in Mineral Point, WI. I haven’t been, but I’ve seen photos of her shop online. If you make it down to Iowa, I’d be happy to chat more too (Iron Leaf Press—Mount Vernon, Iowa).

If you plan on being out in the community, be prepared to tell them no if you do not plan on doing custom work—-I’m certain you’ll have inquiries. Doing shows are nice to get out in front of people if you don’t have a public studio space.

If you go ahead and go for a storefront, make sure to consider all the financial aspects (rent, utilities, insurance, payroll expenses, cleaning, furniture and fixtures, credit card processing, packaging, toilet paper, etc. etc.). I’ve found both shows and the storefront rewarding, and challenging.

And, like it was said earlier, if you are indeed doing workshops, make sure to look into insurance for such things.

Best of luck!
-Danielle Chargo

Interesting idea. Hopefully the community or audience you are aiming for supports your efforts. I have been printing as a hobby for over 35 years. A few years ago I decided to print some stuff to sell online and at a few “fairs”. Although I had fun doing it my efforts at fairs was financially disappointing. The pix below are from two events where I took my 6 x 9 (200lb.) Pilot and allowed people to imprint a preprinted keepsake. We hung the piece on a line to dry and had them come back in a half hour to pick them up. Participation was ample and this maybe my mistake but I did not charge for the piece. I thought any one who would print the keepsake or 3 or 4, (two kids, Mom and Pop) would have the courtesy to buy at least one creating card for $3. Apparently not. So I may have been better off charging $1 for each keepsake. Either way I had fun.
As far as the website goes, I believe I have created a handsome, functional and robust website, but unless I do a lot of social media to promote it, it is not going to produce any real results.
Keep us posted on your efforts,

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Great advice so far and I’ll certainly check into insurance for doing workshops using the line-o-scribe. Very nice to hear of the experience of southpaw and use it to reshape my efforts. Mayday press isn’t too far from me, and the woman who runs it attended the same graphic design program that I did. She could be a great resource.


Question one: Do you need a teaching space?

Does your community have existing craft based institutions who also have workshops available? For example, glassblowing; ceramics; or other sorts of instruction?

If so, is there a way you could partner with them in some way or propose to work for them while providing the equipment (A Linoscribe, for example, is portable enough to bring to their site)?

Question two: Do you need a retail space?

Can you partner on consignment with any existing retail establishments who might understand the use or have an interest in bespoke, self-designed/published items like the cards you speak of? Is there anyone in your town who would have a facility you could agree to vend within who is already set up for it?

Now, don’t take this the wrong way- I’m not saying you SHOULDN’T open a space, I’m suggesting it might be worth it to partner with these other organizations to provide your ‘stuff’ to the people, and establish a reputation/foothold, before going through the effort to put together your own retail/teaching space.

Lastly, I would suggest you open yourself up to the idea of partnering with a designer who you might be able to work with, closely, to offer custom designed work; even if you are only doing the printing, which you say you enjoy, you might generate income this way and not be looked upon as turning up your nose to potential clients (which could rub the wrong customer the wrong way).
The idea that you simply wouldn’t provide these services because you don’t like to design, for example- when you COULD be filling a niche in your own community, if that niche existed- well, that is a bit puzzling to me especially if you find there is a demand for it.

We live in a migratory globally accessible world more than ever; and the rampant travel that occurs now has seemed to affect and increase even summertime regional migration. This is an interesting and lucrative situation, if you can set up the right circumstances for capitalizing on it I say go for it. There is so much of a tourist industry in just the local economy of our country, it is interesting to see this notion of a viable letterpress shop as a seasonal attraction pop up, and it is frankly something I have given thought to myself.

Like some of the more successful retail startups I have noted were people who were already in stores, who established a recognizable brand, and then launched a place for the brand- rather than ripping the whole bandaid off at once; that is where the top part of my thinking/advice is aimed.

I doubt you can go wrong if you’re practicing the craft you know how to do and making things you love. If that shows you’ll be the ‘genuine article’ and that is the best start.

Also good luck with your endeavors!

Hello HavenPress,

Thank you for the detailed and thoughtful reply. My original post wasn’t very clear on the path of progression I would like to take, however all the statements you make are exactly the direction I was considering pursuing.

The idea is to start small, by doing a few designs and selling those on consignment in local shops who sell items that would pair well with bespoke, letterpresses cards. I would also like to do a few small on site pop-up style events to generate interest and springboard those into some small workshops which I would hold at a space I’ve rented for the afternoon.

If after a couple of years, business is going well and my cards and workshops are selling and a retail space is viable, then perhaps I would look into it.

Let passion be your guide. Do what you love. It will come back to you. Without passion, it’s just work.

Hey Hoxie, sounds like you have a good logical path forward and a good set of passions to feed it with. Best of luck.