The Hive: BirdDog Press

Kate Nelson asks Allison Bozeman of BirdDog Press about the joys and challenges of running a letterpress company.

Allison Bozeman is the owner of BirdDog Press, a design and small-batch letterpress studio nestled in the mountain town of Lyons, Colorado. Here she discusses creativity and business with Kate Nelson.

I love to make almost anything. I sew, make food — anything creative. I’m still learning to run a business. There are lots of challenging parts! Sometimes you get so bogged down in the other pieces you no longer have the energy to be creative. It is important to find a balance between the creative and business sides. I think running a business is fun because I’m fairly balanced between my right and left brain. I just kind of learn as I go.

Motherhood gave me a lot of confidence. I thought, “If I can make a person, I can do anything.” I bought the press and got started. I don’t think I ever thought I was invincible; I just have more courage to take some risks in a way, and I am okay with the consequences. I know that moments are fleeting and being present and soaking in every moment you can matters because it changes quickly — more quickly than you can imagine. You think about fleeting moments, important moments, and life’s milestones differently.

That is partially why I like paper and the printed word. I embrace technology, but I treasure analog: handwritten letters, words pressed into paper with purpose. It makes it more meaningful somehow. Something I love about children that adults lose for the most part is their sense of discovery. It is deeper than curiosity and they have no inhibition when they create. If only we could capture it.

Running a letterpress company means you get to be part of relationships — your clients are getting ready for weddings, celebrating new babies, writing notes of thanks. My business wouldn’t have gone as well as it did without social media. Twitter is such an efficient way to be part of conversations you want to be part of. Pinterest and Instagram are quick and easy ways to find something that grabs you. I use it mostly for advertising in a subtle way. I don’t post photos of products and say, “Hey, these are on sale for $3.99.” It is more about showing the creative process and letting people buy into the idea of things they would want to have in their lives. The market is pretty saturated these days, but letterpress is so versatile. You can bend and shape your products as you go.

I started by doing custom wedding invitations, then moved into design work inspired by vintage quilts. Now I work on custom branding projects — logos and business cards. I typically sketch and draw first, then enter it into the computer and have the plates made. It is a combination of new and old technology. I was already a graphic designer; with letterpress I can take any project from conception to completion. There’s a great history with the letterpress, and I enjoy the tactile element.

I feed off of collaboration with other people, but once a business becomes just yours, it is harder to bring in a partner. It is easier to start from the beginning with partners. Also, you have to start with your “why.” Find your passion, but don’t let the business consume you to the point where you no longer like doing the creative part.

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