Today we have The Mesdames of Letterpress, Angela Mitchell and Leah Dent of Mitchell & Dent, chatting to us about their letterpress “Herbert”, and showing off their beautiful stationery.
Beware: reading this will make you want to give up your day job and set up house in their absolutely GORGEOUS studio!!
Beautiful letterpress by Mitchell & Dent.
Official job titles: Madame Mitchell’s official title is ‘Lady of Letterpress, Designer of Delightfulness and Sorter of Serious Stuff’ whereas Madame Dent is a ‘Lady of Letterpress and Designer of Delightfulness’ but she also tends to specialise in the serious business of ‘Larking About’.
Heiress to her father’s chocolate manufacturing fortune, Mitchell descends from an aristocratic English family who achieved notoriety following her grandmother’s dalliance with a Sicilian orchard owner. Perhaps it is this continental heritage that has shaped her preference for a fine muscato and a lemon curd tart topped with Italian meringue. (Madame Mitchell disapproves of French meringue.)
Godchild to King Ernst August I of Hanover, Dent’s great-grandfather secured his fortune in the Antipodean goldfields before purchasing the country seat where Dent was raised. Quick to leave the quiet country life, Madame Dent took to the stage, playing jazz trombone in a dance band. Upon her return, she accepted a placement as a music mistress in a school for wayward children.* Mitchell & Dent were both diverted by design later in life, coming together to produce paper ephemera of note in 2009.
Where do you work?
Mitchell & Dent choose to spend their work-a-day lives in the collaborative design space at Studio Bomba in Oxford Street, Mt Hawthorn. They rub shoulders daily with such luminaries as designer-gal Michelle Leslie, man-with-a-lens Nic Montagu and man-about-town Minneth Nguyen.
The amazing studio and shop space (wow!).
What is the best thing about your job?
Mesdames Mitchell and Dent wantonly abandoned the hoopla and hubbub of the modern world to embrace vintage printing, circa 1905. They, and their Chandler and Price letterpress (affectionately dubbed ‘Herbert’), take delight in persuading Perthonalities that old-y time-y print techniques are tickity-boo.
Take us through a typical day of your work:
Our days vary wildly, but are best started by coffee. Soon to be followed by a spell spent designing, or printing, or posting parcels of stationery…
M&D Honeycomb, Mayfair and Vintage Floral stationery.
… or chatting to lovely folk in love planning pledges with parties. We’re currently spending much of our time making a Studio Bomba shop, which we will open in late spring and feature Mitchell & Dent’s ephemera of note, plus designery goodness from near and far.
Can you tell us a bit more about the workings of a letterpress?
In the late 20th century, letterpress was treated like an embarrassing old uncle past his prime, considered fiddly and fussy and far too old-fashioned in the face of shiny new print techniques. Atrocities occurred, such as melting movable type into fishing sinkers and turning presses into fancy foyer ornaments. Thankfully that has all turned around as folks embrace contemporary letterpress printing where an inked-block de-boss into a soft squishy paper stock is very much sought after (to the despair of older printers for whom a deep impression was a sackable offence).
Tools of the trade, including “Herbert” their letterpress.
The end result: beautiful letterpress products.
What music do you listen to whilst at work?
The mesdames do admit to having a fondness for fey beardy boys who play guitar; such as Fleet Foxes, Wilco and Obadiah Parker.
What are you currently working on?
Our focus right now is getting the shop ready to open in late spring, so we are seeking stock to delight and are shaping the space. We’re also working designers, so in addition to Mitchell & Dent stationery, there is Studio Bomba client work such as packaging and publication. We’re planning a second First Comes Love event and are also making artworks whenever we can. Watch for a little piece by Dent in the upcoming Go Go Gocco Go exhibition at Ruck Rover during Outskirts.
What has been your proudest achievement?
It was pretty darn exciting to see a full house of people at our first ever First Comes Love, an alternative little bridal fair we made and hosted at the Oxford Hotel in June. Being invited by Lomography Australia/NZ to customise a camera for the Diana World Tour earlier this year was also a real buzz. We made a bunnycam, of course.
Their bunnycam for the Diana World Tour!
Which local artists / designers / creatives do you admire?
Yeesh, so many clever Perthonalities to choose from… Future Shelter, Kyle Hughes-Odgers, Chil3, Jessica Jubb, Block, All of the Above Creative, Made of Awesome, Gestalt Publishing, Fox and Rabbit, Tungsten, Studio Lost & Found, Bethamy Linton, Sean Morris, Tonne Gramme, Gene Eaton, Cross Eyed Cats, Jessica Shaver, Cook Learn Love, Distracted: Merchants of Fancy. Gosh, there are more. Many, many more. Just ask us.
And advice for those trying to enter into the creative community in Perth?
The answer is in the question, my son – just enter the creative community. Be open, share, tell your story, tell other people’s stories, support your local creatives – go to their exhibitions, shops, studios and events. Go away and get inspired by all means, but do come back and share.
What do you love about Perth?
Mitchell: The newness of Perth and being able to create our own aesthetic without being bound by tradition.
Dent: There is an igloo-shaped house in Kewdale and that is totally awesome.
What does Perth need?
Mitchell: To be open all hours.
Dent: I’m not sure we have enough kangaroo-themed pieces of public art.
Most frequented coffee spot?
Mitchell & Dent: Hobart Street Deli or Distracted, depending upon the time of day.
Best live music venue?
Mitchell: Belvoir Amphitheatre.
Dent: North Freo Bowls Club (thanks be to Richard Lane).
Mitchell: Swanbourne, of course.
Dent: Beatty Park. (Who needs sand in their knickers?)
Rottnest or Margaret River?
The mesdames both vote Margaret River, perhaps because they’re both fond of a frequent tipple? Angela & Leah.
More gorgeous letterpress by the lovely Mitchell & Dent.
*Ang’s dad worked at Rowntrees in York and Leah used to be a music teacher and yes, her great-grandfather’s godfather really was King Ernst August I of Hanover.
Thanks to Angela and Leah! To all those non-Perth people reading this, Beatty Park is a large public swimming pool!
If you’re in the market for some very pretty stationery or personally designed invites, be sure to give these girls a bell and discuss your proposal over a cup of tea. You should also visit their website, snoop around their online shop, and get some inspiration, or at least a little “tittle tattle”, from their rather quaint blog.
Thanks to everyone for reading our Creative features all week long, as part of The Design Files special! And HUGE thanks to Lucy and Jenny for letting us roam around their Guest Blog all week long – it was fun! xx