Freebird Letterpress

Janine & Brett Sibley of Freebird Letterpress in Bowser, BC

I’m Brett and my wonderful wife’s name is Janine. We’re the two people who make up Freebird Letterpress and here’s a little bit about who we are and what we do.

Freebird Letterpress started as a daydream.

A few years ago, while operating a large modern commercial printing press in Vancouver, my mind would wander to thoughts of what I might be doing with my life five or ten years down the road.

I’ve always liked running printing presses. It’s been part of my life ever since I enrolled in a graphic arts program in Winnipeg, Manitoba back in 1984. That’s where Janine and I met. Enrolled in the same course, we learned about all aspects of printing at that time – typesetting, camera and darkroom, paste up, printing, and bindery.

In 1989, we both quit our jobs at printing companies in Winnipeg and set off for Vancouver, British Columbia. It was an exciting time, full of new adventures. At first we both worked in the printing field, me as a pressman and Janine as a typesetter. Later, Janine changed jobs and spent many years in a rewarding career in marketing while I continued to run ever larger presses.

After our two daughters moved out on their own, we made the move to beautiful Vancouver Island where years earlier, we’d spent many family vacations. So amazing to think it’s now where we make our home!

This is when Freebird Letterpress became a reality.

We bought a 1967 Heidelberg platen press. It was a popular press many years ago as it’s so versatile and is built like a tank. It’s just like the press I ran at my first job, just out of college. It’s not too big and it fits neatly into our home studio. We also purchased a commercial paper cutter to trim jobs accurately; it’s about as large as our press! We’re now designing our own greeting cards and engaged with all sorts of custom work for businesses here on the island and beyond. What gives us joy is imagining one of our cards, just waiting to be elevated with your thoughtful handwritten sentiment, and then whisked off to a friend. Or perhaps creating a wedding invitation for your very special day.

Today’s letterpress printing differs considerably from the way it was done for hundreds of years before offset became the most popular form of printing. Along with carefully selected paper, we use polymer plates to recess the illustration and type deep into the wonderfully soft paper surface, usually cotton or a blend of cotton. Back when letterpress printing was the way almost everything was printed, pressing the illustration into the substrate in this way was considered a big no-no and grounds for termination! Nowadays it’s exactly what we love most about letterpress.

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1967 Heidelberg platen press

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