Reusing paper with old-fashioned printing

August 20, 2010 (CHICAGO)

A local woman is using old-fashioned printing as her contribution to a greener earth.

You probably wish you had something cool to do with your piles of junk mail. A Rogers Park woman is turning hers into beautiful stationery, and that is just one of the ways she lives green.

Old junk mail is shredded for privacy, carefully weighed, blended with water, mixed with used tissue paper for color, and squeezed dry. Then, out comes handmade stationery. It's a way to recycle and to re-use.

"It's fun and artistic and you can put a lot of stuff in it," said Nina Bell. "I've tried putting tea in there and spices and old pieces of yarn."

Nina Bell has been crafting her own paper since she was a child, but four years ago, after ordering letter-pressed invitations for her wedding, she discovered a new love. Now, this website designer by trade is combining her hobby with her desire to be eco-friendly. She calls her business Tweedle Press.

"I do all sorts of invitations, wedding invitations, party invitations, birth announcements, business cards, personal stationery, a whole lot of custom stuff for people," said Bell.

After a little bit of training and a lot of trial-and-error, Bell purchased an old letterpress printer, complete with a hand-crank. The circa-1905 machine embeds letters and logos in a way that produces a deep, rich texture to touch.

"Letterpress printing has been around since about 1400," said Bell. "It was the first type of printing and it kind of went out of mainstream use in the 1900s when offset printing became the main method of printing. So, these aren't made anymore, the presses. They stopped being made about 50 years ago at least."

In addition to using 100-percent recycled paper, Bell uses only earth-friendly inks.

"I will only use processed chlorine-free or totally chlorine-free papers," said Bell. "For inks, they are 100% vegetable-based. It's a linseed oil, which is the oldest kind of letterpress ink available."

Bell acknowledges the process is labor intensive, especially for jobs that require several colors, but she hopes that with each crank of her press, she is contributing to a greener planet.

Nina Bell also recycles other people's scraps to create custom paper. You can bring her old cards, gift wrap, envelopes or used office paper and see it become new again.

Tweedle Press website

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