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Saturday, May 28, 2022

STATIONERY—Lasting Impressions



Claudia Laub Studio & Gallery


Year Founded:

1971


Core Business:

Invitation and stationery design and printing


Revenue in 1999:

$430,000


Revenue in 2001:

$585,000 (projected)


Employees in 1999:

3


Employees in 2001:


Goal:

To focus on product design and create workshops to educate people about letterpress printing


Driving Force:

A passion for letterpress printing and a desire to keep the art alive


Customized printer capitalizes on tradition to serve current tastes

When Linda and Jerry Bruckheimer need stationery, Julia Louis-Dreyfus wants party invitations or Julie Andrews is looking for holiday cards, they usually think of Claudia Laub.

Laub has managed to turn her love of letterpress printing into a business called Claudia Laub Studio & Gallery. The small home-based company is expected to generate nearly $600,000 in revenues this year up from $430,000 in 1999 despite a slump in orders earlier this year.

“I am an artist and a businesswoman and I feel like my work is a craft,” said Laub, who has two full-time employees and brings in additional help at busy times, such as the holiday season.

In the two-car garage behind her Hancock Park home, she keeps a centuries-old tradition alive by hand-setting type made of lead and other metals to create her customized products.

The cluttered space offers a glimpse of what the print shops of an earlier time might have looked like. There is no computer. The walls are lined with antique wooden furniture whose small drawers are filled with chunks of metal bearing an array of letters, images and designs.

On one of the shop’s tables lie samples of Laub’s work. Within the pile is a delicately folded invitation for the bat mitzvah of one of Dustin Hoffman’s daughters. Nearby, a holiday card from A & M; Records. To achieve the colorful and intricately designed “A” and “M” on the front, Laub had to pass each card through the printing press four times, once for each color used.


Laborious process

“There’s a lot of time in set up. This is very labor-intensive work,” she said. “This is why it costs a lot of money to do.”

For a typical job, Laub carefully sets the type in an iron frame that fits into an antique printing press. After slathering some ink onto the ink table, she sets the heavy machine in motion. The rollers slide up and down, transporting ink onto the type. When Laub pushes down on a lever, the type presses up against a metal slab carrying a piece of paper and leaves its colorful impression in the pulp. She spends hours standing in front of the press, hand-feeding each piece printed.

“You could bring in your favorite flower petal and I could match that ink,” said Laub, who says she has clients in New York, London, Paris and other cities.

While type of paper and complexity of design determine price, Laub said most of her jobs cost at least $600. A simple design for 250 invitations with matching envelopes will run $500. A stack of 150 high-end wedding invitations, complete with response cards and envelopes and printed on hand-made paper, can go for $7,000.

One client spent more than $1,000 on an anniversary gift a single booklet with a love poem printed on cream-colored French stock that was hand-stitched with antique silver-colored cord.

Producer/director Jerry Bruckheimer and wife Linda order their holiday cards and personal stationery from Laub. “She knows their style,” said Diane Drummond, director of special projects for Jerry Bruckheimer Films. Laub’s products just look “much more classic and elegant,” she said, noting that store-bought stationery “doesn’t feel as intimate.”

In image-conscious L.A., customized invitations and stationery are no small matter. “Having a personalized invitation kind of sets the tone of what (guests) are going to be looking forward to,” said Suzanne Boyd of The Party Co., a local event production company. “A client may show me an invitation that they’ve received or that they’ve done in the past and they always want something better.”


Money to spend

While Laub has always depended on word-of-mouth, she said she recently hired a publicist, plans to soon launch a Web site and will hold a reception in September to drum up potential customers for the holidays.

But you won’t be seeing any ads for Claudia Laub Studio & Gallery any time soon. “I’ve never had to advertise,” Laub said. “I’m so busy that if I advertise, I’ll just disappoint people and that’s not a good business move.”

Also, placing an ad in a publication is an impersonal way to communicate with the public, she said. Laub has a long-standing relationship with many of her clients, most of who are in a higher income bracket and not seriously affected by the current economic downturn.

Despite the expense of letterpress work, people seek it out because they “are tired of the mass-made products that are out there,” said Wanda Wen, co-founder of Soolip Paperie & Press in West Hollywood. “There’re not many people who do letterpress work so there’s definitely enough to spread around,” she said.

Breaking out on her own

After years of designing cards for friends and invitations for a photography gallery she ran with her former husband, Randolph Laub, she began printing things herself. By the late 1970s, Laub had created her own line of greeting cards, which she had a hard time selling, until she flew across the country and pitched it to Barneys New York and the exclusive retailer decided to carry them.

She then opened her own retail outlet in L.A. but closed up shop three months ago in order to spend more time on designing products. Her latest projects go beyond paper products and include designing glasses and the bottle and packaging for a perfume line.

“I could take (the business) huge but I need to keep it small,” Laub said. “It’s too much pressure for me. I’m an artist and I want to do my art work.”

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