4 Bay Area Paper Makers Championing the Art of Correspondence

An antique C&P Platen press at Berkeley’s Twig & Fig. The texture of handmade paper, the loops and bowls of a friend’s distinctive handwriting, the appreciation of the time and care taken in sending: These are just a few of the great pleasures of receiving a physical note. However, as the letter—and even the blithe summer postcard—has long been superseded by the Facebook post, it has become even more meaningful to receive a thoughtful, handwritten missive or invitation. Fortunately, a coterie of Bay Area artisans is carrying on the civilized tradition of the fine stationer. Embellishing sumptuous stock with letterpress, engraved imagery and hand gilding, San Francisco papermakers bring together age-old processes with innovative techniques. Following are four Bay Area ateliers championing the art of correspondence.





Julie Holcomb
A Bay Area icon—she has been a fine printer for more than 30 years—Julie Holcomb is a specialist in custom letterpressing and hand-drawn calligraphy. Emeryville-based, Holcomb brings a minimalist aesthetic to the bespoke invitations, stationery and calling cards she creates for clients like Chez Panisse and Pentagram. Using mould-made, 100-percent cotton paper that is crafted for her in a single, thick layer—versus the multiple, laminated sheets used in inexpensive stationery—Holcomb creates warm, elegant printed matter that is weighty and subtly textured. Hand-applied edging in rich metallic and enamel foils is a studio signature. By appointment only, 3601 63rd St., Emeryville, 510-654-6416,

Dependable Letterpress
A disciple of Julie Holcomb, founder Joel Benson operates a Heidelberg Press out of his five-person Portrero Hill studio. Benson produces exquisitely simple blind deboss business cards, die-cut save-the-dates and holiday greetings—many with hand-painted edges and perforations—all with a tasteful, graphic sensibility. Uncoated tree fiber papers also lend Dependable Letterpress’ personal stationery a tactile quality. 610 22nd St., Suite 247, 415-503-0981.

Rhiannon Alpers
Artisan/owner Rhiannon Alpers is a true papermaker, letterpress printmaker and bookbinder with a strong focus on crafting paper stock using cotton, linen and plant fibers. Her custom papers feature poetic elements ranging from tulip stems—which lend a textural feel—to vibrant bird of paradise petals that yield rich, maroon hues. Alpers shares her craft via studio workshops including “Papermaking: Exotic Fibers” (July 11) and “Sculptural Papermaking” (July 30 and August 29). 1890 Bryant St., Suite 308.

Twig & Fig
Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto is home to this retail paperie and print studio that specializes in fine wrapping papers and intricate, laser-cut invitations inlaid with wood, plastic and metal filigree. In addition to custom, couture creations, Twig & Fig stocks papers sourced from around the globe (Gmund from Germany, Arches watercolor paper from France, and air-dried Lama Li varieties from Nepal, to name a few), as well as wax seals and elegant Manuscript fountain pens. The design loft offers a serene space to peruse papers and sip fine teas. 2110 Vine St., Berkeley, 510-848-5599.

A version of this article appeared in the June/July 2015 issue of San Francisco Cottages & Gardens with the headline: The Art of Correspondence.