Editor

Our editor with just a few of her creations. Hazel & Violet allows guests to make as many pieces as they’d like.

 

Since I could hold a pencil and write legibly, I have been obsessed with notebooks. I’m one of those people who buys them because of the pretty cover, intent on filling its pages with my musings. Inevitably, it ends up in a stack with the others I’ve collected over the years. 

But when I happened upon Hazel & Violet, a local letterpress business in Phoenix that hosts public workshops, I knew I had to check it out. 

A short history lesson:

Letterpress printing was invented all the way back in the 15th century by Johannes Gutenberg. This invention allowed many pieces of type to be cast at one time – which meant books, letters, notices, etc. could be printed at an accelerated rate. This type of printing continued until the 19th century.

A letterpress, simply put, is a form of printing where ink is applied to text or images on a raised surface, and then paper is pressed directly against it to transfer the text/image.

Hazel & Violet’s owner, Nancy Hill, came from Tucson. Her family moved to Arizona in 1951. 

Hill was living in Los Angeles when her position in corporate food service transferred her back to Arizona and she took it as a sign that her love of paper and typography now had a chance to blossom.  

“My partner had taken a class, and afterward, we chatted about ‘oh, wouldn’t it be fun to open a business like that,’ and here I am. It turns out I’m very well-suited to this,” Hill said. “It’s mechanical, there’s a place for everything – it’s a mix of precision and hand-made-ness.”

Officially, Hazel & Violet is known as a letterpress shop/studio. They print everything from business cards, event announcements, holiday cards, wedding invitations and stationery. 

The name of the shop comes from Hill’s former business partner, who had two great aunts that lived in California and were “very entrepreneurial for their time.” Their names were Hazel and Violet. The partner knew that whatever business she went into; she would name it after them. 

“That worked for me because those are colors, too. What’s old is new again; people are naming their children those names. If I’d known then, having to type out Hazel & Violet constantly, the business would be called ‘Joe,’” Hill said with a smile.

Before the physical storefront opened 15 years ago, Hill and her partner ran their business out of a garage in Ahwatukee with a letterpress Hill bought on Craigslist. 

“My partner then moved to the east coast, so I had to move everything out of the garage. I found a store on Roosevelt Road and was there for a few years before I found the spot on Grand Avenue,” Hill said. 

When it first opened, the shop was more of an art gallery – Hill only had one press, so she rented the space out to local artists. Now, there’s an art collective on one side, and Hazel & Violet operates out of the other. 

“I’m not the picket-line type, so making posters makes me feel like I’m doing something,” Hill said. “I love seeing the result and being able to express myself through posters; I’m happy to share that with others.”

I arrived at the shop, and my first thought was, “I want to live here.” Colorful, handmade pieces with quotes, sayings and pictures line every inch of space. 

Hill gave a tour of the bigger machines that make multiple pieces at a time – one of them was 100 years old! Then, she showed me where the cuts and fonts can be found and how a table press works.  

Folks can choose from over fifty fonts, plus “cuts,” wood and metal shapes, like stamps – trees, flowers, bicycles, people, spring-themed, Christmas-themed, etc. – that they can add to their creations. The hardest part is choosing what to create. 

Hill said that most people choose a quote, so that’s what I did. Once the font is chosen, you set the letter blocks on the galley (a metal tray). Each letter must be upside down and backward, a mirror image that will print so you can read it. Then, pick the ink. 

There were many colors to choose from, but I stuck with black – at this point, I was only thinking about how to redecorate my house with handmade posters. Guests set the letters how they’d like to see them on the paper:

LIKE THIS, or 

LIKE

THIS

Add the ink – not too much – with a roller and set the paper down over the letters. Then, grab the crank of the letterpress, roll it over the paper and boom! I had my cardstock AND a page from an old dictionary with a motivational saying inked on it. Yes, I’m a sucker for a motivational art piece. 

The workshop is two hours long, and guests can create as many pieces as they’d like within that time. Along with these, Hill also offers workshops through Airbnb for those looking for an activity while visiting Phoenix. 

The shop will sell cards and stationery at Local First’s Fall Festival in November and various markets in December. Hazel & Violet creations are also available on Etsy. 

hazelandviolet.com