Aiming to educate the community about her craft, the owner of Steel Petal Press opened the business on Milwaukee Avenue on June 1. Shayna Norwood, the founder and owner of the letterpress company, has lived in Logan Square for eight years, and her business’s new location is decreasing her commute time and connecting her to the community.
Her new location, at 2321 N. Milwaukee Ave., offers 1,775 square feet. This is more than three times the size of the last space in Pilsen, offering her business room to grow. In order to help fill some studio space, she ventured into her first foray with retail.
If retail turns out to not be ideal for her, Norwood said she can expand her printing space; this is something her Pilsen location couldn’t do. “I picked a space that was bigger than my needs were so that I could be here for a while,” she says.
Prior career growth was witnessed by a longtime friend and colleague, Jenn Gaudreau, a photographer who collaborates with Norwood occasionally. “I had been in love with letterpress for a long time, and seeing her at work was so incredible,” Gaudreau says. “Her love of her craft, her dedication to excellence, and her wittiness won me over completely.”
Including Norwood, four employees and one intern keep churning out products, mostly on Penelope, the main letterpress in Norwood’s workspace.
Letterpresses deboss text and images onto paper, which is then often used as cards, paper art and other products. Other presses are named Sweetie, as “she’s” smaller than the other presses. Leonard, which was built in the 1920s, is much older than the other machines and carries the name of a previous owner.
Prior to the pressing, though, is the creation of the initial idea and image, which is created on Norwood’s computer. When looking for inspiration, she delves into concepts not related to her business. Rather, she experiences nature and visits museums and libraries.
When doing work on the computer, she tends to stay away from her studio’s office space, which features a desk and a wall of prints from letterpress and typography events. In order to see natural light and the hustle and bustle of outside, Norwood tends to station herself outside of her desk, facing the sidewalk. This helps her feel more connected to the public.
“Part of my mission as a business is to educate people on how letterpress works and the history of it,” Norwood says. Visitors can be in the shop with the presses running and ask questions of staff. She’d like to “be able to connect the process that they’re [customers are] seeing happen with the final product that they’re actually purchasing.”
Gaudreau said Norwood has been a bit of a hidden gem in Chicago. “I’m so excited that her aesthetic and brilliance is going to be easily accessible to the neighborhood, and I think the visibility is going to make her brand even more powerful as more customers will get to see her work on a regular basis.”