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Christa Alexandra Designs: A Millennial Keeps Old School Printing Alive

By Pamela Sosnowski

A 100-year-old letterpress that literally weighs a ton is probably not something most Millennials would buy. For graphic designer and printer Christa Alexandra, however, it was one of the best investments she's ever made. The vintage letterpress helps her company, Christa Alexandra Designs of Fairfax, stand out among more cookie cutter printers by producing beautifully customized stationery and more that has an actual "feel factor" to it.

"When you hold a letterpress invitation in your hands and run your fingers over the surface, you are taken back to a time when printing was a craft that professionals took time to perfect," she said. "My press allows me to print my design with a deep impression in the paper. "It's a pretty great feeling when the design I made comes off an old antique press."

After getting a business degree and working as a graphic designer for a clothing company in Burlington, Alexandra began receiving requests from people to design their wedding invitations. Although it sparked an interest in printing, she felt there was something missing from her designs and the finished projects. Studying everything she could about the printing industry eventually led her to purchasing the antique press in Rhode Island and setting up her own printing shop. As her customer base grew, she set aside weeknights and weekends to keep up with her second job before deciding to leave her first one and make printing a full-time career.

Alexandra's printing process is not completely manual and technology-free. She still uses a computer to create the designs and then transfers them to a plate that raises the artwork much like a rubber stamp would. A foot pedal then rotates the flywheel, opening and closing the press while printing, "printing one piece of paper at a time, one color at a time." Because of the extra time invested, and to provide each customer with personalized service and attention to detail, Alexandra's shop can only take so many clients at one time.

"I am a perfectionist by nature and hold myself to a very high standard," she said. "I only use the best materials and take the extra time to make something that captures the wedding and the couple. "While a wedding invitation can seem simple, you can make it into something that really shines by adding layers of design, calligraphy, vintage stamps and embellishments to create a presentation that gets guests excited for the wedding."

In addition to numerous invitations and printed materials such as place cards and signage made for weddings, Alexandra's portfolio also includes stationery, greeting cards, and more. Pricing depends upon the paper and envelopes selected as well as the variety of embellishments. For Alexandra, the favorite part of her job other than the design and printing process is getting to know each client so she can create invitations that are unique to them.

"I'm moved by people's stories," she said. "I love nothing more than creating a little piece of history for the couple, their families and their future children to look back on years down the road. My favorite part of the whole process is when the client emails me with the comments they receive from their guests, how excited they are about the wedding and how amazing the invitations look."

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