Lucky Duck: Bringing Letterpress Back

Letterpress is back in a big way, as designers and consumers rediscover the allure of hand-set type and the tactility of letter pressed into paper. Designers are exploring letterpress as a technique to set their print pieces apart.

Patrick Barrett is bringing the lost art back to Connecticut with his company, Lucky Duck Press.

Lucky Duck is a direct descendent of Sterling Press of Winsted, started by Patrick’s great-grandfather Howard Deming. Started in 1901, Sterling first printed paper goods — announcements, business cards, invitations and business brochures — but then moved on to cloth tapes, renaming itself The Sterling Name Tape Company, and any printing equipment that became outdated was moved to the basement of the Sterling building.

Patrick brought some of the hand presses and lead type to Brooklyn, and Lucky Duck Press was born. Letterpress was always a creative side project, but then last winter, after losing his theater design job of ten years, Patrick decided to devote himself full time to printing. After six years as a Brooklyn-based company, Patrick moved Lucky Duck back to its ancestral home in Winsted, moving into the building in which the Sterling Name Tape Company still operates.

“During the last few years I have returned to the old Connecticut shop,” says Patrick, “to ‘liberate’ [my great-grandfather] Howard’s foot-powered 1889 Golding Pearl Old Style No. 3, 1905 Golding Official No. 9 hand press, Challenge proof press and an automatic card press. Returning the equipment to its turn-of-the-century vocation of personal and business stationary, I work with Sterling’s original lead type and images, as well as photopolymer plates, to create note cards, wedding invitations, announcements, holiday cards, personal or business stationary, and other custom items.”

Patrick’s workhorse press is still in great condition — cranking out excellent quality, if slightly imperfect, letterpress paper goods. Patrick loves the physicality of letterpress products — that the letters make contact with the paper and that each item is hand-fed through the press, one at a time. Working by hand allows Patrick to feel like he’s putting artistry back into paper goods, the way they used to back in his great-grandfather’s day.

Lucky Duck offers many items through its Etsy shop, including card sets and wedding stationery, but designers will probably be most interested in its Personalized Stationery offerings — very affordable short-run sets of business cards and personalized notecards.

Beyond that, Patrick can work with you on a variety of print jobs, whether using Sterling’s original lead type and images, or whether using photopolymer plates generated from your computer files.

And if you’re lucky, Patrick might even give you a tour of the company — the drawers of lead type, the smell of ink, the boxes of samples and the stacks of toothy uncoated paper are sure to get you hooked… and get Patrick a request for an estimate.

3 Comments

Danny Mendoza
Danny Mendoza 10.27.11

A big, hand-set YES for letterpress cards.

Bob Herrmann-Keeling
Bob Herrmann-Keeling 5.9.13

In a fit of nostalgia I Googled “1889 Golding” (my first real press) and here you are! My father bought the complete shop for me for $50 from a student leaving for college. This was in North Dakota, the summer of 1949, I was 11 and recuperating from a broken leg. The next year we bought another shop (a second paper cutter, 3 Chandler & Price presses…and the company itself, one of two that printed specialty items for US post offices. Sold it in 1958 when I went away to grad school in Mass. Then moved to CT in 1963, and now live in Haddam. Perhaps I could come to Winsted some time and take advantage of your offer of a guided tour…1889 Golding and all t he smells of a working print shop! Thanks for being here! – Bob Herrmann-Keeling (bobhk@aol.com)

dorothea rourke o’regan
dorothea rourke o'regan 7.8.13

do you still make printed fabric labels and name tapes? I have two left……..
HEIRLOOM CREATIONS by Dorothea Rourke-O’Regan
Originally from Lowell, MA (The mill town) now in Stoneham MA (formerly the shoe town)

Thank you! I still have the plastic bag they arrived in many years ago with the following info on the bag….
800 654 5210 and 203 379 5142
established in 1901
9 Willow Street Winsted CT 06098


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