Profile: Wild Ink Press

Wild Ink Press Founder Rebekah Tennis, husband Matt and three adorable children.

Wild Ink Press Founder Rebekah Tennis, husband Matt and three adorable children.

When it comes to creating with passion, look no further than local letterpress studio owner and designer, Rebekah Tennis.   We asked Rebekah a few questions about her company, the culture, and why she chose Chico.

What motivated you to start your business? 

I started Wild Ink Press­ in 2009, springing out of a desire to create a cherished, finished product. My BFA is in Graphic Design, and after working both in a corporate design firm and as a freelance designer, while I loved my job, I found the nature of branding design to be a frustrating factor - Websites getting tweaked over and over, logos stretched out of proportion, with no finality to the work. I longed to create art that was both finished (forever!) and cherished. Hence, Wild Ink Press was born, to create beautiful paper goods that others would value and enjoy. My husband Matt listened to my wild-haired ideas and we both took a series of letterpress classes at the San Francisco Center for the Book, then made the plunge and purchased a 1908 Chandler and Price Platen Press on Ebay. That was what started it all!

Tell us a bit about your business.

Wild Ink Press is a little letterpress studio in Chico, up in northern California. We design and manufacture (made in our space from start to finish): witty and pretty greeting cards, stationery and other paper goods in our downtown shop renovated from an old soda bottling plant. We keep old printing machines and techniques alive, but liven them up with fresh artwork and zingy prose! Our paper goods are eco-produced from recycled stock and also 100% made in the USA (by us) for you.

Every company has a distinct personality. Tell us about what you’re best known for and why.

Our greeting cards are clever and humorous and colorful and kind, without jabbing or malice. Dare I say, it is possible to be funny without snark?! I feel a good card should make both the person sending it and the one receiving it feel smarter, happier and more valued. Our pressman and production staff are true artisans who love what we are crafting, so the attention to detail that goes into even a single letterpress card is amazing. When you send a card from us you should know it has been labored on for hours and touched by at least four people who believe in excellence.

Louie Award winning card design from Wild Ink Press. Photo credit Rebekah Tennis via Instagram

Louie Award winning card design from Wild Ink Press. Photo credit Rebekah Tennis via Instagram

You feel a distinct vibe when you walk into your shop. How would you describe your company culture?

Chico is an idyllic place to be a family and an independent business owner: bikeable, a lively college, lots of art and culture, a respect for agriculture and community and one of the best farmer’s markets in the world (seriously, it’s been documented).

What would your employees say are the top three reasons they love working for you?

I would say our fun, vibrant open workspace, the low-key and friendly environment that inspires camaraderie, and striving together for the excellence that our combined labor creates in the finished product.

Why did you choose Chico and can you share your first memory here?

It’s where we lived, as my husband’s third generation family farm is located here, so it seemed a natural fit.  Chico is an idyllic place to be a family and an independent business owner: bikeable, a lively college, lots of art and culture, a respect for agriculture and community and one of the best farmer’s markets in the world (seriously, it’s been documented).

My first memory? My husband is from Chico, so he brought me up here (to Forest Ranch, actually) to meet his parents when we were getting serious. The Upper Crust was the first place he took me downtown as it was his favorite coffee shop and a regular haunt from his college days.

Think back to the beginning years of Wild Ink Press. What story comes to mind that showcases the spirit of your company that holds true today?

Fully functioning antique letterpress. Photo courtesy of Rebekah Tennis via Instagram

Fully functioning antique letterpress. Photo courtesy of Rebekah Tennis via Instagram

I remember our first order from stationery chain Papyrus, the turn around time was quite tight. We were still in our old garage behind our house, and everybody banded together to get it done! Matt was printing both colors on two presses simultaneously, I was scoring the cards on a foot treadle press, and then passing them off to Carrol who was packaging them in cello sleeves with envelopes and then Elizabeth (suffering from a bad head cold but there nonetheless) would load them into the 150+ individual store boxes to label and ship. Whew! It was quite the day, but it showed our commitment to teamwork, quality, excellence, and deadlines. It was probably my biggest early #getitgirl moment, but it didn’t involve just me, but the whole team.

What about your business makes you most proud?

I remember in 2006 walking into a shop in Georgetown DC (Pulp DC), right on the main drag of M St NW. It was HUGE, filled with paper products and stationery and right then I thought it would be the coolest thing in the world to be carried there. And you know what? They were one of the first shops to carry our cards. They have since closed, but it’s a strong memory of reaching for your best dream and achieving it (and then some!).

We like to wrap up our interviews discovering a few fun facts about your business. Ready, Set, Go!

Our studio is in an old soda bottling shop (Bowman’s Beverage, as was, before it became the old MidValley Title in the late 50s), and when we were renovating we found an old vat of Nehi Grape Soda Concentrate wedged between the rafters! It looked important (dare I say it had even become structural?) so we left it right where it was.

Thank you, Rebekah, and thank you for choosing Chico to live, work and play!