By Kristen Curry
If you’d like to tell your friends all about the great new developments in Roger Williams Park, spread the word using one of the Roger Williams Park Conservancy’s new historic postcards, recently printed just a few miles from the park – in appropriate historic fashion – by DWRI Letterpress a commercial and fine art letterpress printshop in Providence’s Southside. They have been in business in the city since 2002, but practicing an art form that’s been around for 550 years.
These historic Roger Williams Park postcards were recreated from vintage images on historic letterpress equipment. You might think these postcards came directly from the park archives in the Roger Williams Park Museum of Natural History and Planetarium. Each set showcases the Anna Mann Gates, the Bandstand, Betsey Williams Cottage, Lovers Retreat Bridge, Monkey Island, and Sheep Hill. To help celebrate the park’s 150th birthday this year, the Conservancy is selling the six historic postcards in a set ($25 each) as year-end fundraiser – ideal for holiday giving and New Year messages.
Check them out in our online shop here: https://rwpconservancy.org/product/historic-roger-williams-park-postcards/
Tucked behind Central High School’s baseball field, near Broad Street, the busy print shop runs five days a week, with enough work for a team of four. Their belief in the power of print to bring people together means they were a great choice to create postcards for the park that does the same.
Letterpress is a craft and an art form. Most of the team are graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design, and they appreciate its artistic possibilities. After graduating from RISD, company founder Dan Wood picked up the trade working in local traditional offset shops. With so much digital nowadays, there is something special about printing a piece in this old-fashioned style.
Lois Harada, wedding and social stationery manager, says the shop prints a wide range of work: a wedding invitation, an invite for the Dean Hotel downtown, a thank you for Providence Public Library. “We like to work with other local organizations, and create something special that fits the occasion,” she says.
Lois says. “Everything gets to be bespoke and customized to a very personal degree. Letterpress is just something magical. It’s a magic process of converting text to art; the end result is almost sculptural.”
Stepping into their shop is time-travel in itself. The company’s presses, a virtual museum of printing, date from the 1890s to 1950s; they use machines built in the 1920s and ’30s on a daily basis. The oldest press, a Chandler & Price, affectionately called the C & P, dates to 1912. The newest piece of equipment is a circa-1980 cutter.
For the Conservancy postcards, they selected natural-looking paper that would be period appropriate with wrap colors selected for contrast. Working on the park postcards was an easy assignment for Lois, who enjoys visiting the Botanical Center, Asian Lanterns and the Museum of Natural History; her book club even walks regularly through the park. “It’s such a beautiful green space; there’s nothing like it,” she says.
Their work distills images and messages, letting stories and words combine to convey important messages in simple but impactful fashion. “Text is our happy place,” Lois laughs.
Now their picture-perfect postcards stand ready, waiting for your unique message to go out into the world. Perfect for the park lover or the penpal in your life, these are limited edition so get yours before they are gone!
Shown in photos: Lois Harada and Hope Anderson