Inspiration is defined as the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. After a few hours of chatting with Jami Heinricher of The Sherwood Press, that is exactly what I felt. The Sherwood Press is a letterpress shop located on Olympia’s west side where they manufacture paper goods of all varieties. You might recognize their work at Olympia Coffee Roasters when you buy a bag of beans. One of their pressed tags is affixed to every 12-ounce bag. But The Sherwood Press is far more than a shop that prints lovely labels and business cards.
The Sherwood Press was created in the summer of 1940 by Olympia native, Jocelyn Dohm. Having just acquired her bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Washington, Jocelyn was ready to pursue a career. Jocelyn’s history in hand-lettering, printing and writing were the impetus for The Sherwood Press. She started the business with her friend, Betty Fultz, in her parent’s basement. That summer, she and her father built the cottage on the hill that now houses the business. Her elder sister, an architect, designed the building.
The small cottage sits high above Capitol Lake. A large window on one side of the home is made up of thirty-six panes of glass that allow sunlight to stream in and cast shadows from the press onto the wood floor. The shop is surrounded by ancient trees towering hundreds of feet above. There is a small garden outside that now serves as a memorial to Jocelyn, who passed away November 17, 2003, after 63 years as owner and operator of The Sherwood Press. The business is now owned and operated by Jami.
Jami first met Jocelyn at the age of 25. She had just finished her studies at the Evergreen State College and was working on a calligraphy project for a wedding. The couple was having their wedding announcement printed at The Sherwood Press, and they encouraged Jami to meet Jocelyn and tour the shop. Little did she know that meeting would ultimately change the course of her life. Jami recalled riding her bike to the shop and meeting Jocelyn for the first time. “She was so wonderful, I just loved her immediately,” she said.
The two quickly formed a bond as Jami started volunteering with her. A few hours here and there turned into an apprenticeship known as a Printer’s Devil. After eight years of volunteering at the press, she put herself forward as a possible successor. Jocelyn, of course, agreed. When she passed away in 2003, Jami took over and has been running it ever since.
The print shop uses several different methods to get the job done. There is paper to be cut, templates to be made and machines to operate. The workhorse of The Sherwood Press is a machine called the Heidelberg Windmill. This press was purchased by Jocelyn in 1953. It is responsible for 90 per cent of the printing done at the shop and can print up to five thousand impressions an hour. The Windmill was made in Germany and after sixty-five years of printing, still serves the company well.
The Sherwood Press offers a variety of printed goods including business cards, posters and wedding invitations. “The small business community is a big part of our work,” says Jami. Companies can come to Jami for help with design work or bring their own logo to be printed. Jami especially likes working with new businesses to help them create something special for their first batch of business cards. “I just really love working with the community here in Olympia,” she says.
In addition to preserving the legacy of Jocelyn and The Sherwood Press, Jami has recently taken to making paper. She takes bits and pieces of leftover paper from the press and adds other recycled elements like coffee chaff, which is usually discarded after the bean roasting process. The paper is added to a mixer with water and then pressed and allowed to dry. The result is a beautifully speckled paper with a soft edge. She is in the process of creating stationary and journals with this lovely product and will be retailing them soon as Wind-Eye Handmade Paper.
Jami is a woman with a clear passion for The Sherwood Press and the work that she does there. “I want my legacy to be that I received it and I improved it so that I can leave it to the community in some way,” she shared.
There is something romantic about preserving things just the way they are. I am thankful for people like Jami for ensuring that our community gets to enjoy a bit of that at The Sherwood Press.
The Sherwood Press
811 5th Avenue SW, Olympia
Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.