The Minnesota-based letterpress company is among 1,000 finalists
Martha Stewart’s American Made competition honors artisans, entrepreneurs, and craftspeople throughout the country. And one Minnesota-based company is lucky enough to be among the many makers nominated. Zeichen Press — a letterpress card company owned by sisters-in-law Fran and Jen Shea — is the only business in the state to be in the competition's top 10 craft category.
During the summer months, nominations pour in online for craft, design, food, and style categories. Judged on factors like originality, creativity, local sourcing and community engagement, 1,000 finalists are selected by 12 judges. Ten winners will come out triumphant in October — nine chosen by judges and one via online voting.
The letterpress greeting cards that Zeichen Press produces are quirky, weird, and wonderful all at once. With cards for all occasions, the Sheas pair simple, vintage graphics with biting copy such as “Retiring doesn’t mean you’re old, it means you’re a quitter” and “You made my cold, lifeless heart beat again.”
Fran, who has a background in graphic design and art direction, conceptualizes all of the cards. Jen, a former interior designer, prints them. Fran says the business “perfectly melded” their disciplines. The duo works out of Fran’s garage, where it takes one to two hours to press 500 cards on an old-fashioned letterpress. The company’s online shop also offers art prints, coasters, "mixpaks" (sleeves for homemade CDs or DVDs), and "can cards" (adhesive designs that fit around a standard aluminum can).
Zeichen Press ships worldwide and its products are carried in stores all over the U.S., Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, the U.K., and the Virgin Islands. Though Fran says the company’s orders are “steady,” winning the American Made competition would mean a lot to the eight-year-old business.
“It would be so huge!” she says. “I love what Martha Stewart does. I’ve always looked up to her. She’s been a great model.”
American Made winners receive $10,000 and are featured on MarthaStewart.com, among other prizes. The public can vote up to six times a day. Voting ends on Oct. 13 and winners will be announced on or around Oct. 17.