Chapel Press

Where: 10 Horscroft Place, Moorabbin
Hours: Mon-Fri 9am-5pm
Phone: 9555 9430
Follow: Facebook / Twitter

Russell Fray has a bit of a problem with hoarding. Sure, as a printer it’s not that unusual to collect letter-press machines, but even Russell reckons he might be taking it a bit far. “I think we’ve got about 19 or 20 letterpress machines,”he says. “We’re always looking, always sorta searching. We’ve got a few machines out the back rusting away…”


Russell’s love-affair with letterpress printing began ten years ago when he bought his first machine out of the Trading Post for 100 bucks. His collection quickly grew, as did his burgeoning print business, Chapel Press. Russell explains that he’s attracted by the artisanal nature of the old-school machines. “Some of the equipment’s over 100 years old. You’re limited by the skill of the operator, so it’s a real craft,”he says. “I guess I enjoy the technical side of it, trying to finesse the machine to give us the best quality result.”


When Chapel Press opened a decade ago, letterpress printing was a dying art, with only three or four printers still operating in the entire company. These days, we’re living in the letterpress renaissance. “We got into it because it was niche,”Russell recalls. “The whole category has definitely increased. Now I reckon there’d probably be 100-200 printers.”


Russell believes that people are returning to the older printing method because of its handmade, sensual quality. “We see it as work of art, not as a commodity,”he says. “People like it because of the tactile quality, it has got that three-dimensional aspect to it.”


Previously, Chapel Press ran out of a small shopfront and warehouse in Brighton, but moved to Moorabbin when they were looking for more space to keep all those printing presses. “Moorabbin’s a little under-rated, I think,”he says. “We’re so close to the station. It’s 20 minutes outside of peak-hour to the heart of the city. If we have to be couriering things to the city, then we’re pretty well located.”


In any case, Russell has decided he’s probably got enough in the way of letterpresses – for now, anyway. “You can only really use one at a time!”he admits.


Words and Photos by Tim Grey