Meet Letra Chueca

For Design Week Portland, we're partnering with Letra Chueca Press to host a night of fun, food, and freebies. Letra Chueca is a latinx-owned printing press in Portland, Oregon. We met the co-founders, Camila Araya and Daniela del Mar, last Fall and we've been in love with them ever since. The two Chileans share a common vision: to operate a sustainable, multicultural space dedicated to the craft of printing and its continued political importance here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

What benefits and obstacles did you encounter going into a business with a friend?

We had shared workspace for about a year before deciding to work together. In that time, there were a handful of projects we shared which were in mostly a relaxed setting. After taking the decision to start a shop together, the stakes and pressure were considerably higher en algunos sentidos. When faced with difficult situations, we were challenged in our communication styles. There are so many little details and factors that going into a printed object - and also running a business - that these recurring situations forced us to be clearer with ourselves and with each other. Another big factor in a work partnership is difference of schedules and that pesky life/work balance.

How do you gather inspiration?

Primarily from our lived experiences. This includes our adopted and shared cultures, the reality of what is happening in the world today, humor, beautiful handcrafted things, tradition, community, and of course, mucho color.

What has been the biggest creative hurdle you have overcome? How did overcome it?

When we first started, we were keenly aware of how saturated the local letterpress market is. We felt at first that in order to compete with other businesses, we had to do the same things but better. It soon became very clear that we were stifling our own selves and when we put down expectation, we came into our own voice stronger and clearer and this is the work that people responded to.

What are some difficult things you had to face with your shop and how did you deal with them?
The biggest thing is that our equipment is heavy. Our presses are big, antique machines that aren't easy to find or to even repair if something happens because, well, all the people from our industry with that knowledge are mostly dead. So, moving our shop to different studio spaces has been our biggest reoccurring challenge. We have moved THREE TIMES since we started the business in 2013 and that has taken a lot of our time and money but, also a lot of emotional work. At our first two rental spaces, we encountered pretty much male white supremacy trying to intervene in our first beginnings of running our business. It took us a lot of strength and courage to decide to move this last time for those reasons. Ultimately, we finally found a place that is much more affordable with much more freedom to develop as we please.

Favorite spots in Portland?

Definitivamente, the Portland Mercado, Pambiche, the IPRC, Forest Park, See See's Coffee, and no me acuerdo del nombre pero that Oaxacan food cart on Fremont & Vancouver, they have delicious maseca tortillas.

What issue(s) are you passionate about?

Feminism, racial justice, smashing the patriarchy on a daily basis

What are your next steps?

We have been working hard to both organize and prepare for the annual Letterpress Printers Fair, which is kicking off Design Week Portland on April 15th. We've got a lot of really amazing clientes right now, like Nat Turner Project, Callejerx, Pozole for the People, among others and we're really excited about putting their projects out in to the world. Some other things we are working on include grant-writing for a project we'd like to do later this fall as well as developing our online tienda to get Letra Chueca into manos everywhere!

Check them out at: Letra Chueca Press

Follow: @letrachuecapress

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