#Gauteng52, Week 40: imPRESSed Craft Bindery and Letterpress

by | Oct 6, 2017 | #Gauteng52, Arts and Culture, Johannesburg | 10 comments

Welcome to Week 40 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit imPRESSed Craft Bindery and Letterpress in Birdhaven.

Strangely, this will be the second #Gauteng52 post I’ve written about a letterpress printing studio in Joburg. But with the exception that both places use very old printers, imPRESSed in Birdhaven couldn’t be more different from Print-A-Line in Malvern.

Martin and Ania of ImpressedMartin and Ania Ciolcosz, owners of imPRESSed.

I’ve been struggling to write this post because I don’t know how to coherently explain the wide variety of interesting activities that go on at imPRESSed.

Martin and Ania are Polish-born South Africans who quit their day jobs to become printers, book-binders, and collectors. They built a special brick studio on their property where they collect antique letterpress printers and printing/bookbinding tools. They print cards and invitations and stationery, restore and collect old books, craft handmade journals and notebooks, and conduct courses and demonstrations on letterpress printing.

I think the pictures explain things better than I can.

Inside the inPressed studioInside the imPRESSed studio. Martin and Ania have collected some extremely old printers — the machine on the far right was made in 1853.

Bookbinding tools at impressedBookbinding tools.

Martin demonstrates one of the printersMartin takes one of the printers for a spin.

Letterpress typeLetterpress type.

Antique paper-cutterAntique paper-cutter.

Bookbinding at imPRESSed

I was particularly fascinated by the bookbinding and restoration that Martin and Ania do at imPRESSed. This is one of those niche services that I’ve never really thought about before, and in fact I think very few people are still doing it in South Africa. But if you have a very old book — maybe a family bible or ancient academic text — that is falling apart and needs to be repaired, imPRESSed is where you should take it. Ania and Martin do all the restoration themselves, by hand.

Old book at imPRESSedOne of the books they’re working on.

Ancient bookA family bible. At first I thought the date said 1423 (!) but now I realize it’s probably 1923. Still old though.

Repairing the pages of a bookAnia painstakingly glues pages back into a book, using special tools and Japanese paper.

Bookbinding workOld tools and new tools. 

Book endpapersEndpapers, which are glued to the inside covers of books.

Handmade journal from impressedA handmade journal covered in South African Shweshwe fabric.

There’s something magical about imPRESSed — a new building full of old stuff, where a 21st-century married couple practices centuries-old art forms that are still relevant today. Again, words are failing so it’s best to go see for yourself.

The imPRESSed studio is located on Greenacres Drive in Birdhaven. Call +27-83-305-8315 to arrange a visit or attend one of their course or events. Also visit the imPRESSed website and Facebook page for more information.

Read all of my #Gauteng52 posts and check out the interactive #Gauteng52 map.


  1. mvschulze

    Another facinating glimpse into historical printing processes. As with the post on Malvern (which happens to be the same name as where my son and family now live, outside of Philadephia,) I am intimately familiar with the large scale letterpress process which dominated newspaper printing operations herre in the US up until gradually replacement by offset presses beginning in the late 1960’s. M 🙂

    • 2summers

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! It’s interesting how many people are actually still doing letterpress in various capacities…There are apparently a couple of good documentaries about this and I think imPRESSed is going to be screening one of them soon.

  2. autumnashbough

    That is pretty cool! I can almost smell the ink.

    • 2summers

      It’s a very nice smell.

  3. eremophila

    Great that these old skills are being kept alive.

    • 2summers

      I agree. And I find it so interesting that these two have just fallen into it.

  4. Lani

    Looks like a slice of heaven. I don’t think I’d want to leave, it’s like the behind the scenes of a bookstore and I love old books, the smells and the craft. Wonderful find, Heather.

    • 2summers

      And I didn’t even get around to taking pictures of the library upstairs!

      • Martin

        You are welcome to visit again and take some more pictures!

        • 2summers

          I’m sure I’ll be back. I have some printing ideas 🙂


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