Jenni Undis has always loved paper. Growing up, her father’s printing company was nestled in her family’s garage. But she didn’t understand the depth of the industry until interning with Lunalux, a Minneapolis-based letterpress studio. Established in 1993 by two artists and teachers, Lunalux revived the letterpress craft. Undis learned so much from her two mentors that she bought the business in 2003. Today, the studio celebrates the making process, inviting clients to observe and connect with the craft.
Read more about Lunalux’s story in our exclusive Modern Midwest Q&A.
Modern Midwest: Tell us a little about yourself. What’s your background?
Jenni Undis: I come from a big family and I’ve lived in Minnesota my whole life. I grew up in the ‘burbs west of Minneapolis, studied Mass Communication and studio arts at Macalester College in St. Paul, then moved to Minneapolis and never left. I’m the youngest of 10 kids, and an aunt to 17 nieces, nephews, and great-nieces. Family is so important to me. My dad is a retired printer (his company, Custom Craftsman Printing, was in our garage when I was a kid), and several of my siblings, cousins, and uncles work in the business too. So I’ve been around printing my whole life. I’ve always loved paper. Words and paper.
MM: Tell us about your company.
JU: Lunalux is about the experience of letterpress printing. We make things for people, but it’s about the experience of the making. The focus of the business has fluctuated over the years, but the studio has always been very open, so everyone can always see what’s happening. Whether we’re doing a big run of greeting cards, or crafting a limited-edition wood type poster, or personalizing stationery, anyone can peer through our windows and watch the machines, or come in to ask questions and touch the paper, take in the sounds and the smells. You don’t just pop in, buy a thing or place an order, and then leave; we expose the process, and invite our clients to be a part of that process and the place where it happens.
MM: When/why was it born?
JU: Lunalux was established in 1993 by partners Jeaneen Gauthier and the late Tim Gartman. Both gifted artists and teachers. I started interning with them right after college. So i wasn’t there when it was born… but knowing the founders as I do, I can see why they struck out on their own. Fresh out of school and so creative and idealistic, they had to do their own thing. They were trail blazers, truly. In the early years, most people had never heard of letterpress. Hell, when I applied to be an intern, I barely knew what it was AND I GREW UP IN A FAMILY OF PRINTERS. So Jeaneen and Tim were some of the instigators of the modern letterpress revival that’s swelled over the last two decades. I learned so much from them – enough that I was able to eventually run the business, and buy it from Tim’s family after he passed away in 2003.
MM: What’s your creative process like?
JU: I love making things. I love using my hands. So I love the tactile and physical processes of letterpress printing. Especially when working with movable type, a lot happens in the moment. There’s planning and imagining, or course. But that moment when I pull the first rough print of something, that’s when the creative process really starts. Even after working in this medium for nearly 20 years, I still find magic and inspiration in that moment. Nothing is real until it’s in the press. I love the messiness of it. I always have ink smudges on my face.
MM: What makes the Midwest, specifically Minnesota, special?
JU: We Minnesotans were not raised to be braggers, so we don’t toot our own horns often enough. But it’s such a creative place, Minnesota. We have an incredible arts scene. The museums, the galleries, the theaters. So many places to experience the arts. And so many places to learn and get hands-on experiences too. All over the state. There’s even decent public funding. And a robust community of arts supporters, people who consume it all and who support artists and artistic businesses. I feel lucky to live in a place where I can make a living doing what I love!
MM: What’s one thing a non-Minnesota native should know about the city?
JU: In Minneapolis, nature and urban culture are so intertwined, it really sets us apart and gives our city a unique feel. The river, the lakes, the parks… there’s so much green space. And it’s accessible, in so many different ways, all year round.
MM: Where do you get your inspiration?
JU: I strive to make things that are beautiful and functional. The function of all the printing and making that we do at Lunalux, from tiny gift tags to jaw-dropping business cards, is to connect people, to encourage and foster communication and relationships. So I find inspiration in my relationships with others. Who do I want to connect to, and how? What can I make to foster that connection? What can I make that will strike that chord in others?
MM: What’s something new – or challenging – that you’re working on?
JU: Lunalux is going through a period of great change! Earlier this year, we announced plans to collaborate with our landlord, restaurateur Jason McLean, in an exciting way. We’re staying in our Loring Park studio but our workshop has been made much leaner and cozier, and we’ll soon be sharing the space with Jason’s new coffee shop, Cafe Ink. So we’ve been in a state of flux for the last 6 months, and the dust still hasn’t settled. It’s an exciting new chapter for the business. In some ways I think this arrangement will solidify the gathering-place vibe that I’ve been cultivating for so many years.
Shop a variety of Lunalux’s letterpress goods and get your unique gifts wrapped in equally at Modern Midwest’s first-ever “Modern Market” in Minneapolis’ North Loop. In addition to Lunalux, a carefully curated selection of local makers will showcase their goods at Modern Market – all of which embody the Midwest’s distinct take on modern living. Enjoy local food and drink, live music and art while supporting the Minneapolis maker community!
Thursday, December 3, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Fast Horse, 240 9th Ave N, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401
GET IN ON THE ACTION!
$10 in advance / $20 day of