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NSCAD grad opens Inkwell, a boutique and letterpress studio

Inkwell owner Andrea Rahal with the first thing she sold from her new shop: the first print she ever made. It reads: “The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.”

When is the last time you wrote a thank you note?

Andrea Rahal is not talking about a quick text or an email or a facebook post – but an honest-to-goodness, real-pen, real-paper, note of appreciation for the dinner your friends down the street cooked for you. For the friend who cared for your dog when you were away. For your grandmother who still tucks a $20 bill in your birthday card.

Of course, she’s got a vested interest—she makes and sells the most gorgeous, hand-printed note cards in her shop, Inkwell Boutique. As well as cards, other printed goods available at Inkwell handmade by herself and others include art prints, paper toys, tea towels, tote bags and notepads. And, if there’s nothing on the shelves to suit you, she can make up a small batch order to your specifications—so you can give out change-of-address or business cards in high style.

A NSCAD grad times two, Andrea’s partners in this entrepreneurial venture are Charlie and Isabella—aka “Pretty Izzy”—two small antique presses that she refurbished and pressed into service. Izzy is indeed pretty; she was completely dismantled, refinished and reassembled, polished and painted a glossy black.

“We picked up Izzy in Connecticut in December. She’s 90 years old, but we greased her up and got her going again,” says Andrea, 30, who graduated with a BFA in photography in 2003, and then finished a second degree, a BFA in graphic design, a year later.

Whenever she had a desire to learn something, Andrea found what she wanted at NSCAD. Her love of letterpress, for example, was whetted during a summer class she took after graduation. And now, even after opening her own shop, she hasn’t ventured far from the university; Inkwell is located at 1658 Market Street, in the back of NSCAD’s Academy building. As well, she’s member of the Letterpress Gang, meeting every Monday evening in NSCAD’s Dawson Printshop. (Anyone with an interest in letterpress is welcome to join, she adds.)

But launching her business required her to learn different skills, and these she learned while taking an entrepreneurship program—CEED’s Self-Employment Benefits Program. The 40-week program assists with everything from drawing up a business plan and accounting to learning how social media can help with marketing. Throughout the process, Andrea meets monthly with her mentor Mimi Fautley (BFA 1998), co-owner of The Loop, and a teacher in NSCAD’s Foundation year program.

“It’s an intimidating process, but it feels great to finally be up and running,” says Andrea.

She took it as a good omen that the first thing she sold was one of her own framed prints—the first thing she made after mastering letterpress.

“That was definitely a great sign,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve been getting wonderful feedback from people who tell me Halifax really needed a shop like this.” And with that, Andrea holds up crossed fingers on both hands.