You may have seen the 6 pack of the “East Coasters” in the Spring Nova Box, and said to yourself (or out loud) “holy smokes that is clever!”- I know I did!
These coasters, along with many other beautiful items, are made by the awesomely talented Andrea Rahal and her partner Daniel MacDonald. Together the pair operates under the name Inkwell Originals. Andrea also owns and operates Inkwell Boutique - a modern handmade boutique and letterpress studio located in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her shop offers an abundant selection of specialty printed paper products and handmade delights made with love, by artists from around the corner and across the world.
Inkwell also offers custom letterpress printing of personal stationery, business cards, event invitations, posters, and art prints. What is letterpress you say? Well, simply put, letterpress is a centuries-old printing process that involves pressing paper onto letters with ink on them. The process Inkwell uses is hand-powered, feeding paper one sheet at a time. The East Coasters were printed on a press that is 95 years old! Andrea started Inkwell in 2011, it has evolved into a multifaceted business that includes a retail and online store, letterpress studio, and wholesale provider.
With that in mind, I asked Andrea three questions so we could get to know her business better.
What inspired you to start your business? I’ve always considered myself an artist, I even have memories of being three years old and creating things! Going to art school was a natural progression for me. Both Daniel and I are graphic designers and after attending NSCAD, we both fell in love with letterpress and decided to get our own printing press. I always knew I would open a store that sold handmade products. I also love Nova Scotia made items, so I thought having a store where I could showcase other artists’ products alongside of my own creations, was the perfect fit. Inkwell has evolved to be more than just cards and prints, it is a multi-faceted business with a retail and online store, letterpress studio and wholesale offering.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting their own business? Do your research, but don’t prevent it from allowing you to START. Often times people want their business to be 100% perfect when they launch, this can paralyze you. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and there is only so much preparation you can do. Entrepreneurs learn by doing, and we are continuously learning and improving ourselves and our business. That is one thing I love about being a business owner - I learn every day and no two days are the same. I would also recommend that you enjoy the concept of your business. I can promise that there will be many challenges ahead, and you’ll need more than just stubbornness to persevere!
Why is it important for you to live and work in Nova Scotia? It’s funny, my roots are really deep here even though I am a “come from away.” I’m originally from St. John’s NL, but I have lived more than half my life in Halifax. I graduated from high school, university and have family and friends here- I’ve made a life here. I love this place, and admire the handmade talent from around the region. My business is now 6 years old, and continues to be inspired by the ocean, coastline, and the warmth of the people.
Both Andrea and I know that people come and go from Nova Scotia; some have come back while others must follow their own path elsewhere. Regardless of where you are, there is always a piece of Nova Scotia that stays with you. Andrea shared a little secret with me: there is a hidden message on the inside of every East Coaster pack that perfectly describes this magical feeling we have for this province. What does it say? You’ll have to pick up a pack, or a Nova Box to find out!