Julie Dutton of Studio Olivine

Best of 2011's Creative People, Living Green


How do people live green in their everyday life? What motivates and inspires them? In Re-Nest's new column, Creative People, Living Green, I interview interesting people I meet to find out their habits, thoughts, creative pursuits, business ventures, and green living wisdom.

Julie is a letterpress printer and illustrator based in Portland, Oregon. She makes the most beautiful paper goods, using exclusively recycled paper and soy-based inks. Join us as we tour her studio! See more photos below:

Julie's letterpress business, Studio Olivine, prints a variety of media. Business cards, wedding invitations, coasters, custom orders, fancy product tags—she does a little bit of everything, often seeking out experimental projects (such as printing on balsa) to keep things interesting. Julie loves being her own boss and working with others to manifest their print ideas.

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Julie studied graphic design in college, but is entirely self-taught when it comes to refining her letterpress technique. A friend who was moving suggested Julie keep her (very heavy) press, and a love affair with the sturdy piece of machinery blossomed. For the past 5 years, Julie has owned and operated her company with passion, determination and tons of creativity. Her commitment to the environment is reflected in her exclusive use of recycled paper and soy-based inks.

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Green Profile

Name/Occupation: Julie Dutton, Owner, Letterpress Printer + Illustrator at Studio Olivine

What does a typical day look like? Insanity! In a happy way! Is that possible? My days start before the sun comes up and often finish late into the evening. My mornings typically start out on the computer. Checking emails, returning phone calls (after the sun comes up) and designing for our custom clients. I try to be on press by 9 or 10 where I print most of the day. I take breaks throughout to meet with clients, ship orders, and sometimes on a very luxurious day, sit down to eat lunch and check my favorite blogs.

The term "green living" can be so generic. What does it mean to you? To me, to live green is to live honestly. Genetically modified meat and vegetables are not honest. They are manipulations. Same goes for coated papers vs. uncoated papers, oats packaged in plastic vs. bulk oats, free range chickens vs. caged chickens. The list goes on. The frauds are so clearly separated from the truths and I always prefer a truth to a fraud. The things that come from the earth naturally and without manipulation have always been the most appealing to me. They are healthier, simpler and more beautiful. Most of the pieces of furniture in my life are reclaimed, recycled or constructed out of found objects. Not only are they "green" but they are so incredibly interesting in appearance, truly one of a kinds, and they come with great stories. At the studio, green choices have always come simply for me. Why use petroleum based inks when soy inks are available? They work the same. But the soy comes from a natural source, is healthy to breathe, and can be removed with natural cleaners. We use mostly 100% post-consumer-waste recycled paper. The other papers we use are a 100% FSC-certified renewable bamboo paper and a handmade paper produced solely from garment makers scraps and offcuts. While I wish everyone kept everything I produced indefinitely, the truth is, they don't. Knowing this, and knowing a Studio Olivine birthday card may end up in someone's trash, makes me feel responsible to create something that is non-toxic and biodegradable. 100% of what we put into the world falls into this category.

What inspires you? I have so many answers for this. Nature, textiles, moods, weather, friends, memories. Most of my illustrations are derived from objects found in nature, but the tiniest things inspire me. The weave on someone's coat, the swoop of a bird, a word from a friend. Inspiration is hidden everywhere, so I try to keep my eyes open for it.

The one thing you can't live without: Simple joys and happiness.

Favorite quote or personal mantra you live by? I feel everything is designed, but few things are designed well. I feel it is my responsibility to design things well. I also know that it is impossible to design for everyone because in the end the product gives everyone the blahs. So I try to design for a particular audience and hope they will treasure it.

Thanks Julie for showing us your studio and talking to us about your work!

Visit Studio Olivine: Studio Olivine

(Images: Leela Cyd Ross. Originally published 2011-06-28)

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