Bella Forte: Boxes, Bookbinding, and Letterpress

Stabilization Grant, Spring 2012 & Spring 2014

Bridget owns and operates her shop, Bella Forte, which is located South Philadelphia near the Point Breeze neighborhood.  She studied and perfected her artistic craft in Italy, where her career started out in conservation.  She moved back to Philadelphia to set up shop.  Her shop now focuses on the fine craft of bookbinding, hand-crafted presentation boxes, and letterpress designs.  Her clients consist of everyone from artists, to realtors, event planners and public relations firms, to the newly betrothed.  She has a steady flow of apprentices from local art colleges, and had planned to hire her first employee in 2012.

In spring 2012, she was outsourcing her oversized production, which was costing her much more than it would take for her to complete herself.  She was mainly in need of a large format paper cutter and a large format printer so she could complete more in-house production.

She had enough hands on deck to operate and facilitate the new equipment.  In fact, she was working on a program to have her apprentices be able to mass produce her designs.  This would save her on cost of production and offer more of an inventory to sell.  Furthermore, this would provide invaluable training and experience for local students.  Finally, with her shop operating smoothly, Bridget would be able to focus her attention on unique designs that required her skills and expertise.

Bridget was able to purchase her oversized printer and an electric paper cutter.  In addition to these purchases, she also was able to acquire a few more pieces of equipment from an auction when a local bindery went out of business.

In the Spring of 2014, she was in need of a Vandercook Press and a perfect binding machine.  She currently has a movable Platen Press, which is not safe for anyone to use but her.

The Vandercook Press has a fixed platen, which is safer for her interns, and is what they were trained on in school.  She does not widely advertise her letter press for this reason, as she would not be able to satisfy demand.  With the new equipment she would be able to start a wholesale line of her original designs.  In addition to expanding the range of her craft, she has clients interested in classes.  The Vandercook Press would enable her to teach safe classes, and it would provide an additional revenue stream.