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Studio projects Tuesday March 03 2015 03:05 pm

Arcadia University and a meander book Creative Letterpress workshop

Spent a slushy Sunday with an active group of graphic design students from Arcadia University and their professor Davie Copestakes working in one of our Lead Graffiti Creative Letterpress workshops. It was nice that they had a lot of good questions. We are always disappointed when students don’t have questions.

Below shows the final broadside on the right with the lockup for the 2nd color (red) on the left. On the broadside rows 1 and 3 have been rotated so the top / bottom orientation is the same for all pages.

You can click on the image to see the image double-sized.

Just in case you look at it really closely, the participants’ names have been taken out of the lockup with the colophon as they took them as souvenirs of the day. We took the photo of the lockup the next morning after we cleaned all of the type and then rolled it with white ink to help the printing surface show.

We are always taking photos to try and find better ones to show various aspects of this very complicated workshop. Here is a nice one of part of half of the group folding their covers together prior to inserting their text block.

Studio projects Saturday January 31 2015 02:39 pm

Thoughts from our talk at George Mason University

Lead Graffiti was invited to speak about our work as part of the George Mason UniversityVisual Voices Lecture Series” in a talk we entitled “A coloured letter at the bottom of a ditch.” The title was taken from a quote by the British type designer & sculptor, Eric Gill.

We started our day in Don Starr’s 2nd-year graphic design class, which happened to be working with calligraphy. They watched the film “Typeface” for the first half of class then the instructor asked us to talk with them. The students didn’t know us at all, probably only grasping most of what they knew about letterpress from the film

Talking to the students reminded me of the start of each year when I would walk into a class of new students. I had learned a year of new stuff and those students had forgotten a year of stuff (all of the stuff I had taught the previous year’s class). Today we were showing some of our work printed via letterpress and trying to make some connection to the students that might stick. We were trying to bring up anything that had calligraphy in it, like how letterpress and calligraphy are connected. I told them about us stumbling into working with letterpress because we wanted to take our Visual Communications students to London to help them get the feeling that “type had weight.” Like how a word in a poem that makes a very important point usually is a more weighty (significant) word than one in a newspaper article. I’m not at all sure we made the point, but it seemed like a good one so I said, “you’ll likely never do anything with digital type in the next two years that is more deliberate than what you will do working with calligraphy.

For any of the calligraphy students from the George Mason class who are reading this, here are 4 links to important online pages relating to calligraphy.

  • Saint John’s Bible - links to a Google search of largish images from the Bible. Jill and I saw an exhibition at the Walters Gallery in Baltimore on the book when it was about 50% done and it was really a fabulous exhibition. The bible is a recent manuscript Bible with wonderful illustrations. Click on a couple images.
  • APHA books of hours meeting - American Printing History Association meeting held at the Library of Congress to look over 2 dozen Books of Hours.
  • Grandmasters award - calligraphy by a friend, Satwinder Sehmi, from London.

I mentioned Stefan Sagmeister to make a point, but no one knew him. Yet, anyway, they will before they are done.

A bit later I took a shot at wanting to compare something about Shepard Fairey, a street artist, with a project some friends from “Grand Army” did in our studio one weekend a couple of years ago. No one knew him either. In my favorite photo of me, I’m wearing one of his “Obey Propaganda” t-shirts. So…

Thought #1: Seniors cannot know everything by the time they are sophomores.

A young lady sitting close by seemed to be starting to drift away, sitting quietly with her eyes closed. I kept talking for a moment and looked back at her and her eyes were still closed. I made a note to myself to not look back at her as it was going to make me want to stop the conversation all together.

I thought I would end with one of our favorite pieces which we love to show design students. It demonstrates the power of design to alter the thinking of your client. Our piece is a book with an essay written by British Author Nick Hornby and it is coupled with the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.”

It turns out Ann, the one with her eyes closed, wasn’t sleeping at all, but just choosing darkness over classroom light. Ann blurted out, “Nick Hornby. I know who that is!” She was familiar with Nick who had written the lyrics for an album with American singer-songwriter Ben Folds back in 2010.

It is worth mentioning that much of my teaching was based on trying to do a lot of things in a lot of ways, figuring that I had a better chance to connect with more of the students in a hopefully, significant way.

Ann was then my favorite student at George Mason University. So…

Thought #2: If you throw enough stuff at a group of students, something almost always will stick.

During our talk that evening I introduced Ann as my favorite student at George Mason University to the 250 students in attendance. It was hard not to think that the other 249 students were asking, “What the hell does that mean?” It was nice that she walked up front and talked to us some afterwards. I would have hated remembering her back in that dark corner.

For anybody from the Visual Voices talk reading this far and headed into design, I apologize for that typographic fiasco during the presentation. I really love the typeface I was trying to use. I often use it in its italic form which is quite calligraphic. The typeface is called Rialto (by DF Type) not the crappy typeface of the same name by Linotype or Letraset. My version doesn’t have italic capitals, but the lowercase has some wonderful expression.

Below is the italic lowercase which might give you some nice ideas for calligraphy. Sweet. We often use it as our house face for our personal work.

Now Ann needs to email me so I can send her something to celebrate the connection.

Studio projects Sunday January 18 2015 07:03 am

Portrait with Vandercook Universal III

We’ve been needing an in-shop portrait for a while. Applying to a magazine for inclusion in an article forced our hand.

Studio projects Saturday January 10 2015 10:05 pm

Art Directors Club “Grandmasters” article

I’m not sure I ever saw the Art Directors Club of New York annual which announced the inaugural awarding of the title of Grandmasters to design instructors. At this point I had retired and had quit adding the books to my collection. I was Googling something and the article suddenly appeared. I looked up the book on and there were copies easily available, so I bought two of them—one was for DCAD, who received a good number of the design books from my library, and the other was for Lead Graffiti’s library. I thought I would share the wonderful page designed for ADC88 back in 2009.

You can click on the image to see it double size.

Nine of my absolute favorite projects ever along with my favorite portrait were shown on the double-page spread. Truly a great honor.

From upper left clockwise:

1 Rethinking 2009 — This was the first notion we had of doing our Boxcards using recycled boxes as the stock.
2 Histories of Newark: 1758-2008 — A 300-page hardback which we designed. We took hundreds of photos for the book, most notably the “citizens band” that runs through every page and includes more than 3,700 townspeople.
3 All preservation is merely theoretical if you can’t keep the roof from leaking. poster for the American Printing History Association’s national conference at Columbia University. A copy was given to every attendee. The type is from our orphan wood type collection.
4 Can you have too much good typography — The poster celebrated a visit and talk by Justin Howes from London about his digitizing Caslon from original printings. The image is a single piece of 18″ x 24″ wood type that we made for the poster.
5 Think Small. Again. — Poster for a Visual Communications year-end exhibition reflecting back on the 25th anniversary of Volkswagen’s “Think small” ad. It was included in an exhibition of Volkswagen advertising at The One Club in New York.
6 Don’t let another art director beat you to the punch — This poster was the tipping point for my own feeling that I could complete on an equal level with other people and schools which I had envied from afar. Mounted in the Art Directors Club of New York exhibition on the same panel as one of Stephen Frykholm’s Herman Miller barbeque chicken picnic poster.
7 Yes 2005 — Poster printed via letterpress for a Visual Communications year-end exhibition. There are 11 pieces cut with a laser from a 1/4″ sheet of Plexiglas.
8 On October 5 we fished all day but didn’t catch the big one — Poster directed toward Saul Bass who called us about the piece.
9 The whole world is talking — The 3 versions of an 8-foot poster silkscreened in 2′ segments of voice bubbles for a Visual Communications year-end exhibition. Printed on a roll of paper 0.7 of a mile long. The stacked posters were handcut (total length was 2.8 miles). There were 36,000 rubberstamp impressions. Yes, it was a job, but a killer piece that won us a bunch of design awards.

Everyone of those is a nice moment in my life and reminds me how good a run I had with a bunch of amazing students, friends, and design professionals.

Studio projects Tuesday December 23 2014 02:58 am

WHYY-TV’s Best of 2014

Back in June 2014 WHYY-TV in Philadelphia, who does a weekly show on goings-on in Delaware, did a nice segment on Lead Graffiti.

They’ve just listed their WHYY’s Best of 2014 entitledFirst for Friday, December 19, 2014.” Quite nicely and totally unexpected, we are listed first and are the opening segment. Seriously, how nice is all of that.

Below you can see an image of Jill from the segment. They interviewed the 3 of us, filming every corner of our studio. I think we came off pretty well, even mentioning goosebumps twice. Take a look and let us know what you think.

Link to WHYY-TV Best of Delaware 2014.

Our segment starts at 00:44 and runs through 4:23. You can also see our link to our original blog post about the segment which links to a standalone version of the video.

Studio projects Wednesday December 17 2014 10:51 am

Lead Graffiti Young Bookmaker Awards

Back in October 2014 our granddaughter, 7-year-old Attie Blu, was enjoying drawing in one of Jill’s mini “mantle books” which we often sell at craft fairs. We thought it might be interesting for Attie Blu to make one of the accordion-bold books for each of her 25 2nd grade classmates to give out at their annual Halloween party. As Attie Blu working in the studio is a fairly common event around here we didn’t even document it with photographs except for this one photo of the “Pumpkin” covers and Attie Blu’s finger point to hers. The letterpress typography comes from rubber stamps bought at AC Moore.

We’ve decided to declare this event the 1st Lead Graffiti Young Bookmakers Award and Attie Blu as the first Lead Graffiti Young Bookmakers Award winner.

Fast forward 2 months when James’ father, Adam, a former student for a semester about 2 decades ago, called us about his son’s newfound interest in “making books.” We love the idea that a parent will show interest in supporting whatever their kids are interested in and, if it happens to be books, you can double our interest.

At the end of the conversation I asked, “How old is James?”

“Five.” Hmmm.

We invited the two of them to visit the studio. After meeting James and listening to his story we decided on a repeat of our first award winner’s project. James would make books for all of his kindergarten classmates at the Newark Charter School.

Above we see James printing “This gift book for” covers via letterpress on our Vandercook Universal III. We printed an edition of 40 to cover his classmates, a few close family as it was approaching the holidays, a couple for the keepsake box, a couple for us, and a couple for mistakes.

The classmate’s names were rubberstamped in white ink and James developed quite a repeatable method for getting the pressure right while inking the rubberstamps. The “nose scrunch” method turned out to be the best measure of pressure in foot-pounds per letter.

Then the problem was getting the pressure just right to get each of the letters to print as well as possible.

And this is James, the Lead Graffiti’s Young Bookmakers Award 2nd winner for 2014. It is never to early to start working on that résumé or a killer smile you can call up when showing off your portfolio.

A seriously fun afternoon diversion at Lead Graffiti. Thanks to James and Adam for bringing it to us.

This from an email from Adam.

I can’t say enough about our time spent with Lead Graffiti! Both my son & I got so much out of experience. I was amazed at how well Ray, Jill, Tray & Terre set up demonstrations & activities that engaged my five year old. I won’t forget the look on my son’s face when he pressed the button & saw the Vandercook’s cylinder go back & forth for the first time. As strange as it sounds to have a five year old interested in bookmaking, I’m just as glad that Lead Graffiti is around help him explore his interest. Thank you!

Workshops Friday December 05 2014 10:56 am

Lead Graffiti workshops January - June 2015

How about a gift certificate for a letterpress or bookmaking workshop which gets someone away from their iPad and into the handmade? You’ll pay $120 for the gift certificate and if they use it for a cheaper workshop we’ll return the difference at the workshop. Any gift certiciate is good for any workshop we offer that runs anytime during 2015.

Lead Graffiti workshop certificate


Metal Type Composition

. . . Saturday, January 3
. . . Sunday, February 15
. . . Sunday, March 29
. . . Saturday, June 27

Vandercook (technical)

. . . Sunday, January 18
. . . Saturday, February 28
. . . Sunday, April 12
. . . Saturday, May 23

Creative Letterpress

. . . Saturday, January 31
. . . Saturday, March 14
. . . Saturday, April 25
. . . Saturday, June 6

Chandler & Price floor-model platens (technical)

. . . Sunday, February 22
. . . Saturday, April 18


One Day, One Book / examples from previous workshops
. . . Sunday, January 4
. . . Sunday, March 7 (new date)
. . . Sunday, April 19

One day, one book illustration

Classic clamshell box / below shows examples for holding 2 family bibles (1 with enclosed ephemera) and a Star Wars book

. . . Saturday, January 24 (new date)
. . . Sunday, May 24

Clamshell illustration

Pastepaper primer / illustration shows 6 examples plus wrapped picture frames. The “One day, 1 book” workshop shows several hardback books wrapped with pastepaper
. . . Sunday, February 1
. . . Saturday, March 28
. . . Sunday, June 7

Clamshell illustration

Coptic stitch bindings / below are coptic stitch examples with the upper left one as a book made of envelopes, perhaps to record receipts from a trip
. . . Sunday, March 15

Coptic stitch illustration

Studio projects Friday November 07 2014 11:08 am

Trade you! Your personal time for our press time.

There is always a lot of work to do around Lead Graffiti that, while necessary or at least useful in helping us be more efficient or presentable, isn’t a very productive use of our time. If you’ll help us do those tasks we’ll trade you for press time for your letterpress projects or workshops we offer.

NOTE: Use of our equipment requires the completion of a technical workshop using that equipment. You’ll have to pay for that workshop in cash or traded time.

Our Creative Letterpress workshops are not accepted as the prerequisite for renting.

. . .

After you’ve taken the technical workshop and are trained to use and maintain the equipment in a professional manner you can use our equipment based on our ability to be in the studio with you.

Our tabletop presses rent for $10 an hour. Maximum printing area of 6″ x 8″.

Our Vandercook SP15 rents for $25 an hour. It is handcranked with maximum printing area of 14″ x 18″.

Our Vandercook Universal III rents for $35 an hour. It is automatic with maximum printing area of 18″ x 24″.

. . .

So, give us 1 hour of your time to help with our work and we will give you

1.25 hours of tabletop press time (works out to $12.50 an hour) or

30 minutes of Vandercook SP15 time ($12.50 an hour) or

20 minutes of Vandercook Universal III time ($11.67 an hour)

. . .

Additionally, you can give us 10 hours and we’ll give you the Vandercook Technical workshop ($12.00 an hour) after which you can do the rental thing with our Vandercooks.

. . .

You have to provide your own paper and photopolymer plates. We might have enough paper we buy in bulk in our inventory to offer at least some of our papers with a markup of 50% over our costs. You must pay for paper with money, typically paid with a credit card through Square at the studio. Clearly you have to make sure we have the paper you need above any paper we need for our own projects. You may also buy paper online and have it shipped to Lead Graffiti. The shipping is often cheaper because we are in an industrial versus a residential area.

A few examples:

Somerset Textured White - I need to figure this out
Crane Lettra Fluorescent White - I need to figure this out
Mohawk Superfine White Eggshell 80# text - I need to figure this out
Mohawk Superfine White Smooth 120# cover - I need to figure this out
French Paper - I need to figure this out
Canson or … - I need to figure this out

We’ll provide ink, access to our type inventory, and makeready / cleaning materials. When using our metal and wood type you CANNOT do deep impression worky—you’ll need photopolymer plates for that.

. . .

Here are a few of tasks we need done on a fairly regular basis.

1 - redistribute type from our Creative Letterpress workshops (takes us about 6 - 8 hours).

2 - generally clean up; straighten paper & bookboard offcuts; sweep around the studio, Intertype, & lead saw; make spider webs disappear, sort leading & furniture, sort spacing material

3 - fold and bind Creative Letterpress workshop meander books

4 - help with binding books related to our projects

5 - sort printed samples, portfolio and TdLG cards into sleeves

6 - wrap things for mailings

7 - transfer metal type between galleys & job cases

8 - we might even consider help with our Creative Letterpress workshops

9 - help us track down our unknown wood & metal typefaces

We can also trade your time for our letterpress or bookmaking workshops.

. . .

A few additional thoughts or bridges we may have to cross:

1) It may be that if even a small number of students take us up on this there won’t be anything we need done

2) You have to do your part first and build up a savings account of time to trade.

3) We will have a fairly intolerant attitude toward anyone that violates our trust or our equipment or our type and that violation will surely end in stopping your relationship with Lead Graffiti.

. . .

We will be happy to offer an estimate of how long it should take you for your project so you can plan accordingly. If you need more time to finish a project you MAY have to pay for that time or work out a deal for trading additional time which must be done in a reasonable amount of time.

Use of our equipment can be for personal, classwork or commercial projects. We do not expect money or credit for any of your projects. You can even operate under a name of your choosing for your press. When you are using our equipment you can even bring a friend with you either as a helper (may help you get more done in less time) or to just introduce them to letterpress.

Interested? Drop Ray an email with an expression of interest or questions.

Studio projects Thursday November 06 2014 11:26 am

University of Delaware / Printmaking / October 30, 2014

This workshop had a much more complicated lockup for the 1st color so we want to show the results of both runs.

The image above shows the lockup for the 1st color, typically incorporating the initial capital letters.

Above you can see the lockup for the 2nd color on the left and the resulting final broadside on the right. You can click on either image and see it double sized.

On the broadside on the right the 1st and 3rd rows have been rotated to orient all of the pages the same.

You can click here to see an idea of the final form of the book.


The wonderful part of this workshop was the complexity that started with the 1st color. But it is worth mentioning that starting with a complex 1st color has a number of drawbacks.

1) Immediately it multiplies the opportunities for mistakes with misregistering the various visual elements between the two runs. Most participants in these workshops are first-timers and the problems associated with working backwards is adds a degree of complexity to every moment. We try to keep the design pretty loose, we strongly discourage sketching, and a lot of the time you think you know what is going to happen and then it doesn’t.

2) These workshop run a bit clocklike in order to get this much work done in a one-day workshop. Normally we kind of throw the initial capital letters into the upper left. When you start adding a lot of other elements to it this part of the process simply takes more time and that can show up as a problem around 6:00 when people were expecting to leave for their Saturday night events.

3) With the added complexity comes the issue with trying to figure out how to make the visual elements in the 2nd color match what you want from the now-locked-on-paper 1st run. If things require minor adjustmets to positioning we can often help that out. The more of those the slower things get again. Also, most of these lockups aren’t done the easy way with type in a line. Participants are lockup up curves, diagonals, type baselines bouncing around, rotated letters that don’t fit like they were intended, etc. Honestly, we want this as part of a creative experience. Once we’ve printed that 1st color we are stuck with it. We might be able to adjust a bit, but any major mistake just becomes part of the student’s experience. It is worth saying that a number of times the mistake is far more interesting than what was intended.


The third one in the top row is a nice violation of one of our suggested rules to stick to 50 characters or less. The resulting page is quite different from any of the other 500 or so pages participants have made in this workshop over the past 4 or 5 years.  It is worth mentioning that she was the last one finished with hers. Redistributing it was pretty easy the next day.

The 4th one in the 2nd row as an interesting copywriting element to it and the use of the handy box dingbats worked quite nicely with the look of the page.

The 4th one in the 3rd row has come nice complexity with the bouncing type and that nice curve. FYI the misspelling is deliberate as in the one to the left of it.

Studio projects Wednesday November 05 2014 10:58 am

Philadelphia University / October 25, 2014

We are going to try and write at least a couple of things about each workshop we do and maybe single out a couple of pages that have some interesting nuggets in them. These aren’t necessarily our favorites, but that help focus attention on some things about design, typography, and letterpress that we especially like.

Above you can see the lockup for the 2nd color on the left and the final, 2-color broadside on the right. You can click on the image and see it double sized.

On the broadside on the right the 1st and 3rd rows have been rotated to orient all of the pages the same.

You can click here to see an idea of the final form of the book.


The fourth page in the third row has a wonderful, but organized, clutter to it. The use of the ‘moustaches’ at the top and left in the first color coupled with the heavy right side help contain the image in the page which doesn’t do much in the way of following normal reading order. Just in case you can’t follow it it reads “All I know is that ink runs deep.”


In the first one on the second row the 90° rotation of the two Ls in the word follow make them into footprint-like forms. I especially like them with the spaced out letters of the word.

The 4th page in the 2nd row uses an arrow as an E which at the same time suggests the letterform as well as contributing to illustrate the word. I’m not sure about the spelling of fast, but what might be a typo works quite nicely with the rotated T acting as another kind of arrow. I also like the lowercase I coupled with TIME MOVES in all uppercase creating a nice visual tension.

In the 2nd page on the 3rd row the word everything set in 10 different typefaces illustrates the word quite imaginatively. Turning it sideways helps keep its complexity from becoming visually overwhelming. It was an especially nice touch taking something that is so complicated and keeping the first E right-reading to help the reader start into the word.

Worth mentioning the title page at the top left which takes that word everyone (which is a big group) and uses dots between each letter to help bring back that the group is made up of individuals.

Studio projects Saturday October 18 2014 10:28 am

Philadelphia University / October 18, 2014

We are going to try and write at least a couple of things about each workshop we do and maybe single out a couple of pages that have something worth mentioning. Not so much as to describe the events of the workshops, but to expand on some of the things that tend to happen ‘around’ the workshop.

This is the second Creative Letterpress workshop using “All I know is…” as the start of the text for each of the pages. We did a much better job of setting it up this time, trying to push students to say something meaningful.

Above you can see the lockup for the 2nd color on the left and the final, 2-color broadside on the right. You can click on the image and see it double sized.

On the broadside on the right the 1st and 3rd rows have been rotated to orient all of the pages the same.

You can click here to see an idea of the final form of the book.


One of the things that is apparent in looking back at this and other workshops is our experience with letterpress and these workshops is that we seem to have the ability to see the difference between a student making a mistake that is truly a mistake and a mistake that is truly a wonderful accident. Misspelling the word “devil” by setting “dveil” is probably just a mistake. But turning a capital E backwards might be a wonderful accident because it looks like a trident and turning it backwards makes it stand out. No one would notice it might be a trident if you put the letter in the correct orientation, because it would just be an E.

This page from the workshop had a nice element of rotating the Es which connects the experience very distinctly to letterpress. This is strangely easy to do in metal type and really, really hard to get to it in InDesign.

The page below did a great job of illustrating the sun with the use of two typefaces, one light and condensed and the other with an extreme difference between thick and thin. The use of the ‘fist’ for the “I” in “RISE” works quite nicely. The typefaces give a nice sense of glow to the sun. Probably worth mentioning that “I” at the top which is an “H” rotated 90 degrees. Piece works quite well and in a way that I suspect wouldn’t be a very logical path on the computer. We would love to see this lead to a logical path on a computer.


It is amazing how useful a smartphone can be and at the same time how awful. We sent a nice long note to the students trying to help them prepare for the workshop. We wrote what we thought was a good note about “What would a good student do?” on our blog to encourage students to be actively involved, asking good questions, standing close, etc. Not one of the students read it beforehand. I suspect that they read the original note on their phones and it is just too hard to follow through on the details when there are a number of links and the length of the text gets too long.

We aren’t at all sure what we can do about this.

Studio projects Monday October 13 2014 02:36 pm

Visit by Jim Moran of the Hamilton Type Museum to Lead Graffiti

In the photo: Ray Nichols (left) with Jim Moran looking over the 2014 Tour de Lead Graffiti Stage 19 poster.

Jim Moran, director of the Hamilton Type Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, spent a nice couple of hours with Lead Graffiti Monday, October 13, 2014. Jim had spoken to AIGA / Philadelphia over the weekend and was coming to Newark, Delaware, to speak to a Visual Communications class of Ashley Pigford’s. Ashley, who shares a studio space next to Lead Graffiti, asked if we would like to get some time with  Jim before his UD talk and we jumped at the opportunity.

We drove the hour up to Philadelphia to pick Jim and his wife, Nance, and drove them the hour back to Newark. The drive back offered an opportunity to talk about Lead Graffiti and to give him some background information that would help us jump into the important projects we wanted to show once we arrived.

Overall, quite a nice day. And for anyone interested in letterpress a pilgrimage to Two Rivers, Wisconsin, is a rite of passage.

Jill and Ray had visited the Hamilton Type Museum back in 2006 when it was at its old location. Recently relocating to 1816 10th Street, Two Rivers, Wisconsin, they have a new view overlooking Lake Michigan.

Personal & Workshops Saturday October 11 2014 08:44 am

What would a good student do?

I’ve been thinking about writing this entry for a while as I often bring it up in Lead Graffiti’s workshops. It would be good if we could get students to read it before they came.

When I was teaching in the Visual Communications Group at the University of Delaware, to add a bit of pressure to my students, I would often raise the question “What would a good student do? Right here. Right now.” to turn a simple opportunity into a miracle.

Most all educational programs do a reasonable job of exposing their students to educational opportunities, but the question is often, what does the student do with that opportunity. Some teachers probably give better assignments. Some schools have more or better field trips & speakers. And they all have libraries. Everyone has access to almost every website, blog, tweet and photograph on the planet.

We’ve had some 850 students over the past 5 or so years who have interacted with Lead Graffiti through workshops, tours & shorternships. Sometimes professors through their classes drag their students through the experience and at other times it is a choice that the student has scheduled and paid for on their own.

We at lead Graffiti surely think that one of our workshop experiences has value, but we’d like for it to have 5 times the value. We give the studio tour. We show some of what we think is our best work and we show work from a number of other letterpress shops. But to really find a way to take the experience up a couple notches we need a bit of help from the student.

I’m writing this with the notion that you’ll find yourself sitting in a letterpress workshop in Lead Graffiti This is a different place than you’ve ever been, organized in a way you couldn’t possibly understand if you had a week, working in a technology (or maybe a non-technology) and a process you don’t know, probably using a measurement system you might barely know, and you are asked to do a creative project without sketches. You cannot possibly know  what to do.

Just ask yourself the question, “What would a good student do?” “Right now.” “Here.

My additional advice is to ask it 150 times that day.

I, for one, do not believe there are no bad questions. There are a gazillion bad questions. They are the ones that don’t move you anywhere. “Do you like working with letterpress?” Duh. “Why do you like working with letterpress?” may get the discussion to a place you need.

You need to find the time to ask a dozen good questions over the day. 10 of you will generate 120 good questions. Some will have good answers. And it is a good idea to ask them so the other students hear those answers. And for them to ask good questions so you can hear those answers. It needs to be a question that a good student would ask. One that moves their work forward and not sideways. It needs to be a question that gets the answers to a number of other questions and also setting up even better questions. Sometimes a good student will just stand close.

What would a good student do? Right here. Right now.

Take a look at our online portfolio and see the things we’ve done that interest you. Bring it up when we are showing work. If we don’t show it ask us to. “How did you get the work?” “Did it lead anywhere?” “What is it about that piece that would make you to want to put it in your portfolio?”

Lunch is a good time when things are calmer and everyone is within hearing range.

An interesting things about asking yourself “What would a good student do?” is that it doesn’t take any more time to do it than to not do it.

Studio projects Tuesday September 30 2014 01:30 pm

October 2014 Lead Graffiti events

Saturday, September 28 - Creative Letterpress workshop with the Delaware College of Art & Design. This was the first of the new series of meander books entitled “All I know is…”.


Friday - Sunday, October 4-6 - Oak Knoll Fest XVIII. We will have a table and will be introducing our 2014 Tour de Lead Graffiti clamshell box edition and a new book series entitled Moments Carved in Paper.

Saturday, October 11 - Graw Day. Havre de Grace, MD. We will have a table and are bringing our Vandercook SP15 where we will be printing posters with spectator participation.

Sunday, October 12 - Lancaster Letterpress Printers Fair. We will have a table.

Monday, October 13 - Jim Moran, Museum Director at the Hamilton Type Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin will be in the studio.

Monday, October 13 - 20 - Virginia Green, letterpress printer and professor of graphic design at Baylor University, will be in the studio for a week of impressions, thoughtful discussion, and workshop ideation.

Saturday, October 18 - Philadelphia University typography class with Rose DiSanto.

Saturday, October 25 - Philadelphia University typography class with Laurie Churchman


Saturday, November 8 - Philadelphia University typography class with Eric Karnes

Studio projects Wednesday September 17 2014 11:30 am

Delaware College of Art & Design / September 27, 2014

We’ve been basing our Creative Letterpress workshops on a line starting with “Once upon a time…” which the students finish. Some instructors provide a theme, but generally most go with “Once…”. We’ve decided to change the line each year and the Delaware College of Art & Design is the first where the line will start with “All I know is….”

Our plan is to provide an image of the lockup and broadside image of each of these workshops. Hopefully, students will take the opportunity to look at a few of these and get themselves better prepared for the workshops before they come.

Anyway, this is DCAD’s first shot at the new text.

DCAD Lead Graffiti letterpress workshop

Above you can see the lockup for the 2nd color on the left and the final, 2-color broadside on the right. You can click on the image and see it double sized.

On the broadside on the right the 1st and 3rd rows have been rotated to orient all of the pages the same.

You can click here for a general idea of the final form of the books.

We expect to evaluate the results of each workshop which might help us do the workshop better each time, maybe give the students who did the workshop some food for thought, and to help future participants.

We are often surprised that students can actually find some things in our studio. We have about 600 cases of metal type, wood type (both in fonts and as orphans), dingbats, borders, and brackets. Some fonts have only the basic letters, numbers and punctuation. A few have parentheses. Fewer will have an asterisk.

Note that W in the upper right with that single long “serif” sticking out of the bottom. There are actually a number of typefaces that utilize this, but this is about the only one we have with it.

Another thing which we always love is the mixture of typerfaces that students will often put together. Most of the time the general rule in design classes is a maximum of 3 typefaces per page. Often students in this workshop will use more typefaces than that in a single word.

We want to write an entry for our blog about favorite typefaces. I’m sure it has happened because of letterpress, but having the notion of the perfect typeface for the perfect job doesn’t work very well for us as well any more, especially if there is a theme or concept associated with the piece. If we were just going to typeset a novel with pages of simple text we would be more apt to pick a typeface that had specific qualities, but when doing work where we have control the value of one typeface over another seems to follow a different set of rules.

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