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Monthly ArchiveJune 2012

Studio projects Tuesday June 05 2012 11:06 am

Waldorf School of Philadelphia 8th grade diplomas


On our website we list several projects we would love to do via letterpress. One of those projects was a diploma. We were thinking that it might be for a high school for the creative arts like Cab Calloway in Wilmington, Delaware.

Well, Christina Shiffman, a teacher at the Waldorf School of Philadelphia, was searching the web last spring thinking about diplomas for her 8th grade class which would graduate in June 2012 and Google connected her to us. We exchanged a few emails, talked on the phone, sent samples of letterpress, and she came to visit our studio. Clearly, our letterpress work was a good fit for what she was looking for and the Waldorf School was exactly what we were looking for.


Nobel Prize CertificateWe’ve long been fans of the design for the Nobel Prize certificates, which includes a piece of original artwork along with the certificate produced completely in calligraphy. The one shown to the right was for Elinor Ostrom who won for Economics in 2009.

While it has been a few years since either of us was in the 8th grade, it seems surprising how few names we can actually remember. We wanted to contribute to changing that for this group and, at the same time, celebrate this milestone as these students start their high school years. It needed to be special, both for the students, as well as for Lead Graffiti. And just maybe in the process we could provide an Aha! moment for the students.


We took our portfolio and met with the students for an hour presentation about letterpress, us, and keepsakes. We do a lot of workshops with college students. These ten 8th graders asked 3 times as many questions (and good ones), interacting with us about the work and how it might connect to the diplomas, design, and lots of other topics. The students were great clients. We walked out of that visit buzzing with excitement that we had found a great group to try out this project.


We established a few guidelines that we thought were important:

• The Waldorf School of Philadelphia has a very hands-on style of teaching, so we wanted the various elements to reflect an emphasis on handcrafted work.

• The students would have a strong involvement in the design of the diploma which we would try to follow. It was also important to us to produce a piece that would provide our portfolio with a good example for possible future projects.

• There would be original artwork by the students included with the diploma / keepsake.

• It would be enclosed in a handmade folio to be wrapped in a sheet of pastepaper produced by each student in a Lead Graffiti workshop.

• To make all this happen, they would come to Lead Graffiti and participate in making and printing at least some of the actual piece

    This is how the finished diplomas looked. Read on to find out how we got such handsome results.

    Final Waldorf School diplomas


    The students’ first contribution to the project began with each one choosing their favorite line from a poem they recite daily and producing it in their own calligraphic style. They also asked us to use the calligraphy to suggest the rays of the sun.

    After our initial visit, the students made plans to come to Lead Graffiti for a day. We divided them into two groups, with half going with Jill to make paste papers for the folio cover (which you can see in the lower left of the image above). The other half helped Ray set up to print the actual diploma using Somerset Textured White 300 gsm paper (one of our favorites). They printed the repeating type on the bottom half of the diploma on our handcranked Vandercook SP15. The students then handset their own names in metal type which they then printed onto the diplomas in a second run. The handsetting nicely linked back 550 years to Johannes Gutenberg’s process used to print his Bible in Mainz, Germany.

    We all stopped for a pizza picnic on the lawn. Then the groups swapped so that everyone had the chance to make their own paste paper, set their names and print their own diploma.


    We wanted something to be a surprise for the graduation ceremony when the diplomas were handed out, so the students did not have any idea what the finished prints or folios looked like. After the students left, Jill handrolled the sun onto each background and Ray overprinted the students’ calligraphy in metallic gold. Each student also created a piece of original artwork using pastels, with each of their classmates adding some element to the final piece. The folio was wrapped in their own favorite piece of paste paper they had produced at Lead Graffiti and grosgrain ribbon corners were added to hold diplomas and art in place.

    Now as projects go, this was about as good as it gets. It would be nice to think that highlighting this milestone could actually have an impact in the next stage of their young lives.

    honors, awards, media & news & workshops Tuesday June 05 2012 10:53 am

    Workshop books donated to UD Special Collections

    Lead Graffiti is pleased to announce that we’ve collected copies of all 24 caterpillar books created to date in our ‘creative letterpress’ workshop and donated them to Special Collections at the University of Delaware Library. As of June 1, 2012, we have had 229 people take this particular workshop, all of whom can now list inclusion in Special Collections on their résumés. The image below shows Ray and Jill with Tim Murray, head of Special Collections, with the books arrayed on the table.

    Read on for more details about our creative letterpress workshops and how these books were made.

    Special Collections / University of Delaware Library


    PPSP workshop bookletThis particular creative letterpress workshop centers around a group of 6 to 14 participants who gather around a theme. Theme topics have included Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell Tale Heart, phobias, Valentine’s Day, quotes from Ben Franklin, and favorite lyrics from the Beatles. Past groups have included students from area design programs at schools such as Philadelphia University, Cabrini College, Art Institute of Philadelphia, Delaware College of Art and Design; and professionals from publication departments, designers organizations and societies, and university faculty members.


    Philadelphia University lockupThe workshop encompasses a day-long group effort involving the creative handsetting of wood and metal type, printing book covers and a broadside/text block, and combining all the pieces together in a finished hardcover caterpillar book to take home. Having agreed on a theme, individual pages are divided among the attendees to be handset from our sizeable Lead Graffiti collection. Assembled and locked up in the press (see the lockup to the right), the pages are printed all at one time as a 16″ x 20″ broadside using our Vandercook Universal III. Each attendee prints the sheets that will make up their books. Through careful folding and tearing, the broadside is assembled into an accordion-fold format to serve as the book’s text block. The cover design is printed by each person on Lead Graffiti paste papers using our Vandercook SP-15 and then the entire book is bound without gluing or sewing. Each book also includes a colophon created on our Intertype C4 linecaster, which is typeset by and lists all participants.

    Each person receives the materials to produce three books; one book is completed by the end of the workshop and the attendee takes enough materials home to produce two additional copies on their own for gifts or trading. We like this process because we think taking those pieces home, reliving the day and producing the other two books away from the workshop helps reinforce the process in their memory. We’ve often been told by faculty at area design schools that the book format starts to show up in other student projects, which we find to be an encouraging sign in this push-button computer age.


    We already have workshops lined up for the fall 2012 semester. The results from future workshops focused on this book form will continue to be added to Special Collections. If you are a past Lead Graffiti ‘creative workshop’ attendee, be sure to visit the University of Delaware’s Special Collections to see your contribution and also consider listing it in your résumé.