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Monthly ArchiveDecember 2013



Studio projects Tuesday December 24 2013 03:16 pm

Letterpress portraits

We are trying to collect together our favorite portraits we’ve taken of people who print via letterpress. We’ll keep adding to this over time.

Alan Kitching giving talk at London College of Communication - June 23, 2004

Alan Kitching in the dining room at the Royal College of Art

Mike Kaylor with Walt Whitman at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC - February 17, 2007

This might be more of a portrait of the early iron handpress, but it is Mike Kaylor with Justin Howes at his home in Dulwich, England with Justin’s Stanhope press - June 21, 2004

Henry Morris, Bird & Bull Press, talking with Lindsay Schmittle, Gingerly Press, just after she bought his C & P 10 x 15. Both seem happy.

Henry Morris, Bird & Bull Press, talking details with Tray Nichols, Lead Graffiti, about his Miehle V50 that we just bought for Lead Graffiti.

Studio projects Monday December 23 2013 01:24 pm

Holiday card workshop

We’ve had the idea for this workshop for a while, but just never seemed to get it worked into our schedule. We finally gave it a try and not without a couple nuts and bolts coming loose. You can think out something this complicated as much as you want, but there is nothing like running it to show the kinks.

The ideas for the cards were great and the participants were troopers.

It was a one day (9am - 6pm, actually closer to 7 when everything was said and done) workshop with 8 participants. Everyone was designing a holiday card. Collectively the group had to choose two colors that everyone would use. They chose a light blue and silver as you can see from the card image below.

We were using our Vandercook Universal III to print the cards 4-up on Crane Lettra, 20″ x 13″. We could therefore get 8 cards from a full 20″ x 26″ sheet. Everyone cast a colophon for the backs of their cards on our Intertype C4, along with their address for their envelopes.

We have nice way of locking up the multiple images that we’ve developed from our Creative Letterpress workshops resulting in a 12-page book that we’ve done about 40 times. We would lock-up the first set of four cards for their first color run (silver), print 50 sheets, remove the form, lockup the second set of 4 cards, print 50 more sheets and remove and start getting ready for the second color (blue). Everyone chose to print the colophon on the card backs in color so that text from the intertype was locked in at the same time.

Then everyone went back to form their second color. Some people utilized a lot of the first color as you can see in Joy and Attitude. Some would generally compose both colors at the same time and then just separate them out (the two on the right). The others tended to do two separate designs. Here is a better look at the individual cards.

During lulls in the composing we would get individuals to print their address on the flaps of 50 envelopes.

After all of this was done, Tray gave a demo on trimming the cards and as he got them done, Ray was scoring them on Lead Graffiti’s Chandler & Price 10″ x 15″ floor model platen press.

So, except for a few bumps in the road early on, we got done. We think everyone had a good time.

Keep in mind 8 people did 8 A2 cards in two colors in an edition of 50 with matching envelopes, trimmed and scored all in one day starting from scratch. Here’s a look at the 8 cards.

We are going to give it another try for Valentine’s Day cards. I wonder what colors we’ll use.

Studio projects & honors, awards, media & news Friday December 13 2013 01:45 pm

Sports Illustrated - December 16, 2013

If you want to see the complete edition of our 2013 Tour de Lead Graffiti project of 23 posters printed via letterpress on our website, click here. From there, click on the poster image to advance to the next day’s poster. Each stage has a thorough story about the day and how they helped impact the poster along with photos of the studio and lockups. From any of those pages you can also view the 2011 and 2012 editions.

. . .

Now, a gran fondo starts this story in motion, so let’s define that first. It is the Italian term used in the U.S. and some other English-speaking countries for an organized, short-to-long distance, mass-participation, cycling event, typically held annually.

Alexander Wolff, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, is working on starting a gran fondo in Middlebury, Vermont, this coming summer. One element of the event is an exhibition related to cycling. His sister, a book artist, said he should look at Lead Graffiti. She had seen our Tour de Lead Graffiti project on the Book Arts listserv.

He does and then asks, “How about an exhibition?”

As it turns out, the June weekend they want to do the gran fondo is an active wedding weekend and all of the local hotels are booked. So, we get an email saying the exhibition is off. Bummer. (As it turns out it may be back on, just on a different weekend. We’ll keep you posted.)

About 4 days later we get an email from Sports Illustrated (we are talking about the magazine with a 3,150,000 subscriber base). They want to do a small article in their print and iPad editions on Tour de Lead Graffiti for their “Year in Media” issue and ask if we can send some images. Oh, baby! It was so exciting to have a personal project produced in a centuries old process get noticed by a major national magazine.

We fire off a half dozen high-resolution images of our favorite broadsides from 2013 and then start checking out all of the local newsstands.

The suspense was killing us. Which image(s) would they use? How large? Who will write it? What would they say? Would people understand it? Where would it be in the issue? Honestly, would it even happen?

Now jump to yesterday.

We were holding off announcing the article until we’d seen it firsthand. We broke down and posted an announcement on Lead Graffiti’s Facebook page. Later in the day we get a call from Mark Deshon, a designer and former student of Ray’s, who lives just down the street from us and was a collaborator on Stage 5. He had gotten his daily mail, including his subscription to SI. He opened the mail, dealt with bills, and sat back to peruse SI. He says he has a ritual way of looking through the magazine—always front to back, sitting calmly and comfortably with minimum distractions. Just for the record, he hadn’t yet seen our Facebook post.

Page 25. Out of absolutely nowhere, there is the Stage 5 broadside. We cannot even imagine the neuron burst that would be happening in his brain, seeing the oh-so familiar image and it being so far out of its normal, everyday context.

Below is the December 16 article from Sports Illustrated highlighting Stage 5, written by none other than Alexander Wolff himself. The broadside, focused on a the 24th Tour stage win by Mark Cavendish (a Lead Graffiti favorite) was designed and printed by guest collaborator Mark Deshon, working with Ray Nichols, Jill Cypher, and Tray Nichols, at Lead Graffiti.

events & personal & trips Monday December 02 2013 11:39 am

A lot of people have done letterpress at one time or another

Lead Graffiti does a few crafts shows and we love talking up letterpress. It is strange how many people or their family members who were connected to the printing trade at some point. Lots of times it is specifically letterpress.

So, Bill Roberts, of Bottle of Smoke Press, and I are in New York City for the JFK/NYC/OMG poetry reading on the anniversary of JFK’s death. Bill printed a nice keepsake book via letterpress containing Allen Ginsberg’s poem Nov 23, 1963: Alone to be given away to the attendees to celebrate and remember the evening. One of the readers at the event was Grant Hart. Grant was the former drummer and co-songwriter in the influential 1980’s punk band, Hüsker Dü, and then singer and guitar for the alternative rock trio, Nova Mob. Anyway, at the post party at the event organizers’ Greenwich Village apartment, I took the shot of Grant below.

I like shooting photos holding the camera at waist level to give the image a different perspective. Having a more spontaneous feel, this photo has jumped into my top five favorite letterpress portraits that I’ve ever taken, which brings us to the important part of this story.

I’m guessing that life in an 80’s punk band was a somewhat different than the life I was having during some of my most memorable days teaching in the Visual Communications Group at the University of Delaware.

Bill and I were talking with Grant about music when he mentioned liking the letterpress keepsake. Then out of nowhere, he starts grilling Bill and me about the order of the cells in a California job case. Huh? “What are the top row cells?” and we would stammer a bit and start reciting the list. Then Grant would fire another question.

Grant told us, “Let Me Now Help Out Your Punctuation With Commas,” which is a mnemonic for the middle row of lowercase cells in a California job case. It is strange that after almost 12 years of letterpress, I don’t think I’ve ever heard one of these memory aids until Grant blasted us with them. So, sometime in Grant’s life he had done some letterpress.

Also, how can you not like a guy who was in a band that had two umlauts in the name? According to Wikipedia, the term without the umlauts means, “Do you remember?” in Danish and Norwegian. The group added the heavy metal umlauts for effect. I could love Hüsker Dü for the umlauts alone.

Grant was playing a solo performance at the Cake Shop later in the evening, which Bill and I wanted to check out. When we got there, Grant was standing right at the door. He grabbed us and we headed for the stairs. He told the cashier who was taking money that we were friends and to just let us through. The three of us, connected by letterpress, headed down into the basement theater for an hour of great Grant Hart music. Most definitely a night to remember.

I do really love this portrait. Now to figure out how to get Grant to want us to print his next CD cover via letterpress.

It seems like I should show Bill’s Bottle of Smoke Press keepsake book (shown below) that was given away free to those in attendance. Some days I like letterpress more than other days. This was definitely one of the good days.

I should throw in a mention of meeting Meagan who will be the subject of an upcoming Lead Graffiti book.