Printing in Biblical times...1823

Love for the world of theater and spectacle runs deep in me and as luck would have it, I am married to a stagehand here in our windy city. Brad, otherwise known as Mr. Starshaped, is not only the muscle behind Starshaped but is a member of the Stagehands Local 2 union, which means he is usually found in one of the larger theaters downtown. For the last year he has worked on The Book of Mormon which needs no introduction. What might be less commonly known is that at the end of a long and successful theatrical run, the cast, crew and production staff will often share gifts given in a 'we did this together' spirit of solidarity. This is why our home is overrun with esoteric t-shirts from Kinky Boots, a transistor radio from Jersey Boys and other odds, ends and personal notes from the various productions that have toured Chicago.

Having printed a fantastically fun and vintage-inspired poster for Jersey Boys, we decided there was too much great material in Book of Mormon to let the opportunity pass. After exploring a number of ideas that were riffs off of the current print materials, I thought perhaps we could move in a different direction and mimic the actual book of Mormon. This decision was also fueled by the fact that the studio has some beat up old sign type that closely resembled that of the book.

Tbom3Instead of printing a solid background or otherwise literal image of a book, I created a more textured rectangle out of two layers of wood type, which gave the area a somewhat rustic (and a little pleather-y?) look. This is easily achieved by printing the back side of large wood type, and I used both 30-line and 20-line sorts. You can see how the individual letters are flipped:



This is the final print. I used a dark gray paper, and brought in the gold starburst from materials used to advertise the show. If you're familiar with the songs of the production, then you will get the references to 'crushing it' and 'turning it off'; don't want to explain that and ruin it if you haven't seen it! The dates refer to when the show began and ended. After distributing these to everyone at the theater, the cast and crew passed them around to collect signatures, yearbook-style.



Research led me to an extraordinary article about the original printing of the book of Mormon (letterpress printed, of course), and the potential for it having been a miracle given the short amount of time in which it was produced. Getting these posters done quickly was also something of a miracle, as they were hot off the press a few days before the end. And we don't have any angels sneaking in at night to sort our type!

It is always inspiring to see a show come together in a theatrical space, with so many disparate elements needing to work together. From the teamsters and stagehands that move and setup equipment and sets in a raw space to the crew that runs the same thing over and over for a year or more to the cast that has to bring it for every performance, it's a truly working class form of art. I couldn't be prouder of Mr. Starshaped and his continued passion for the work.

Metal Typography in Context

I recently acquired a copy of the new textbook, Graphic Design in Context: Typography, as a photo of one of our type forms appears in the book. typographybookfront


This was a piece I put together 2 years ago to showcase many of the victorian typefaces in the studio for the purpose of photographing them. Forms are so lovely and architectural, and we've endeavored to include process shots on our site, the flickr letterpress forme group as well as this blog to share. Here's the full photo:


And after taking the care to build this, I decided to print a number of copies of it so the actual type could be seen as it was originally intended. It's available on our etsy site.


Just this week I assembled a similarly complex form with more of our 19th century type for a birthday card, which you can see here. The best bit is the little pin set in the corner that requires careful setting in order to line it up correctly.



There'll be more on this card coming soon... In the meantime, if you have any interest in the study of type, check out Typography. It's thoughtfully laid out, very concise and offers a unique perspective on how type functions in the real world. I can't put it down.

The Vandercook 100

What a pleasure to be featured in the new book, The Vandercook 100, celebrating 100 years of the Vandercook proof press with a look at 100 shops around the world that utilize this press. This is a must have for any letterpress enthusiast, as it focuses more on the fine folks at their presses and offers a wonderful sneak peek into these studios. Well-designed and self-published in badass fashion, make sure to check this one out.