A Calendar Year

Every year, Starshaped is asked to create a calendar in any form, and while we all love the idea of putting together such a piece, the timing has never gelled with the custom print schedule. This year we've done it ahead of schedule and have two great calendars to offer! I loved the idea of a wall calendar that can hang to display one large image throughout the year. One of the other driving forces for this decision was to be able to use a complete font of calendar type, purchased last year from Virgin Wood Type, meaning that even the individual pages of the calendar would be printed. Tcalendartype

As you can see, each date is cut to be on the same size block of wood so that it's easy to interchange them and keep the same form when you move from one month to the next. Their beauty is that they aren't perfect; there are many quirks from the routing and carving process which gives them more character than if the pages were to be output digitally. I added the month and ornamentation at the top to round out the print, also leaving a bit of room at the bottom on which users could write notes.

One of our most popular prints has always been one titled The Stars All Lead Me Home, which is currently sold out with no plans for reprints. So I took that theme and recreated the city and stars for the first calendar which you can see here:starscalendar

Each calendar was printed in four colors. The first for this one was a white linoleum cut to provide a base for the rest of the colors. Then came the cityscape in a bright, happy blue.



The star setup was a bit tricky; I had the drawing for the linoleum cut done, so I used that as a base for laying out the stars in their various size. Then spacing and leading needed to be filled in around them to keep the block solid and easily locked up for printing.


They are printed in a soft champagne metallic ink and finish off with a little moon in the corner.


One of the hazards of the trade is the presence of work ups in a type form. You can see below that one of the thin spaces between the R and S has literally worked its way up to printing between the two letters. We all have to be vigilant in checking prints to keep this from happening on multiple prints.


Here's that pesky little space:


Because one is never enough, there's a second calendar as well, in the same format as the first. This one is a mash up of various wood types to spell the months of the year, coupled with a beautiful '2014' and corner elements, all printed in four colors.


Here are the forms for the months as well as the '2014'. Some really incredible wood type all in one place!




The detail shows a little more of the great effects of overlapping and subtle colors. The corner pieces are printed in both dark brown and gold.



Printing the calendar pages was no small task, given that we did an initial run of 100 of each calendar and there are 12 months in the year (you do the math, and allow for the overrun of misprints!). These were done on the platen press for speed and the corners were rounded afterwards.



The final step is collating the months and assembling them with padding compound at the top. Then they are attached to the calendar and are set to go! If you're feeling like an early bird this year, we've got them for sale on our etsy site now: here for The Stars All Lead Me Home and here for 2014. And cheers to a new year!


Our Theatrically Corrupt Chicago

One of the most popular design themes at Starshaped is the City of Big Ornaments, where we literally build little cityscapes from ornaments, borders and miscellaneous type in the collection. And so when it came time to put together the studio's next self-promotional print, it was a no-brainer to turn attention to our beautiful city of Chicago, celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. I'm in the process of designing and printing four distinct broadsides that will be packaged together to represent the best of what the studio has to offer, as well as the particular processes we use to create our work. The first piece about the Titanic was extremely well received and focused on 19th century typography. The ornamental cityscape prints offer a chance to work in a more mid-century style, so that was the focus of the choices on this latest piece. The quote also fell into place easily, as it made sense to borrow from my favorite and very much missed Chicagoan, Studs Terkel.

Chicago is very near and dear to me, given its hard working history, and 'the city that works' is one of my favorite taglines. I wanted the print to show elements of the city that are obviously key to its recognition, and pointed to the lives of those that live here. So it begins with the Sears Tower, the Shubert Theater, Marina City and the Harold Washington Library, then rolls into the Union Stockyards and representatives of the bungalows that surround the city. Here is the final print:

After sketching out approximately what the image will look like, and then finding type to represent the buildings, I pulled a carbon proof of the type to quickly determine the overall feel without having to ink up the presses.

After determining that the layout looks great, I photographed the forme (the entire set up of type and ornaments) to be offset printed on the backside. All of the studio self-promotional pieces have this feature so that everyone can see exactly what went into creating it. We have this work done at Accucolor Plus, Inc. here in Chicago, because Gary's work, both offset and letterpress, is topnotch. Here is a close up of the back side of the print, which was printed in one muted orange color. The type is just as sexy as the final printed piece!

To give the piece a little atmosphere, I planned a linoleum cut to beef up the buildings and create a sky. This was printed as a split fountain, so that the color could fade from wheat yellow to muted green.

I printed two-on-a-sheet, with a whopping run of about 750 broadsides. Thankfully, it was only two colors!

Overall, I couldn't be happier with the turnout and the civic pride that swelled throughout the designing and printing process. We'll be selling these at the Renegade Craft Fair this coming weekend, and will then post some on our etsy site.