Just Add Color. And Linoleum.

Within most letterpress shops you will find both small and large collections of what's affectionately coined 'job shop gothic'. These basic sans serif faces pull a lot of weight and often see quite a bit more action than the most decorative, fanciful wood type faces because of their versatility. At Starshaped, we have a ton of great examples of gothic type, ranging from the worn but well made Hamilton variety, to the less-than-perfect mid-century styles made for basic sign presses. I've been thinking for a while about how to dress up these gothics, and have had some success with past greeting cards. Looking at the run of condensed 15-line type in the studio, I started sketching ideas for adding a layer of ornamentation or texture. Here are the four final cards.

finalcompiledsmallMy first step was to proof the actual type that would be the base layer. These are basic carbon paper proofs of the type, with notes about leading for future reference and reprints. Down and dirty, carbon proofs are an easy way to get a glimpse into how the type looks without spending the time of inking up the press.

proof1After that, I laid a thin sheet of marker paper on top of the proofs to start sketching ideas on how to add something to the type. I looked at a lot of Deco-era type treatments for inspiration.

proof2For 'Thanks', I played off of little spotlights in the bottom corner of each letter and how they would look projected upwards.

proof4Each image was then flipped and carved in linoleum. I like to work this way instead of having a printing plate made, as it hones my carving skills and gives the final image an imperfect look. This is perfect for these cards, as I wanted all of the layers to have texture and quirkiness.

TthanksAs you can see here, I also printed a background texture, which was simply the back side of 15-line wood type.

thanks3Seemed like 'Sweet' should have a candy shop feel, hence the scalloped detail and bubble gum pink.



sweet2'Sorry' was a simpler affair, and I opted for a subtle wave in each letter.


sorry2'Happy' has twice as much happy, as I worked a squat gothic version into the larger one. I really love the orange on this one.


happy3All of the cards are now available in our etsy shop; each comes with a coin envelope for a slightly vintage feel. If you need a little color, look no further than our jazzed up gothic workhorses.


Abe's Peanut postcards

We've had a number of interesting projects this Fall, and this was a favorite. We were approached by Abe's Peanut, a postcard subscription series for children, about creating a set of cards. There are four cards in a series, and each has one part of a story that is completed when all four cards are received (one a week). Illustrators are teamed up with writers to create stories and images to engage children and excite them about getting their own special mail. Fortunately, I was able to work with one of my favorite writers, Julia Bryan, to put together a lovely little story about a girl, Daisy, growing up in a city and wishing for a tiny garden. She works with her parents to create a plot by their chain link fence, and to order seeds to be planted. She watches as the seasons change from winter to spring to the wonderful summer harvest. The cards were printed as one piece in seven colors and then trimmed.

The seasons and representation of the chain link fence were printed first in a very pale gray. The fence is a pressure print; it is created by printing a solid object (in this case, a piece of linoleum) over a texture added to the press behind the paper being printed:

You can see the ghost of the texture left behind on the linoleum:

After the first color, a carved linoleum cut was printed in pale aqua to add 'weather' to each of the seasons.

These runs were printed on a Vandercook press. For the details, it was easier to switch to the platen presses. All of the plants, seed packets, dirt and leaves were printed with ornaments, both wood and metal. This required a little careful planning to place everything in the right area to come together and make sense as a representational garden.

Love that little moon! The cards build layers of color as the seasons progress. From the little seed packets come eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes and pumpkins, which carry into the fall.

The back side of each card is the same overall layout, with just the story changing from season to season. Hopefully the kids receiving the cards enjoy the imagery and story as much as we did while creating it.