Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New Greeting Cards by Anna Coleman, Illustrator!

My prior post featured an announcement for the Indie Market artisan craft / arts show in DeLand, Florida on Sunday, June 2nd.  This will be our first ever show, and we thought we would start off with a whole new series of cards especially created by our illustrator, Anna Coleman.  Anna already has four children's books to her credit, and has since developed her technique in pen and ink, specializing in the Animal Kingdom.  Our latest series of limited edition art cards feature four cards, printed on French Paper's Butcher 80lb cover stock, with matching envelopes.  Each A2 sized card features one of four birds, a Bob White, a Wren, two Spice Finches, and a Robin.

Anna has a particular knack of attributing a human persona to animals in the wild.  This was a very interesting format that she began to experiment with during her years at Flagler College, which grew into a type of animal rendering which she calls "Animorphism".  These are not cartoon-like caricatures!  Each bird is faithfully and realistically rendered in a style which reminds me a little of Thomas Nast, of Harpers' Weekly.   The artist determines a characteristic that each animal possesses, which might, in turn, characterize a personality. Then, a tell-tale article is added to the bird.  A bowler hat, a vest, perhaps a newspaper tucked under a wing. Or, even a turban!  It's amazing how human traits can be seen in the animals of creation all about us.

Each print is a faithful reproduction of Anna's original pen and ink rendering, produced into hardwood mounted metal dies, which are hand printed on one of our iron Letterpresses. The process takes the better part of one day to set up and print, the folding process, another hand wrought operation, takes most of the next day.

Since these are limited edition cards, they will be packaged by sets of four cards/ envelopes per package.  These will be sold from our table at the Indie Market Show.

And now, a sneak-peek:

These are the cards, right off the press.  I did not mention the card in the lower left, which we will be selling individually.  This is one of Anna's "Robot Cards" which we published at G. Johanson, Letterpress a couple years ago.  We thought we would publish a run of these cards, too.

Here is an unfolded shot of "Runaway Robin".  There is a close up of each of the Bird Cards as we proceed.

These are the hardwood mounted dies produced by Owosso Graphics, of Owosso, Michigan. These particular dies are cast in magnesium, mounted type-high for Letterpress use.

We call this one "Turban Bird".  Yup, he's a Bobwhite.  The feather tuff on the Bobwhite's head is what sent Anna's imagination to the middle east.  His vest has Turkish brocade buttons and collar.  Styling!

These two Spice Finches are none other than "Orville and Wilbur".  These are in reality Anna's own finches which kept her company all through college, and still reside happily with her and her husband in their home.  At one point, Anna came across a 1903-vintage photo of Orville and Wilbur Wright, both sporting dapper bowlers and vests....and she couldn't resist.

Close-ups of Wilbur and Orville, to show the individual pen strokes required to render these illustrations.  There is very nearly a wood-engraving feel about them, which is what reminds me of the newspaper and magazine illustrations of the 1860s and 70s.

Wilbur is a little more formal: he is wearing his cravat. I guess if they were 'first in flight', might as well be 'first in fashion' as well!

This little guy is my favourite.  He's a little Wren that we call "Newsie".  He just . . . reminded us of the movie namesake.  All that quick, energetic persona just needed a 19th century vest, workers cap and, of course, a paper under wing. 

I took this photo as I was setting the scoring rule on the press.  I always get a little impatient to see the finished product.  This little guy is "Runaway Robin".  Having lived at both ends of the migratory path of the Robin, I can see how Anna spotted the rather transitory, hobo-like nature of one of my favourite birds.

This is Paper Wren Press' new logo.

That's all for now!  Friday we will have a "stuffing party", where we will be assembling the sets and packaging them for the show.  We should have over ninety packaged sets available for the show.  Hope to see you there!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Deland Indie Market Show at Artisan Alley!

Paper Wren Press will have a display table at the Deland Indie Market event on June 2, 12:00 - 7:00.  The show will be held in Deland's Artisan Alley, a restored turn of the century masonry warehouse area which has become the Arts center of Deland.   For more information, contact Courtney, of Newfangled Modern Market.

Hope to see ya there!

A Very Special Wedding Project.


I've heard it said that one of the chief advantages of Letterpress Printing is that you can print virtually on anything.  This week we put this to the test with Chris and Rebekah's Wedding Announcements.  One of the unique characteristics of my clientele is their creativity and willingness to be part of the process of making their cards.  I believe Chris hit the high water mark in this regard, in that he chose . . . to make his own paper!  The story of how he, along with Josh Ruston, created this paper will follow in a subsequent installment.  But for now, some images of this amazing project.

The paper itself was made in a home made 'beater', consisting of an old Jack Daniels Whiskey barrel, charred on the inside for waterproofing, lined with stationary blades with provide narrow clearance for the sickle-like rotary blades that rotate between them.  This action "beats" the vegetable pulp, forcing them to hydrate without cutting or slicing the fibers.  Included in the pulp mix was burlap, grass clippings, small fragments of charred wood from the barrel itself, and recycled book pages, which created a low contrast kaleidoscope of colour.

After the paper was couched from the deckle, it was set out to dry in the open air, then, when fully coalesced, yet damp, it is pressed.  The result is a deckled-edged irregular sheet that resembles something on the paper side of papyrus.  It is somewhat irregular in thickness and dimension, posing quite a challenge in feeding to the press.

Letterpresses - indeed, ANY printing press - wants to see very flat, uniform stock.  In order to feed something like this to a press, one has to use both hands.  On hand pushes the stock flat, the other guides it into the gauge pins as best as it can fit.  Needless to say, precise registry is out of the question!

Once the card is in place, the platen closes, and by golly!  It receives a really nice impression!  One of the things we tried to do to insure as even a margin as possible, considering the irregular edges, was permit wider margins around the card which makes the occasional tilting of the image much less noticeable.  The imperfect surface did create slight variations of impression depth upon each of the cards, further lending to it's rustic look.

The use of a large rubber band across the "frisket fingers", or "gripper bars" helped to pull the stock away from the die, just in case.  There was little trouble with this, however.  The paper was amazingly well behaved.

The envelope used is French Paper Company's "Packing Brown Wrap", which is essentially the same type of paper that brown grocery bags are made from.  In fact, brown grocery bags can make a very interesting stock for envelope conversion and printing. (So do recycled cereal boxes, for business cards.  Just a hint, there.)  Letterpress and recycling go hand in hand.  It's the must sustainable industry on earth!

Here is a shot of the completed card. I might add that Chris designed the text along with me.  We were both at my ancient FreeHand MX 2004 IDE, dragging the mouse and punching the keyboard.

One final shot: remember my describing the contents of the pulp?  I had to get a photo of this piece of a capital letter "B" from some recycled page bit.  You never know where these pieces show up on the stock, it can create quite an interesting effect.   The recycled paper is added late in the mix, which keeps it from entirely breaking up in the beating process.  You can also see the burlap fibers woven through the stock.

Well, the order is done, and the stack of cards awaiting delivery look almost medieval. They just clear their A7 brown envelopes.

Well, that's it for this installment.  One thing that I have learnt from this project, which is the adage is true.  You can print on practically anything with a Letterpress!  But you have to sometimes do it very slowly, and using both hands.  But then, that's what Artisan Printing is all about!

Click here to catch the installment on the making of the paper, on the G. Johanson, Letterpress Printer blog site, which is our information and educational blog.

-gary, at the Paper Wren Press.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Stationery from a Byegone Era : The Universal Post Card!


 You may have never seen anything like this before.  At least, not in your lifetime.  Very probably, not in your parent's lifetime, either.  These were the Universal Post Cards, also known as International Message and Reply Cards. They often came pre-franked with the postage stamp printed right on the envelope, and if you were sending your card to Timbuktu, you probably needed an extra stamp or two to cover the 'round-the-world distances.  These were printed by all the countries which were members of the Universal Postal Union, or, the UPU, which governed international postal rates from the 1870s, and on into the 20th century.

I particularly liked the 3rd Republic French postal stationery!  There is something inherently "bourgeois" when it comes to what eventually evolved into industrial Art Nouveau.  It's that certain something that makes you want to write with better handwriting, and scribe with a 'dip-pen' something substantive, rather than "OMG, ROTFL!"

We all need more class in our lives.  There.  I said it.

These photos are a sneak peak into a project that I have lined up later this year for Letterpress Production. The design comes from a French Postal Cover dating to 1878.  However, I decided to incorporate a franking design (postal speak for the stamp that is printed on the cover) which pre-dates the border by twenty years, the 1858 "Ceres Head" stamp from the reign of Napoleon III, which is one of the most celebrated classics of all time.  Well....if you collect stamps, that is.  Or, if you are an admirer of Postal Ephemera.  That would classify you as a philatelist, "lover of that which is printed for collection of postage."

Most of you have already caught the German Blackletter "Postkarte".  It was common to print Universal Cards in multiple languages, and in 1870s France (which was involved at the time in the Franco-Prussian War), it was most common to make that second language German.  And the German Postkarten designs reciprocated.  I might add that to this day, French is the language of Philately, the Science and Art of collecting, evaluating and appraising Postal Ephemera.

I had to make some changes to the Ceres Head design, especially when I realized how very close to the real thing my version was starting to become.  I wanted to create a legal Postal Label, not a forgery of a stamp worth hundreds of dollars!  Thus, I altered the dimension of the design, placed my initials at the lower right (ggj) as the "sculpsit", or engraving designer, removed any mention of a country, took off the denomination and added the French Legend "Carte Postale Universelle".  There was never a Ceres Head post card.  Oh, but lots of 'em were attached to post cards, though.  The pre-printed stamps came later on, in the 1870s.  A few other differences Philatelists will also readily note is the background lines and bead count around the disc which surrounds the head, which differ very obviously from the original 1858 black Ceres Head.

Yet, it is still the Ceres Head in the original classic frame, and best of all, these cards will be printed using the very same type of press, likewise using hardwood mounted copper dies!  Who says they don't make 'em like they used to??

Ok, so what is this green stamp?  If you think it's an imperforate 1904 French Regular Postal issue, you are almost right.  This stamp has a story behind it.  Again, it's one of my own designs.  It's called a "Cinderella" because it's a stamp from a non-existent country, the Republic of Deltona, or in our local vernacular, "Republica Deltona".  The denomination is fifty centavos.  This stamp, and three dollars, with get you a Vinte-sized coffee at Starbucks.  I borrowed once again from French Philatelic Design to make these, which are actually printed from my photoprinter.  I just stuck it where it is to add to the vintage feel of this particular post card. The place where it is attached has printed "Place Stamp Here" in Bickham Script.  I just placed my 1904 Cinderella over it for the 'look'.  You would want to put a real stamp there, instead, of course.  

I might note here that under U.S. Postal Law, any United States Postage Stamp printed on, or after 1875, is legal for prepayment of postage.  I would not use the 1875 prussian blue five cent regular postal issue if I were you, however.  I would put that in a stamp album.  But regular postal issues from the 1930s and later still can be purchased mint at relatively low costs, all things considering.  That is, if you want to spend two dollars on a fifty cent stamp.  But I see this practice with Wedding Stationery all the time!!

This is a project in the works, and if it catches on,  we will develop it into a series of Classic Postal Stationery, with writing space on the other side (obverse) of the card.  We may also do some post card illustrations.

A word about the border: it's an exact replica, all the way down to the count of each of the border elements  per side. The border, along with the Ceres Head stamp/ label, were drawn by hand.  These are not simply vectorized copies.  Every line on this piece was edited at the individual pixel level, drawn out one hatch line at a time.  This is why the image is so crisp.  I might add, that what you see in these photos are digital copies, not the actual letterpress printed piece.  That will happen later this year.  Again, this is a sneak-peak into the project which is still in it's post-design, pre-press stage.  We are excited about it.  We hope you will be, too!

Stay tuned, and au revoir!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Our Latest Project.

This is probably the most interesting endeavor I've ever embarked on as a printer.  The project is basically a Wedding Announcement, but Chris, the Groom, decided to take it one step further.  Together with Josh Rustin, one of our local DeLand, Florida artists, the pair did a bit of research, and built a pulp beater (paper maker) which is designed after the Japanese traditional beaters.  The basin that holds the beaten pulp is half of an old Jack Daniels whiskey barrel.  At this point, no photos of the beater and process is available, but they are forthcoming.  But what I do have are the first offerings, which I test printed with a die that I made for a prior client last year, which was designed by calligrapher Angela Welch.

For a little fill on what sort of pulp the paper shown contains: burlap, grass, charcoal bits that came from the barrel itself, and shredded encyclopedia pages.

 We needed to see how this paper would respond to the pressures of Letterpress Printing.  Since the deckle and mould are generally 5x7" in size (A7), I chose to use a die that I already made which approximated the size and lettering style, a rich cursive.  This particular piece is part of a suite designed by Angela Welch.  You can see and read about the actual suite here.

 You can see the various fibers quite plainly, giving a very rustic look.

 There is no trimming involved, which is part of the challenge: how do we place the paper on the press for acceptable register with so irregular an edge?  Answer: make sure you have lots of margin!

 Here is what the stock looks like before printing.  Thickness is roughly 300gsm, but has thicker and thinner areas. Remember, the point is "rusticity".  There is, of course, no sizing in this first batch.  Josh informs that they may opt to press out the paper differently and add calcium sizing in the next batch.

I love this. Some of the recycle papers were added late in the mix, to add a bit of interest.  Here is an example of the occasional word or word-part that turned up.

All in all, Chris will have a very unique and interesting set of wedding invites!  Each one will be an individual work of art, and a sample of what Artisan Crafting is all about!  Thanks, Chris Rupp and Josh Rustin!