THIS NEWSLETTER is a sporadic attempt to spread the word of the goings-on at Lead Graffiti, our letterpress studio in Newark, Delaware.
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VERY YEAR IT IS NICE TO STOP, LOOK BACK, AND ASK, "How have things been going?" When Ray Nichols was teaching in Visual Communications at the University of Delaware, a year-end show of student work was presented every year, beginning about the early 1970s. He recalls that it was a bit of a pain to set up right as finals week was closing in and students probably hated the interruption. "But during an early morning walk-through before anyone came, I could quietly ask myself, 'How have things been going?' And I could see what was going right and not so right."
So, here goes Lead Graffiti's top 10 for 2016 in more-or-less chronological order, plus a bit of stuff that made this a good year while we shift our energy from helping others do their work to working more on our own projects.
O N E : Society of Typographic Arts keynote address, Chicago
A BIGGIE STARTS our list. Our exhibition of about 50 posters from our Tour de Lead Graffiti project at the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in 2015 caught the attention of Guy Villa and Sharon Olga of the Society of Typographic Arts in Chicago. They invited us to deliver the keynote address to their Annual Designers Weekend. You can get the long story here. This entry on our list actually connects with two other 2016 Top 10 Moments—1) meeting Tim Picenta (mentioned next) and 2) our first major H.N. Werkman workshop.
The photo above shows Jill talking with Guy Villa (left) and Bud Rodecker (second from right, and who gave a wonderful talk on his series of typographic treatments based on the TV series, "The X-Files"). This killer week started out at the Hunt Library at Carnegie Mellon, followed by being stranded on the Ohio Turnpike with frozen gas (the car's), to 2 workshops at Columbia College of Chicago, to the talk about the Frick Collection Catalog. Yep, it was a killer week to start the year.
T W O : History of our 1928 Harrild & Sons Albion
WHILE DOING OUR H.N. WERKMAN WORKSHOP at the Society of Typographic Arts Designers Weekend, Ray's cell phone rang. It was from an Illinois number, so he answered it. It was Tim Picenta, whose father had studied printing with the Laboratory Press at Carnegie Institute of Technology from 1949 - 1953, likely doing some of his printing on our Albion. His father had kept about a dozen proofs from the Frick Collection Catalogue that he apparently helped print and Tim wanted to know if we were interested.
Our Albion had been built to order for Porter Garnett, director of Laboratory Press, specifically to print The Frick Catalogue. Ray asked, "Do you know where we are?" Tim responded, "Delaware." Ray said, "No. Chicago." Once the design conference ended, it only took 25 minutes for us to meet Tim at a restaurant, spread out the proofs and look back in time. Above is a close-up of one of those proofs with an astounding example of handset metal type.
Strangely, in the final catalog this "inset" typography isn't what was used. We would love to find out, but suspect that story is now lost to history. We need a history student doing a paper to help out with some of this research. New Year's Resolution #1: Get in contact with the Frick Collection and tell them what we know. Then the question is, "What do they know?"
To read a bit more about our meeting with Tim, go to the bottom 5 photos here.
T H R E E : Moments #3: Switching On: Grading as a Textbook
WE PUBLISHED THE THIRD of our autobiographical "Moments Carved in Paper." This one is entitled "Switched On: Grading as a Textbook" which explains 3 of Ray's grading methods he used while teaching in Visual Communications at the University of Delaware. The three methods were: dots, shelves and tennis tournament grading.
Ray was invited to give the inaugural talk about the book and his unusual grading techniques to the just-started Education Salon sponsored by AIGA / Philadelphia.
F O U R : Manhattan Book Fair & Oak Knoll Fest
April & October
ONCE AGAIN we participated in our two favorite book fairs, but they are special enough and important enough to our ongoing success to mention. The Manhattan Fine Press Book Fair (shown above) is sponsored annually by and for members of the Fine Press Book Association. Oak Knoll Fest is sponsored bi-annually by Oak Knoll Books of New Castle, Delaware. Oak Knoll is going to be handling sales of our books starting in 2017.
F I V E : Lead Graffiti Alphabetachaos #1 & other films
THIS WAS THE FIRST YEAR (in the past 6 years) that we did not do the Tour de Lead Graffiti that had taken up our Julys since 2011. We decided to use the "free" time to start investigating producing some film about Lead Graffiti and our projects. The first big one was to document the production of a broadside entitled "Alphabetachaos #1" using timelapse. With our iPhone and iMovie, we put together a nice example of a portion of how letterpress works, showing the lockup of one of the 3 runs of the alphabet element of the broadside, along with a demonstration of how our technique of handrolling works. You can see the 5-minute film on Youtube by clicking here. Below is the finished broadside.
We just had it made into a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. We'll let you know what its like working with an all white border.
S I X : Shakespeare Sonnet #112 for the Bodleian Library
THE Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford, England, invited printers from around the world to reprint one of Shakespeare's 154 sonnets to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. We selected #112 because it had the word "impression" in the opening line. To read the whole story, click here. We used an exact duplication of the sonnet from its first printing in 1609 at the top and then our 2016 interpretation at the bottom.
S E V E N : Week-long residency of the Itinerant Printer
Chris Fritton ran a successful Indiegogo project that allowed him to travel around the country for almost 2 years visiting letterpress shops and private presses. While he was at each studio or shop, he would search around for something to print that made that place unique from the others. He singled out the different arrows Lead Graffiti had been making for each of our Tour de Lead Graffiti editions. Chris spent 5 days at Lead Graffiti. Below is one of his resulting posters using our special TdLG arrows from 2011.
E I G H T : Didi shared a link / Melissa & Rob meet in person
DURING OUR Tour de Lead Graffiti years, one of our favorite moments during any stage was seeing Tour fan, Didi Senft, jumping along the side of the road on some mountain stage of the Tour de France. Didi followed the Tour de France, typically dressed in full body red Spandex with horns and carrying a devil's trident. We started putting a trident on any stage poster when we saw him on TV. You can click here and see the poster where Didi's trident first appeared for us on Stage 3 of the 2011 Tour de Lead Graffiti.
Melissa and Rob Ivonne collaborated with us on Stage 7 of the 2015 Tour de Lead Graffiti.
During July of 2016, Melissa and Rob traveled to France to follow the Tour for a couple of stages and out of the hundreds of thousands of spectators lining the route, they stumbled across Didi. You cannot possibly imagine how much this selfie they sent us makes us smile.
Click here to see the poster Melissa and Rob worked on with us. Unfortunately, we didn't see Didi the day they collaborated.
N I N E : Frick Collection Catalogue & Laboratory Press Projets
OUR ONGOING RESEARCH into our Harrild & Sons Albion iron hand press and the work of Laboratory Press pops into our schedule at least once a month. So what happens if you try eBay.com and ABEbooks.com? Well, eBay had a guy selling the student work from Laboratory Press. Strangely, our favorite of the 92 student "Projets" (what Porter Garnet, the instructor, called these student projects) was one we saw on our visit to Carnegie Mellon University's Hunt Library on our way to Chicago to the Society of Typographic Arts weekend.
If you are reading this and you teach typography in some design program or in high school art class where you care about typography, this is a killer early project to do on the computer. Don't just teach students to pour type into a rectangle and tell them they are being creative.
This one was done in handset metal type in 1927 and we bought it on eBay for $35.
T E N : H.N. Werkman creative typography workshops
WE KNEW THE WORK of H.N. Werkman as a designer, but discovered the connection between him and letterpress printing at the annual American Printing History Association conference in October 2015 during a workshop at the Rochester Arts Center. We started doing workshops in this upside down, one-piece-at-a-time process of producing one-of-a-kind prints. We had one test run at the workshop in November of 2015. Only then did we really get the idea of its value to new typography and design students. We held the first real workshops at Columbia College in Chicago to help with financial support of our visit to the Society of Typographic Arts in January.
Other letterpress bright spots
A GROUP OF MARYLAND & DELAWARE PEOPLE gathered to start up the Elkton Book Arts Group. The November meeting was at Lead Graffiti where the group enjoyed a colorful hands-on H.N. Werkman workshop. Lead Graffiti also inspired the 3rd meeting which met at Special Collections at the University of Delaware Library to examine some highlights of their fabulous and wide-ranging artists' books collection.
LEAD GRAFFITI PRINTED A REPRODUCTION of the "Easter Rising" proclamation for Special Collections at the University of Delaware library celebrating their exhibition on the Irish Revolt of 1916. This was essentially the Irish people's "Declaration of Independence" from England.
There are a lot of typographic details that are fun to find. The small photo is a closeup showing that when the revolutionists ran out of "e"s they had to borrow from other typefaces. Also note that the C in "Republic" at the top is an O that has been altered by hand. The "E" in the 3rd "the" in the heading text is an "F" where the bottom cross stroke has been filled in with wax. There are 2 dozen more "handsetting with metal type" stories we could tell.
NEW YORK PHOTOGRAPHER and VC grad Craig Cutler spent a day at Lead Graffiti producing a series of photographs on the "lost arts" for Stay Steady magazine. His cover and 6-spread photography section focused on letterpress. Click here to see the spreads.
January - August
LEAD GRAFFITI DESIGNED AND PRINTED two nice mementos for the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection. The first was a keepsake for those attending the public reception for Mark's "Kelmscott Chaucer," widely considered the most important book of the private press movement. The second was "A Swarm of Bs" which Lead Graffiti handed out as keepsakes to a group of about a dozen book lovers who shared an evening with Mark Samuels Lasner over dinner. Read the whole story and see the book.
& the top non-letterpress moment
Tray Nichols, one of the members of Lead Graffiti, is a serious Star Wars fan and a very active member of the 501st Legion, a world-wide group about 10,000 strong, devoted to accurate Star Wars costuming and public service. Zoe, just shy of her 5th birthday (shown in the photo above on the front right), was going to be adopted. Zoe's mom-to-be asked her, "Who do you want at the adoption ceremony?" Zoe, being the Star Wars fan that she is, said, "Darth Vader." Hmmm.
Tray was eventually connected to the mom to see if Darth had room on his Christmas touring schedule. "Oh, yes!" Darth Vader and 2 Stormtroopers, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and Rey (Rogue One) attended. At one point during the ceremony, the lights dimmed, the judge ducked behind her desk, and reappeared as Princess Leia, complete with hair buns and cape. We are getting ready to investigate the possibility of gaining rights to do one of our "Moment" books highlighting some of the best 501st moments.
Just for the record, the approval of having a bunch of people in masks in a courtroom takes a few emails and personal interviews. The courtroom was packed and about half of those were people from the courthouse and the press. It was the front page story in the Wilmington News Journal on Sunday, Christmas Day.
May the force be with Zoe, her new family and her newly gifted lightsaber. Days don't get a lot better than this.
Lead Graffiti is a letterpress studio located in Newark, Delaware. We think this 550 year-old printing process offers some interesting first-hand experiences for today's students. The 3 studio members (Ray Nichols, Jill Cypher, and Tray Nichols) have 65+ collective years of design work, 35 years of university-level teaching, and over a dozen years together in letterpress. We have shared some extraordinary experiences with over 1,250 design professionals, faculty and student attendees at workshops and tours.
Our 2,200 square foot studio is located at 120A Sandy Drive, just off Otts Chapel Road, inside the city limits of Newark. If the information above feels like it might be useful, drop us an email.
IF YOU ARE A TEACHER: Don't always let your students get it off the Internet, let them do it with their fingertips.
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YOU ARE ON OUR CONTACT LIST BECAUSE you are a teacher, or we've connected with you on a project, workshop, email communication, swapped business cards, membership in American Printing History Association (APHA) or Delaware Bibliophiles, or you were linked in some way by Ray's teaching in the Visual Communications Group at the University of Delaware.