A few years ago, while I was still in graduate school at the University of Arizona, I (and a few others) had the opportunity to talk with Arizona Public Media about the Book Arts Building and the Jack Sinclair Letterpress Studio. Below, you can watch my fifteen minutes of fame… or more precisely, three and a half minutes. It was certainly a nerve-racking experience to be on camera, but it was also an excellent opportunity to spread the word about the great things happening in the lab, as well as share a few things about a process I genuinely enjoyed—and miss, so much.
I had forgotten about the video until recently, when I had another fantastic experience, taking a group of AIGA students from Northern Arizona University, down to Prescott to spend the day with Sky Shipley at his Skyline Type Foundry. I’ll write again soon, about our visit, filled with platen presses, monotype casting machines, and of course, pizza.
VIDEO: Book Arts & Letterpress Lab Teaches Old Craft
courtesy of Arizona Public Media and Laura Taflinger
Recently, dear friend and übertalented designer/artist/crafter asked if I would work up some ideas for blog identities; one for a photo blog (We Going Places) and another for an arts and crafts blog (We The Makers). They were ultimately rejected, as they weren’t exactly what the designer was looking for, but I thought they were successful, even if only for practice.
The We Going Places logo was created utilizing the Metropolis 1920 typeface, a modern take on the Art Deco styling of the early twentieth century. I built upon it further, by personalizing, modifying and tweaking the characters to fit within the vision of the logo. The idea was to utilize a face that hinted at a strong historical tie to design history, while at the same time adding some contemporary flair
We The Makers was created in a similar manner, utilizing a combination of BP Script and Futura, both modified, to stitch together a logo that would lend itself to the feeling of handmade, of craft. With those who consider themselves to be craftsmen, they take great pride in their work—this is where the idea for the flag came in, as a means for the craftsman to plant his flag, to be proud of his wares.
As you may have gathered by now, from previous posts, I’m a bit of a collector. Not necessarily a collector of anything in particular, or of anything with any real value attached to it. Typically, my finds come from the ground or from the shelves of thrift stores, they tend to have the same patina (old, worn, used and broken), and come from a time in history that I have no concept of—well, because I wasn’t around yet. I’ve always been fascinated by nostalgic objects, a characteristic I’ve always attributed to growing up in one of those hundred year old houses decorated with era-appropriate furniture and books and wallpaper, etc. I believe this is why I spend so much wandering thrift stores and antique shops—trying to connect to a time I’m unconnected to.
To the item at hand. I was in one of my favorite Tucson thrift haunts last year, when I came across this fantastic toy. By today’s standards, toy, would be polite. More likely it would be a choking hazard, with sharp edges with a rotating metal grinder. But I digress. Working at the time, in the Jack Sinclair Letterpress Lab at the University of Arizona, I was in the process of falling in love with the letterpress when I came across this fifties era Louis Marx & Company toy printing press. Measuring 10″ x 6″ x 5.5″, the press came (back in the day), with ink, a cloth-covered wooden inking roller (now dried out), moveable rubber type, and the press. The press itself features a two color litho, illustrating the gears, a ruler, and even an oil can. Fully working, paper could be cut to size, type set on the drum, ink placed on the roller, and a print could be cranked right through. Quite impressive for a sixty year old toy.
The Louis Marx & Company, at the time in the fifties, was the largest toy company in the world. Founded and based in New York, the company operated from 1919 up to 1978. When television became a household item in the fifties, the Marx Co. began to slide, not for their products, but for their lack of advertising insight. With sales of $50 million in 1955, Marx spent only $312.00 on advertisements. The company would hang on and eventually be sold in 1972 to the Quaker Oats Company, who at the time, had other holdings in the toy industry. Destined to remain ignorant of past faults, the company ignored the influx of electronic toys to the market, falling further and further behind competitors. Ultimately the company was sold to a British conglomerate towards the end of the seventies, but in the end, failed.