Wells or Bust!

Nothing beats the long haul of March in Chicago like a working vacation in another print shop. Okay, maybe that’s just me, but it was a real treat to spend time in Central New York for a residency at the Wells College Book Arts Center, with stops at some of our favorite places along the way. We packed the car with tools and remaining copies of An Alphabet of Sorts, our contribution to the Goudy 150 keepsake project, prints to share and one kid destined for Grandma’s house.

jowells1The one stop Jo and I made together was at Virgin Wood Type to collect our newest typeface as well as other ornaments I can’t wait to ink up. A visit to Virgin is like waking up Christmas morning, where even the type gets the fancy wrap treatment.

virgin8Here’s Geri proofing up our Gothic Bold thanks to the ease of carbon paper.


virgin9For a small shop it’s terribly impressive what takes place here. The team was very busy, cutting nonstop to stock up for an upcoming trip to SGC.


virgin5Even the hell box is a popular spot for slightly less-than characters with a ton o’ potential.

virgin3No set is complete without stamping!


virgin10Right after we left the pantograph was set to work again, cutting a preliminary set of an exciting new modular typeface. See the patterns below. Can’t WAIT for this one.


virgin6Two of my favorite people, Matt and Geri.

mattjengeriWe brought a clampersand as a gift for Matt, which Jo promptly tested on his thumb. It works!

mattjoThe next day I headed out on my own, stopping for a few hours at the Cary Graphic Arts Collection to both visit and print and put together a little more research on Albert Schiller. Amelia made these great posters!

caryposterAnd here she is, having just set up my Goudy keepsake form to print. Many folks came through to pull a print for themselves, and I couldn’t resist putting one of the prints on Goudy’s press for a photo with the man himself.



goudyI also found a copy of Schiller’s original tribute that served as a model. Here it is next to my reincarnation.

schillertributeI’ve narrowed down the images I captured of Schiller’s work to just the ones I sought as inspiration for what I planned to do once at Wells College, starting with the incomparable Ampersand Machine.





schiller3The Cary Collection is a trove of treasures and it was an honor to get a little behind-the-scenes glimpse into the life of a curator.






cary2After fully saturating myself with inspiration, it was time to head to Wells for the real work of my trip. I love this poster printed at their Book Arts Center, soon to be my home. It’s a little glimpse at the kind of typographical dessert that was waiting for me.

posterAnd here’s another. This is a fraction of the unbelievable type available to work with and I wanted to use it all. It was a delight to discover much of this was originally from the Chicago Type Foundry (read: OLD).


type2The shop is so beautiful and well organized, as you can see. There’s a ton of natural light in this charming old building with it’s large doors and windows and worn hardwood floors.



studioThe only big messes in the place were the ones I made over the course of the week. A little food, a little caffeine, a ton of boxed ornaments.

homebaseAnd if one incredible studio isn’t enough, there’s a second faculty print room as well. Spoiled for choice!

facultyroomOne order of business was to tackle the binding of An Alphabet of Sorts and you can see the beginning of the collating with students here.



book1Seeing them pile up was pretty exciting, as was the addition of little gold stars foil stamped on the spine.



book2Friday evening I gave a warts-and-all lecture about the 15 year history of Starshaped and shared details about collaborating with Wells on the book. What a great way to launch my ‘baby’ into the world. Shout out to Jookie Jill for taking this right-on shot.

jenbookNot able to remove the images of Schiller’s Ampersand Machine from my brain over the last 6 months, I knew I wanted to create a response print that would take advantage of the type collection at Wells, including the different types of ornaments there. Hence my Alphabet Machine plan was hatched. I have a soft spot for big, fat type and was tickled to find this Bodoni in the basement of the Book Arts Center. We just don’t have enough of this at Starshaped.

form8Slowly my machine started to take shape, with made up gears, smokestacks and repositories for type.


setup2LOVE these mortised circles into which I shoved tiny 6 point number arrows.


setup4It got a little tough to keep my bearings with this one, as you can well imagine. Limiting my choices to ornaments that were not organic while fitting my brainstormed buzz words (pipes, valves, shoots, squares, linear, conveyor… you get the idea) was the only way to keep my head screwed on straight in this ‘crack house of ornament’.



form2By late Saturday evening, the entire form was set and on press, ready for a proof.

form1My first move was to pull a carbon paper proof. Not perfect, but enough to get an idea of what the overall print will look like.

proofThe first full proof was pretty great. Regardless of number of colors, I always print the entire form together to make sure everything makes sense before pulling out the separations. The paper is a gloriously rough and recycled gray and I used the same dark gray ink for the machine as in An Alphabet of Sorts.

fullproofThen I pulled out all of the type which would be printed in red. This was very mentally helpful as I could then see just the machine itself.

form7I marked spacing for where all of the letters were so that I’d know how to reinsert them after the first color was done.

form5Here’s just the second color made up of letters only. Apparently this is pretty interesting as I caught both Virgin Wood Type Geri and Rich, director of the Book Arts Center, taking shots of it.


geririchHere’s the sequence for printing, starting with the proof, removal of the second color and then the full version. And of course another excuse to show this wonderfully fat type.

alpha6I decided to add a third run to the print in the form of a very light gray. This was to solidify a few areas as well as add a bit of dimension to the machine.



alpha2The final print is very satisfying. It is now available for purchase here.

alpha1Late nights? I saw a few. But what a great way to spend them.

studio3Throughout the week we hosted a few open studio times as well as helped students with their own printing. It’s wonderful to see how much the equipment is being used and I loved working with a new group of printers.


kyleWe also played hooky one day and visited the Bixler Letterfoundry which was almost too much to bear. Their large shop is split between meticulously maintained casting and printing areas and I spied on both.



bixler12They had two new matrices made for 36 point ornaments so we set those up to cast.

bixler11Here’s one of the first!


bixler9I received a set of both of the new casts, shown here with a new-to-me set received from honorary Starshaped lady, Jessie of Punky Press.


bixler2There was beautiful, ornamental inspiration all over the place.




Luckily we had to create another poster  for an upcoming lecture, which gave me the opportunity to use more of the Bixler’s ornaments. Andrew Steeves’ talk on Ecology, Economy and the Endurance of Printing begged for a layout that would pull these elements together in a self-feeding, circular manner. And so this form was born, tying in natural, organic elements with directional and monetary hints at the same time.

form1The first carbon proof was pretty tight. Students and visitors helped set all of the supporting text with a run of Centaur.

proof1A straightforward, sexy form.

fullformI ran the lighter circle image first as it would be nearly impossible to pull it out to run the text first.



form2Then the main text was inserted back into the form and I deconstructed the circle right on press.


form6The final print was elegant and straightforward and a real departure from the Alphabet Machine.





steeves6I’m so glad I was able to work with two disparate sets of type and ornaments for both prints finished at Wells. Luckily I kept good notes on distribution when all was said and done!


While there are a lot of photos here, I feel that this post is not a well-rounded one. I was fighting a cold when I descended on Wells and didn’t take photos of its charming structures or Cayuga Lake. I don’t have images of all of the work done with students or the friends that came for my lecture. I don’t even have as many shots as I’d like to document the collection itself, though this trip is the first of what will be many. If you want to check it out for yourself, don’t miss the Summer Institute program, a veritable feast for everyone interested in book arts, typography and printing.

I do, however, have more fond memories of my visit than I can recount. Like seeing this face that Jenna, the Victor Hammer Fellow, pulled in Rich’s direction every day to keep him in line.

richjennaAnd having a ‘Holy Hell!’ moment while collecting type specimens for my prints.

typetodistribute2And seeing these classy ladies over the press every day, reminding me of the legacy of the Center.

wellsladiesAnd this. Because that’s how I felt every day I got to work there. Can’t wait to get back.




Tribute to a Tribute: Goudy at 150

It was an honor to be asked to contribute to the keepsake exchange celebrating the sesquicentennial of the birth of Frederic W. Goudy, organized by RITs Cary Graphic Arts Collection.

callforkeepsakesLast summer, while visiting the Cary Collection (which you can read about here), I was introduced to the work of Albert Schiller and was immediately enthralled with the detailed and incredible use of metal type ornaments to create ‘type pictures’. One of my favorites was a relatively simple one-color form done as tribute to Fred Goudy. Given that the keepsakes would be collected by the fine folks at the Cary Collection I felt I should attempt to recreate this piece for my offering. Here is the form when first assembled.

Tgoudy1Below is the first carbon proof of the form; not fancy but enough to know approximately how it would look in print. Behind is my photocopy of the Schiller piece. Not an exact copy, given that Schiller and I clearly had different sorts to work with, I wanted it to merely reference the original work.

carbonproofI first printed the full form, knowing that I’d eventually like to print it in two colors.

proofThe first color was a cheery mustard-yellow. I placed solid pieces behind where the side and top star-like ornaments would be overprinted.

Tgoudy2Here’s the last print to come off the press with the second blue color. You can see how overprinting the blue on yellow altered the color of those particular ornaments. I left the lovely Cloister initials with no color behind them so they would pop.



goudy2The type was set in Deepdene and Camelot, both Goudy-designed typefaces.


goudy3I joked when putting together this form that Schiller must not have liked Goudy much as it felt like one of the easiest he, and subsequently I, had done. Then I discovered that the devil was in the printing; it was one of the hardest pieces I have printed. This is mostly because of a few key elements: the ornaments are set very solid and must be perfected planed (flush to the base they rest on), the ‘doorways’ required mitered rules that are very small and difficult to master and the registration was impossibly tight. Now I know that Schiller loved Goudy and I still have a long way to go to come close to the brilliance of his work.


The White City

It’s no secret that I love Chicago. And one of the many events I love about it is the annual Printers Row Book Fair (sure, it’s called the Lit Fest now, but that doesn’t sound as nice, does it?). Last June, Jo and I found some real treasures, including these souvenir booklets for the Chicago World’s Fair Columbian Exposition in 1893, with lovely hand drawn illustrations of the various buildings constructed for the Fair. These were printed in Germany and were clearly either based on preliminary drafts of what would be coined The White City or descriptions of the structures as some of the illustrations are not correct, nor is there mention of the Ferris Wheel, a new-to-the-world invention but relative latecomer to the Fair. The Field Museum also presented an exhibit of some of their treasures from the Fair and that was where I picked up the other book shown here, Spectacle in the White City.




research3These buildings were screaming out to be recreated in metal type form! It’s rare that this is the case, but my biggest concern was finding a paper that would allow for the exploration of printing them in white ink and I did. More on that later.

The first step was to figure out the structure and scope of the print given the sheer size of the Fair. I set the parameters so that the print would be at home with our Urbs in Horto homage to Chicago’s city seal. Then I grabbed a dark sheet of paper and sketched out the basic layout.

setupThe hard part was determining what structures to include, but I think the final choices were wise ones. More on these choices in the photos to follow. Slowly and painfully, I pulled ornaments that might resemble elements of the buildings.


setup2As the buildings started to take form, I moved on to the gardens and water features.

setup4I read that Daniel Burnham kept a sign above his desk that said RUSH while laboring to make the Fair happen in a breathtakingly short period of time. I left out wood type to this effect to keep me on task. I also wanted to use the little ‘kissing kids’ ornament in the water area as it was used on the Urbs in Horto print and was also produced in Chicago at the time of the actual Fair.

setup5Mr. Starshaped felt the Ferris Wheel lacked something so I had to think on it a bit more. Setting circular forms is hard enough.

setup3The labels for the buildings were set in tiny 6 point Engravers Roman, a particularly old and beaten up version. They are set to resemble little ribbons with great end caps.

IMG_5810Here’s the first final form! Looks great in photos, but print is another beast.

Twhitecity1Details of the form follow here. The Administration building is one of the first you would have seen if you took the train to the Fair. I loved its stately manner and tried to work in little angel faces to represent the many symbolic sculptures that graced the façade.



admin4Machinery was also an appealing building for its church-like steeples and large skylights. Plus… I like machinery.



machinery4Manufactures and Liberal Arts had to be included as the largest building of the Fair. The sheer size must have been a sight to behold. This building looks better in 2-color so there are more images to come.



manufactures2The Palace of Fine Arts was a must, given that this is the only building that still stands today in the form of the Museum of Science and Industry (Have you been there? The U-505 tour is worth the price of admission alone).


palace3The Transportation Building was designed by Adler and Sullivan and included an incredible ‘golden door’. The challenge here was to find tiny ornaments that most represented the style of work for which Sullivan is known.



transportation3I added circles to the Ferris Wheel to represent individual carriages. The scale of this print prevented a more elaborate solution so let’s just say there might be a bigger Ferris Wheel print to come in the future.

ferriswheel3Last but not least, the title. I kept the format of the Urbs in Horto print, complete with ‘pin’ ornaments.

TwhitecitytypeBefore any ink touches the press I pull a series of carbon paper proofs for general placement and to get a quick glimpse of what I’m up against. Many small tweaks were made at this point.

carbonproofsOnce I was happy with the overall look I set up the first color and pulled a full proof before breaking down the form for different colors. I marked up a few changes on this as you can see, as well as left a few notes for myself going into the next colors.

fullproof2The forms are pretty, inked in white.







WferriswheelYou can see here that much of the spacing is colored with Sharpie to indicate where I put it in place of the other ornaments I pulled out. This is what passes for color separations in old school letterpress.

WfullwhiteThe second color was a subtle hit of transparent white which has the look of a varnish on the paper. I wanted to use this to make the negative spaces of the buildings recede. Not an exciting form, but here you can see a few of the solutions to create solid areas of ink.


Trans1Kissing kids!

water1The water elements underwent the most drastic changes. I initially thought it would be set pretty solid between the buildings but then loosened it up over subsequent proofs and made it more organic. You can see the ‘ghosts’ of the buildings and gardens in this crazy form.

water2The final print! It measures 14×18″ and is printed in 4 colors. It’s a bit tough to photograph because of the subtle colors and texture of the paper. I worked with Neenah’s Wrought Iron from their Environment line and it was the perfect paper; a dark enough gray to show white but light enough for darker colors, and it has little recycled inclusions that give it just a bit of the rough and tumble feel of Chicago itself. The final edition size is 125 prints.










whitecitytitleChicago will always be my first true love and its rich history, warts and all, will continue to provide ample resource material for print inspiration. The White City is officially the hardest print I have ever set and the lessons learned both about my typesetting ability and the history of the city will no doubt guide all future projects at Starshaped. Huge thanks to all of the fine folks that supported the midwestern gumption behind this project through kind words, sales and Chicago-style chop-bustin’. And much like the Fair itself, this is what the remains looked like:

buildingsongalleyThe print is available for sale here while the edition lasts. This one won’t be reprinted, folks.

I’ve Got A Little Poster Here

Dann and I have been friends for… two decades? So long I can’t fully recall how we met. What I do remember are all of the shows we’ve been to over the years, the scheming about building prints shops, bands, record labels, you name it. The hours at Dons in Rogers Park and Trevi in Lincoln Park. And the thread that’s pulled us through all of these years is a simple one: Sweet. Pop. Music.

So when Dann came to me in December with the direction to ‘make some cool posters’, I gave it a shot. Hosting a residency at the Hideout, a veritable Chicago institution, meant a whole lot of type to go with a whole lot of music. The Cooper Black was calling out for a little action, so I set the themes for each night to proof and play with digitally.

form5After scanning them into a ‘fake out’ file, I could then figure out how all of the rest of the type would fall into place for the design I had in mind. This is the computer print next to the first printed proof; I can line up both together to check for spacing and alignment.

setup3I wanted to create the effect of an old 45 label with shapes reverberating out of the center. I drew what these would look like on a transparency then used it to confirm the text would fall within the proper areas.

setup2I set all of the type at once to make sure the placement was correct and then labeled what blocks would be what color (green and blue).


form3A brass circle for the center, coupled with a wood circle ornament from Moore Wood Type.

form2This is the full form, inked for the proof. It’s a sexy amount of type!

form1I cut linoleum for the shapes and printed them last given the highly transparent ink. It’s a very subtle split fountain that is yellow in the center and orange on the outsides.

form4Registration was tight!

poster2Here’s the final poster. The shows were intimate, entertaining and stacked with some of the best talents in Chicago. No doubt you’ll witness another collaboration before long. Check Dann out here, or scroll down here to listen to his interview on WBEZ. Or damnit, just go see him play… you won’t be disappointed.


Typeforce Class of 2015

If you work in design and typography in Chicago then chances are you’re already familiar with Typeforce, the annual celebration of typographic work hosted by Firebelly Design.


I pitched the idea of taking old prints and cutting them up in a way that they could be reconfigured to resemble large scale versions of the metal printers’ ornaments that we work with in the studio on a daily basis. Then a new kind of cityscape could emerge on a vastly different platform.

After finding out the project was accepted, I started to cut down prints to piece them together and see if patterns would emerge. Indeed they did! Then I knew I could focus each ‘building’ around a specific color theme and that prints could be organized accordingly.

ornaments1Printer’s Devil Jo was very helpful creating patterns with the ‘ornaments’ and double checking we had as many as we needed.

johelpingI couldn’t resist taking the cut up and taped together pieces and putting them into a type case. Here’s most of our city along with a handy little paper cutter and the rough 1″ scale schematic I put together for reference.

ornaments2Once the pieces were cut, taped and trimmed the buildings practically assembled themselves.


buildings1A few days prior to the install I pinned everything in the hallway to see if there would be any pitfalls. Apart from minimal tweaking it worked fine and I got a greater sense of how the colors would play together.

buildings3Here’s a snippet of some of the interesting patterns that emerged once everything was assembled.

ornamentcloseupsSomething needed to fill up the sky a bit, so a typographic wind blew into the studio. Type prints were cut up in thin strips to differentiate from the square format of the building ornaments and were then glued to a backing sheet.


wind2Last but not least, a few trees and CTA train, without which Chicago would be incomplete.

traintreesWe mounted the trees onto wood and trimmed the edges in paint. These cuties were laid out and ready to be mounted on the wall during the install.

setup1The train rested on a magic track covered in Virgin Wood Type calendar font from the handful of leftover 2014 calendar sets we had laying around.

setup5Our wall appears to float above the floor, as you can see, but that didn’t stop the trees from looking right at home.

setup7This is about the best shot I could get during the install, and as it turns out the best of the weekend as it was too crowded at the opening to get a better one. Off to the side you can see the table we used for people to be able to create their own cityscapes  from our leftover scraps.

setup4My install partner, Matt and I went for falafel wraps when we finished. Major score!

falafelOpening night always features a treat of 3D typography in the windows.

outsidesignThis is me!

papercitytitleThe evening started in a serene manner and the paper crafting definitely appealed to the younger set. As time wore on, the table became increasingly chaotic, with paper, glue and mixed drinks taking over as the adults rushed to get in on the action. Who knew little paper scraps could be so much fun?




papercities5Here are just a few of the projects that were left behind. Well done, type nerds!

papercitiesMatt had to show everyone up with his minimalist approach.

mattminimalismSo many talented faces in the crowd, including our own lady of Starshaped, Megan, alongside Matt. Also ‘uncle’ Brad Vetter and Adrienne Miller.

powercouplesThree fine printmakers from NIU, including Danielle in the middle, former Starshaped lady and Typeforce artist.

niuJeff took to the interactive wall, as did many.

jeffMy absolute favorite moment of the evening was watching Frances and Julie, two incredible type talents, lose their minds over An Alphabet of Sorts. So glad I had it on hand to show off to just the right people.

juliefrancesDid I mention it was crowded?


crowded2Poor Julie tried to take a nice picture and got the treatment from Adrienne.

julieadrienneThere were many gems from the show and I attempted to get a few shots of them here. My sincere apologies for not having all of the images credited, but it was exceptionally difficult to read a lot of the labels and get decent pictures given the crowd and lighting. You can get a little more info at this site.



work2Danielle’s work:











work14Yep. I’ve totally got this. If only I had gotten to eat one of these words before everyone else beat me to it.

You can get info about the closing reception on February 26th here. I hope you get a chance to check it out in person and to experience all of these clever explorations in typography.

An Alphabet in Print

If you’ve followed along with Starshaped’s typographic adventures over the last six months, then you already know about An Alphabet of Sorts, my forthcoming book with Wells College Press. As of this weekend, the book is completely printed and is headed to Wells for binding! I thought I’d share some shots of the printing process and a sneak peek of both the cover and the interior pages. But first, a few images of some of the glorious type forms. The ‘I’ is one of my favorites as it includes some of the very first ornaments I acquired.



EcloseupIn this section of the ‘N’ you can see the beautiful, angled sorts, pieced together to create a diagonal shape. These were made in Chicago by Barnhart Bros. & Spindler.

NI call this catchword the tattoo of the ampersand, as it sits right in the middle and is the only discernible word included in the alphabet.



CThis was the first galley of letters to go on press. The ‘G’ is locked and ready. I brushed many of them with a little oil and wiped them down well to remove old ink and any dirt that might affect the print quality.

formsonpressThe ‘L’ is the only themed letter in the set; it is entirely made up of ornaments from the Lanston Type Company.


OcloseupFirst on deck were the end papers for the book. These reversed letters, along with patterned ornaments were printed with red ink on Red Tartan stock from Gruppo Cordenons.


aaos3I liked the idea of the mirrored type above, so it carries through to the covers as well. And it was fun to set ‘SORTS’ twice… right reading and wrong reading!

aaosform1The covers are printed in red, gold and pewter. I couldn’t be happier with how these turned out, even though it’s tough to photograph this lovely red paper.


aaos2One of the treats in the book is the inclusion of two vellum pages with digitally printed images of the type forms. Here’s a peek at the A that will sit right on top of the printed ‘A’ page.

vellumoverlayMy elaborate organizational system involved a piece of masking tape on the drying shelf. The book is made up of 4 signatures, each with 4 folded sheets. I labeled what was on each of the 4 and checked them when they were printed. I did not go in any order, but instead printed whatever letter was next to slide off the galleys.

sigsonshelfTypesetting the intro note by Paul F. Gehl at The Newberry Library was a challenge; it’s a lot of tiny 6 and 8 point type with 1 point of leading. Luckily, it printed well. It’s an honor to have Paul as part of this project.

intronoteThe last to print was the colophon, appropriately enough.

colophonI assembled and trimmed one set of pages to confirm that all of the imposition was correct. Thankfully it was. ‘F’ starts the second signature.


titlepageI’m anxious to see all of the pieces come together in their final form. I’ll be putting together another blog post about the binding when that starts, along with images of the completed book. The edition is already over half sold, so don’t miss out!

A Wild Rose

Every so often we get to pour a lot of effort into creating a single, special print, and it’s usually commissioned as a gift from one spouse to another. In November I was approached for a project like this, using a poem that was read at the couple’s wedding. The wife wanted something blocky, bold and straightforward with a little bit of ornamentation and ample white space. This is the result of the collaboration:

kathy1Here’s a close up of the 12×18″ print, done in 3 colors on soft white cotton paper. It’s a nice mix of both metal and wood type that, while slightly beaten up and rustic, mostly keeps to a straightforward sans serif diet.

kathy2The is the type in the final lock up. We usually set up the entire print if possible then pull a proof. If everything is spaced accordingly and looks well together, then we can go in and separate individual colors and print just one at a time.

kathytypeformSome of the wood type for this piece is pretty rough, as noted in the uneven and speckled forms. The catchword ‘THE’ is new, however, and is one of Moore Wood Type‘s laser cut pieces.

kathy3The print features two-color ornaments from the Keystone Type Foundry known as ‘wild rose’ ornaments. It’s not every day that named ornaments tie in directly to the words being printing, but they sure did here. These are beautiful in their detail and include two different sized sorts, making it easier to fit them into any line length. I’m certain this charming print was a touching Christmas gift.


New Year, New Type

Starting a new year with a printed homage to great type is always a good idea. Starshaped scored a great deal of new metal and wood type this year and it’s time it pulled some weight. So this year’s New Year card features type from a few different metal type foundries alongside the snowflakes from our collaboration with Moore Wood Type.

newyear1The idea was to take a standard rectangular form and make it appear as if the snowflakes were swooping in to break it apart. Below is a reversed image (so it’s easy to read) of the main sections of the type form before separating them.

newyearHow about a typographic rundown? ‘Wishing’ is a new cast of Ray Shade by Hill & Dale Type Foundry in West Virginia. ‘You A’ and ‘ew ear’ are Latin Ornate and Tuscan Graille, both from Skyline Type Foundry. ‘Starshaped Press Chicago’ is 6pt Camelot and the N and Y initial caps have yet to be identified. ‘Happy’ is a mortised initial cap with Dakota. The three main borders are from Bixler Letterfoundry, courtesy of Punky Press, coupled with tiny bits and pieces from our collection.

After a quick carbon paper proof of the forms, I scanned them so that I could figure out the best angles and build the rest of the piece digitally. This is the cheat sheet printed out with the placement of the sections and snowflakes. It is marked up to determine the measurements of the angled furniture I needed to cut to square up the sections.

cheatsheetHere you can see the angled furniture that holds the sections in place and keeps them flush with the rest of the form.



cornerformI first pulled a few proofs on the actual paper with the entire form to set up placement and look for any wacky spacing issues. After that was established, I took out all of the second color, leaving just the sections to be printed in burgundy. I marked the spacing with a sharpie so I would remember what I added in place of the type that was there.

burgundyformThe burgundy read well on Wrought Iron, dark gray stock from Neenah’s Environment line. It matched the Paver Red envelopes from French Paper. Printing dark inks on dark papers can always be a bit of a crap shoot but this worked well. Silver is a no-brainer. The registration is pretty tight, and given the angles in play here, that’s impressive.


newyear4Next up were the snowflakes. I trimmed most of mine to be as close to the edge of the design as possible so that they could almost sit on top of each other.

snowflakesFiguring out what ink they’d be printed in was more challenging. My first thought was opaque white so I could test how this would perform on the gray paper. But the white competed with the silver and the type receded, which was definitely not desirable. So I tried transparent white as well as variations on this with differing degrees of silver and black mixed in. The final was a combination of all of these.

testingsnowflakesWhile the snowflakes were set up on press, I used them to print the front of the envelopes as well, where they appear a little darker on burgundy stock. The silver on these is particularly striking. More great initial caps.

newyear5I was very pleased with how the cards turned out, as they hit all of my bases for typography as well as great paper and ink combinations. The challenges of setting this form were also very pleasing and it’s great to see both old and new type functioning on a heightened level. One of the plans for the studio this year is to really highlight some of the gems of the Starshaped collection and use them in similar ways to how they would have been used 100 years ago, but with (hopefully) a modern breath of fresh air.


15 and Counting

It would be hard to believe that Starshaped is celebrating 15 years if it weren’t for the mounds of printing equipment and type I’m surrounded by in the studio every day. And while I don’t often remember where it all came from, I can say that most of it has been incorporated into the flow of work on a daily basis and earns its keep. Below you can see the italicized, angle bodied Bernhard Gothic that made its way to the studio by way of the Platen Press Museum.


Given that it’s been the year of creating ornamental letterforms, I thought I’d try my hand at figures too, hence the ’15’ on both the postcards (below) and posters for the annual open house. Postcards don’t always make it onto the schedule, but this year they did so that they could be included in the swag bags at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum Wayzgoose.


This is a nice, chunky typographic ’15’ that I was very pleased with. It may be the start of something…


For the poster, I wanted to create a circular seal-like image with a subtle pressure print. The chipboard ’15’ was added to the makeready. I cut a piece of linoleum for the round base; you can see the ghosting of the ink on the linoleum since I printed the red and gold before the final transparent white.


I also made a pretty weak attempt at setting larger type on a curve with this hackneyed piece of plywood. But it worked.

prints10The final poster!


The annual open house has happened since filing for my dba back in 1999; the first few years at the old studio were more of a gathering for friends and family and took place during the day on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. After moving to our current location in 2003, the open house turned into an extremely well attended event on a Saturday night in November. That’s when I started creating posters to advertise; below are the last 11 years worth of prints.


While there is always a bit of type out for every event, this year there was a LOT of type out, both because of so many recent acquisitions as well as just not having the time to get things organized and distributed. So everyone was able to see beautiful new and unused metal and wood type, as well as many forms from recent jobs.

typeoutAll the presses are rolling for the open house, and this is the form that everyone could print this time around. It’s the start of a series of fantastic Chicago quotes that I intend to set with some of the finer wood type in the studio.


We also set up some of the new tiny snowflakes done with Moore Wood Type so that everyone could print a wintery greeting card.


Prior to the mob scene, my incredible interns all showed up to get things moving. Cathy and Emily came with these amazing new aprons! What a sweet surprise. Now we all look like a force to be reckoned with. Because we are.

apronsLook at Emily go!


Fine ladies representing the School of the Art Institute! Janice, Cathie Ruggie Saunders (an incredible instructor that everyone in letterpress should know), and Cathy. They do letterpress right at SAIC.


Jo also set up a print for the kids to do on her little galley press.


And after printing the kids went bonkers, running around the studio and hall like wild banshees.


It was very humbling to have so many talented folks from the neighborhood come by. Here we have the Favorites, Amber and Tom, snuggling in with Emily ‘anything less than the best is a felony’ Orange Beautiful. A few of my favorite designers.


For all the time we spend in Beans and Bagels, it was wonderful to have Sido and Will come by. Two others that spend a lot of time there are screen printer and illustrator extraordinaire Dan Grzeca and fantastic photographer Jookie Jill.


Also got a visit from my hero Deb of the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative. They are celebrating 25 years of awesome printmaking and I was thrilled to be a part of this in the form of creating their show posters. These were then turned into wine labels, which Deb brought by. And of course she brought a little treat for our printers devil.



A real treat was having the Upchurch family come out. One of the best times of my life was working at Fireproof Press… all the printing, fun and fellowship without the hassle of running the business! Lori and John have always been family to me, supporting Starshaped throughout the last 15 years.


And of course John showed up with the traditional Fireproof Press offering of root beer.

johnJust a few of the many faces of friends, old and new, that made it through the studio.


Also had a nice visit from Abby Woods, a current Columbia College student, who’s working on a project about… me! Here’s a sneak peek of what she’s up to.


It was both an exhausting and exhilarating evening. I came in Sunday to clean up the fall out and found this guy hanging out by the typecases. I suppose the mess that was left behind was a good sign that the party was a success. I made no little plans when starting the studio 15 years ago and given the support of the community I feel confident the studio has another 15 in front of me.


Good Wood 2014

Every year we look forward to the annual Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum Wayzgoose, which attracts type nerds (i.e., all of our best friends) from around the world. And while the ‘Goose usually only lasts about 3 days, this year, for us, it stretched to a week and spanned the distance between Two Rivers, Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois.

A few days prior to heading north, Jo and I set up and printed our pieces for the print swap (more on that later). I was thrilled to work with Moore Wood Type to design a series of snowflakes to be both laser and pantograph cut. Having just received my batch to print with, and knowing that Scott planned to take them to Hamilton to share, I put together this poster to showcase how fantastically well they look and print together. They’ll be available for sale soon.


snowflakes2While I played around with snowflakes, Jo went straight for the stars and put together this great little number:

It was such a treat to have longtime friend and printer David Wolske swing by on Wednesday. I put him to work, we shared some laughs and I got a sneak peek of what he’d be presenting at Hamilton. His work is stunning in its thoughtfulness, exploration and expert technique.

david1Thursday we welcomed Geri and Matt of Virgin Wood Type. Obviously, we had some fun. These folks eat wood type for lunch, so I took them out for pizza before it got ugly. Matt wrote a great post about the ‘Goose that you can read here.

virgininstudioFriday we hit the airport to pick up this guy and head up to Trivers.


Once we made it to Hamilton, Jo immediately sought out her besties, Chelsea and Laura, who made her a very special badge this year, the only one with fancy hand lettering.


New this year is a wall featuring a mashup of Hamilton-related prints from just about everyone. Jo even found her Turtles print from the June 2014 APA Wayzgoose.



To keep a 7-year-old going all weekend I gave Jo my digital camera and unleashed her on the museum. She had a blast documenting everything and took dozens of charmingly blurry photos.



Also new this year is the substantial type wall which proved to be extremely photogenic (it’s like they planned it).


I joined Erin Beckloff, mover and shaker extraordinaire as well as daughter to Scott Moore, in taking some great shots of David Shields and Rich. Wonder what their photos look like.


Later in the evening we heard from the chiefs: Stephanie, Jim and Bill. These three, along with a slew of eager volunteers really knocked it out of the park this year. Screens! Lighting! Backdrops! Sound! All pro.


Their intro was followed by Charles S. Anderson. If you’ve ever ordered paper from French Paper or pretty much just lived in the world, you’re familiar with the work of CSA, so there’s not much I can add!

After the image overload, I got a moment with Nick Sherman to check out the new book published by Tipoteca Italiana about their incredible collection of wood type. Needless to say, one of these came home with me.

nickshermanSaturday’s schedule was too packed to see and experience everything. I sat in on David’s formal presentation to get a chance to see his lovely work again.


Following that was a rousing discussion by Clint Harvey of Design College Australia and The Bacon Factory in Brisbane, Australia. They’re doing amazing work to collect and preserve letterpress equipment Down Under, as well as present it to the next generation of designers.


Clint brought a number of sample prints featuring Australian slang. Then he challenged everyone to decipher them and write their ideas directly on the prints. Did anyone get them right, CH?


Meanwhile, Jo stationed herself with our Isle of Printing buddies from Pie Town (some people call it Nashville) and their Our Town portrait project. Throughout the weekend folks could sit down at a mirror and use clever stamps to create their own likeness which is then documented.


Jo’s Cindy Sherman-esque self portrait.


After an evening banquet of chicken and milk (if you were there, you know), we headed back to the museum for a presentation from Tipoteca about the creation of their museum and the collection it houses. Let’s just say we were all convinced to spend some time on the prosecco farm that serves as guest quarters for visitors to the museum. More of their incredible type porn below.

The last event of the evening (given that this is the censored version of the weekend’s activities), is the annual type quiz hosted by Nick and David. This year, with the addition of the Hamilton Smokestack costume, a volunteer was needed. Guess who jumped in? Jo stood on a chair for an hour and pointed out those that raised their hands to answer the somewhat dubious questions in order to win typographic prizes.

smokestack2Sunday morning brought an impressive display and discussion of artistic watermarks from Greg Walters (is there anything he doesn’t collect!?), as well as the entertaining giveaway of door prizes by Dave Peat. But by far, the most popular event is the print swap. So much good work to share with everyone.

printswap3Here’s Geri of Virgin Wood Type with her beautiful layered wood type prints, as well as the newest typeface set out to tease. Thanks to Virgin, wood type can be everyone’s passion. Looking on is Jason, otherwise known as Genghis Kern, or #thebeerisforscale in social media circles.

printswap2Jo signed just a few of her prints and took them around to share.

joautographMeeting of the wood type minds! Scott and Matt, all business. What secret wood type schemes are they hatching?

moorevirginErin’s print this year was so lovely. Look what you can do with her dad’s beautiful type! And she made me promise to show this photo and not the one of her getting into the whiskey. Like I mentioned, this is a G-rated blog.

erinI took the opportunity to grab a few shots with others wandering around. Selfie with the Morans!

jimjenbillWith David. So love this guy.

jendavid2And this lady! Mary is the killingest lady printer I know. New York attitude with a midwestern accent.

jenmaryJessica Spring… not content to push the boundaries of daredevil printing, she’s now offering Daredevil Furniture for letterpress printers, meaning we can all create fantastically nutty lockups. A lady after my own heart, and the only one to make Hobo look brilliant.

jessicafurnitureJo got a lesson in sign painting from the incomparable John Downer, who is responsible for the sign on the front of the building. What a treat for mom and daughter, as well as everyone that looked on.

johndowner2As promised, here’s Silvio from Tipoteca signing my new book. Many of their stunning prints were on display. Are you ready for the type porn?



tipo3postersIt’s always sad to leave on Sunday, knowing that it might be another year before we see a lot of the people that make this trip so special.


Before checking out we got a stamp on our Letterpress Trail map.


But this year was different! Because of Chicago’s central location, a number of printers were still around to explore the city or have a little downtime before jetting off home. So Monday welcomed the Aussies, Clint and Tahlia, into the studio. Here’s CH groveling at my feet! studiomonday3

Along with Clint and Tahlia, Michael from Clawhammer Press also came for a visit, securing his status as Friend by bringing really nice coffee. We talked letterpress for quite a while before I caught them escaping with type!


studiomonday2Later that evening I was able to organize the swag from Hamilton that Jo and I collected. Talented folks.

swagTuesday night, Rebecca of Rar Rar Press hosted a printer dinner and made stew for everyone. What an incredible group, and no one had to feel bad about talking type and presses all night. It’s the one kind of party where print-themed alcohol shares a place on the table with actual type. And Rebecca’s apartment is a veritable museum of letterpress awesomeness.

rarrarpartyUnbelievably, I convinced new friend Jessie Reich of Punky Press to stay all day Wednesday and work in the studio. Huzzah! She set one of our cityscapes for a series of cards and learned how the platen presses function. We swapped stories, metal & wood type and fist bumps. Here’s to all of our new and old friends that made the ‘Goose (as well as the before and after gatherings) so memorable this year. See ya in 2015. Hopefully before.




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