Seeing Stars and Moons

Occasionally there’s a collection of ornaments sitting in the studio just begging to be put to use. This is the case with our hundreds of stars and little moons faces. So it was time they saw more action in the form of new cards.

compile1Starting with stars (for obvious reasons), I built this form, hoping that it would be relatively, ahem, starshaped. After a bit of tweaking with different sized stars, it came together:

TstarI wanted to explore pressure printing as a way to round out the card and add another color. So I cut out the star (and ultimately the moon) from a piece of chipboard that was taped to the initial carbon proof of the form. The solid background could then be placed in the makeready on press to alter how both a piece of linoleum and wood would print on top of it.

pressureprintsThe background was printed first with the linoleum block, and then with a same-sized piece of wood type (the back side of the type). These were both done in the same color, so as to add texture without overwhelming the design. They printed more heavily where there was extra cardboard, leaving a ghosted star image inside. Then the burgundy stars were printed.



2star2After all that, the thought of a reversal of the pressure print came to mind. So instead of printing the solid background, I put the chipboard star down in its place so that only the star printed with a bit of ‘noise’ around the edges. I did this after printing the stars, so it made the burgundy a little darker.


star4Now that you’ve enjoyed these stars, go watch this.

Time for moons! These guys got the same treatment as the stars, but in a round moon shape. Love the lined details on the tiny ones.

TmoonsThe background is printed in a slightly different blue, but with the same linoleum-then-wood process.



2moon4Then I did the reverse as well which gives the moon a different look with fuzziness around the edges.

moon2You can see a process shot here with the 2-hit version at the bottom and the linoleum-only shot at the top. Everyone loves wood grain, right?


moon3Both the moon and star cards are available individually and in sets on our etsy site right now. The perfect little blank greeting for everyday correspondence.

Maria, Dan, Butterflies

We’re pretty lucky to have had some great clients looking for wedding invitations. This Spring I met Maria and Dan, fellow Ravenswood dwellers and fans of working with local sources for their wedding planning. Maria definitely wanted to include floral images and liked our 19th century inspired collection. Here’s the final invitation:

mariadan4This was the perfect project to work in a new cast of Arboret, courtesy of Skyline Type Foundry. This lovely set includes both 12 and 24 pt of floral type as well as ornaments that can be set in endless configurations to make the type look like it is part of an arbor. And while I didn’t use any of the type (apart from two characters, including the ampersand), the ornaments created plenty of ways to add floral elements to the invitations.

arboretornamentsHere is the lockup for the green and gold at the top of the invite. Both are set together to make sure they will line up appropriately, and then each color is swapped out for spacing when the other color is ready to print. Worked into the Arboret ornamentation are a few actual 19th century pieces from our collection (the flowers and right side stems).

Tmariadan1Here is the Arboret ampersand, printed with the rest of the main text. Maria and Dan’s names included 100 year old initial caps, mortised to include a 20th century typeface.

mariadan8Here are a few more of the ornaments at the bottom of the invitation. Their website was printed in green so as to be a little less prominent than the important text.

Tmariadan2This is the second character worked into the reply card text. A great shot of all of the elements coming together.

mariadan6Maria’s family does a lot of work for butterfly conservation, and she was hoping to work this into the invitation. No problem, thanks to Skyline and a recent cast of this little guy:

mariadan7He also makes an appearance on the envelopes, which were a shimmery gold to tie into the gold ornaments on the invitation. It’s remarkable that such detail holds up with metal type, much more so than digital type converted to plates for printing. And we’re lucky to have an opportunity to work these historic typefaces into our everyday projects.



The APA Goose 2014

It’s always a treat to drive up to Hamilton for a visit, especially when it involves seeing our print and type friends from the Amalgamated Printers Association, a group I’ve been a part of for 10+ years. After cutting school early, Jo and I hit the road. If this shot doesn’t ring a bell, maybe this image from a favorite album will hint at our inspiration. Our little fiat is well traveled.

hamiltonorbustAfter checking in (and yes, Jo gets a pretty special badge), we found our friend Scott from Moore Wood Type already at it, cutting type and doing demos for onlookers. He also brought a lot of his patterns for people to see so they could learn about the process of pantograph cut wood type.



patterns2Love these star patterns. You can see the 6 pointed Chicago style star (which Scott named ‘Jo’s star’) down in the corner.

patterns3We found our friend Jason of Genghis Kern trying his hand at the pantograph.

jasonpantographAnother workshop about wood engraving was also going on, and everyone there carved into blocks that were ultimately cut as letters for Wayzgoose 2014.

woodengravingFriday I finally got the opportunity to teach a workshop with a longtime friend and talented printer, Jessica Spring of Springtide Press. We worked with our class on two projects: the first was to contribute a page to a meander book and the second was to print type as pattern to then cut and weave. Jessica led the way on the book, setting up the form on press and then demonstrating how to cut and fold the single sheet into a book.


ws2Here are a few of the serious ladies pulling type for the print and paper weaving.

ws7Here’s our good friend Erin of Inky Winke trying her hand at a little opaque white ink.

ws5Our prints were a bit wet, but we were able to trim them down to start weaving together. This creates an entirely new kind of print that can be trimmed to a smaller, square size, functioning as a piece of art in its own right.

ws1Mary Alice used a few different sheets of paper for her prints (and some attendees swapped with each other), and ended up with a very patriotic weave.

ws6Rich from P22 (and also responsible for spearheading the digitization of Hamilton’s type for the HWTF) was there, showcasing his latest project. Borrowing the Cloister Initial matrices from RIT’s Cary Collection, he worked with Greg Walters in Ohio to cast whopping 120 point versions of the beautiful initials. Bringing a set to Hamilton to share, he also printed a broadside with all of them; you can see a snippet of it below with the S and P we came home with.


cloisterFriday night, Greg Walters (who cast the above initials) gave a talk about foreign type specimen books and brought a large selection from his personal collection. Below are just a few shots of the pages I found incredibly inspiring, including these magnificent brass rules printed in multiple colors.

spec1Greg mentioned many trends, including the predominance of art nouveau faces, which all but escaped American type founders. There were also many thick and heavy, multi-color patterns and borders.



spec5After the conference, I realized I didn’t get any full shots of the group. Luckily, an APA group photo is always taken, and hopefully we’ll see that soon. There’s been a sea change in the APA. Can you guess what it is?

husbandcalledBefore checking out for the weekend, we got a little sneak peek at Tom Walker’s incredible series of baseball-inspired pennant prints. Incredible and detailed work, with a hand built box to boot.

tomwalkerAs always, we had a great weekend in Two Rivers, and look forward to November when we’re back again. And next year the APA Goose will be in Chicago, and it’ll be incredible so mark your calendars.

Matching type nerds!


Master Class – July 2014




Sky’s the Limit

How great is it that metal and wood type are still manufactured today, albeit by a small group, and that we call these makers our friends? For years Starshaped has enjoyed a strong relationship with Skyline Type Foundry, run by Sky Shipley. Formerly in southern Illinois and now in Arizona, Sky has consistently cast quality type on his Thompson casters, and I’ve been buying it up almost as fast as he can create it. The time had come for a collaboration and here it is! Working exclusively with Skyline type, I built this behemoth form of ornaments and type. The quote is one provided by Sky, and one of his favorites (and did I mention appropriate?).

TskylineinstaThe idea for the print was to form an actual piece of type, or sort, out of hundreds of smaller pieces of actual type, and then to print it to look like a shiny piece of type. I decided to create an angle in the design and then print in three shades of silver to give it a textured and luminous feel. After an initial proof all in one color, I subdivided it into the three color sections. Pictured here is the last and lightest silver run.

skyline5My first thought was to create the text block in a circular form to mimic a pin mark, but Sky doesn’t cast his type with pin marks, so I left it rectangular and set (nearly) solid and force justified to fill the space inside the piece of type. This was also a great place to put the non-border ornaments that Skyline offers.

Tskyline4Sky has used many great slogans over the last ten years, including ‘Set Your Byline in Skyline’ and ‘Real Printers Don’t Use Plastic’, but was always a fan of one of our favorites, ‘All Metal, All the Time’. So it seemed like a no-brainer to include that one, given the nature of the project. Below are a few of the gorgeous 19th century faces cast in recent years.


skyline2Here’s the final print. Sky has often said that he loves to see what his ‘kids’ are doing at ‘Camp Starshaped’. Well, this summer, camp was particularly awesome. The poster is available for purchase here, though the edition is very small and won’t last. Get one today!



Congrats on 10 years in the business, Sky! We’re all anxiously waiting to see what comes out of your casters next. Below is a wonderful group photo of my favorite makers taken at the APA Wayzgoose in June 2014, starting with Matt, Geri and Derek of Virgin Wood Type, Sky in the middle, Scott Moore of Moore Wood Type and Rich Kegler of P22 Type Foundry. Long live the type founders!


Lost Type… and Found

Working in a studio alone most days means that it’s important to make time for collaboration. Luckily, this happens pretty regularly and these posters for Lost Type are a great example. Working with Dan Gneiding, the designer of Dude Hank along with friend Scott Moore of Moore Wood Type, the poster showcases a set of fabulous new catchphrases designed as digital fonts but cut as wood type, too, as they were traditionally produced.losttype1

The following images are courtesy of Scott, as he documented his process of converting the files for each catchphrase into actual wood type, starting with the wood planed to type high (just shy of an inch).

scott7Stencils are created for the pantograph, which traces these while the connecting arm carves the actual wood type block.

scott4Here’s a great shot of the original stencil alongside the finished piece of type.

scott3The smallest areas and details are trimmed by hand. Love the laboriousness of this process!



scott1The poster I printed was the combination of a laser cut Lost Type logo, the pantograph cut catchphrases and magnesium plates of the names of the designers underneath.

Tlosttype5I printed the posters at Jim Pollock’s studio, as he owns a Vandercook 320G press, which is substantially larger than our Vandercook SP-15, and capable of printing 18×24″ posters.

Tlosttype2I particularly enjoy this ampersand.



Tlosttype3See that little POOP in there? That one was designed by new friend Frances MacLeod, which I didn’t realize until well after this printing!


Plosttype6The posters had their own dedicated drying rack after printing, which was handy given that there were about 300.


Plosttype3The digital catchphrases are now available, so grab ‘em and update your look. You can contact Lost Type about acquiring a poster, and Scott Moore about the possibility of getting the real deal in wood.



Words + Music

Two inspiring music projects involving violins came our way this Spring. The first was a poster for Eric Swanson’s workshop in the Fine Arts Building, downtown Chicago. The historic building has beautiful brass display frames for just the sort of poster as this:

ericswanson1The poster measures 18×24″, which is substantially larger than what our press can handle, which meant spending a little time with our building mate, Jim Pollock. His Vandercook 320G is the perfect size for large prints of this nature. As you can see, even the form was impressive in size.


Tericswanson2Eric wanted a large print with a vintage feel, including blocky gothic type. We’ve got that! The corner brackets were created with three ornaments pieced together. All were produced by Moore Wood Type. Mixing old and new elements gives work produced in the studio a fresher, cleaner feel than similar projects produced 100 years ago.


Tericswanson3Not a fabulous shot, but this is the poster in its proper place:

ericswansonfinalMoving from one of our largest pieces to our smallest, we were asked to create tiny labels (about 2.5×1″) to go inside hand built violins. What a treat! They are printed on Stonehenge cotton paper (a very soft khaki), using a unique typeface called Stern. It was the first typeface to be simultaneously released in both digital and metal form. Right up my alley! Obviously Mathew adds the full year to each label before pasting it inside his creations.



mathew2I love the juxtaposition of these two projects destined to be seen by the same style of musicians. Creating such disparate projects is what makes work at the studio so interesting!

Two Cities That Never Sleep – NSS 2014

It’s been a while since the last post, but the studio has been caught up in attending the National Stationery Show for the first time, which was a stellar success. On top of our normal work load of custom projects, I designed our 10×10′ booth, painted it, printed countless new products (more on those soon), created our first ever print catalog and brought to life numerous promotional pieces in advance of the show. As we expand our reach outside of custom work, NSS is a great opportunity to get work in front of wholesale buyers.

The first piece we created specifically for the show was a contribution to the annual Legion Paper scavenger hunt. A number of small shops participate, and this year the theme was alphabet flash cards. Luckily, I got letter M, which was perfect for this theme:

metaltype1Legion supplied the paper, and I chose Stonehenge Fawn, which is a soft, American made cotton paper. The card is printed in two colors and of course uses all metal type, including the fabulous two-color Alphablox.

metaltype3The card was, I’m happy to say, popular, and will be the basis for a series of letter cards in the near future. The form is really wonderful; we can create modular letterforms out of very ornate pieces.

Tmetaltype1The type for the colophon on the back of the card:

Tpromo12While we printed by day, we painted by night. Mr. Starshaped graciously built all of our hard booth walls, as well as the crate in which they shipped to NY. Some truly talented friends came over in the evening over the course of a week to help lay down the highly detailed ornamental cityscape that was the theme. It was entirely painted by hand, including the booth number. I didn’t want to let our sign painter friends down by using vinyl!


boothpainting2I also printed up new cards, note pads and stationery to have on hand, also matching our booth and studio. This was a great excuse to work with the Virkotype initial set that’s been screaming to be used. Three colors!

newstationeryWhile busily printing away, I was pleased to find that our cityscape note card sets were accepted as a finalist for Best New Product at the show, which required putting together this board. We now offer 5 other options besides Chicago, including New York, Seattle, Philly, San Francisco and a Small Town version if city living isn’t your thing.

bestnewproductThe swan song of printing for the show was the pre-show mailer. This went out to a selection of stores that I wanted to meet in New York as well as other printers I was anxious to meet face to face. It was printed in an edition of about 100, and included an outer wrapper and accordion fold insert featuring many of the popular sections of our cityscape collection. And how about that sexy typographic curve?

promo2 copyI pulled in bits of Carl Sandburg’s ‘Chicago’ poem because he sums it up so well. Even the envelopes have little 6-pointed Chicago stars.









Tpromo10At last! The Bulldog Lock Co. Building we have enjoyed residing in for the last ten years made an appearance on this piece.

promo3 copy


Tpromo3One of the final touches for the booth was piecing together the sign. I’m particularly excited about this, as I had commissioned the laser cut right-reading type from Moore Wood Type last summer and it now has a proper place in a large 14×20″ chase with real furniture and quoins. I wanted it to be as close to the real deal as possible, given that all of our work is created with metal and wood type.

newsignTo round out our ‘bringing a piece of Chicago’ to New York theme, the give away piece in our booth was a small card printed to resemble the Chicago flag, with a little history of it on the back side. Glued to each is a real piece of type, acquired from Skyline Type Foundry. This proved to be a very popular item at the show!

chicagostarpromoAfter breathing a sigh of relief that our crate made it safely, Lindsey of Gingerly Press, my assistant for the week, and I went about squishing it into our space. Here she is holding onto the walls while our neighbors behind us banged on their booth while setting up lights. It was the only really scary moment of our set up!

lindseyholdingwallsOnce we were done, though, I couldn’t have been happier with the look. You can see the detail of the hand painted ornaments and the sign really popped. I built the table out of a type case, a sheet of plexiglass and two legs from Ikea. All of the prints and cards fit neatly within the building structures, which made it easy to get them all in place.




rightsideOne of the days, we had the pleasure of having Frances come and help us out, alongside her mom (not pictured here). It’s so wonderful to have supportive and talented friends lend a hand!

francesjenlindseyGiven that set up went well, we had a day to walk around New York, which always means a trip to Bowne & Co. down in the South Street Seaport area. It’s a worthwhile trip for disciples of metal type and 19th century processes. Lucky for us, Bowne swung into the show on the last day, and we received this beautiful little hand cut card!


bownepromoThe biggest pleasure of being at the show was sharing it with old friends and finding new ones. Amber of A. Favorite Design has been a friend and neighbor for many years and was extremely helpful in show prep. She and Tom take the cake for cutest couple!

afavoriteIt was also a pleasure to (finally) meet Kathryn of Blackbird Letterpress, who makes beautiful, quirky cards, including one of her dog. You can see his large cut out in this picture.

blackbirdI am also a huge admirer of Katharine Watson, who keeps it old school in a different way, creating all of her beautiful pieces with hand carved linoleum blocks.

katherinewatsonAnd of course the shop I have always admired, Hammerpress. Their style and attention to detail in typography is a real standout at the show, not to mention inspiration.

hammerpressThere was definitely fun, albeit the expensive variety, to be had while there. We attended Paper Party one night with our longtime friend and neighbor Emily of Orange Beautiful, and new friends from Cincinnati, Steam Whistle Letterpress.

paperpartyAnd then it was time to pack up and go. Our booth was reduced to a pile of flats ready to be packed away until early next Spring when we bring them out for repainting and repurposing. I’ve already got ideas for next years adventure! Overall, the experience made the trip worthwhile, not to mention the number of orders we received, especially from new stores, as well as feedback on a number of our projects.

flatsreadyforcrateBut it’s always good to be back in the studio, designing and printing the day away.

studio May 2014

Small but Mighty

There are many great experiences that come hand in hand with participating in an awesome craft show like Show of Hands or the Renegade Craft Fair. One of my favorites is the opportunity to talk directly with shoppers and get instant feedback on the work created in the studio. One of the most common requests we get is for smaller sizes of our most popular large posters (and occasionally large versions of our small prints). This is for myriad reasons that include limited wall space and a cheaper price point.

There were a few prints that I wanted to shrink, while focusing on our more socially relevant pieces, starting with the popular Give Bread print. The original is 14×18″, and the new one is 8×10″ and easy to frame. This series is printed on a 100% recycled white card stock for consistency between the prints.



givebreadsmall1The second print is a tinier take on our It Takes A Village print. You can read about the original one here. I’ve discovered that this is a very popular print for teacher gifts, but we are always asked for a smaller, more convenient size.

TittakessmallI love the various techniques in this print. It’s set up to look like a chalkboard, with wood type and linoleum blocks to create the frame. The green is a linoleum block that’s very heavily printed so that the opaque white type shows up similarly to chalk on top of it.


takesavillage1The trickiest of the three prints is a recreation of Enjoy Your Farmers Market, which was originally printed in 7 colors and is sold out (another reason to tackle this one!). This time, it’s reduced to 4 colors and an abridged collection of typographic ‘fruits’.

Tfarmersmarketsmall2After pulling out the type that seemed appropriate, I did a quick carbon proof on press to see how all of the pieces would work together, and to figure out which type would be which color. Not pretty, but enough to go on!

carbonproofThis is how it broke down to mustard, red, blue and green. There’s a bit of overprinting as well to create new colors.



And while we’re on the subject of reducing prints, last year I created both mini prints and cards of our best selling posters. I didn’t want to print them with another means such as digital, offset or screenprinting, so that they’d be exact replicas of their larger siblings. Instead, I sought the challenge of building them entirely with our tiniest type and ornaments. The first set of prints and cards measure 3.5×5″.

Our Urban Gardening poster has been one of the biggest sellers for the studio for years, and was first choice to be shrunk down to this (note that tiny 4 point type at the bottom!):

murbangardening1Skylines are a familiar subject matter in the studio and this one is no exception. It is created from the back sides of wood type and two little ‘l’s.

Turbangardening5 copy


The greenery is mostly created with lino slugs, or ornamental rules cast on a linotype. The little orange ‘flowers’ need to be spaced accordingly to line up with the green print.


Turbangardening4 copy

Turbangardening1 copy

Another popular print in the studio is Jubilee, which pulls song lyrics from the charming old timey song. This mini print presented a lot of challenges in maintaining the same typographic feel as the poster, given that wood and metal type styles have historically been a bit far apart. But I found a few in our collection that fit the bill!

Tjubilee1 copy



We scored a hit with In The City, pulled from the song by The Jam. For this one I had to find some tiny triangles and little lines.


Tinthecity1 copy

Tinthecity2 copy


I’m thrilled with how all of these prints turned out! Nothing beats a good challenge, and taking an existing design and manipulating it into a different format while working within the parameters of metal and wood type (and occasional linoleum blocks) is just that. All of these prints are available in our etsy shop.

Master Class

By popular demand, this is happening! This will be the inaugural class, and I hope to have more throughout the year. Email for more info!




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