Reverie

Before hitting the road on our Letterpress Trail this summer, we designed and printed a charming little cd sleeve for the local gypsy jazz (is there any other kind?!) band, Fumée.

fumee1Obviously they hoped to create something that was indicative of the style of music and built an inspiration board that included references to Erté artwork. I riffed on that and drew this smoke-like image:

Tfumee5Double it up and there you go:

fumee2Conveniently, I had just acquired a set of accent characters so we could actually set the name correctly. Since a plate was required for the artwork, I cut into it to insert the hand set text.

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fumee5The back side of the sleeve has a smaller version of the main text, so I used a tinier accent here. These curly ornaments from Skyline Type also came close to matching the art of the front.

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fumee4Beautiful Parisian and Bernhard Gothic, two of the studio’s workhorse typefaces.

tfumee3The band found a cd duplicator that offered vinyl-looking disks, which was a perfect fit for this project. If you want to check them out, you can find more info here, or head over to Rogers Park Social every Monday night for the real deal!

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The 2014 Letterpress Trail finale!

Well, we’ve come to the end of the road on the Letterpress Trail for this summer, and it ends in Rochester, New York. Hold on to your hats because there’s so much type in this post that it’s a little mind blowing. While Jo was distracted with family, slip n’ slides and ice cream, I headed over to Rochester to visit Amelia at the Cary Graphic Arts Collection, part of the library at RIT. Feeling a little homesick for the City That Works, Amelia kindly pulled type specimen books from my fair city, largely from Barnhart Bros. and Spindler.

bbscoversTheir first building was a block from where Mr. Starshaped’s theater (the Shubert) is today.

bbsbuildings4What a treat. What follows are some poor photos (in the interest of preserving bindings) of some of the type I found that I both already have and that which I might die for. We’ll start with what I already have in the studio and was happy to confirm as Chicago-born:

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have6I’m missing the bug from this set of ornaments, which is a shame because he’s an attractive little fellow.

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have7While I don’t have Lightface Era per se, this was a precursor to Pastel, a typeface that I do have in the studio, and one that was popular for silent film intertitles. Here’s a sample of what we’ve done with it.have5

have9We’ve recently proofed up a bunch of catchphrases in our collection, including many that are here.

have2What follows here is a wish list of things I’d love to have for the studio.

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want1Beautiful forms!

want2Pretty sure we could recreate this one with little ornaments.

want3And this is the cream of the crop. Totally speechless over this modular alphabet.

want4What strikes me most about the BB&S specimen books is the writing. Here’s a little sample from various books:

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bbstext3Each book has wonderful samples of exactly what you can do with their type. Here are a few inspirational pieces:

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inspiration5And here’s one that features a cyma, or tilda-like squiggle that fills the space next to a capital L (thanks, Nick). You can often find these in hand painted signs and occasionally in the stone signage of apartment buildings around Chicago.

inspiration2I also found a great ad for the rule bender we currently have on loan from the Platen Press Museum. This handy tool will bend rules to create curved lines in print. For $20…what a steal!

rulebenderAs if that wasn’t enough type to delve into, Amelia then pulled out just a tiny bit of their collection of Albert Schiller’s work. His ornamental print work makes me want to pack it in. So clever and beautifully printed.

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schiller7The magical ampersand machine…

schiller5This is THE press, which is currently being restored.

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After an overwhelming visit to RIT, I made my way to Virgin Wood Type, the second of two wood type makers on our Trail. It was great to see Geri and Matt again; here’s their humble pantograph in the middle of cutting a new font.

virgin4Boxes and boxes of patterns!

virgin5Matt’s Ludlow box.

virgin6So many beautiful ornaments… how do I narrow down choices?

virgin1This is what I left with. These will be in print soon.

virgin3Then Geri and Matt took me over to Rochester’s Book Arts Center in the Genesee Center for the Arts. What a great facility!

 

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roch7If you’re going to explore a wood type collection, is there anyone better to do it with besides Geri? Here are some of her favorites.

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roch4Thanks to Virgin for letting me crash yet again and geek out on wood type for an afternoon.

Our last stop on the trip is a sentimental one. Ten years ago Mr. Starshaped and I were married at the Genesee Country Village, a complete historic village that includes a print shop. I try to get Jo there every summer to explore.

gcv1Their quirky prints are everywhere around the village and are a delight to see. They are also available for purchase and if you’re lucky, someone is around the day you visit to show you how the hand press works.

gcv4Maybe Jo wasn’t keen on staying behind to help like I told her she would as their new apprentice. But at least she knows her way around a shop!

gcv5That’s it for our 2014 Letterpress Trail, though it’s certainly not an end to visiting more shops as the year progresses. We’ve got some plans for 2015 already. In the meantime, it’s back to the shop with a ton of new treasures to get on press.

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The 2014 Letterpress Trail, part two

The next stop on our Letterpress Trail following Cincinnati was Columbus, home of Moore Wood Type, one of two wood type makers in the US and a great friend to Starshaped. Scott’s humble workshop is mostly in his basement, where he has just the right set up of equipment, tools (some handmade!) and wood for production.

moore12A table full of recently cut type. And a sneak peek of half rounds in the background!

moore11This is Scott’s pantograph, next to a trim saw. You can see a pattern set up here.

moore16A box of patterns for catchphrases.

moore18Scott has also been laser cutting wood type, and here is an experiment with creating a border. After cutting a full sheet of finished, type high maple, he can then trim out the individual borders and ornaments. Working with the laser allows for greater flexibility of sizing, not to mention detail in the smaller sizes. And speed!

moore19These are a few new stars sitting on top of the proof sheets of our Moore collection at Starshaped. I brought them to double check our own stock against the new Moore offerings.

moore14Check out this beautiful block ready to be trimmed and carved. You can see the lovely wood grain, and well as a bit of the sheen from the smoothness of the surface.

moore21These are the cutters for carving the final pieces. You can see the range of sizes to accommodate a variety of type forms and counter spaces.

moore20Happily, I got to cut my first wood type! Scott let me choose what I wanted to do, so I picked this ornamental rule that he hadn’t done yet. I even got to pick the length; the final piece can be cut to any size, which is the beauty of working with a pantograph. Scott has a notebook of configurations for each of his patterns, and also makes notes directly on them so as to remember how to set the pantograph measurements to cut accurate sizes.

moore1The first cut is the more detailed one, and you can see how the outline of the rule is taking place. After this, the cutter is swapped for a larger one to clear the solid areas that are not part of the design.

moore4Look at me go! I’m using the tracing side of the pantograph to outline the pattern.

moore2Here are the final pieces.

moore5Scott made patterns for an Antique Tuscan, a typeface that’s near to my heart and one we’ve had the longest in the studio. Because I’m missing a few letters, we thought it would be fun to make replacement characters. Here’s a box of the patterns ready to be mounted, traced and cut as new wood type.

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moore8After much configuration, we were successful and I was able to make a handful of the missing letters needed to complete my set of 12-line type. It is now at home with its 100 year old siblings.

What a delight it was to visit with the Moores for two days, sharing stories, cutting type and playing with the dogs. Can’t wait to see them again!

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finaltuscanAfter Scott checked the fluids in the Fiat, we hit the road to Pittsburgh to visit Matt Braun of the Outdated Press. He’s got a cozy shop that’s enviable for its tidiness. It’s the perfect collection of unique metal type and impeccably restored Pearl presses (and he’s got one for sale, folks!).

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outdated7Here are a few of Matt’s beautiful typefaces.

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outdated5This is the next restoration project!

outdated11Here’s a fine example of Matt’s talent with complex forms. Also a project near to his heart; his own newborn’s birth announcement! And what a cutie he is.

outdated13Matt took us downtown to the office of Bearded, his day job. They have a fine way of mixing old and new, as web designers with a stellar letterpress studio all in the same place.

bearded9These are just a few shots of their incredible wood type collection. And you’re in luck, because many of these have been digitized and are available as part of Wood Type Revival.

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bearded5Four hours after leaving Pittsburgh, we made it to Buffalo to catch a few hours of sleep before participating in the Western New York Book Arts Center’s annual Book Fest (read about last year’s event here). I was happy to contribute another large linoleum cut for their steamroller printing, which is really a sight to see.

buffalo1Despite the construction, many folks came out to the parking lot to see the steamroller in action. And thanks to the construction, we had a lot of chain link ‘walls’ to fill with beautiful prints on muslin. You can see my ode to The Queen City 3×3′ linoleum cut here.

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buffalo6Everyone got into the action and it was great to engage the younger members of the audience in inking up the cuts.

buffalo3Yep, watching a steamroller print is indeed camera-worthy!

buffalo5Check it out for yourself:

And here’s the final result! All of the prints pulled are for sale at WNYBAC, and the proceeds all benefit the Center. buffalo4Sunburned and exhausted, I took a day off before finishing up our Letterpress Trail in Rochester. Given the amount of type seen that day, I’ll be saving those images for their own post! Check back soon.

The 2014 Letterpress Trail, part one

This summer we decided to hit the road and see how many letterpress shops we could visit in a week. Thanks to our friends at Firecracker Press, we have a handy Letterpress Trail map, which is an attractive way to keep track of our stops.

jocarWe drove down through Indianapolis to Nashville to visit our friend Celene at Hatch Show Print, one of the oldest letterpress shops in the country. It is now housed in an incredible new venue as part of the Country Music Hall of Fame, and includes a gallery and retail space as well as the actual shop.

hatch11Jo and Celene messed around with some of the large wood cuts for historic posters.

hatch13Check out the beautiful space. Hundreds of cases of types, a handful of presses and a whole lot of gumption (can you say 600 posters a year?)

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hatch18I took most of our photos at the end of the day so you don’t get the buzz of a working shop, but it was indeed humming! Jim Sherradin was still around, working on oversized pieces for the gallery.

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hatch20This is an amazing wall of wood type that measures over 20 line, or approximately 3.5″.

hatch4Jo got to hold this large wood type J, as well as hang with the shop cats, Huey and Maow.

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hatch16We had a fantastic time exploring Hatch, not to mention enjoying the tasty pulled pork that was on deck after the shop closed. Can’t wait to visit again.

hatch14Our next stop in Nashville before heading out was to Isle of Printing. We’re big fans because they are fellow Press Bikers, with a mobile station on wheels as part of their Our Town project. Check it out!

This giant press was used for a project we got to see on the outside of the building. Do you see something vaguely pie shaped?

isle1They have a large shop with tons of space for printing as well as exploring their numerous public art projects that are taking over Nashville.

isle2And here are the pie shaped prints, pasted on the wall outside! One might think Jo coordinated her outfit for this shot with Bryce, the leader of the gang.

isle4After our stay in Tennessee we headed up to Cincinnati to visit Steam Whistle Letterpress, friends we made while at the National Stationery Show. Brian has a fantastic shop in the Over The Rhine area of the city, and makes some lovely, vintage-inspired prints and cards with metal type, wood and hand carved cuts, all things we can get behind.

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steam4We took the opportunity to pick up some great cards and talk shop. Brian’s awesome business cards fold into actual steam whistles, and he paused a moment to show Jo how it worked. How’s that for branding!

steam2Another friend we made at the Stationery Show was Maya from Visual Lingual. She is one half of the team that makes seed bombs, little portable gardens you can plant anywhere! We picked up a few sacks and can’t wait to get them started. You can find their work all over Cincinnati as well as nationwide.

visual1And luckily for us, Maya pointed us to the American Sign Museum, a glorified warehouse full of signage from around the country that has been rescued from the dump and obscurity. This is a must stop for anyone interested in Americana, neon, sign painting and letterforms.

sign3We’ll be back soon with Part Two of our Letterpress Trail, which picks up in Columbus!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Master Class – July 2014

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

 

 

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