Levi’s Workshop: Print on Valencia

San Francisco has a super special new thing going on this summer. Levi’s Workshop/Print (a two-month pop-up community letterpress/silkscreen printshop) has opened in the Mission. I went to the opening night and stopped in again on Saturday, talked a bit with a few of the staff, and can’t stop thinking about how great it’s going to be.

The Workshops are places for creation, inspiration, and collaboration. We’re excited to bring the first of these experiences to life right in our own backyard. Located in San Francisco’s iconic Mission District (home to one of the first Levi’s® factories), we’ve opened up a community print shop. During July and August we’ll be hard at work teaching classes on classic letterpress machinery, screenprinting designs, setting type, and getting our hands dirty.

The facade: I love that they whitewashed and reclaimed the existing Biltmore Laundry sign with its classic Americana shape (see a great slideshow here) and mostly am a fan of the exhaustive list of types of workers (including blogger) on the facade, paid off with the Holzer Truisms-esque neon sign “Everyone’s Work is Equally Important.” But I am disappointed that they put it up in a handwriting font and not either traditionally handlettered or, if it has to be type, at least use the much more well-done Pettibon/McFetteridge-esque handlettering type used all over the site’s css.

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My analysis: So normally I’d have a fair amount of skepticism for such a display of big-company-throwing-money-at-coolness, but there’s many ways that this is distinct from your average marketing exercise from the likes of Nike.

  1. Levi’s is a San Francisco company; their original plant was operating at 14th and Valencia until 2002. Plus of course, jeans were worker’s attire before becoming the greatest American sartorial export, making both the location/community and the “work” theme are not just genuine but resonant.
  2. Their choices of collaborators are not just buzz names (like Sagmeister, Fairey, Aaron Rose) but community-local (The Women’s Building, SoEx, Mother Jones, Mission Grafica) and public-pedagogical innovators (Alice Waters, Craig Newmark, 826) if not some combination of the three. It’s a group that is both nigh-unimpeachable and impressively progressive.
  3. The overall feel is much more public, conversational, accessible, educational and positive than it is branded-marketing-pushy. Which I hope is a sign of changing attitudes towards marketing in general.
  4. In an era of “new media” being everyone’s buzzword, it’s heartening to see this embrace of old media, of “getting one’s hands dirty.” Though no doubt twitter, facebook, blogs (not to mention jumbotrons) will amplify the message, the media in question isn’t apps and Mafia Wars but real ink, screens and presses — newspapers, broadsheets, posters, books, public propaganda. Both letterpress and arts education are under constant threat of disappearance and this public celebration is welcome. It’s easy to see how this will translate into other workshops: photography and music have both gone digital as surely as printing, and a space for darkrooms with, say Jonathan Kozol or for 8-track masters with Jack White is a beautiful idea.

I have no reservations saying that this workshop is a fantastic thing, and I’m hoping that it becomes the textbook example of corporate social responsibility, (cultural edition). I am excited about the next two months and only sad that it won’t become a permanent fixture of the Valencia corridor. After August, they’ll close back down, some version of the Slanted Door will move back in, and a new Levi’s workshop centered around photography will open in New York for two months.

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Some of the programs I’m particularly interested in after the jump.

Continue reading Levi’s Workshop: Print on Valencia

Dreamy Diana

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I’ve been toying around with buying a few things from Photojojo! for a while now; mainly this, and this, and this. But the Dreamy Diana Lens seems so cool, I think I may need to take the plunge and make my first Photojojo! purchase. Basically, it allows you to take dreamy, soft-focus photos like the original Diana, with your DSLR. So cool!

It is available with an adapter for either a Canon or Nikon DSLR, or if you are lucky enough to own this, you can purchase the DSLR adapter on its own without the lens.
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The World

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We’ve posted about Famille Summerbelle’s maps in the past, and while I think they are all lovely, Julie Marabelle has really outdone herself with her new world map. I would love to see it in person to see all of the darling illustrations and details. Check out the video below for a peek into Julie’s process.

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TypograFriday: Typeface, Hamilton


Last weekend we saw Typeface at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. It’s a documentary about letterpress, woodtype and especially the Hamilton Wood Type Museum by filmmaker Justine Nagan. We enjoyed it for its empassioned subjects and typegeekery of a level not seen onscreen since Helvetica typegeekery. However, it’s a somewhat melancholy film: its noble agenda seems to be to get people enthusiastic about preserving typographic history, it’s just not terribly optimistic about it.

A few posters for the film printed at Hamilton and available for purchase.

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Clockwise from upper left: Edition of 22 by Nick Sherman, monoprint and edition of 35 by Stacey Stern, edition of 5 by Dennis Ichiyama.

Hamilton was the leading American producer of woodtype through the 20th Century: if you’ve spent time in any type shop undoubtedly you’ll recognize their imprint on the handles of the drawers of type cases. Their early history – where they bought out more-elaborate Victorian competition then, once they’d achieved a near-monopoly, promptly doubled their prices – is covered unsentimentally in the film. Indeed, the juxtoposition of what an industrial operation Hamilton made of woodtype and what an artsy crowd inherited its remains is one of the animating tensions of the film: oldtimers who were cutting type when they shuttered two decades back shaking their heads at the abstract collages being printed by visiting letterpress artists. The closed facilities of Hamilton, barely transformed, became the Hamilton Wood Type Museum and it seems a pretty fascinating place. Next time we’re through Wisconsin (or even a state away) we’ll definitely make the detour.

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Three pics courtesy of Nick Sherman: a print from an enormous point-size numeral 2, the cover of a specimen book, and pantograph scraps from the cutting of Matthew Carter’s contemporary Hamilton-cut woodtype face, Van Lanen Latin.

Etsy Schmetsy: Ahoy!

While you may have thought that this week’s Schmetsy might be inspired by Cinco de Mayo or a loving tribute to our dear mothers, those holidays are already upon us, so it’s probably too late to inspire you all with last-minute trinkets and baubles.

So, instead, we’ll completely shift gears and take a voyage on the high seas for this nautical Schmetsy! (Moms and Mexico, please know that this is in no way a snub.)

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Row 1: The Captain Silhouette Print by thelittlechickadee; Sailor Tote Bag by bayanhippo; Birdie Boat by virginiakraljevic

Row 2: Nautical Leather Captain Fishcake Sailor Brooch by LoveFromHettyandDave; The Lost Boat (Vintage Style Brass Telescope Spyglass with Antique Brass Sailboat) Long Necklace by earringsnation; Ahoy Nautical Cross Stitch Button Badge by SmallStitch

Row 3: Hand Crank Pirate Ship Automata by cartoonmonster; Recycled Sail Luggage Tag – Number 2 (this one’s reserved, contact for custom order) by reiter8; The Tiniest Sterling Asymmetrical Anchor by FreshyFig

Row 4: Steve Zissou Finger Puppet by abbeychristine

TypograFriday: Logotypes in Hebrew

The designers among our readership are probably familiar with Brand New, the blog that features, analyzes and critiques rebrands and logo redesigns. But you might not have seen (because it’s, ahem, brand new) Brand New Classroom, which takes on the even more niche-y topic of student identity redesign projects and invites its readership to constructive critique. Makes me a bit jealous of folks doing design school in the internet age.

Yesterday Brand New Classroom featured Israeli type maestro Oded Ezer‘s students taking on the interesting assignment of making Hebrew versions of logotypes (whilst preserving their character), to pretty fantastic results. Well, as far as I can tell without being able to read the Hebrew. Here’s three of my favorites:

Hallmark by Orly Dekel.

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IBM by Rotem Dayan.

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Carmel by Stav Axenfeld.

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Ezer has some great pieces of typographic experimentation himself, with Latin and Hebrew letters, and a monograph, The Typographer’s Guide to the Galaxy. I particularly like his excellent homage to Glaser.

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Studio On Fire!

Just ran across this beautiful stationery for Vista Caballo (a ranch retreat in Dove Creek, Colorado), designed by the amazing letterpress/design house, Studio On Fire. The simplicity of this work has me in awe. Love it!

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the selby

If you’re like me and love seeing what people’s homes look like inside and out, take a peek at the selby. One place that looks lovely to me is the home of Dan Martensen and Shannan. Funny how I’m drawn to rustic places out in the country when I was so opposed to that sort of thing growing up in one.

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Typografriday: Movie Typecasting, Gotham

I am late to the commenting-on-movie fonts game, having been beat to the punch by Yves Peter’s excellent ScreenFonts column (which analyzes contemporary movie posters) and of course Trajan is the Movie Font / Big Red Text / Hand-drawn Block Letters (youtube pieces which catalog movie poster type trends: Trajan on everything, Gill Sans Extra Bold et al in red on dumb summer comedies, handdrawn outline text for indie-quirky)

I want to take this opportunity to comment on something that according to my weak googling I may have the scoop on… I noticed it when I was flipping through the local newsweekly this week (early December) three presumably Oscar-aiming films, Invictus, A Single Man and The Lovely Bones.

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You see it right? Gotham? Used in all caps in its bolder weights in 2009 it still carries strong resonances of HOPE and CHANGE and YES WE CAN. Indeed the upward flight of birds in The Lovely Bones poster and the upward looking Damon and serious looking Freeman are from not only the Obama/Hope playbook but also the rising swell of a John Williams score, the slow-mo on a triumphant smile, the whole town breaking into applause, the gleam of hope that this distillation of big hollywood production dollars into filmic pathos brings home the trophies.

A few years back, Trajan was still being used for this sort of film. But now it’s been relegated to the likes of Hellblazer and The Hills Have Eyes… to strike the right chord of gravitas and respectability in your drama, Gotham is the new go-to. I know a set of three does not exactly a trend make but take my word for it, there’ll be more. You heard it here first: Gotham is the Oscar Movie Font.

drops of sweetness

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These sugar drops by Joon&Jung make me want to put sugar in my coffee every morning.