February 27, 2009

Pirate posting part II: Captain Goodbeard

I hate to stomp on my post from 12 hours ago, in which I proclaimed the glory of a new rap album, which I have not stopped listening to, and it is true, I have not slept yet, but will hopefully soon. But I'm thinking if I write about Spitfire Girl once a day, maybe they'll send me some frigging pictures.

This image is small. To make it large, click on it!

Another wood postcard design for SG. Farrell had this idea:

i feel like that should be one of those corporate posters that have an image of something arbitrary with a caption like: "optimism"

We may just do that, but I'm thinking Arrghptimism.

Also from Farrell, another bit of exciting news in new releases:

with a pitchfork url, you almost don't need to read the article.

February 26, 2009

Best Hip Hop Album 2009

Thank you, Kool Kieth.

He's dirty, he's funny, his albums are clever and thematically tight, and he's from Jupiter.

I'm calling this one in early, and unless Andre 3K or Del get their shit in gear I doubt there will be any serious contenders. I haven't been blown away by a hip hop album in a few years, Kool Keith does it to me every time. (past albums of note: Dr Octagonecologist, Black Elvis/Lost in Space)

I'm not going into great detail, the album is all over the place, you should just take my word for it and get it. The album is currently on repeat (3rd time), which I don't do w/hip-hop very often. The beats are sonically gorgeous (beats by Junkaz Lou). Tashan Dorrsett is certain to be in heavy rotation in the shop.

There is a DVD that comes with the store bought version-- it'll be a few weeks before I can sit still long enough to watch it. The EP will be released in April.

Thanks to Harvest Records for telling a brother where the funk at.

Hey Spitfire Girl!

When the fuck are you going to send us some pics of that one night in the hotel?

Everyone else:
BBH and Spitfire Girl are double teaming a wood postcard project with a pirate theme. Above is the first design, five more coming, including girl and butt pirates!

February 25, 2009

Be A Nose!

Art Spiegelman, Alan Moore, and Daniel Clowes,
Godfathers of the Graphic Novel

Finally a post where I don't have to write anything!

Cut and paste from the folks at McSweeneys:

Art Spiegelman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Maus, creator of Wacky Packs and the Garbage Pail Kids, and father of the modern graphic novel (though he's still demanding a blood test), presents this warts-and-all reproduction of his private sketchbooks — and the results are as candid, sharp, and funny as the relentlessly innovative man behind them. BE A NOSE! is a rare glimpse into the secret scribblings of an American original.

I doubt Spiegelman drew this one,
but I'm happy to have been included in the project.
It's true, I was black when I was a young lad.

Here is their description of the book:

It includes a triple dose of unexpurgated Spiegelman sketchbooks from years past—you get 1979, 1983, and 2007, all in actual-size hardbound editions and wrapped in a really neat ski-gogglelike strap, with Art's own musings and specially shaped pages and a just amazing amount of wit and weirdness and giddy, brilliant draftsmanship, enough on every page to keep you tided over through several grim news cycles, at least.

They posted a cool trailer for the book on you tube here.

You can buy the book here: store.mcsweeneys.net

February 23, 2009

A laugh a week.

Currently I am putting together a promotional desk calendar product for Blue Barnhouse that will pretty much work and look like a Gary Larson Calendar minus the funny Gary Larson shit but plus the funny Blue Barnhouse shit. It will not only feature some classic designs but some archived stuff we passed on because they wouldn't really work as a "card you'd give to someone else."

Both of these unprinted designs were written by Tyler Dockery. The bottom one was written recently but I passed over it the first time around because I couldn't make out the handwriting.

Amazingly, while diving into the archives I continue to find captions that would make great cards--there's so much to go through, it's easy to miss a classic the first and even second time around.

February 20, 2009

Birthdays, Young & Old

Today is my son's seventh birthday and I made him this card:

Also, we had a funny old man stop in our store and ask if we had a Happy Colonoscopy card. I said we don't right now, but we will next week! We realized after he left we did have a proctology card. Perhaps he'll buy both.

February 19, 2009

No he didn't.

Yes, I did. I was resizing our Finding Presents card to A2 size (our preferred printing size) when I considered another caption for the image. The general response from the kids here was pretty much the same across the board: a moment of horror followed by hysterical laughter.

February 17, 2009

February 14, 2009

The Mystery Sleuths at Blue Barnhouse

And they would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids...

A couple brought a letterpress relic into the shop, they had it for decades and had all sorts of people look at it, including an antique road show and no one could tell them what it was. They had found it in their attic of their home when they lived in Buffalo, NY.

Over the phone he described it as a copper plate with an image burned in to it, and when I learned it was mounted on wood, I told him I could probably print with it. They had not been able to read the text on the image very well,but we could make out a soldier and a lady liberty figure. I locked it up into a chase and threw it into an already inked C&P press (circa 1898) and as the rollers passed over the plate the image was revealed.

The image would not print well, the wife's brother (or someone) had tried to clean the plate with a brillo pad so he could read it better, but ended up eating most of the surface away. We were however able to scan the inked plate, reverse it, and adjust the curves enough to bleed out some details. The plate dates to WWI (1914-1918).

It reads on top:
Columbia gives to her son the accolade of the New Chivalry of Humanity

The bottom script is hard to decipher, but it reads Edward G. Fox??(last name indecipherable) and then something about his rank (Corporal?) If you click on the image you will see an enlargement and perhaps you can help decipher the rest of the script.

The caption continues: Served with honor in the World War and was wounded in action.

I had several theories on what this document was used for but after some input from the letterpress community we got the best answer from letterpress printer John Rountree:

"The scan you posted is a World War I wounded certificate. These were given to troops that were wounded during the War. In 1932 (I think this is the right date) the purple heart medal was authorized and you could trade in your wounded certificate for a purple heart medal. I have one of these awarded to someone in the field artillery. While many of these were given out they are not that common today since you had to trade it in to get the purple heart."

The latest is that the owner of the plate is making an attempt to give it to the soldiers family, if he can track them down.

There is also a very enlightening comment about the etching below.

February 12, 2009

It's looking better and better for unicorns.

The unicorns rush through the cannon fire at the bears' final line of defense. The bears hold each other, awaiting their gory fate.

Meanwhile in outer space, a fleet of star kittens are driven back, despite their overwhelming numbers.

I said unicorns, bitches!!!

February 6, 2009

More Birthday Cards and a Valentine.

But first, very necessary, watch this video.

So while trying to find a reprint I found some stuff that was too racy when we started but pretty tame by today's BBH standards.

As well as found some funny imagery that had stumped me in the past.

I also redesigned the iguana card, which I always hated, but has been selling consistently for two years.

February 5, 2009

NYIGF Winter Gift Show Part 3: More cool stuff I couldn't afford but bought anyways.

Wall art from Erin Smith Art that caught my eye, and my wallet.

A week has passed since the show, and we're pretty much caught up on orders, saving those that are dated for later shipment. Sarah has a handful of reprints on her plate, nothing too serious. Farrell and Mike sent out 19 packages on Thursday, all sample updates for our reps, each carrying 50 new designs for 2009 plus a heads up on an across-the-board price hike on our stuff come May. I was kept busy all week by appointments with people I've been putting off for the last month and a half.

Some good stuff that's happened: We picked up a new rep in Ohio at the show. We had a nice flurry of orders come in at the beginning of the week from our Chicago rep, who exhibited at the Winter Chicago Gift Show.

Currently, our rep in San Francisco is showing our line at the San Francisco Gift show. Unfortunately for the Bay Area, the gift show's reputation has been flushed a little further down the pipe with every event, as both attendance and (good) exhibits are in serious decline. No orders reported as of yet but we picked up an Oakland rep as well as one for Reno/Tahoe--both are folks our SF rep networks with regularly.

Our SF rep reported on Friday: "Show only going in to 3rd day today...so far not so good overall. Seems like New York was the only good show this winter. Hope there are some dollars left for SF."

One thing to be sure, we were way in over our heads after the August NYIGF and it took us a few months to recover, but it wasn't just the show, we were riding a wave all summer that crashed on us in September and caught us by surprise, and the shop was overwhelmed with reprints as we ran out of most of the product from 2007.

I think we were a little more prepared to be slapped silly this time, but it's certainly evident that the decline in the economy continues. Next week we contact all our house accounts who normally would have been at the show and let them know we have some cool new stuff and are offering the same show specials to the folks who stayed at home.

Hitting the pavement is what its probably going to take to keep the gears turning this year. I'd be interested to see what the Stationery Show in May brings, whether things will start warming up or continue sliding away. We're already locked in, and I'm preparing to break even.

Anyhow, lets get into the more fun stuff. I couldn't pass up on several lines that were not letterpress, though I smartly staggered their ship dates a month apart so to be not hit over the head with expense. I've also featured some folks we've made friends with at past shows who are doing great work.

O + D

Olga from O+D (offensive & delightful)

Occasionally we are asked if we are familiar w/ O+D, as they too are famous for being an edgy and funny card line sure to piss at least a few people off. They cross the line, but I would say in a more direct and blunt way than we do, as most of our outrageous stuff is being written by someone who lives on the moon.

I would never carry anything that is remotely similar to our work-- and I would say though we share a similar genre we are clearly doing two different things. I think BBH and O+D's work compliments each other with virtually zero crossover as far as ideas go.


Alena Hennessy, in the Handmade section, actually has been a client of ours for custom work and calls Asheville her home. Her products are wall art and textiles that incorporate elements of her paintings-we accidentally bumped into each other at our first Atlanta gift show and at that time she was already a seasoned exhibitor, and taught me alot about the world of gift shows when I was still green.

Alena has seen a lot of commercial success and pretty much is in a comfortable place with her clientelle-- though the show went well for her she has decided that after this show she will be taking it easy for a while and spend money she would have spent in New York on catalogues and mailing campaigns.

Maybe BBH will get there one day but until we've either saturated the market or start losing money on the shows, I feel its still worth networking and building our customer base.


Erin Smith Art hails from Decatur, GA and was around the corner from Alena in the Handmade Section. She incorporates family photos into collage art that can be bought as wall art or greetings. The prices were reasonable and her designs clearly needed to join our demented family here at the shop. My favorite piece of hers is the headlining image for this post.


We met these Canadian kids during the Toronto Show last year and saw them again in New York's Newest this summer. I always stop to talk to these guys because I have a great friend in the plush monster business, John Murphy of Stupid Creatures, who sculpts one-of-a-kind custom monsters out of discarded socks. (He also has occasionally been a guest artist/writer for Blue Barnhouse.)

A Stupid Creature by John Murphy.

We may not see Monster Factory at future US shows, as customs laws for manufactured imports regarding child saftey are about to become very strict and the mountain of paperwork, forms, and expense getting to prove their work meets these standards is more effort than its worth. They are looking into having a similar line manufactured in the US.


A build your own ukulele.

I found Noted when former BBH crew member and a great friend of mine, Buzz Poole, paid his usual "visit to the BBH booth before drinks" and took a walk with me at the show. As we were gawking at the sea of crap, he
recognized some acquaintances he had worked with via his current post as editor of Mark Batty Publisher. MBP was founded by Mark Batty, former CEO of ITC Fonts and likewise the former editor of arguably the best typography magazine of the 20th century, ITC Font's U&lc. MBP is well known for their books that focus on design and modern culture.

U&lc: Influencing Design & Typography, by Mark Batty Publisher

Noted, who's crew includes a trio of MBP veterans (a writer, a designer, and even a former printer of MBP books), carries a number of cool and inexpensive imports from Japan, most of which require assembly and/or interaction with its recipient; for instance: a build your own Pinhole Camera, mechanized paper art, build your own catapults, and some beautifully crafted gliders
An animatronic paper Chinese dragon that roars and slashes its tails and claws with the turn of a crank.

Build your own Hishou Glider

Most of what I ordered will double as some fun father and son activities (and at a nice price, for a wholesale buyer) w/ my 7 year old son Toby.

That's about the breadth of what caught my interest at the Gift Show, excepting our favorite crazy kids at Spitfire Girl. Up next, a full length blog about my favorite stop at any given gift show.

Stay tuned for part 4 of the NYIGF report or Spitfire Girl is gonna shred you (and me) a new one.