June 28, 2009

Rare Photo.

Just came across this photo. I can't remember what event this was but it was 2005, the year I participated in the 3rd annual Holiday Neckbeard. I am chatting to musicians Seth Kauffman of Floating Action, Tyler Ramsey who has done some amazing solo work but is also a guitarist for Band of Horses, & Bill Reynolds, former bassist from Donna the Buffal0 and currently working with practically every band that is worth a spit in Asheville. The three were playing at the 2005 event as Seth Kauffman's band.

A beautiful album with a beautiful cover.

It is rumored that Bill Reynolds coined the term West Mustacheville. This image relates to an earlier blog about my home.

Goodbye Michael Jackson. Hello Zombie Michael Jackson.

We at BBH believe that God's only begotten king of pop will soon rise from the dead, and shall thenceforth be known as Zombie Michael Jackson. Zombie Michael Jackson will still be able to dance like a motherfucker. Zombie Michael Jackson will no longer feel the urge to play with children, but he will still probably eat their brains. Zombie Michael Jackson will still have his pet monkey, but it is only a matter of time before we're talking Zombie Monkey. We leave you with this interpretation of Michael Jackson's Thriller, straight to you from the CPDRC inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, Cebu, Philippines.

June 10, 2009

Adventures in Letterpress: The New York/New Jersey Edition

Whilst killing time between the NSS and Renegade I made my rounds at various letterpress studios in New Jersey and New York. This has been a hobby of mine since I started Blue Barnhouse. The most awesome thing about touring letterpress studios is that you'll never see the same setup twice, and you learn a little something about your own studio in the process.

I feel like an idiot. I knew their Heidelbergs were run on windpower, what I did not know is that there was not a big fucking windmill on their property. A destroyed fantasy did not necessarily equal disappointment as much as it illuminates my propensity to make things very large in my mind. As it turns out, windpower is an alternative energy option from their energy provider. No such thing in the south, you have to do that sort of thing on your own dime. Which I may. In like a decade.

9spotmonk runs 2 Heidelberg Windmills and a Vandercook. Vivian moved her press home so she could take care of her two children, but is eager to move it out of the house as soon as they're both old enough to go to school. A home studio is a blessing and a curse. No overhead, no commute, free childcare, but also, never an hour you aren't sucked into being there when you really shouldn't be. The studio takes up a garage, a basement room, and a sundeck. Vivian's sister Tiffany was being a computer geek in the basement office, and declined a picture. If I had taken one that wasn't all blurred I totally would have ignored her request.

The Hermitage
By far the most unique letterpress studio I've paid a visit to. A very sparse and beautiful studio/bookstore, in Beacon, NY, which is about an hour from the city, and an odd but intriguing city.

Hermitage is located in Beacon NY alongside the Hudson River 60 miles north of Manhattan. The actual structure is a house nearly 100 years old. It resides between a Spanish church and two coal silos no longer in use. In the near background lies a defunct railroad track and a creek which empties out into the Hudson. Mt. Beacon stands in the background of all this-- Jon Beacham Prorietor.

The room at the entrance is long and narrow. On one wall various manuscripts and rare literary collections/chapbooks are thumbtacked to the wall in protective sleeves. The right the wall is lined with bookshelves. You know the authors, but there are many titles that seem unfamiliar. There was a heavy concentration of Beat writers, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Buroughs, but also a focus on American classics. I recall a first edition copy of a Melville book, in great condition, with Edward Gorey as the artist, which Kyle bought for $12. I drooled over a chapbook of Kerouac's with a shimmering silver cover, a first edition underground title that is not listed in his official bibliography, $10.

John Beacham files away "new" books. Hermitage feels like a very nice collection more than a bookstore.

Here is Beacham's description of his collection:
The bookshop focuses primarily on 20th Century, Poetry, Fiction, and Art. The context of the shop revolves around publishing, with important & influential Presses highly represented. The stock is carefully hand selected with each book being intentional as part of a larger collection. Small Press American Poetry of the 1950s and 1960s is given a special focus.

The store is a circle of three rooms, turn to your right, a small letterpress studio and gallery space. Beacham keeps vinyl playing on the turntable all day long. A Smog album played as we perused the Hermitage.

The Hermitage Vandercook (SP-15 if I remember correctly.)

Type and a pilot press.

One of dozens of ephemeral wonders hanging on the wall.

The stereo. Beacham would like to start a nice collection of Vinyl as sale items as well.

Next room, the gallery. Pictured here in the gallery is Thomas, a french filmmaker and friend of the proprietor.

On top of all the literary eye-candy, Hermitage has monthly outdoor events by the railroad tracks behind the house in which Jon shows rare 16mm films that he rents from various film libraries. (Jon is a filmmaker as well, and has a cutting room/film setup upstairs)

We had a thorough look-see at the Hermitage and then explored the main street of Beacon and had lunch at a wonderful restaraunt on Jon's recommendation called Homespun. As we returned to our car, Jon, who was hanging out of the upstairs window of the Hermitage house, invited us up to have a beer with he and his guest.

His guest, Thomas, turned out to be an interesting fellow, he had finished 2 years of teaching French in an Ohio university, and had just arrived for a night's stay in Beacon before he was to head back across the pond. He made a film while here in the U.S. and gave Kyle and I a DVD copy. Kyle's got first dibs on watching the DVD but I look foward to getting my paws on it soon.

The Hermitage seems to be a magnet for all the right kind of people.

Press NYC

Tim Chapman of Press NYC does a quality check. He's as picky as I am, lucky for me, we're the same kind of picky.

I've known the Press NYC kids for a little while now. What are they known for? High-end (read: HIGH-END) Manhattan wedding clients. They always have a cocktail party on the first weekday night of the Stationery Show- we attended one way back when and promised each other some sort of work exchange. My employees and I got a little training time on their Heidelberg Windmill while at the January Gift Show. This most recent Stationery Show, while at the annual cocktail party, I asked if I could work for them for a couple full days. I wanted to take a windmill novice's crack at the Press's "Wall of Fame."

15 Heidelberg runs or more in a 9 hour day at Press will get you on the wall, and maybe even laid. Seems like it would be a piece of cake.

My first day as their press monkey wasn't so bad--I knew I would not make the 15 run quota. By now I'm comfortable using a Heidelberg, but I've never actually have been responsible for a real workload with real client work. I fared pretty well as I reacquainted myself the machine's functions--and I definitely had my hand held, as well as given a few complicated tasks over the course of the day that required some new tricks that took a while to get used to. My total on my first day was 9 runs, which is apparently not a bad day. They work on metal plates. A half day of setup on something that takes me less than 5 minutes per run at BBH. I am trying to convince them the beauty of adhesive backed plates. Its fun to play by somebody else's rules, but I can't wait for Tim to play by mine.

Jerry French, Blockhead, Goo, and Gumby make up one of many peanut galleries at Press.

A week later I miraculously found Tim's apartment in the Village after having been a patron of 4 different NYC bars with my bud Buzz Poole. The following morning, which should have been a promising day to get on the wall, was met with bad weather in my head as I nursed a brain totally destroyed by alcohol. The machine requires a sharp mind, I was making mistakes most of the day before lunchtime, ran out of steam on a few occasions afterward, I also had to step away from the press to diffuse a situation back at the ranch for more than 45 minutes.I accepted defeat at 11 runs with 5 minutes to go, which considering my handicap, wasn't that bad.

It's getting better all the time.

I'm up for making another attempt next time I'm in Manhattan in August, though the bastard in charge is upping the minimum number of runs it takes on the wall. He thinks 15 is too easy. No problem. I'll make sure he gets the treatment at BBH.

The Arm

Once upon a time, Daniel Morris had a brilliant idea.

It's been a few years since I've been at the Arm in Brooklyn. During my first visit Dan had all of his presses crowded in the side room as he renovated the rest of the space. He had some ideas about what he wanted to do, but I never suspected it would become the thing it is now. The Arm has become Brooklyn's hotspot for learning the letterpress craft and a place for letterpress printers without a studio to get some press time at a reasonable price.

When I visited in 2005 these gorgeous doors had been recently purchased and leaned against the wall waiting to be installed. The portal had just been cut that week.

The press area at the Arm.

Dan was literaly a few blocks from the Renegade festival, so we were intent on paying an evening visit to have a few beers. I walked around the studio in shock of what the Arm had become. Dan showed us some great prints from the the flat file of various visiting artists. Then he encouraged us to go through his woodtype collection. When I found one that I really liked I asked him I could lock something up in one of the Vandercooks.

Dan served us a few beers. When I learned I was missing an E, I decided my broadside was better without it.

The highlight of the Arm tour was watching a Universal III in action. I'd seen pictures of frisket setups, I'd seen automatic carriages in action. The whole thing seemed too frilly. But seeing the automatic carriage work in conjunction with the friskets, I was blown away. The feeder stands at the table as the carriage rolls forward, the friskets keep the paper in place, the carriage rolls back to you and delivers a finished print to the feed table. WANT ONE!

Universal III in action at Hatch Show Print

Up next in Adventures in Letterpress: Colorado!

Lady Pilot Takes Off!

OMG. Our snarkiest BBH apprentice, Emily Wismer, actually admitted to the world that she loves working with us. This Chicagoan smart-ass has a sweet side? I don't believe it.

Anyhow, you can follow her blog about her hapless foray into the world of letterpress here.

June 8, 2009

Renegade Craft Fair/Brooklyn Love

Renegade! (and also: "A bird is about to shit on my face!)

After 5 dreary and rainy weekdays, the sun finally came out over New York City, and we got a much needed taste of perfect early summer weather. An estimated 75,000+ people crawled out of their hovels in throngs and descended on McCarren Park this weekend for the Brooklyn edition of the Renegade Craft Fair, in order to peruse the handmade wares of more than 300 artists (and also maybe play some handball, do some beatbox dancing, run laps, have bbqs, and take their parrots for bike rides.)

A quick and dirty way to display: rubber bands keep the piles from mixing and blowing away- and makes for a quick and painless setup/takedown

BBH has done a handful of streetfairs, and after dabbling in a few cities outside of the Asheville area, we've found that keeping it local is the only way to make it profitable. However when Kyle of Power & Light Press asked if I'd be interested in prolonging my NYC business trip by two weeks to share a tent with her at Renegade, I decided it would be worth the trip. I was interested how well we would fair in the hippest sector of New York City.

As it turns out, Brooklyn is hot for BBH. Our tent was never empty, people would read a few of our funniest greetings posted at the front of the tent and decided they wanted to read every last one of what we had in stock. The table stayed crowded around all sides pretty much the entire show.

The ugliest business sign in all of Renegade land. Proof positive that presentation don't mean shit.

Renegade is the equivalent to an outdoor Etsy, showcasing a diversity of handmade arts, and being a juried event, there was an abundance of exciting and unique artistry to blow your cash on. I found alot of artists worth mentioning, so let's get to it. I'll list their company name, their own description of their work (when possible), and the products that got my attention.

Fuzzy Ink is dedicated to the loving production of mustache clad apparel. Armed with a unique sense of style and an under-appreciated sense of humor, we work frantically to bring the freshest designs to the unkempt mustache kingdom. Each shirt, from the custom stamped tag to the artwork, is designed and hand printed in our underground lair. Additionally, we are committed to making and selling only clothing that we would proudly sport ourselves.

I had to get this shirt for myself.

Hee hee. Identity Crisis.

Folded Pigs
I like the idea of surprising your dinner guest as they chow down on their delicious meal with a plate full cockroaches. You can check out Folded Pigs etsy site here.

For the dinner guests you love to hate. Bon Appetit!

Seattle Show Posters
Their name says everything you need to know except that their posters are screenprinted. I love their work.

Ryan Berkley Illustration
I spent more money in this booth than any other. Here's Ryan Berkley's etsy profile:

I'm a comics inspired gentleman surrounded by toys and Chewbacca masks. I like drawing sharks and animals and creatures and mustaches and superheroes. Sometimes I combine all of them - sometimes they are on their own - it really depends on my mood.

And here are the prints I bought for my home.

Final Approach
we are a young couple from east tennessee with a passion for design and an eye for the unconventional. we stand by our products and insure the highest quality of work. we specialize in custom painted vintage suitcases and are tinkering in found item home decor.

It appears they've taken their etsy shop down while they deal with renegade, but check back. They have alot of nice product:

At first, SEIBEI was just an expensive hobby. I’d always enjoyed drawing stupid cartoons to make my friends laugh and making presents for people, and t-shirts seemed like the best medium to do both of those things on a larger scale. I want people to lighten up, and take it easy. I want to make the world a safer and more enjoyable place for everything I’ve ever been called growing up – weirdos, spazzes, dumbasses, and everyone else.


Basho Apparel is a small design studio in based in Yellow Springs, OH. Paul Baker, artist and owner, hand prints each and every shirt.

These are friends of my friend John Davis who has been calling Yellow Springs home base for the last few years. Basho's etsy shop is also down this week (dag everyone! Renegade was only a weekend long!) but if you like the shirts featured in the above link, be sure to visit sometime soon.

Tugboat Print Shop
Tugboat is a collective of printers from Pittsburgh who make amazing woodblock prints.

A woodblock on display in the Tugboat tent. This particular artist has an impressive menagerie of animal prints.

Brooklyn gave BBH some mad love, and we are flattered. It was by far the funnest event I've attended to promote the business, and something we hope will become a part of our regular curiculum. We've already signed up for the Chicago event coming this September. See you there!

We ended the day sitting on the banks of the East River and watched Manhattan descend into twilight.

June 2, 2009

NSS 2009 Part the 5th: An Outsider's View from the Inside

by Buzz Poole

If you're reading this, that means, presumably, you've read what came before. Brandon's been saying lots of nice stuff about my day job. But he's biased, as am I when it comes to the world of letterpress.

I've known Brandon for a long time. I’ve changed his kid’s diaper, helped start his business, caused mayhem with him, been his press monkey, played peacemaker between he and his belligerent doppleganger, stayed in close contact after we both moved across the country, ballyhooed him and his endeavors whenever the opportunity arises. Such thoughts preoccupied me as I rode a cross-town bus to the Jacob Javits Center to visit Brandon at the National Stationery Show. We've met up in Manhattan this way several times now in the last few years: I arrive to the show a little early, walk the floor with him, drink some beers, watch him close up the booth and then we have a night on the town. But this time new factors were in play. I had work to do. Brandon asked me to guest write for the BBH blog, my job was to report on the show as an outsider. Also, I had a feeling there might be trouble, given some information that Brandon had neglected to mention until the day before we planned to meet.

Though I was curious to see what beautifully mad-capped printed ditties the BBH crew had created for this year’s show, I was unsettled by the news that his brother Tony was back on the scene, and would be meeting us for drinks after the show. Neither Brandon nor I had parted on good terms with Tony when the two of us pulled up anchors and left the Bay Area. You'd think the mythical evil twin is the stuff of terrible television writing, the brothers Mise have a way of making bad fiction an inconceivable reality. It was when Brandon called me up from the show on Sunday to make arrangements for the following day that he broke the news of Tony's return to the States. When I learned that he would be hanging out with us, I had second thoughts about showing up.

"You're kidding me, right?"

"He's gotten better. He's only a dick if you set him off."

"I don't know. You should hang with Tony tomorrow. You and I can meet up on Tuesday."

"He's here all week. He's asked to see you." At that point a customer entered Brandon's booth and he excused himself. "C'ya at 4:30. He'll be good. I promise."

Then the line went dead. I'd been promised this before.

Brandon and I met in the gridded atrium of the Javits Center, Brandon sporting a “MILF Academy” hoodie, griping about Manhattan’s dearth of PBR (a fallacy). Brandon ushered me past security and into the fray, shouting out at sales reps and checking in with letterpress cohorts and other spirits kindred by edgy bawdiness.

Take Olga Krigman of Offensive + Delightful. The company may be out of Los Angeles but the cards read like eavesdropping in some long-gone Hudson River sailor bar. The designs pit vintage images with Oh no you don’t sentiments, saying the things that most of us never say out loud. Have you ever seen a “Congratulations on Your New Pooping Machine!” card? Me neither.

The front of the catalog insists: “I’ve broken lots of bones and even sank a car in a lake once... but deep down inside I’m really very shy.” I don’t believe it.

I was drawn to the Bob’s Your Uncle stand by virtue of the company’s name. I travel to London often and this is one of the most mystifying idioms I’ve encountered. It’s kind of an all purpose “There you go” but to my American ears it always sounds a tad dodgy. Unsurprisingly, the company’s owners are British, though they live in Boston. When we spoke with designer Martin Yeeles he didn’t really elaborate on the company’s name but the website provides the best theory on the origin of the term, which I will forever assume is a historical fact: “Possibly inspired by Victorian Prime Minister, Robert Cecil, who appointed his nephew to a ministerial post, therefore to have Bob as your uncle was a guarantee of success.”

The cards, coasters, luggage tags and abecedaries comprise clean, sans-serif typography, emboldened by bold colors. They also produce placemats and melamine that feature photographic images of Americana and its signage, the loopy large-scale lettering of the word “motel” serves as a great counterbalance to the other printed matter. Not boring, not offensive, well designed – I’d be hard pressed to think of people that wouldn’t enjoy this stuff.

The most arresting image I encountered while walking the floor with Brandon was this heart by L2 Design Collective. Wow. What awesome screen printing these folks do. From nostalgia chic to wonderful original illustrations and lettering – they even have a “Mad Props” graffiti card – this collective exemplifies contemporary design, with that all important handmade touch.

Lots of other cool purveyors of stationery of course, as well as toys and doodads, like my friends Noted. But the day was winding down and we were out of beer.

Walking off the show floor with Brandon and Kyle to meet Tony in the atrium, the voice inside my head made me wonder why I was being made to engage with the jackass who had once impersonated his brother to frame me for stealing art from a collector's home.

Like a waft of smelling salts the stench of cleaning disinfectant knocked me out of my thoughts. And then I saw Tony, puddled up in the chair by the Jacob Javits statue. He was emanating the smell, incredibly cheap whiskey. Brandon kicked him awake.

"I need more money," were Tony's first words. He looked at me through one eye and slurred. "I remember you." Then his eyes closed again.

Brandon smacked him in the face a few times to wake him up. "Couldn't hold it together for a day . . . a single fucking day?" Passersby turned their heads as Tony woah-woah-woahed and assured us he was cool.

Brandon sighed. "Let's get this picture over with."

We managed to fake an air of normalcy. Tony lost his lunch in front of the statue as Brandon retrieved his camera from the stranger who took our picture. As Tony slumped over to examine what he'd done, Brandon, flushed with embarrasment, snuck Kyle and I through a crowd of folk exiting the lobby and hurried us out to the street. We caught a cab just as Tony appeared and ran after the cab, beating on the window as Brandon and I urged the driver to keep driving. We made our way in awkward silence to Press New York, where the four of us were supposed to have cocktails.

If I only knew how to read...

In my five years of residence in Asheville, I can count the number of books I've read on my fingers without having to resort to toes (that's not counting Graphic Novels, which I read obsessively when I find something worth reading.) The last year has been especially bad-- the only thing I've read since January 2008 is an anthology of short stories by Paul Bowles. I've bought up every last McSweeney's issue and continue to do so, but haven't so much as cracked open a single issue in years. Mostly, its a matter of time and distraction. I used to love to read, and always dreamed of having one of those jobs where you can sit behind a counter with a book waiting for somebody to need you to do something, but these days the world crashes around me on a day to day basis and it is impossible for me to engage a book for longer than a week before I abandon it.

That didn't stop me from attending the 2009 Book Expo America, at the invitation of being snuck in to the Javits by my buddy Buzz, who was running the Mark Batty Publisher booth.

I walked the whole floor, 50 some ailses spread over two city blocks, and I gotta say, there wasn't much to look at. Mostly what I saw were books that make money, i.e. children's books, books by celebrities, mass market books I have no interest in reading. There were a few little surprises on hand, so I'll make this quick and dirty.

What the hell? Didn't I just see these guys at the NSS?

Because the world is getting smaller everyday, I immediately bumped into Carrie from Red Cap cards. I'm not sure what card manafacturers were doing at the Book Expo, and they didn't seem too sure either. Hal asked me if I had any beer on hand. Do I look like I'm made of alcohol? Red Cap is the best selling line that we carry in the BBH retail store.

During my walk on the North end of the building I overheard Neil Gaiman's name being mentioned. On my walk back from the South end I saw a line 14 aisles long and had a sneaking suspicion that dude would be at the end of it. Sure enough I ended up standing 3 feet from the table where he was signing autographs.

Neil Gaiman puts up with his depraved followers.

For those of you not in the know, Neil Gaiman is the madman behind DC Vertigo's cult hit, Sandman, in which the history of the world is cleverly rewritten and the gods of the human experience run amok with mortals. Beautifully drawn and so satisfyingly complicated, without a doubt it is my favorite comic series.

Gaiman also co-wrote an apocalyptic novel called Good Omens with Terry Pratchet, and is probably best known for the recent animated children's movie, Coraline.

Comic artist Chris Giarusso signed a free copy of G-Man for my 7 year old son.

The comic section left little to be desired. Some reputable indies were present but there were only eight of them in a single section. I did get offered a free copy of G-Man by Chris Giarusso, creator of Mini Marvels, a series that depicts Marvel super heroes as children. Being for children, G-Man wasn't able to hold my attention for more than two pages. Toby, however, ate that shit up in a single sitting and asked for seconds.

I don't know everyone's names here, but Mark Batty is the gent to my left, editor Buzz Poole and designer Christopher Salyers to my right.

In general, the expo was a snore. Buzz said he'd seen members of McSweeney's tooling about, which would have made the show more exciting, but after a seemingly endless search for their booth we determined that they were in attendence but not exhibiting. So go figure, the crown jewel of the endless aisles ended up being the same folks who snuck me in, MBP. I've tried to explain their aesthetic in countless ways, but first I'll just mention Mark Batty's resume: former president of ITC fonts and former editor of every graphic designer's wet dream, a typography publication called U&lc. Rather than talk more about what they do, I'll end this post with some nods to a few of my MBP favorites:

Designer Ji Lee has devised a way to reclaim our public spaces. It’s called Bubbling. Blank Bubble Stickers are put up on ads, in wait of passersby to fill them in with their own messages, some as funny as they are profound, instantly transforming the corporate monologue into a true public dialogue.

A book for type aficionados and their children, the serif fairy cleverly uses typography to create a world made of letters.

This brilliant novella by colleague Garth Hallberg was originally slated to be part of Em 5, back when BBH was doing books. When we canned Em Literary, Buzz immediately scooped it up for MBP. Field Guide classifies the aspects of the American Family experience as one might classify birds in a field guide, while simultaneously unravelling a heart wrenching tale of two families in a typical American suburb. You can get a taste for the book here.

This book by MBP designer Christopher Salyers documents contemporary versions of the bento box, inspired by the rampant popularity of movies, television shows and manga. These charaben, made by parents (mostly mothers) eager to bring attention to their children’s lunch boxes, comprise food crafted into visually creative, appealing and recognizable forms, and are as much about planning and preparation as nutrition.

Culled from the collection of movie-poster aficionado Sam Sarowitz’s Posteritati Gallery, Translating Hollywood examines how the posters used to sell the same film in different countries speak volumes for how cultural tendencies are reflected in graphic design and how the differences are about much more than language.