March 14, 2013
I yawned no less than five times while uploading this picture. Why is this?! Do you know what that phenomenon is, that makes us yawn when someone else does? I can't even read it without doing it. Did you? Just a cheeky little reminder that this week we officially lost one hour of sleep, but really—gained an hour of daylight which I'll happily take.
I think I'm going to hang this in my bedroom, to help with any restless nights and to remind me of the powers of advertising. xo
March 6, 2013
What I knew, but didn't admit to myself, is that in terms of production, this would be averylarge project for me. And this would of course be crazy. My presses are old—the one I used for my print dates back to 1887—hardly an automatic-feed press, like many of the ones used today. Each sheet of paper is hand-fed by me, one at a time. And yes, of course I used two colors—so therefore, each sheet was fed twice, in the tens of thousands. In the end, I felt both at one with the paper, and like I had just crossed the finish line of a marathon.
If you want to see the story, along with friends Twig & Fig and Mark Foxworthy/Printing Services of Napa Valley, please click here: PROCESS
Lastly, because I talk too much, the interview-portion was cut short. If interested, you can read the unedited version below:
What is your design philosophy when it comes to letterpress?
Letterpress printing, by its very nature, is an old and beautiful technique. I came to it by a place of letters and type, rather than pictures and illustration. This no doubt is the basis for which I start each project. What is the objective? I believe that type, in and of itself, is beautiful. It is enough. I try my best to create a design that gets the point across as succinctly as possible, and (in regards to my role as the printer) then I just try and stay out of the way and print as cleanly as possible.
What has been your favorite project and why?
I have so many! I am really super sentimental, so any personal project speaks to me. I love the care, details, and intention that people already seem to have when they seek me out. Any invitation to a celebration is cause for joy. I know it sounds cheesy to read that, but I am sincere. I am touched when people contact me for Memorial cards, as well as trusting me with their new dreams of a business card.
I can tell you the most, “I can’t believe I’m doing this project”. It was for Dwell Magazine, and it was for an advertising series they were doing for Saturn Cars. I was a bookbinder, first, so they had me create four separate book covers, one for each part. On the cover, I was to letterpress the text. I LOVED that they went to the effort to have these authentically letterpress-printed (rather than a photoshop after-thought). The difficult, “I can’t believe it” moments came when I was printing the covers of the book. It was so difficult. I had one shot to get it set up exactly perfect, hold it in-place, and then print it. And then I had to do it four separate times (without smashing fingers), with four separate plates. I am really proud that I was crazy enough to do this.
Who or what influences your work?
Really, I don’t have a specific person, but I’d say a collective group of strangers has had the biggest influence on the way I view my world. Sign Painters from the turn-of-the-Century, Craftspeople of all types. I really appreciate the care and precision that these people put into their work—mostly without any celebration. It’s just what they do.
If you weren’t designing, you’d be...
If you could host a dream dinner party, who would your top three guests (living or dead) be and why?
This is a hard question! Of course it goes without saying that any family member that is no longer with me would be welcome at my party. Other guests may include Aldus Manutius (the elder), who was the founder of the Aldine Press. Aside from his contributions to printing and publishing, he had such a large influence on all of us. C’mon—the man created the comma. I think we all owe him a cocktail. Johnny Cash popped into my mind, only because I’ve always loved his music and his legacy. He transcends type (no pun) and style, which is a trait that I appreciate in any medium, I suppose.
Daniel Flanagan and Margaret Kilgallen would be invited. We used to work together in the Preservation Dept. at the San Francisco Public Library, repairing old books. I didn’t realize it so much then, but that was a very influential time in my life. I’d love to go back to some of our conversations about design, craftsmanship, and the typefaces that we were privy to, just by going to work. So rich.
In your professional life, what is the one thing you cannot live without?
My printing presses.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
My daughter, who is 5, has started cooking us breakfast. Coffee with my husband, Chris and Astrid’s eggs are a great start to any day. We all three keep pretty busy with projects (art, music, printing), so perhaps we’d be hanging out and scheming together, and of course, making things.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
What’s on your iPod?
I don’t have an iPod. We still buy vinyl over here! My musical tastes are all over the map—I’m looking at a Joni Mitchell record that is sitting next to MC5. Dolly Pardon, Japandroids, Ernst Reijseger, and Dinosaur Jr. have all been playing lately.
The content of a person’s refrigerator says a lot about them. What’s in yours?
Apparently, I live in a world where I think anybody might drop by at any given time for a visit, and I think our refrigerator looks like that. We have many drinks—beer, juices, waters and chilled wine. Also, I see cheese, fruit, and assorted olives. Try me—I’m ready for your impromptu visit (ha ha).
February 27, 2013
Welcome to what is otherwise known as my backyard.
I wanted to share the image above with you—it is the trunk of what I call our Tulip Tree (click). The poor sort of sickly thing with its grayish trunk and brittle branches sits like this for most what feels like forever. No, I did not carve this heart into it, but "CD" if you're out there, I hope your mark is still working.
Every year it's like this—Winter seems to set up a basic routine for us. It's dark out, we wake. Sun is sort of out (though granted a little more in California), the short days fade back to dark again, and we go to bed until the next day. While we don't get snow or anything too exciting, the mundane sameness of our weather has it's own quiet rhythm. While I am outdoors every day, this deciduous tree really blends into a sort of Wintery Wallpaper, as it were. The grayish trunk and spiky branches just sit there while I completely forget about the very existence of Spring. And then February hits—the sun peeks out a bit more, and this Wintery Wallpaper explodes into the most beautiful little offerings I can imagine:
Around town the cherry blossoms have started to pop open, but I feel like I've won the lottery every time I look out my window. And while I know there's a Groundhog out there which is supposed to tell us, this message from my tree is my favorite way of hearing that Winter is on its way out.
January 18, 2013
Hello All! It's a new year with new beginnings, and I'm still savoring the quiet pace that the first few weeks of January can bring. I feel like 2012 left with a mighty hectic boom, so I'm officially resolving to cool it with my resolutions.
While I have some exciting goals and projects coming down the pipeline, I am making sure I keep some press time open for learning. That's right—13 years later—I still feel like I have much to learn in regards to printing. Maybe not so much in the nuts and bolts of the craft, but I think I'm ready to try new things. Or really—go back to the beginning.
I started printing at Peter Koch's (click) amazing Berkeley studio. I didn't own a computer, I didn't know how to turn on a computer, and everything I learned about design, I learned in-hand, and on-press. At first with a few self-directed projects: Floating Holiday—a literary magazine my husband and I used to publish, show posters for bands I loved, and slowly by slowly, an invitation for a friend here, or a broadside for someone there. My fledgling business began to grow.
With this growth came new skills: I can turn on a computer, I've learned the various software involved to create or replicate what I learned in the beginning: to set type, create artwork, and now make the necessary plates to create the pieces I love. While everyone's design skills are subject to taste, I think I've become fairly proficient at it. If you're reading this, you might agree. But with this, comes a quiet set of challenges (for lack of a better word). I have trained myself to be a designer, and create most of my work using technology. I've become a perfectionist. Since I create custom work for people, it is a collaboration between us all. I love this part, and like any crafts person, I have become very attuned to the necessary skills to carry us all from point A (the meeting of the minds, sharing of the ideas) to the final point Z (the delivery of our hopes and dreams project). And it's from points B to Y that I quietly take our ideas and work through the process to carry it all over the finish line.
And Dear Reader, this all might seem a bit rambly to you, but that last sentence is where I want to focus on: the process.
In the beginning at Peter's, this process was fairly short. I had a fixed amount of materials (off-cuts of paper, various wooden or lead type), and a few cans of ink. That was it. I would have an idea, see what I had on hand to execute it, and basically create it all on the press. Only one lower-case l? Looks like I'll have to print, take out some letters, and print again with the one l to make it look like I had two all along. One color of ink? Hmmm... maybe if I print the first color lightly, and then overprint it again, I can get the effect of 2 colors. You get the picture. With the limits came the creativity. THIS is where I'm going with all of this.
I'm not complaining, but sometimes—when I turn on my computer and have thousands of fonts at my disposal—the potential is both overwhelming and luxurious. I've developed a library of vendors that is at least 4 pages long, so my potential for paper and envelopes is never-ending. Perhaps this is a more zen approach, but I feel like for me in my extra time—less will be my more. I now appreciate the days when having one kind of paper, perhaps a missing-l, made me think outside the box. I felt like it pushed me in a way that I don't have to push myself today. I have all that I could need and with all of that, I miss that excited feeling of not knowing what I could possibly make when I don't have much to start with. And then I do.
Now this might be the part where you pull out the world's smallest violin for me—I know! But in my resolve for no resolutions I will make this concession: I want to remain fresh. I want to have happy accidents. I want to make mistakes that don't matter, and in this is the learning.
So, this is my plan, and I want to involve you! In my spare time for the past few months on my Milkfed Press Facebook page (click), I've invited my people to leave a one-word comment. For those that do, I take their word (can be anything—that's for them to decide), and create a print for them. Typically 8 x 10, and I use whatever materials I have on-hand. And I create. And I make mistakes—even a few happy accidents. And the best part? I send each participant a print of their word.
I'm amused to observe how I am approaching this while on-press. Since I'm limiting myself to wood and lead type on-hand, at first, I was trying to make the letters and spacing as perfect as possible. Kerning (the amount of space between the letters) is something that I learned at Peter's, and no one can see "brasses and coppers" (small spacers—brass being a bit wider than copper) better than he—he is a Typographic Master. Then I started fiddling with my press, focusing on roller height, packing, and all kinds of things that no one ever sees or knows about (unless it's done poorly). Slowly by slowly I started to loosen up. I started overprinting. I started thinking about the words, and the design itself. I started getting itchy for more type options. I started getting uncomfortable, and THIS is the state I want to be in. This is the place where I can learn.
Yes, the irony that I'm using a computer to set up my playground is not lost on me. But I love the notion of taking something like Facebook, and together, creating something real and tangible.
I'll be curious to see at the end of the year how this spare time project will affect my custom work. I can only imagine that this is exactly the push I need to bring it to the next level. We shall see.
Thank you for reading this and for supporting me! I really do appreciate it.
Here's to health, happiness, and happy accidents in 2013. xo Victoria
December 29, 2012
It's true—I actually read the news on USPS.com, so you don't have to! I was thrilled to see the new stamp which will be available on January 2. What a great way to welcome in the new year!
Designed by Gail Anderson and Antonio Alcalá, I absolutely adore their choice of display type.
Pre-order yours here (click)
Here's to happiness, health, and freedom (FOREVER)! xo Victoria