If you haven’t already heard the news, I have spent the last half of this summer working on getting the little Golding Pearl no. 1 letterpress I recently acquired back into working order. She’s a great little 5×8 platen press, but in definite need of some TLC! If you are interested in following my efforts to restore her, or just like looking at nicely letterpressed objects, check out the Tumblr page I set up over at Thrill of the Chase Letterpress.
After a nice month off, the fall season is officially here for the blog. Upcoming posts will include some more recaps of the past month, and what better way to kick it all off than with a recap of the past summer? This summer marked the first Summer Interview Series, and a huge Thanks! is in order to all who participated. Below are links to each week’s featured creative…and stay tuned for future interviews. Cheers!
As summer draws to an end, so too does our Summer Interview Series. Last, but certainly not least, we bring you our conversation with Mike Fretto, whom I met this summer at the Camp Firebelly Wrap Party. Mike is a full-time freelance print designer that lives in one of the oldest cities in the United States. When he’s not designing for his clients, he is screen printing t-shirts for a business he runs with his father. Mike spends his sparse spare time volunteering for a non-profit organization he co-founded called ROSA LOVES.
You and your father run a screen-printing business together. How do the two of you balance business and family?
I certainly have learned that operating a business with family can be challenging, but my dad and I have a great relationship that I believe contributes to successfully balancing both aspects of our lives. Good communication while working together helps get things done, and hopefully when that happens, we can leave it all at the print shop when the work day is over. There are times when business-talk or actual work makes it way into personal time, but we take each situation as it comes.
Earlier this summer, you helped mentor this year’s class of Camp Firebelly campers. Was there anything about the experience that you’d like to share?
Camp FB was a great experience for me. It was an honor for me to be among Dawn Hancock and her talented team, not to mention all of the amazing campers! As you know, there were continuous activities and workshops taking place at camp, but I was specifically responsible for helping with one in particular. In partnership with Reason to Give, we split the campers up into small groups, and visited three families in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. Each group spent about an hour with one of the three families in their homes, hearing about their families, their jobs, and life around Humboldt Park. Each group of campers recounted the stories they had heard from the families to the rest of the group. From there, each camper worked on a t-shirt design that somehow told the story of the family they met. It was fascinating to see the variety of interpretations from one story within each group of campers. After a few crit sessions and late nights, each camper finalized their designs, and we all hand screen printed each of them (despite some last minute technical challenges). On the last night of camp, we raffled off all of them at a big party that the Firebelly crew threw. I think we raised somewhere around $450 for the families, which was spent on stuff like school supplies and clothing for their children. Overall, it was quite a moving and enlightening experience for all of us. There was much learned, so many great human beings that we encountered— and I was pretty impacted by all of it to say the least.
Everyone has a favorite (or lucky) shirt: what’s yours?
No one has ever asked me that before, ha! Years ago, as a joke, I stole a t-shirt from one of my best friends (and roommate at the time), JP. I know you’re probably thinking that stealing is not cool. I’ve never stolen before, and I certainly do not condone it—but this was sort of a joke. You see, this dude has a TON of t-shirts, so the whole joke was to see if he’d ever notice that it was gone. It’s a super-soft navy blue t-shirt, probably made in the eighties. Fits me like a glove! It was funny when he noticed it on me one day, but even funnier that I never gave it back to him. I fell in love with it, and couldn’t find the strength to hang it back up in his closet. I still wear it sometimes. Well, let’s be honest… I wear it constantly.
Do you have any big plans for this fall?
Since the folks behind ROSA LOVES have been super busy with their full-time jobs and families during the past year, we’re long overdue for releasing a line of new tees. We’re in the process of putting some new ones together and are planning on releasing them sometime this fall. Stay updated by following us on Twitter or Facebook, and of course on our website at: www.rosaloves.com.
All images © ROSA LOVES and Mike Fretto
Although I’ve been a long-time fan of Letterform‘s work, it wasn’t until last spring’s Typeforce event and a another subsequent gathering that I met the duo behind the company: Andy and Julie. Visiting with them, you’re just as likely to discuss letterpress printing as home-brewing beer and a good dinner recipe…which is convenient as they also produce a cute and witty line of greeting cards for foodies called Nourishing Notes. Today, Julie shares a bit about what goes on behind the scenes.
How has moving to Chicago from Michigan affected the way you’ve approached design?
I don’t know that it’s affected our approach to design, but it has certainly opened up a number of doors for us. The creative community here is so welcoming and willing to not only share their knowledge but continues to inspire and push us creatively. The only feeling of competition has been a healthy one — it urges us to do better. So if anything I think the move has allowed us to grow much more and in a lot of different directions than we ever imagined. (PS we still love Michigan though!)
Your Nourishing Notes stationery line caters to a foodie sense of humor: which one of you is the foodie, and what’s your favorite recipe?
I definitely brought the foodie gene into the Letterform family, although Andy is quickly gaining on me. He says I have inspired him to be curious about food… that’s about the best I could ask for! We are definitely known for taking extended “breaks” from work to research a new recipe online, go on a hunt for a mysterious new food product, go morel mushroom hunting, or start prepping an extravagant meal just for the fun of it. Technically that’s research for new cards…. right?
Favorite recipe…. anything made in a kitchen full of friends and plenty of home made beer.
Artifacts & Interactions, your recent installation at the Post Family We Are Family show, showcased your finds from traveling around the country. Do you have a favorite story from your travels to share? A favorite city?
Yeah, if we’re not cooking we’re traveling, even if it’s to hop in the car and drive to Milwaukee for the afternoon. We don’t sit still very well. One of our more recent trips was a road trip from Chicago to St. Augustine FL, and back again. We camped the whole way down and back. We had so much fun driving through the back-roads of America and searching for the perfect BBQ, that every single night we pulled into the campground well after dark. We got pretty good at setting up our tent with our car headlights. You can see pictures here.
Our favorite city… so far it’s Montreal. Hands down. We spent three days there (half of it in the middle of a snow / rain storm) and had the BEST time. Andy found his most favorite bagel ever, we ate smoked meats, poutine, the best cappuccino ever, the best croissant ever, I ate kidneys for the first time (and liked it!), the best maple syrup ever…. the list goes on. A trip back is definitely in the works.
You recently moved studio locations: what’s the best thing about your new space?
Not working in our apartment!! When we first started Letterform we immediately got a studio space in Ravenswood. It was a great way to kick us into gear and give us the fire, so to speak, to make some money so we could pay rent on it! It was also nice to have a dedicated space for clients to come in for a meeting and not trip over our laundry. After about a year and a half we decided to save some money, and move Letterform into our apartment. Our tiny, one bedroom apartment. It was a true test to our relationship and luckily, it went really well. However, we soon learned the downsides (there were many!) of working from home. The search was on for a new studio space and we (serendipitously) were contacted by Dawn at Firebelly Design to check out the space right beneath hers, that she was taking over. It was perfect, and just what we needed. We moved in a few weeks later and here we are! We are sharing it with some amazing folks (Andrea of Owly Shadow Puppets) and Chad (of One Tree Forest Films), and of course our friends at Firebelly drop in from time to time. It’s a really great vibe in here, as cheesy as that sounds.
You’ll be showcasing Nourishing Notes at the DIY Trunk Show this November. Any other plans in the works where fans can catch up with you or buy your work?
Fans can always buy our work! Nourishing Notes is available on etsy and we’re in the following amazing stores here in Chicago : Green Grocer, WolfBait & B Girls, Four Sided and Anjenu. We even recently got one of our cards into Paper Source! We’re also in various stores throughout the country, now if we could just get our website updated… you would be able to check those out! That’s definitely a 2011 goal.
All images © Letterform
After a short break, the Summer Interview Series is back for Round 2! This week, we’re featuring Eric Nyffeler of Doe-Eyed. After discovering Eric’s work through a friend earlier this summer,Â I noticed that he just so happens to be based out of Lincoln, Nebraska…which the honorary-Nebraskan in me loves. Doe-Eyed’s gig posters have been featured in numerous magazines and blogs including Print, HOW, and For Print Only, and also honored by both the AIGA and Addy Awards. Eric was kind enough to participate in this year’s interview series, so without further ado…
Many claim that cutting edge design only happens in the big cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, etc. Yet there seems to be a growing design scene in the Heartland (Design Ranch, Tad Carpenter and Hammerpress of my hometown, Kansas City, spring to mind). What are your thoughts on this? Have you felt being located in Nebraska has affected your career for better or worse?
I think the design scene in the Midwest is very focused on craft and tangible creations. There are more screen-printing and letterpress shops and handmade paper mills than I can count. While some people might argue that letterpress and screen-printing are hardly CUTTING EDGE, I’d argue the cyclical nature of art has pushed handmade objects back to the foreground. We’re all so fucking tired of Flash animations and animated websites and Youtube videos. However, the other side of the coin is that all that technology that we’re already grown so sick of has also helped level the design playing field across America. No one really cares that I’m in Nebraska or thinks I’m any less “hip” than any Los Angelan. I’m also not going to scoff at how much cheaper the cost of living is in the good ol Heartland.
You just had a show open in Chattanooga, TN on the 6th. Do you have any advice for others hoping to exhibit their work?
Kiss people’s asses and then talk shit behind their backs. Every artist does it…seriously! Or if that approach doesn’t work for you, try the opposite approach and try to make a lot of friends with people. I’ve had people tell me that I’m really good at “networking” but I can’t help but feel repulsed by the negative connotation of that word. I’d prefer to think I’m making genuine connections with people I actually like…rather than just numbers I can link to on the internetz.
You describe yourself as “strictly a print designer and staunchly against advertising”. How do your gig posters fit into that? Would you consider them advertising, or more as art prints?
Well, that phrase is kind of just a bit of fun, smart-assery…kind of… While a lot of my gig posters are actually used to promote shows and technically count as advertising, about half of them are used strictly as merchandise/memorabilia items. I guess my quote is just a bit more of a barb aimed at giant ad firms that work with giant clients…companies with names like John, Paul, George and Associates. Some people really seem to get off on making work for giant companies like Pepsi or Old Spice or Kanye West…and more power to them if that’s what they enjoy. I guess I just personally prefer working with smaller, more personal clients and actually creating objects and products that people truly desire. Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks.
Since you live in Lincoln, NE, it’s hard to avoid any talk of the Cornhuskers. Are you a college football fan? And what is it like to work in a college town?
Ugh. I hate football…especially Nebraska football. It really brings the whole town to a complete deadlock every game day. I honestly try to not even leave my house on game days! I guess it’s an excuse to stay home and work?
July 15th found me once again in The Post Family’s Family Room for another show opening. This time, the show was Cantankerous Hellfighter, a collaboration between gig poster giants Delicious Design League and Aesthetic Apparatus. As you probably already know, I’m a huge DDL fan. Jason and Billy are really great people in addition to great designers, and it was nice to meet the faces behind Aesthetic Apparatus too.
As for the work itself, it was hard to see where one studio left off and the other picked up. Jason mentioned that each poster was passed back and forth with the printing split between the two studios. The result? A wonderful blend of both studios and some really awesome work.
The paper toys were fun, but I would have hated to cut up the posters myself…guess that’s when you buy two?
Those gold posters on the back wall were my personal favorites: the photo doesn’t really do the metallic ink justice.
All in all, it was a great night.
I can’t believe it has already been a year since I finished participating in Firebelly Design’s 2nd Annual Camp Firebelly. Last night was the End of Camp party for this year’s charrette, and I am amazed at how much my life has changed in the last 12 months. I’ll be back later this week with a proper event recap, but thought I’d make this week’s Weekly Reader a special Camp Firebelly-themed edition in honor of the occasion…and the really awesome news I learned last night.
Last night, I learned the news that Starbucks is featuring our pro bono client, Radio Arte, in a special video right on their home page. I knew that the signage and space we designed for them would be featured in shots of the studio, but I had no idea that the teaser image for the video would be a close-up on MY contribution to the environmental design group’s outdoor signage! What a surprise! Anyways, congrats to Radio Arte on the feature, and a huge thanks once again to the rest of the group for including my sketch!
2010 Camp Firebelly Blog
Miss all of this year’s Camp action? Catch up on the past 10 days by reading up on their blog!
I Love Rosa Loves
Last night, t-shirts designed by campers were raffled off hot off of the press, and Mike Fretto of Rosa Loves was on hand to print them. Sweet T-shirts + using your powers for good: what more is there to love?
Ok, so I realize it’s not actually Wednesday, but it’s been a busy week! In any case, I figured that I would try something new with my event recap for last Friday’s We Are Family opening at Post Family. The show, which was a part of AIGA Chicago‘s Design Week, featured emerging artists/designers and great music. Below are some of my favorite pieces with links to the artists’ sites. Where known, the piece’s title is also given.
Andy and Julie’s ephemera display, Artifacts and Interactions, was not only engaging, but also had a great little guide to accompany it.
Aside from Balloona Lisa, Plural had a modern camera obscura set up between 2 computers in a separate room. Check out the scans at the above link and see if you can spot me!
Also of note, although not photographed due to crowds, were Sonnenzimmer‘s posters. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to snag as many photos as I had hoped I would. Does anyone remember who did the large enamel discs in the top image?
In fact, the entire show was great as I mentioned earlier, and the turnout was also really good. A huge “congrats!” to all of the participating artists, and a big thank you to Craig and Carolyn for a fun night of dinner and art.
Honestly, I was really upset to find that I had missed the opening reception for the Typeforce exhibit held earlier this month at the Co-Prosperity Sphere gallery. So just imagine for a second how excited I was to hear that AIGA Chicago was hosting a special event at the Typeforce exhibit last Thursday. The event, which featured a talk by Rick Valicenti, was the perfect excuse to travel down there before the exhibit closed this past weekend.
Rick’s talk focused on contributions to typography and type design by Chicago designers over the past century. As someone who has recently relocated to the area, this actually put a lot of design/type history into perspective for me. It is one thing to know milestones in design, but to be able to associate those past events with the history of the Chicago design scene was great.
As for the show itself, there was a lot of inspiring work by an amazing group of designers: many of whom were familiar faces and a few were on hand to answer questions for the evening. Unfortunately, my photos don’t seem to do the show justice, but a few of my favorites are below.
Posters and Detail by Christian Kuras and Duncan Mackenzie
Albers XL Typeface by Plural
And, The Typeface by Margot Harrington
Experiments from Will Miller
Typefaces by Darren McPherson and Will Miller
A big congrats to all of the artists and especially to everyone over at Firebelly for curating (Dawn) and doing great work (Darren and Will).
Seeing American Artifact recently really made me want to add to my concert poster design collection. So for this week’s Weekly Reader, I thought that I would share a few of the designers who are on my wish list. (You also might want to keep this handy if you intend to shower me with gifts some day…just kidding.) As with last week, I’ll let the work speak for itself: too bad there just aren’t enough walls to hang everything.
Delicious Design League
site | blog
(Plus, they are just all-around great guys! They gave me a tour of Chicago when I was a college student and still remembered me 3 years later. Oh, and Jason has an adorable little baby boy…but that’s neither here nor there.)
The Bird Machine
(After writing about Jay Ryan, who signed my book at American Artifact, I thought I’d include some of their actual work this post.)
Of course, all images are taken from the artists’ sites and are copyrighted by them.