Whew! What a winter! I have a ton of news to share and am just now getting back into the swing of things after the holiday rush. Let me start today’s edition of Wednesday’s Weekly Reader with a bit of backstory.
My good friend, Jen, and I had the great idea to host our own designer/illustrator-friendly version of NaNoWriMo this past November. (More on that later…) Rather than spending time writing every day, we decided we would spend at least 15 minutes working on a personal project every day. No rules, no pressure. To hold ourselves to it, we sent each other photos to recap our week each Sunday night.
Fast forward to the beginning of December, and lo! the birth of Jen’s latest endeavor: Seg’s Mints. The stationary line is illustrated by Jen and each piece is unique. She’s also hoping to expand her offering this coming year. In the meantime, be sure to check out her etsy shop!
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
This week, my feed-reader continues to be dominated by both animation links and the World Cup (hurray for both the US and Germany advancing to the round of 16 today!). However, since I already posted the best World Cup links, and I still haven’t seen Toy Story 3, I thought I would focus on a few of the illustrators I’ve come across recently.
Danielle has a lovely style that blends beautiful type with vintage-looking illustrations. I noticed her work for her adaptions of Hoffmann’s Der Struwwelpeter, and fell in love with her hand-lettering.
I met Jerrod through twitter earlier this month and have been Loving his illustration Flickr stream ever since. Lots of fun kawaii adaptions of favorite animated characters and more: Ãœber cute!
Gemma has a really great sketchy feel to her work, and I love her patterns: good inspiration for work!
Of course, all images are borrowed from each artist’s site and are copyrighted byÂ them.
I’m so excited to be able to kick off the Summer Interview Series with Jesse Kuhn of RawToastDesign. I first met Jesse while I was still a student at Missouri State and have been avidly following his work ever since. Art director, illustrator, children’s education advocate and publisher, Jesse produces some awesome work in addition to promoting children’s literacy through science with his book series, The Quirkles. (and you Know that’s right up my alley!)
Give us some background information on The Quirkles. What gave you the idea for them? How did they go from being your senior practicum project to where they are today?
Hmmm, where to begin with The Quirkles 🙂 These little guys were my first major illustration project that actually stemmed from my final senior illustration practicum at Missouri State. In short, they are a 26 characters, one for each letter of the alphabet, that teach literacy skills through stories about science adventures with hands-on experiments for kids. Initially I did the character development for all 26 characters as my senior practicum project. After graduation, we discussed the serious potential in the marketplace for a series of childrenâ€™s books that tackled science at the pre-k, kindergarten, and first grade level. There wasn’t any material at the time that was addressing the science needs directly for that age group in a practical way. From there, the potential was made more concrete for this science/literacy series through some great feedback from a couple major publishing houses. A partnership was then formed between myself and the co-developers, Terri Johnson and Sherry Cook, and we struck out on our own as a start-up educational publishing company. So for the next two years, many many late nights, and about 1,463 cups of coffee I brought 832 pages of children’s books to life. Which are now the foundation of The Quirkles product line that can be seen today.
Honestly, it’s really been an amazing journey so far. I’ve learned so much through this beyond the traditional role of being an illustrator/designer. Starting with the logistics of building and running a company from scratch. I’ve also become well versed in the elementary education community, and have had the opportunity to meet with so many inspirational educators and speakers at conferences all over the country. Iâ€™m actually doing educational workshops of my own now with teachers involving the integration of technology and the arts in the classroom as an offshoot of all this. The whole experience has really made me appreciate the value of how important it is to work on projects that bring deep personal gratification into my life. I want to leave this world knowing that it’s a better place because of the contributions I’ve made and the people I’ve helped. So far, The Quirkles have given me a nice introduction to that.
You recently moved from St. Louis to NYC. How has living in New York the past few years affected your work?
New York has really been an incredible place for me, things happen so much faster here. I feel like I’ve accomplished so much over the past two and a half years. (I can’t believe it’s been that long already!) It has been fundamental for my creative career, as well as personal exploration and growth. The pulse of this city is like no other that I know of: so many resources, culture, mixes of societal class, and mountains of inspiration packed so densely onto one little island. It’s definitely not an inexpensive place to live either, which forced me to reevaluate my business plan and also helped me get off the couch for more work. I suppose when more work *equals* drawing more pictures, things could definitely be worse. I’m grateful every morning for the city I live in and the work I get to choose to do in it.
What advice do you have for aspiring illustrators that you wish someone had passed on to you?
Create, create, create…then promote, promote, promote… and then promote some more.
Take a business class, you are essentially in business for yourself. If you want this to be successful and lucrative, there are some business fundamentals that you really need to have a solid grasp on. Or get yourself a rep so you don’t have to deal with it. I, for one, like the mix: it allows me to shift modes when I’m not feeling so *creative*. Also, I think being comfortable when talking about money actually makes you more confident about the value of your work and pricing your services correctly too.
Last, but not least, taxes. Just remember that (depending on where you live) about 1/3 of each of those checks you’re cashing has to go to good ol’ Uncle Sam. Don’t spend it all. I actually have a separate bank account for this. After I deposit a check I write one to my self for 1/3 of the amount and then go to my other bank and deposit that right away so I’m not tempted to spend it all 🙂
How has social media affected the way you approach the illustration industry? Do you feel it makes it easier for illustrators to find potential clients?
I think it makes it easier for potential clients to find you. Most people now, immediately go to the web, and begin researching visually. There are so many great illustrators out their who understand the value of self promotion. You have to be realistic and know that it’s very easy to be quickly forgotten in this industry. Rest assured, if you aren’t sending out samples, posting your work on the web through multiple streams, and active socially (physically and virtually), other illustrators who are just as good or better than you *are* doing this and will most likely get the gigs. Promote a little… get a little. Promote a lot and it certainly increases your chances of making more connections, being seen, and getting more work…especially in the beginning.
It’s also an awesome way to get to know your peers. I’ve connected with so many other illustrators online that I’ve formed friendships with and met in person now too. It’s a great way to share resources, insight, ask questions, and get feedback. I had a couple unique jobs come through that I had to bid on, and I wasn’t exactly sure how to price them out. So I sent a few messages via twitter to other illustrators that I respect and got feedback on whether or not my estimates were realistic.
So…(in closing) I think there are many advantages to social media, and if you ignore it, you’re just ignoring other potential opportunities and professional relationships. I’ll be completely transparent though, and note that I do look forward to the day that I can retire from all this to a remote “unplugged” tree house in the woods…hopefully those places still exist then.
I’ve seen you selling your art prints on the street in New York and at Chicago’s Renegade Craft Fair: where else can people buy your work and what festivals do you plan on attending this year?
I still remember the first time I sold my work and how awesome it felt knowing that someone really was going to hang it in their home. It has really been another great way to monetize existing illustration work and a way for The Republic of RTD to continue to expand. What started as a small little table over in Union Square down the street from my apartment has now grown to be a sizable part of my business offering archival quality limited edition prints of my illustrations. I now have several stores that carry my smaller sized prints and Iâ€™ve been licensing work too. Prints can be purchased on the website and some are available on shirts too over at Skreened.
Artists in New York City are very fortunate. Protected under the First Amendment of free speech, we are allowed to display and sell our work legally for free on the streets of the city as long as you comply with certain regulations. I’ve met and made a lot of connections through this and doing art markets/shows. It’s really a great way to move some business cards too. Fortunately/unfortunately I don’t make it out to the streets as much as I used to because work has been steady and also the competition has gotten steep for getting a spot over in Union Square (the recession had everyone and their brother out trying to sell something). I do try and make it to some of the bigger fairs and shows though. So far this spring RTD has done St. Louis with the CraftMafia, Philadelphia with ArtStar, and just did the big BUST Magazine Spring Craftacular and Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn. Also coming up this summer are Soulard Market Park Fair St. Louis, Renegade Craft Fair Los Angeles, and Renegade Craft Fair San Francisco this year. There are others that are currently being reviewed and applications are in the works for fall shows already too. Folks can checkout the store which lists the show schedule and gets updated as new ones are added.
I really have a great time doing these and wish I had time to do them full time. When you work alone in the studio the majority of the time it’s nice (and healthy) to get out and socialize with humans, and this gives me a nice dosage of that. 🙂
Also starting in June, 10% of all print sales will be going into a mini-grant fund for schools. The one thing that frustrates me the most with the educational community are the constant budget cuts and lack of funding for todayâ€™s youth. All to often this is the reason that children are unable to benefit from The Quirkles Science and Literacy book series. The requests for donations far outweigh what the company is able to fulfill. So initially, I will be personally awarding funding for full Quirkles book sets (including extras and the Teachers Guide) on a revolving basis and will hopefully then expand this into other funding eventually as well. Application details to be announced soon!
Everyone loves a contest, and you do one every month: details, please!
I give away a free signed 5×7 print of the winners choice each month and there is a grand prize drawing for one of my limited edition 16×20 prints at the end of the year as well. If you tweet it or post it to your blog or facebook (and send me the link) I’ll enter you twice for that month. Each month starts over, so people should enter every month if they want to be eligible for each monthly drawing. Only one entry during the year is needed for the grand prize drawing though. Blog shout outs will get you an extra entry for the grand prize too.
All images Â© RawToastDesign
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.
In keeping with February’s theme of inspiring creatives, I give you 3 typographers that I have been digging over the past year. If only I were as good at typography as these lovely ladies. You’ve probably heard of or seen them before, so I’ll just let their work speak for them:
The past month was a blur of working, getting ready for the holidays, and travel, but the kickoff to all of the fun and mayhem was the Firebelly Holiday Shop. As I mentioned last month, I contributed a booth showcasing embroidered goods and illustration prints/postcards. I was really excited that my good friend and fellow illustrator, Jennifer Carson, sent some illustration prints up my way to be included once she heard about the show (that’s her leaping sheep on the left). You can see more of her excellent work over at Calcography.com.
I think the tea towels turned out quite nicely, don’t you? I’m currently working on the third in the series, so will post photos once I have them. Here are a couple of detail shots from the first two:
This was the first time I think I really mastered the French knot: good thing too, as I designed a lot of them into this one!
This design was really just an excuse to experiment with different variations of the Lazy Daisy stitch: I think it quickly became my new favorite!
Needless to say, the event was a huge success and ended up raising thousands of dollars for Firebelly’s Reason to Give charity. I was deeply honored to be part of it and send out a huge thanks to Dawn, et al. for including me!
I first posted about this issue in one of my first posts. Today, I just noticed that the AIGA recently posted an excellent article written by David Rhodes for SVA’s commencement ceremony. In it, Rhodes explains the history and issues surrounding the controversial Orphan Works Bill, along with a call to action for artists. If you create art or post any work on the internet: photos, artwork, crafts, design, et cetera, I highly recommend you take a moment to read his essay. (The Graphic Artists Guild also has some great information. It seriously only takes 15 minutes to sign a petition or write your congressman, and as Rhodes states, “it is your workâ€”only you can protect it.”
I had intended my next post to be somewhat more fun in nature, but decided to put it on hold when I saw what Megan Frau posted yesterday on her blog. I first heard about the Orphan Works Bill when our former printmaking professor forwarded an email to us explaining that Congress is currently trying to pass it. This excerpt from the email can explain the issue better than I can:
The US Congress is proposing legislation that would “orphan” all your copyrighted art works, unless you register each and every work you produce in future and have produced in the past with an outside agency! Otherwise people could use your images without payment or permission, since it will be considered “orphaned” and will have no copyright protection.
It’s a terrible piece of legislation! [….] Right now, under the Berne Convention, an artist has a right to copyright as soon as a work is completed. He or she has to do nothing to “register” it as copyright. It’s automatically protected by copyright. Now our Congress is proposing to overturn that International treaty (yes, another one!) by it’s proposed actions.
Under the proposed legislation, you would have to digitize all your existing works and all future works, and pay a fee for each work to an outside registry to protect its copyright. This is appalling. And also would be unaffordable for most artists, as well as often logistically impossible. I personally have hundreds of existing works “out there”, and many photographers I know have even more.
â€”Kevin via studioNOTES
Aside from forwarding the onto people I thought might be interested, I kept meaning to email my congressman. Megan’s links to Illustrator Partnership’s Legislative Action Center prompted me to do it this morning. I’ll link you to their LAC home as it has a lot of really great information and resources for artists about the issue. The first 2 links on the page are the ones I used to email my congressmen, and it literally took me 15 minutes to do. Further, I noticed that the deviantART community has a petition going online.
If anyone has any other links that are helpful regarding the issue, please feel free to add them as a comment below.