Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lettered Stamps

It is difficult to believe in today's social marketing climate that these small poster stamps were once considered a very popular form of advertising, but during the first half of the last century, stamps were used to advertise everything from bicycles, expositions, printing, to sewing machines (as you will see below). In the world of stamp collecting, they are referred to as cinderellas, as they are not government issue postal stamps. They were often affixed to mailing envelopes however, and given away as promotions to encourage people to collect entire series. Their artwork was prized for being miniature posters and collector clubs sprang up across many countries. Today the collecting frenzy continues, and they are still considered affordable and desirable. With rare exceptions you will find costs vary between $1 to $5 at paper shows in the states, but you can purchase them in large lots if you aren't particular about the subject matter. On one of my recent visits to a local paper show I found this 1931 Hungarian poster stamp advertising the 700th anniversary of St. Anta—my favorite of the bunch here. It inspired me to dig deeper for more initials on advertising stamps, which proved to be a difficult challenge. My search revealed only two others in this group, while others required a more ambitious digital dig.
A Swedish poster stamp advertising the Dürkopp sewing machine. No date.

Undated German poster stamp for the Dietrich Vesta sewing machine. Interesting that the style of the D is very similar to the Dürkopp stamp above. Now available on eBay for a limited time.
1929 poster stamp for an international exhibition of motorcycles. A great example of the Italian Futurist Movement of that era. This is from a low-rez Flickr image of other very nice motorcycle stamps.
Who knew that women sewing away behind giant letters was such a popular theme back in the day? This undated German poster stamp for Pfaff sewing machines is now available on eBay for a limited time.

This German poster stamp is from the Konigl Fachingen series seen below which promote their natural mineral water. They are all from a 2008 poster stamp and mail art exhibit at the Oberlin Clarence Ward Art Library. All other poster stamps in this post are from my own archives unless otherwise noted.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Wordless Wonder Books of Tauba Auerbach

When viewing the wordless books of Tauba Auerbach, one has to suspend their belief of the traditional narrative story. There are no title pages or signposts for chapter openings or endings. There are no entries or exits. They are books designed for inspection and reflection. When first discovering this colorful book recently, my immediate reaction was "how the hell was this thing fabricated?" I'm sure it was not without challenges. 
      This wordless cube of a book, titled RGB Colorspace Atlas, is an 8x8x8 inch structure which was featured in Auerbach's most recent exhibit at the Bergen Kunsthall in Norway along with many other of her works on color perception. Weighing in at 1670 pages, it was digitally offset printed on paper, with each page a slightly different spectrum of color. The extraordinary binding with airbrushed bookcloth and page edges, was constructed by Daniel Kelm. Auerbach was evidently dissatisfied with the first edition of this book provided from the publisher, so she went back to the drawing board and conceived this impressive edition. I cannot imagine the enormous task required to retain such a uniform spectrum of color across all of these two-dimensional surfaces. Quite a remarkable achievement.

RGB Colorspace Atlas on display last year at the Bergen Kunsthall in Norway. 

Wood, 2011. Digital offset on Mohawk Superfine, 55 pages with hand painted edges. Binding is constructed by Daniel Kelm.

Marble, 2011. Digital offset on Mohawk Superfine, 55 pages with hand painted edges. Binding is constructed by Daniel Kelm.
:: Images via Arrested Motion, and Triangulation. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Japanese Matchbook Labels

Such a fine collection of historic design examples from the 1930s. These beautiful matchbox labels from Japan, are now available on eBay for a very limited time. I take great pleasure just gawking at them myself. 

And The Oscar Goes To

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Envelope Please

I am going out on a short limb here with my prediction for tonight's Oscar winner of animation short. Last year my prediction of Shaun Tan's The Lost Thing, won this category rightly so, as it clearly stood out from the pack. Last week I watched all of this years' nominees for animated shorts and I feel there is another film short which really is a knockout: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmorecreated by William Joyce and crew at Moonbot Studios in Shreveport, LA. Mr. Lessmore is a story about books and our hold on them, but this is not the entire reason it is my first choice. It is also the story which inspired their story and the production which went into making it.  
      I am so impressed with the work of all of these animators and the importance of the stories they tell. For years now I have been watching the work of Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis of Montreal. Their fabulous short Wild Lifealso an Oscar nominee—is a very strong contender, but their storyline is not as moving as Mr. Lessmore. Twice this past year I have posted about the fantastic Mr. Lessmore and this may not be the last. I won't go on, but you can watch trailers of all tonites' contenders and judge for yourself. I'm just sayin'.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 
Well this is a very sweet ending to a tale inspired in equal parts by Hurricane Katrina, The Wizard of Oz, Buster Keaton and the redemptive powers of storytelling. Mr. Dumpty will now have even more reason to smile when he shares a bookshelf with Mr. Oscar. ;)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Snowphemeral Spirals

The wide open snowy meadow of Rabbit Ears Pass in Colorado was recently the canvas for some ephemeral spiral "Snow Drawings" by San Francisco landscape artist Sonja Hinrichsen and friends. The group of five snowshoers spent several hours tracking patterns of concentric circles in the snow while filmmaker Cedar Beauregard of Steamboat Aerial filmed the event with an aerial camera mounted to a remote-controlled helicopter. From above, this snowscape design reminds me some of Marian Bantjes artwork with all of her patterns of concentric circles, but on a much larger scale. I could really go for tracking up a field of freshly fallen powder snow like this myself sometime, but with a little experimental lettering—perhaps a Robert Frost poem? This would give entirely new meaning to the of term text tracking! What a perfect way to spend a cold sunny day. Watch another, more recent video of Hinrichsen's lovely artwork with some nice long-shadowed lighting this time.

::Photos by Cedar Beauregard and posted on Flickr. Via Designspiration.

Friday, February 24, 2012

America's First Art Educator

Louis Prang (1824-1909) is considered to be America's premiere printer of chromolithography. Born in Poland, he later immigrated to the US as a political refugee and found work in New York and Boston where he became a skilled lithographer and wood engraver. Prang is also known as the "father of the Christmas card" after publishing the first cards in 1874, and as America's first art educator and publisher of art history books, textbooks and drawing books of all kinds. He even produced a line of child-safe art materials including chalks, crayons and non-toxic watercolor paints which are still in production today, at the Dixon Ticonderoga Company.
      The image above of the lithographer's studio is from the American Antiquarian's Society Digital Image Archive. Below are 2 children's books published by Prang in 1878 and made available through the Baldwin Collection of the International Digital Children's Library. They happen to be quite colorful in comparison to much of Prang's work. Most of his fine prints and cards tended to be a very rich, but muted color palette. These book covers also appear to have a very strong Arts and Crafts influence which was being popularized in England about this same time. 

The three ornate typographic layouts above and below are chromolith publisher's proofs from Volume 8 of the L. Prang and Co. scrapbooks of colored advertising cards. These are from the collection of the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.

This image of a progressive portrait of Beethoven, printed with 25 print runs by Prang, is considered to be one of the highlights from the Phillips Library. It is currently on exhibit with other highlights from their collection through November 2012 at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fashionplates For Books

Now if I had some fashionable bookplates like these from Mac and Ninny, instead of my casually dressed yellow postnotes tacked on the front boards, I might never have to think twice about my books finding their way home from borrowers.
      Just launched in January in the UK, the duo at Mac and Ninny Paper Company hope to find wider distribution in the US and elsewhere soon. The left and right brains behind M and N are Tony and Victoria Jarratt. Tony creates the lovely illustrations and package designs while Victoria manages the day-to-day operations from their location in Cheltenham. Together they have launched over 60 different bookplate designs and labels which come nicely packaged in colorful paper folders. These handsome bookplates will dress up any cookbook, gardening book, children's book, and more. Available soon here if you are in Boston, and elsewhere in the UK; or maybe in your neighborhood soon.