Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Joyful Holiday Greetings

I could not let the holiday season slide by this year without some seasonal best hits from some of the 20th centurys' most notable designers. Leading off here is an accordion four-panel card by Alex Steinweiss, the inventor of the album cover. Steinweiss (1916-2011), who spent much of his career designing for Columbia Records, preferred to just put a bow on it. I'm just sorry I didn't put this on my own xmas list, but it's still available here if anyone is feeling overly generous. 

This 1958 holiday card by Dutch designer Dick Bruna (b.1927-) was designed for Pastoe, a furniture company in the Netherlands. 
::via Centraal Museum

This undated Christmas greeting found here was illustrated by Erik Nitsche (1908-1998.) Though there is little record of its origin, Nitsche often signed his work which to a small degree, has helped to preserve his legacy. This seasonal design is rather unusual for Nitsche, who is more widely known for his bold, daring, and modernist artworks produced for the General Dynamics company in the 1950s and 60s. Below is another unusual holiday piece found here, which he designed as a circular in 1936 for the F.A.O. Schwarz Toy Company, titled the St. Nicholas Special. These are both great examples illustrating Nitsches' broad range of styles and lettering. 

Last up is a particularly handsome holiday card from 1955, designed by Scottish designer, Robert Stewart (1946-1995) for the famed Dovecot tapestry studio in Edinburgh. 
     You can find a seasonal sampling of last year's best hits here. May all of these timeless holiday treasures brighten your day!  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bring on the Dancing Bears!

Hello again from Letterologyland! I happily return after many long months of hibernation. My sincere apology for not surfacing much earlier after abandoning my post rather suddenly last August. I'd like to say I was working on a fine print edition of Letterology musings, but this was not entirely the case. For the past year, I've been struggling with severe episodes of vertigo related to an ear disorder. At worst, the unpredictable episodes have been frequent and debilitating, with no relief but to sleep it off for a day or more. Lately, they are just as frequent, but less severe, and I'm slowly learning how to anticipate them. When I feel dizzy, I mostly just lie low and agonize until my balance returns. When I'm good, I feel like dancing! 
     I am very grateful to all the loyal Letterology readers who sent me their kind notes and queries while I was away, and I'm happy to have the support of good friends and family. It has been quite a humbling experience on many levels, and I savor all the good days, yet regret the continual loss of time. It is now all about finding balance, and that dang, yin-yang symmetry of life. As I struggle to keep balance in my equilibrium, I also struggle to find balance in my work, sleep and play time. I wonder if I will ever get caught up entirely, but as someone wiser than I once said, "there is never enough time unless you're serving it." Life goes on with or without us, and it is all I can do to keep the balance and dance.
     Enough about me however...I am eager to share so many exciting new and old things I have discovered recently, so please watch this space. The first feature I'd like to share now is of a lovely 19th C hand lettered ABC album I stumbled upon at the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair in October. It was displayed at the booth of White Fox Rare Books of Vermont, and owner Peter Blackman was kind enough to show it to me just at closing time. This unusual book is presumed to be created by a Maryette Shepard Bennet of Des Moines, Iowa around 1884, and contains her handiwork of dried seaweed letters, a popular pastime in her day. Her large, roughly six inch tall pressed seaweed letters nicely mimic the bifurcated wood type of posters and signage of this era, however her attention span dwindled some before completing it. Near the end, she chose to watercolor U, V and X, and then rendered Y & Z only in pencil. Over the years, I have seen many fine examples of dried seaweed images—often referred to as "nature printing"—but I have never seen such a charming book of mostly seaweed letters. For more information and sale price, contact Peter Blackman here