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Letterpress at AIGA MN Design Camp Workshop

This post is a recap of the fun we had this last weekend leading a press free, hand style letterpress workshop at AIGA Minnesota Design Camp. We were located in the wine cellar at Grandview Lodge in Nisswa, Minnesota. Over 300 designers attend this event annually. We did three sessions of this 1.5 hour long workshop with over 120 total attendees. The process was about putting down lots of ink quickly, creating textures, layers and happenstance in the layout and printing. No press required, no two prints alike. Studio On Fire brought in lots of good stuff: 10 large cases of our woodtype collection (about 400lbs of type, mostly Hamilton faces) Tape and cardboard (served as the bed of the press, tape held type in rough position) A wadded up paper towel was the “printing press” (used with hands to burnish the back of the sheets) Several dozen CSA images supplied on photopolymer plates (permission of CSA archives) Wood grain background textures (blasted with a powerwasher, then relief carved) Lots of good ol’ French Paper to print on (poptone sweet tooth and many many remnants) Ink and brayers (oil based inks and soft rubber rollers) It was a fluid process and a good chance for everyone to step away from the computer. A huge thanks AIGA Minnesota for having us and to the AIGA volunteers that supplied a steady stream of nature wash solvent to clean up and redistribute the wood type and images. And thanks

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to Phong Tran for his photo contributions. If you would like Studio On Fire to do a workshop with your group, let’s talk. Please do contact us for more information.

Hatch Design Lecture At CVA

Hatch Design created these invitation cards for the upcoming leaders of design lecture with Joel Templin at my alma mater, College of Visual Arts. Should be a top notch talk.

We letterpress printed these 4 x 6 sized cards on French Muscletone Construction Pure White. One of the things we really like about this sheet is that it is a single ply 140lb Cover rather than a pasted, multi ply sheet. Most other commercial papers from other mills achieve a thicker paper by pasting a 2 ply sheet for thicknesses of 130lb and up. That makes the sheets stiff. Since the French sheet is a single ply, it is a bit softer and less rigid – both qualities desirable for letterpress. However, since French is achieving that thickness with a single ply, there is more evident pulp formation within the sheet. This means that the pressure needed to print a solid area of color is significant and results in a “salty” more textured printed appearance. That texture in large inked areas is something we like and embrace in printing with letterpress. HOWEVER, read this disclaimer before you send us art with lots of ink going down.

And letterpress printing isn’t just for small runs. Twenty thousand cards just rolled off the press. But, it is important to understand that for letterpress, each color is a separate pass through the press. This job was able to print both of these cards two-up on a press sheet. Still, these sheets had four separate passes for 3 color /one color. That’s a lil bit of printing.

The Beasts Are All Moved In

We are all moved in to our new subterranean space and feverishly printing projects with many talented designers. We look forward to getting back to blogging new work again soon.

Here’s how our press room is taking shape and some pics of the epic Heidelberg S Cylinder press installation. It was a little unnerving watching our “new” machine suspended mid air. The riggers used a big outdoor forklift to position the press and then four chain drops to lower it from the forks down a large hatch into the basement. It was then rolled into place and suspended again to slip an oil drip pan underneath. It is now glued to the floor and wired in. We are doing print testing to get it up and printing smoothly. This press will allow us to letterpress print LP jackets, pocket folders, and posters up to a 21 x 28 sheet format. We are excited to see what it will print first.

It is good to grow our shop a little bit even as other areas of the print industry are suffering. Magazines and newspapers are trying to figure out how to survive and adapt to the iPad publication model. Books are served up electronically. Large offset printing companies are cutting entire plants. Yet the tiny niche of letterpress printing is seemingly holding steady. We’ve built our reputation on unique custom letterpress work with demanding standards. It is interesting to stand here in a print shop at a historical time declared the “end of print” and see how craftsmanship still remains such a meaningful and critical part of print design.

Raising The Bar, Lowering The Shop

Studio On Fire is preparing for a massive move. We are moving to a much larger space in the basement of the same building in Northeast Minneapolis. We are adding several new beasts to our new space, just 20 feet down from our current second floor studio. Our 12 x 18 Gietz platen will finally be installed along with a Heidelberg 21 x 28 cylinder press with inking and a larger Polar paper cutter. These machines will enhance our current production space adding new large format letterpress capability.

Production work will continue during the move, but our office life will be turned on it’s ear. Our access to email and our ability to respond to estimate requests during the week of July 6-12th will be limited. We will begin responding to custom printing requests July 13th. If you need an estimate turned more quickly than this please let us know the timing need in your request. If you can get in touch with us this week – even better.

A Good Party and A New Beast

A giant thank you to all the employees, friends and family who helped with our Open Letterpress Studio on Friday last week. Several hundred showed up and helped us crush through hundreds of hot dogs, a couple kegs and a couple liters of Jagermeister. We had a wall of letterpress work up, a couple machines running in the press room, new tee shirts for sale and our “new” press arrived that morning, just in from Germany. Really a good day of letterpress!

The new beast is a very clean 1950′s Swiss-made hand feed platen press called a Gietz – one of three that we know of in the USA. (Please reach out to us if you also have one of these machines, we’d love to talk shop.) We look forward to completing the electric installation (that plug just won’t work) and getting ink on press.

Come Visit Us – Open Studio Invitation

On Friday, April 9th begining at 4 PM we are having an Open Letterpress Studio. Come and visit, get out of the office early, bring a friend for a delicious brew of design and letterpress here at Studio On Fire. If you like grilled butchers shop hot dogs, some local brews and other treats, than this is good way to start your Friday night. See all our letterpress beasts and the now famous wall of beer cans. Our “new” 1950′s Swiss Geitz Platen press is suppose to arrive from Germany just in time for the event. We’ll have lots of letterpress samples to look at and a project on press with a print for you to take away. Plus we will have a new tee shirt for sale. (preview below) Hope to see you there.

We are at:

1621 East Hennepin Avenue #226 Minneapolis MN 55414

Enter the building on 16th Avenue SE and proceed to the second floor.

Call 612 379 3000 if you get turned around.

Drop a comment if you are excited to visit.

Help Haiti – Calendar for Unicef

01/20/10 – UPDATE TO POST:

Thanks for your support with our calendar fund raiser over the weekend. Because of your support we are sending over $700 to UNICEF.

THANK YOU!

………………………………………………………………………….

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Dear Design and Printing Friends,

As a father of three young children I can not imagine the reality that is Haiti right now. Our studio would like to help. We are donating 100% of our 2010 letterpress calendar sales starting today to the UNICEF fund for Haiti.

You can buy a calendar on our studio site for $30. We’ll direct all accumulated funds, less your shipping cost to Unicef early next week.

Or you can support UNICEF directly at their site.

Thanks for your consideration,

Ben Levitz

Principal, Studio On Fire

2010 Studio On Fire Letterpress Calendar

The Studio On Fire 2010 Calendar is now available on our new web site. This calendar is a decade marker for us. Established the end of 1999, Studio On Fire began letterpress printing in a cold Minnesota basement. Our first press occupied a spot between the boiler and the litter box, and oh, how the studio has since grown. Now seven presses strong with a fully equipped studio space, we celebrate ten years as a bustling design and print studio.

This Tenfold Edition calendar is letterpress printed with four colors on a cotton-blend stock, each month beautifully illustrated by selected designers the world over.

Contributors:
Jan/Jul_ Studio On Fire
Feb/Aug_Cecilie Ellefsen
Mar/Sept_ Brian Gunderson
Apr/Oct_ The Little Friends of Printmaking
May/Nov_ ghostpatrol
Jun/Dec_ Rilla Alexander (Rinzen)

Iron Beast Poster – Toys In The Attic Show

This is our letterpress poster for the Toys In The Attic show opening at the Soo Visual Arts Center on Dec 4th from 6 to 9PM. The show features both custom toys and toy inspired posters. Proceeds benefit Toys For Tots. Hey, that’s tomorrow night! We hope to see you there.

These beasts are in fact our toys. The graphic beasts are constructed from various press parts and form into a crest that commemorates ten years of printing here at Studio On Fire. The dog latin phrase reads “Iron Beasts Make Great Beauty”. It is printed in fluorescent and dark silver inks on Crane Lettra Flo White 220lbC at 13 x 13 size.

It was ten years ago this month back in 1999 that the first C&P was lowered into the then basement studio. More to come on our own ten year anniversary party soon.

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Emerging Designer Video About Studio On Fire

AIGA_emerging_designer

AIGA Minnesota put together a short video about our studio on their emerging designers web site. Check it out:

emergingdesigners.minnesota.aiga.org

“Studio On Fire is a design workspace and letterpress printer in Minneapolis, MN backed by in-house modern letterpress printing capabilities…”

Thanks AIGA Minnesota. And a massive thanks to SevnthSin for putting this together. (You made my rambling sound coherrent!)

Pull it.

Bon à Tirer // Taken from the French, “bon à tirer” is a technical term used by printmakers to indicate the final proof of a print, the standard against which all others in the edition are judged.

We got some shirts printed up by the Hot Snot Print Shop for the AIGA event last week. We’ve also got a bunch left- so we’ll be putting them up on our web-store next week along with the “Birds of Sadness” poster Ben did for the Sweet Hair show a few weeks back. We’ll be sure to let all you fine folks know once they’re ready to be purchased.

The shirt was designed with our good old tabletop manual proofing press, strong wood type and a steady hand.

sof_bonatirer_shirt_1

AIGA Minnesota – Studio On Fire Tour

Last night we had a rockin’ time showing off our studio space and letterpress shop to Minnesota AIGA members. A big thanks to Minnesota’s AIGA chapter for giving us the opportunity.

We talked about the relationship of letterpress and design, did some Q&A, drank some Pabst Blue Ribbon and wrapped up the event with a little coaster project on press. Take a look at the coaster sheet – it’s 60pt Ahlstrom blotter paper. We pre printed a couple colors before people arrived. Then, we had a different color set up on both of our Vandercook presses. Everyone got to pull a couple prints, then we die cut the sheet into the set of four coasters. Lots of paper touching and good times had by all. Thanks Kayd Mustonen for taking some pics to share.

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