2014 Studio On Fire Desk Calendar

The 2014 Studio On Fire letterpress printed desktop calendar, a project that has been happening annually for over a decade, has recently been completed and now ready for purchase over in our shop.

Each year we here at Studio On Fire select ink colors, paper stocks, and a come up with a theme before asking a slew of illustrators to join us in creating custom artwork for each month. This year we tackled January and October, the remaining months feature illustrations from the ever talented: Beeteeth, Lab Partners, Brian Gunderson, Jolby, and Kate Bingaman-Burt.

The theme for 2014 was “Happy Place,” playing on the concept that your happy place might be an actual place or maybe just something small in your life that brings you joy. From kittens to castles and coffee to burgers, this year is chock-full of delightful illustrations to keep you in a good mood all year (small disclaimer: you might get very hungry some months).

As for the nitty-gritty print specifications, there are two major components of this calendar: the easel stand and the calendar pages themselves. The production of the easel stand started with us creating a custom duplexed stock comprised of French PopTone Sno Cone 100# cover and French Construction Grout Grey 100# cover. After duplexing the stands were letterpress printed with a tonal ink before being diecut and hand assembled. Our favorite feature of the stand is on the back where the diecut allows you to get a peek at the Sno Cone blue paper.

The calendar pages were all printed at the same time on one press sheet, French Speckletone Starch White 140# cover, alongside the outer wrap that uses bits and pieces of imagery from the calendar months. Though the color palette is slightly more traditional than we’ve used in the past, (a pale blue, orangey red, mustardy yellow and a metallic champagne in place of black), we think the colors kept the everything feeling bright and cheery (and allowed for beautiful overprinting).

Available for purchase right now in our store, and for a limited time the promo code SOF2014 will get you one for only $20 bucks!


Basement Block Party, Part Deux

We couldn’t wait until spring to see you all again, so we’re turning up the heat, opening our doors, and inviting you in for a wintery helping of letterpress goodness.

Friday, December 6th we are once again joining forces with our basement neighbors, Westwerk Design and Hennepin Made to host a basement block party of fabled proportions. Hennepin Made is holding their annual sample sale, Westwerk is partying down with their recently refreshed identity, and, as per tradition, Studio On Fire will be letterpress printing a poster for you to take home (possible holiday re-gift?).

Be sure to come hungry, as Natedogs will still be serving his quality wieners, Dogwood Coffee will be crafting beverages to thaw your Grinch-y heart, and we’ll have several beers on tap. It’s a family friendly-ish event (we’ll have a kids activity) that starts at 5pm and runs until we give up. So grab a coworker, a friend, and/or your mom and come on down.

1621 East Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis MN 55414
Enter the building on 16th Avenue SE, proceed downstairs.

We put this up as a Facebook event, too, if you’re into that.

SHIFT LAB Bus Cards

SHIFT LAB, a web and mobile developer, embraced the beauty of materials when designing their business cards that we produced a while back.

For the logo side of the card we used Mohawk Via Vellum Safety Yellow, in an 80# cover, which is a stock that is vibrant in color without being fluorescent. The logo was printed using a tonal ink, creating just a subtle color change between paper and logo.

The information side of the business card was letterpress printed on Neenah Classic Crest Solar White Smooth 165# cover with a black letterpress ink as well as a custom mixed yellow ink that matches the Mohawk stock on the reverse.

After printing the two stocks were custom duplexed together, for a card with a total thickness of 245#, and the edges were colored black.

VŪHL Stationery

Blok Design, with offices in Toronto and Mexico city, have sent us several jobs over the years, but this stationery system for VUHL has got to be one of our favorites. Blok created the entire entity for what the VUHL website calls “a road-legal lightweight supercar.” You read that correctly, a SUPERCAR.

Blok always does a great job choosing materials and this was no exception. Two paper stocks were used, a rich Royal Blue and crisp Pristine White, both from the Colorplan line. The stocks started at a 270 gsm thickness and were duplexed after printing, making the final product a hefty 540 gsm. Silver ink was used for all of the letterpress printing and all the foiling was done using a transparent foil. The transparent foil created a subtle tonal shift and a slight change in sheen. The end result is both bold and elegant.

Base Art Co Business Cards

The folks over at Base Art Co do some great work ranging from book covers to responsive web design, though our favorite project is probably these business cards they designed for themselves and sent our way for production.

A card comprised of two stocks that we custom duplexed together after printing, the final weight of this card ended up being a sturdy 320# cover. The white side of the card is Crane Lettra Flo White 220# cover stock with hit of tonal letterpress varnish, while the grey is French Durotone Steel Grey 100# cover letterpress printed with a silver ink and white foil. After duplexing and getting trimmed down to their slightly undersized dimensions of 3″ x 1.75,” a bright yellow edge color was applied, which added a splash of color in addition to hiding the seam of the custom duplex.

Foiled by Studio On Fire

That’s right folks, we’ve added hot foil stamping to our repertoire of specialty in-house processes.

One of the best things about foil is, unlike our letterpress inks which are transparent, foil is opaque, allowing us to apply a lighter color on a dark background (see this blog post to read about  letterpress printing with white inks on black stocks).

As designers we love(!) tiny type, but as printers, we know there are limits to what is realistically achievable. With that in mind we created a set of specimen cards, exploring different type sizes using the two fonts we use for our identity. From the reasonable 11pt type all the way down to the petite 5pt italic Baskerville, the foil held up pretty well, though the fidelity at these sizes can’t always be guaranteed–it’s going to change from typeface to typeface.

With letterpress printing we recommend tracking out your type (at least to 25 or 50) to give room for impression between letters. For foiling we recommend the same, this keeps letterforms from merging into one blobby mess on press.

We found that the metallic foils (gold, silver, copper, etc) released a lot cleaner than some of the pigment foils (colored foils, such as the blue foil shown below). We definitely wouldn’t recommend getting too tiny with the pigment foils.

 

 

Weddingram Invitations

A few years back we were able to work with a great couple, Michelle and Brad, who wanted their wedding invitations to resemble old school telegrams. We went to town, turning small details from their life into design elements that really enhanced the suite; their dog was even incorporated as having given the “stamp of approval.”

Though the design is completely custom, we kept production costs to a minimum by using only one ink across the entire project (even on the envelopes, we used the same teal ink, which resulted in a great tonal effect). Letterpress printed on French PopTone Whipped Cream 1oo# cover, we duplexed these after printing to create a thick 200# stock. The envelopes are French’s Blu Raspberry A7 square flap.

Cricket Design Works Herb & Spice Prints

Cricket Design Works is a full-service visual communications consultancy based out of Madison, Wisconsin. We printed their multi-colored business cards a few years back and completed this tasty poster duo for them just this past winter.

Appealing to both our eyes and taste buds, these illustrative posters were letterpress printed on Crane Lettra Pearl White cotton stock  wtih three inks, a green, an orange, and a brown common to both versions. Nestled amongst a massive amount of foodie knowledge, the illustrations keep solid areas of color to a minimum, really showing off the letterpress impression with some hand drawn line work.

 

Pivot Interiors 2013 Letterpress Calendar

Pivot Interiors once again embraced their California heritage when designing their 2013 desktop calendar that we produced for them. In 2012 they featured classic California architecture and this year they showcased some of the golden state’s most notable cultural treasures.

All of the monthly pages were run at the same time on one large press sheet, which helps keep some costs down (we only had to set up and wash up each color once), but can also cause some challenges on press. As sheets are run through the press over and over, the paper can begin to warp, wreaking havoc on registration. Taking the time to properly trap all of the artwork in the prepress stage and watching the amount of impression while on press can help quell this.

The pages and outer folding wrap were printed on one of our large cylinder presses with four inks on Mohawk Via Vellum Bright White 100# cover. The desktop stand was letterpress printed with one ink on a custom duplexed stock comprised of Mohawk Bright White 100# cover and French Poptone Blu Raspberry 100# cover. After printing the stand was custom diecut and hand assembled.

Summertime Poster

Sure, it’s technically only spring and there may still be snow on the ground (okay, there is for sure still snow on the ground), but our thoughts have turned dreamily to the hazy days of summer. Inspired by our favorite parts of the season, this poster is hand illustrated and letterpress printed with three inks.

Printed on Mohawk Options 130# cover (a 100% post consumer waste sheet), the poster measures out to final size of 13″ x 20.” It’s available for purchase in our online store, so go ahead and “get some fun!”

Letterpress Open House

It’s time again for us to throw open our doors, hand you a beer and show you all that our letterpress studio has to offer. March 22nd we’re teaming up with our basement neighbors, Westwerk Design and Hennepin Made to host a basement block party. Glass blowing demos will be happening at Hennepin Made, Westwerk is flush with games (foosball anyone? darts? bubble hockey?) and of course we’ll have a poster on press as per tradition.

It’s a family friendly-ish event (we’ll have a kids activity) that starts at 4 and runs until we give up. So grab a coworker, a friend, and/or your mom and come on down. Oh, there’s a Facebook invite you can RSVP to, if you’re into that sort of thing.

URGENT: Help Keep College of Visual Arts Open

This is a call for your help. As a reader of Beast Pieces you may have wondered where a crazy letterpress shop like Studio On Fire began. Here is a little background story from company principal, Ben Levitz:

I went to College of Visual Arts (CVA) as a kid right out of high school. I choose it because of the small campus size and the fine arts focused BFA degree. I wasn’t sure what on earth I wanted to do with an “art” degree, but I knew I loved making things. And I liked that CVA wasn’t the slickest or fanciest campus. It seemed like a place for focused art exploration with an amazing faculty. I enrolled with my mother still skeptical. ( I think she was just nervous about sending her son off to do nude figure drawing. ) I embarked on a four year arts journey that taught me fancy words like chiaroscuro and gestalt. I learned about everyone from Hieronymus Bosch to Paul Rand. I even did my nerdy typography-based senior thesis on a fellow named William Dwiggins who designed typefaces for letterpress printing. I graduated with a BFA in Communication Design and a passion for visual culture.

I struggled during my schooling choosing between a design major and a sculpture major. I ultimately chose a design major because I wanted to eat. But after graduating CVA in 1998, I quickly found in my first design job a very different experience than the one I had as a CVA student. Most of my work day was locked into the glowing screens of design, not making stuff with my hands. And most of the stuff I did make, ended up in trash cans of clients. I sought change. I wanted to make stuff that people would love and keep. I wanted some outlet for craft that related back to my college experience. So, in the fall of 1999, my and evenings and weekend were spent beginning a letterpress printing space in my home basement. I called it Studio On Fire, named for the Typographer Frederick Goudy who twice lost his lifes work to studio blazes. Fast forward 14 years – the company Studio On Fire is  a best-in-class letterpress shop with a dozen employees and clients all over the world. Gestalten even published a recent book of projects that were printed in our studio.

Learning at CVA was one of those amazing life experiences that was so formative to my valuation and passion for craft and design. As Studio On Fire grows as a business, this is what we value. Craft. Design. It was that simple framework of learning that provided a chance for me to focus my passions and ultimately build a unique business that reflects the things I love.

The sudden announcement in January of CVA’s  closure was a bombshell. In addition to running Studio On Fire, I’m now busy as President of a group called CVA Action making the case to our creative community that CVA deserves a chance to stay open. Yes, it is going to take some big changes. It is going to require vision beyond what the current Administration and Board of Trustees could offer. This change is big and we have an amazing team of people stepping in to surround this effort. I believe those changes can be made and I am stepping up to play my part. This is vital to the Saint Paul community, vital to Minnesota, and vital to creativity. But we need your help.

I’m going to the mat and asking you to consider a gift of money to this vital part of our creative community. If you love what we do at Studio On Fire, you already recognize the value a creative education brings to business. I am hoping you care enough about this cause to contribute.

For more details about our fundraising campaign, visit our website CVA Action. Time is of the essence. This is our last, best hope to save our beloved school and make the needed changes so we can put CVA back on the path to a successful and sustainable future. Please make a donation in any amount today. (UPDATE: no longer taking donations, thanks to all who donated)

You can make this happen, and we are so grateful for your support.

Thank You.

Ben Levitz, Principal, Studio On Fire