Tag Archive for 'minnesota'

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

Vintage Vehicle Logotypes

We believe a logo is at its best with a little dimension. Combine typography and machines and you have yourself a real shindig. The custom lettering adorning the sides vintage vehicles is a design category all to itself.  At this weekends “Back to the 50′s” car show at the Minnesota State Fair Grounds, we collected this gallery of logotypes. For those with a serious script fetish, this might not be safe for work.

AIGA MN Design Camp Event Recap

Yesterday we posted about our involvement printing the materials for AGIA MN’s 2011 Design Camp, but we thought it would be fun to share a peek into the event itself.

Ben (Principal), Selina (Studio Director) and David (Pre-press) were all up north participating as campers and Sam (Designer) was on the committee running the event, so Studio On Fire was well represented over the weekend. We had a booth up at the Friday night Business Expo where people were able to snag a paper airplane and pet assorted samples that we brought to show. Keynote speakers, a networking dinner, a variety of workshops, collaboration lunches and late night bonfires quickly filled the rest of the weekend.

Keynote speakers included Peter Buchanan-Smith (Best Made Company), Jamie Koval (VSA Partners), Michael Osborne (Michael Osborne Design), Jan Wilker (karlssonwilker), and  Josh Kenyon and Colby Nichols (Jolby), it was great to meet each of them. Special thanks to the dudes from Jolby for stopping by the studio after camp and going with us to grab patio beers- good times.

Enough chatter, on to the pictures! David took some great shots throughout the weekend (on actual film!) and Phong Tran (of dblthink.com and official AIGA MN photographer) was gracious enough to share some of his photos, since we were too busy playing with wild cats to bust out our cameras most of the time.

 

 

Iron Beasts Make Great Beauty

After a brief blogging hiatus we’re back with a project we’ve been bursting to share with you.

Nearly a year ago we worked with Gestalten publishers on this great video piece about our shop and we’ve been featured in some of their past publications–but now they are releasing a title all about Studio On Fire! Needless to say, we’re giddy.

The book features work designed by us, as well as work designed by clients, all of which was produced here in our Minneapolis location. Pictures of our ever expanding workspace also made it in alongside a forward written by our Principal.

Since we couldn’t, in good conscience, let a book about us not include any actual letterpress, all of the covers were letterpress printed at Studio On Fire and shipped off to meet the gutt of the book in the final stages of production. Due to the heavy 100 point thickness of the recycled cover boards, all of the covers were hand fed into our Gietz platen press. They are printed with a day glo ink using deep etch copper plates. We love the contrast of raw and refined created by the bright color next to the gray board.

It’s already shipping in Europe and will be released here in the states in late October. We got our hands on an advance copy, so we thought we’d share a bit of a sneak peek with you.

French Paper Flight Ephemera

 

 

 

An essential reason French Paper Company stands out in a world of large paper conglomerates is their unique design affair. They’ve had a longstanding relationship with Charles Spencer Anderson Design here in Minneapolis that has fueled and produced arguably some of the most visual ephemera to promote paper in the last decade. And trust us, here at Studio On Fire we see A LOT of promotional materials from paper companies. We were excited to be a part of that legacy with the latest French Paper promotion – a paper “Air Kraft” designed by the crew at CSA Design.

We worked closely with CSA to finalize the production. The sheets are letterpress printed in two colors on French Speckletone Kraft 140lbC. These Air Kraft are actually flight worthy, but you have to be sure to follow the instructions and tape a dime into the nose of the plane for a good glide.

Speckletone Kraft is one of those papers great for designers who fall in love with chipboard, only to realize that actual raw chip does not have color specifications. (In a batch of chipboard stock you may get some gray sheets or some dark brown sheets, it just depends on what went into the pulper) We like to use it especially when matching envelopes are needed.

 

 

Godspeed Poster with Bicycle Parts Typography

This poster was designed and letterpress printed here at Studio On Fire for the 2011 Artcrank, a poster show for bike people. The construction of this poster is an assemblage of prints we created with actual bicycle parts. Used bike parts were inked up with a brayer and printed by hand. We printed all kinds of parts: cranks, chains, cables, wheels, handlebars and even a seat. It was well worth the trip to One On One Bike to scavenge suitable parts from their basement bike bone yard. After inking each part individually we had a whole table full of prints to chose and build from. It was amazing how much type and texture come out of each part. These prints were then digitally arranged on top of a pencil sketched layout. The word “Godspeed” seems especially appropriate for cyclists, as a wish for someones safe and prosperous journey. It was plated in photo polymer and printed as a large format 20 x 26 letterpress print in 2 color on 100% cotton Crane Lettra. It can be trimmed and framed at 18 x 24 size.

The prints are available on our site for $30.

 

 

 

Letterpress Open House TONIGHT

Final reminder for our Love Machine Open House Party tonight. Hope to see you soon.

Leaving you with a beautiful thought about machines from Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin:

“Machines challenge certainty so well. They should not be able to move. But they do. They turn, and move, and never cease — there is always an engine going, somewhere — like generations of silver hearts they keep the faith of the world and stoke imagination in its continued and splendid rebellion.”    Quote from “Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helprin ©1983

Badges for Bruises Rollergirls Poster

Adam Hoganson designed this subtle and beautiful poster for the Minnesota Rollergirls. We letterpress printed these for the bout that took place this last weekend. The poster is an 18 x 24 three color edition on Wausau Royal Complements Natural 100lbC. A big congrats to our press operator and MN Rollergirl “Lizzy the Axe”. She was a brutally wonderful jammer during the bout. (And she printed the poster on our Heidelberg S cylinder 21 x 28)

A word about letterpress poster image size… We get a lot of designers that are surprised by the cost to print at this size. This is not silk screen printing and comparatively, the costs are nowhere near similar. Printing poster size things with letterpress can be an expensive adventure. One way to keep the cost down is to limit the image area since plating is charged by the square inch. (For example, a single plate at 18 x 24 will run about $250, just in plating costs for EACH color) On this poster even though the paper trim size is 18 x 24 the image area is only 11.5 x 16 making plating costs a bit more reasonable.

See a previous poster we printed for the Rollergirls here.

Love Machine – Letterpress Open House

You are invited to a party! We are loving our machines with plenty of oil and our guests with plenty of other social lubrications. Join us as we celebrate our new office and press room with an open house on Friday, February 11th begining at 4pm. Come and see some letterpress action and talk shop. We’ll have a limited edition project on press as free gift to party guests. Hope to see you here soon.

2011 Letterpress Calendar

The Studio On Fire Letterpress Calendar is a favorite project in our shop for nearly ten years. It’s been worked on by many contributors from all over the world. Each year Studio On Fire puts together a loose theme, color palette and paper choices, then we invite 5 other designers / illustrators to participate. We design 2 months, and each contributor designs 2 months. Its always nice to have a large cross section of stylistic approaches within a little package that sits on your desktop. And this year is no exception. 2011 participants include Studio On Fire Adam Garcia, Brian Gunderson, Jessica Hische, We Make It So, and Aesthetic Apparatus.

This years calendar is a departure from the usual graphic illustration in our previous versions. Our theme this year was “Letter Form Genus”, with many contributors incorporating type and lettering. We’ve not had a distinctly type related theme before, so this was extra fun. Some favorite details you’ll find are: a moustache wearing a monocle, a spider wearing a thong, a monkey skull on a snake skeleton, a hidden giraffe, and bacterial letter forms spelling “grow kindness.”

The calendar is printed all together on a large 26 x 20 size press sheet. It is trimmed down into 12 months on 3.25 x 5 inch cards. This year, the paper for the months and the outer wrap was a light brown Wausau Winter Wheat 100lb Cover. We design the tri fold outer wrap using bits and pieces of each months design, all mashed together and printed in a long strip.

The stand was a custom duplexed paper made from dark grey Fibermark Eviva Stone 100lbC and copper Stardream 111lbC paper stocks. Our easel stand design has a clever fold-out angled leg that reveals the inner metallic paper color. The grey stock is letterpress printed in one color metallic silver.

These are now available on our studio site.

We’ve been doing this calendar for almost ten years now and have been fortunate to have some really great people involved. See a couple previous years here: 2010 Calendar, 2009 Calendar, 2008 Calendar.

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.

50 Years Letterpress Invitations

We think getting letterpress printing is even better than a gold watch. It is a great production option for special corporate occasions too, not just weddings. This invitation to celebrate Dunhams 50 years in business was designed by Riley Hayes Advertising. The type driven design is accented with a matching bright red matching edge color.

These pieces were inked with 3 color on one side with a tonal varnish on the other. We printed an invitation and map card together on a new favorite sheet – French Poptone Sweet Tooth White 280lb Cover. We like it enough that we are now custom making it to keep on hand as a house sheet. The thickness is about 40 points (.038 inch) which is a matching thickness to Crane Lettra 220lb. The good things are that it is less expensive than a cotton sheet like Lettra and smoother in surface, not as toothy a finish. It takes a great impression and works great for edge coloring as well.