Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bringing home the bacon: delicious meaty goodies from Etsy

So here I am, at home sick today – surviving off of bland-tasting fluids & Tylenol. In the back of my (mainly vegetarian) mind I have become fixated on bacon. Rather than take a walk down to the grocery store to purchase a vacuum-sealed pound of the artery-clogger, I thought I'd satisfy my cravings on Etsy, by sharing some of the meaty goodness available there. All these items are 100% handmade & fat free!

Strip O Bacon: A Piece of Crochet Happiness

Among Yummy Pancake's Shop of delicious looking (and mostly low-calorie) crochet items, you'll find these sizzling strips up bacon up for sale. You have to check out the product description! The possibilities are truly endless – you won't know how you ever lived without with your own Strip O Bacon.

Yummy Pancake "Strip O Bacon: A Piece of Crochet Happiness" $3.50 for 1 strip

Mr. Toast Button Set
This adorable set of mini buttons from Mr. Toast's Store is truly part of a complete breakfast. Along with Shaky Bacon, you can indulge in Mope the Onion & Joe the Egg, and their delicious friends.

Mr. Toast's Store "Mr. Toast Button Set" $5.00 per set

This cuddly cut of meat makes a perfect companion for you, your child, or your dog.
Sweet Meats Store will even sew in a dog squeaker for your little canine friend.

Sweet Meats Store "Hambone" $33.00

Monday, January 28, 2008

Three Red Hens featured in "Etsy's Best Kept Secrets" Treasury

I was very happy to see that my "Love Nest" card was featured in an Etsy treasury of "Etsy's Best Kept Secrets", curated by Little Whims: Handmade Paper Goodies shop.

Treasuries expire quickly, so if you're not quick enough to visit it in person, click on the thumbnail on the left to see up close what was featured in the treasury.

Banner design for a fellow Etsy seller

I haven't been doing a lot of designing or letterpressing lately so I happily volunteered to help out a fellow Etsy seller, Must Keep Knitting, with her banner & avatar. She was looking for something "girly", "country/farmy" and her favorite colors were blue & brown. She also needed something that represented her work: knit accessories, hand spun yarn & knitting supplies. After finding some solutions I was happy with, I'm thinking about redesigning my banner – hopefully I'm on the right track to something she'll be excited about too. Take a look and let me know if you have any favorites or ones you don't like at all. Click on each thumbnail for a larger view.

Banner options (760px x 100px)
I'm adding this 7th option because the contrast seems to be so low on #1 & #2.
Avatar options (75px x 75px)
With a little feedback, some new ideas have been sparked. Using her favorite colors (which were a little lighter than I had started off with) we're off in a new & exciting direction... Oh yeah, I put an asterisk by my favorite – I almost said "an asterix", I can't spell!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

ReadyMade: Make your own letterpress

Want to get into letterpress? Have a do-it-yourself mantra? A drill press and table saw lying around the house? Well then, I have a great how-to guide for you. ReadyMade magazine has featured two articles. One detailing how to construct your homemade letterpress with parts including a bottle jack, bungee cords & plywood. The second article details how to attach your photopolymer plate, ink it up & [slowly] churn out some nice prints.

If you try it out, you have to let me know how it works! It's definitely an interesting concept. I would wonder how quickly someone would be able to run this contraption & also the depth of bite that the plate would make into the paper.

Oh yeah, FYI, you may have to sign up in order to view the articles at ReadyMade but it's well worth it.
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Another DIY letterpress guide is available on here, although from the looks of it, while it seems much less expensive to assemble, it will be more time consuming to print with. See below for the fully assembled "letterpress" and resulting wedding invites.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Beware of the Design Police

I came across this at Veer this evening & just had to share. I know at least one person who'll appreciate this printable resource for designers brought to you by the clever minds at Design Police. Download these five pages of mini notes (containing gems like: "Helvetica was an unimaginative choice") that can be easily cut out (or better printed on stickers) and affixed wherever poor design needs to be flagged. Let me just make sure that I don't commit any design sins in this short paragraph. Just looking at all the possible pitfalls shouting at me in bright red, I feel nervous. Don't use up all your stickies on me! :-)

My favorites are by far:
"Comic Sans is illegal" (But, hey what about Papyrus?)
"Microsoft Word™ is not a design tool"
"This type has been bastardised!" (Yes, the design police seem to use British spelling)
"Do not use clip art!"
"Hire a copywriter"
"Turn off the CAPS LOCK"

Three Red Hens featured on Anything Indie's Valentine's Day Gift Guide

Three Red Hens is thrilled to be featured today in Anything Indie's Valentine's Day Gift Guide.

Anything Indie pulls together gorgeous handmade products for your enjoyment from across the web & the world. Go take a peek at their V-day guide to see beautiful jewelry & original artwork, not to mention my card. :-) I hope you enjoy it!

If you're reading this well after Valentine's Day, don't worry, Anything Indie's got plenty of wonderful posts to satisfy your handmade cravings all year round. Click here to be redirected to their main page.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Express your love in letterpress

I thought it would be nice to share a few of my favorite Valentine's Day designs from fellow letterpress printers on Etsy.

I Wheelie Like You
Chewing the Cud has three different, beautifully designed cards for Valentine's Day. Here's my favorite... for all you pun lovers.

ChewingtheCud "I Wheelie Like You" Card $4.25

Have a Cupcake
Creative, delicate & poetic illustrations characterize Ink + Wit letterpress cards. In this card, two cute birds share love & cupcakes... what could be better?

Ink + Wit "Have a Cupcake" Card (Set of 5) $14.00

Love is for Suckers
Not so into everyone's favorite chocolate & roses holiday? Celebrate Valentine's Day with a little humor with this letterpress card from Alcove Press.

Alcove Press "Love is for Suckers" Card $3.50 for 1, $12.00 for 5

Love Nest
I suppose I should use this opportunity to make a little shameless plug for my Valentine's Day card... I originally designed this one for a friend who was getting married & moving across the country. I meant for it to be a celebration of their love & their new LA "love nest". I was so happy with the final product, that this design became the very first available in my Etsy shop: Three Red Hens.

Three Red Hens Press "Love Nest" Card $4.00

Honorable Mention: I Want to Barack Your World
I just have to include this one from Alcove Press, even though it's not letterpress. Remind your Valentine to get out and vote in the primaries with this clever card. Guaranteed to bring a smile to anyone's face, no matter which way they'll be voting.

Alcove Press " I Want to Barack Your World" $3.00 for 1, $9.00 for 5

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Machining a "Boxcar" style base

So, after the initial expense of the press, we've been trying to fix it up on the cheap (hence why we're still only running on 2 out of 3 rollers).

Last night, my husband machined a "boxcar" base for me to use to prop up my photopolymer plates on the press. Just like the fancy new trucks we have, this was machined out of scrap plastic.

The final plastic base was measured with a calipers to make sure it would bring the plate to type high (.918 inches). We estimated that the plates I've been using are about .037 inches thick, although thickness varied across the plate. Even with the Boxcar bases I used in class, I'd need to add a little paper or tape underneath any given plate to bring it up high enough. I don't know whether that was due to inconsistencies on the press, the plate, or the base. Maybe a little of everything... though their bases are quite tough. I'm hoping this plastic one will stand up to printing. And, even if it's a tiny bit off, I think I'll be able to get it to work decently.

Here are some more pictures from the whole process (click for more detail)...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Initial set-up of the Pearl press

*Click on the thumbnails to see detail & read my notes.*

So last night I finally got the press set up for printing – I've just been so lazy! It wasn't really as difficult as I was expecting, but as with many antique items, we discovered some parts needing repair. It had also been so long since we had touched it, so it needed a good oiling to run squeak-free.

The first thing I did load up the chase (a frame that holds the type & is attached to the press for printing) with some sorts (lead letters). My instructor from class recommended placing a single letter close to each corner of the chase to check that the platen is touching the type evenly. I put the chase with the type in it on the press and did a dry run with the rollers. I just wanted to make sure the rollers were not hitting the type too hard (or, as I thought before, hitting the ink plate). Thankfully this was not the case.

I placed three sheets of tympan paper (an oiled paper I purchased at NA Graphics) on the platen. I've heard you can also use butcher paper, but I just wanted to do proper set-up for my first time. The other good thing is that tympan paper has a very exact & even surface. Hopefully this means next time I need to change out this paper, I can do the same set-up, with the same good result.

We found that one of the screws of the arms that hold the tympan tight has sheered. We're still trying to think of how to fix that. This means the tympan I put on there is probably not as tight as it should be. In the future I need to also get a top protective layer of some sort – probably vinyl. I also want an expert to take a look at the press and double check what I've done. I'm still learning. I feel like the previous owner(s) didn't know what they were doing and ended up damaging parts – either through misuse or neglect. :-(

I inked up the ink plate with turquoise ink and my husband started the press going. It takes a couple minutes for the ink to distribute evenly on the ink plate – and then you're ready to print. I decided to forgo gauge pins (pins that hold the paper in place) since this was just a test. Also, it occurred to me that I really need to buy new ones since the ones I have a bent & rusted (not a good combination).

We ended up not needing to adjust any of the screws on the backside of platen (for precise calibration). The impression seemed just fine. We will have to do it again when I get a vinyl cover sheet.

My husband had machined (out of scrap plastic!) new trucks (pieces on the end of the roller on which the rollers turn) because the rusty ones that came with the press were too small. When trucks are too small, rollers hit the type and get damaged. (And rollers are quite expensive!) I had him machine the new trucks to the exact size of the rollers, which has solved the problem. A lot of folks have great luck with Morgan Expansion Trucks available at NA Graphics – these trucks are expandable, meaning they can be more flexible to your needs. Any adjustments I need to make will have to be made in a less technological way – ie. tape & paper. :-)

Monday, January 7, 2008

A few examples of experiments from my letterpress class

These are a few examples of work I did during my letterpress class. Everything I did in class was inspired by someone and/or made as a gift for a friend. Even though I will probably do mainly cards through Three Red Hens, I really fell in love with making t-shirts during class. Working with large wood type is reminiscent of playing with children's wood blocks. It's a feeling of physical construction & creative expression in a very concrete way. Letterpress, in general, has a very hands-on feeling that you don't experience when using a computer to construct designs. It is rewarding to finish a product, though it can take many hours (at least for a beginner like myself) to churn out a satisfactory print.

The holiday cards were made for my husband & I. I traced a photograph of deciduous holly that I took while I was working & living in central Minnesota a few years ago. The larger text was created on the computer. Both the illustration & larger text were made into photopolymer plates, while the italic text was hand-typeset. I printed about 100 cards and matching envelopes with a handset return address on the back flap.

"Roosters don't lay eggs"? Just trying to make a [fashion] statement.

Hazel, a Jack Russell terrier belonging to a friend, is the inspiration for the second card. This inquisitive look is the one she gives me whenever I'm trying to enjoy my delicious lunch or if she suspects you may have a b-a-l-l in your possession.

I made "Rachael Ray Eats Kittens" shirts for a few people – the original test for my shirt was the one where I spelled her name wrong. The quote comes from a coworker, although I think we all know it's not just Dunkin' Donuts keeping that girl going. :-)

Impulse buying on E-bay, or the story of how I came to own a 400+lb piece of cast iron located in Ohio

A good friend of mine who is also a great graphic designer introduced me to some of the most amazing examples of letterpress while she was hunting for invitations for an event. It was her love of the uniqueness of letterpress that prompted me to take a class on letterpress -- with the hopes that I would be able to make an awesome set of stationary as a wedding gift to her.

The class inspired a months long search for a table top press, many of which were out of my price range, too far away, or in questionable working order. Then one day I came across a beautiful antique standing press on E-bay that was reasonably priced and came with everything someone getting started would need -- granted it was a few hundred pounds heavier than I was bargaining for. Along with the press, I inherited cases of type, leads, some old printing blocks, a composing stone, new rollers, etc. In the 45 minutes left in the auction, I researched the press itself and tried to figure out how it would make it's way from Ohio to Manhattan.

A kind pickup-owning friend from work offered to make the road trip out to Ohio with me, so she, her Jack Russell terrier, and I set off to the Buckeye state. Unfortunately our grandiose plans of stopping at every mini golf course, outlet mall, cavern, and world's-largest-dinosaur-type monument were dashed by an unexpected spell of chilly weather. This trip became a journey from hot soup to hot soup. We were especially propelled by her family's "legend" of a restaurant named Pufferbelly's, which was supposed to have the best clam chowder in Ohio (& the world), at least back in 1989 when she visited at the age of 11. We never found Pufferbelly’s but we did sample all the hot soup Highway 80 has to offer.

Loading the letterpress into the pickup wasn’t terrible with all the high school-aged help provided to us. The previous owner even employed some of his boy scout-esque knot-tying skills in helping us secure the letterpress to the back of the pickup. (His knots sure beat those we tied that needed to be checked every 50 miles on the way out.) The ride back to NY was still slow; with all the weight we were cruising at least 6 inches closer to the road than on the way out. Unloading was another story – it took two physicists to figure out how to get it out of the truck. Let’s just say it involved balancing on the axle of a dolly and the scraping of metal.

I also found out that some of the cases of type had spilled in transit and the thousands of tiny sorts (or letters) within each drawer would need to be rearranged. I’m still saving that for a rainy day.

At this time, the press is safely within our apartment, with just a few minor adjustments to be made to get printing.