We gave warm welcome this morning to 16 potential freshmen and their parents in the art department. The Kindergarten class from Peoria Academy made a trip to Bradley’s letterpress studio to learn firsthand about printing and to see their artwork converted into a two-color letterpress poster. With the help of Bradley students and members of the Peoria letterpress print club, students (in 45 minutes) experienced the process from the initial design stage on the computer, setting of metal and wood type, through the making of plates, mixing inks and actually operating the press. Each student got to see the printing of the poster up close, and then actually operate a press to print a commemorative keepsake card. Progressing around the studio in small groups to individual learning stations, there was no down time and every one, including parents and teachers, seemed to thoroughly enjoy the experience.
I can’t wait to see a proof on this type lockup; The metal itself makes a beautiful very Deco composition. It is a call for entries for the campus literary magazine “Broadside.” Bradley Student Jake Guzan is working on this in the letterpress shop. Looking forward to the proofs. I will try to post them here.
Christine Huggins puts the finishing touches on some of the 100 hard-bound books produced by the Department of Art at Bradley University and the Gold Quoin Press. To purchase a copy, see the “shopping” link on this site. The book is for sale at $75 per copy.
Almost all of the run of 100 copies of “Unclose the Door” by Madeline Wiseman, are completed. Designed, printing and bound by students, faculty and studio staff at the Bradley University Books Arts center and the Gold Quoin Press, these books are 36 pages, hard bound, letterpress printed in two colors, and trace through a cycle of poems the life and career of Matilda Fletcher, an Illinois-born 19th Century traveling speaker and advocate for women’s rights.
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Letterpress broadside posters designed and printed by Robert Rowe, Gold Quoin Preess, 2012; Both of these texts deal with the Iraq war; one from the perspective of an American soldier, one is a heat-seared vision of a shattered city seen from under the burqa. Both are moving glimpses into humanity in the time of war. Text, copyright Katey Schultz, used by the Gold Quoin Press with permission of the author. Design and printing by Robert Rowe. Purchase a print from for $40 from the Gold Quoin Shop. With the Burqa is printed on German-made Zerkall Nideggen paper using a low-relief collagraph plate on a Vandercook Universal one press. While the Rest of America’s at the Mall was printed on Somerset book wove and enhanced with silver foil stamping. Prints are 12 x 18 inches.
Wood type continues to draw interest as the film Typeface, about the revival of the Hamilton Wood Type Museum, premieres around the globe. And on April 22nd, it was screened in Peoria, with a talk by director/filmmaker Justine Nagan. It also provided an opportunity to make use of our own collection of wood type, creating a poster using collagraph textures and some metal type printed on our Vandercook SP-15.
Letterpress and other tactile media continue to garner more attention these days from designers and clients alike. People respond to the very qualities that differentiate these objects and processes from the plethora of digital media. Designers find the the hands-on processes refreshing after working exclusively in virtual space for so long.
At the recent College Book Arts Association meeting (Oregon College of Art and Craft, January 8-10th, 2010) one of the more exciting discussions was on digital media in book arts. I wish it could have continued. While I have a dual appointment in the both art and interactive media, I share some of the misgivings over the “digital blessing” that have been bestowed upon us, and I council students on how and when to make use of them as practical tools. I spent a recent sabbatical doing hand bookbinding and letterpress printing.
Slowing down to the pace of handwork gives more time for reflection and observation. I sometimes liken it to the difference between walking and driving a car (and all the extensions of that metaphor). Perhaps the Pacific Crest Trail versus the Pacific Coast Highway.
Do digital and hand work mix? I have to say NO!
From teaching drawing, I found over and over it was not good to teach perspective systems at the same time I taught responsive observation—different parts of the brain, I suppose. Some people can intuitively do both simultaneously, but most, particularly students, trip up in the process. .
A better approach is to keep distinct times and places for each process. Certain environmental cues can facilitate the shift to a slower more reflective kind of work. I would suggest for individuals, set up a special desk or work area specifically for hand media. Different ergonomics, including lighting and chair configuration are required for sustained handwork versus digital work. Don’t try to keep your sketchbook beside your computer. Instead, clean off that old drafting table, pull out the cutting mat, sharpen some pencils and (for God’s sake!) open the blinds and get some daylight in, or get a good lamp.
This approach can apply to classroom settings and offices as well as the individual studio. We have reduced the size of desks and increased the amount of clutter: usually centering on them a keyboard and monitor. This makes it all but impossible to do serious manual work. Drawing, cutting, handwork of any kind, requires a more meditative and fluid workspace. I don’t want to go too far with the notion of “chi” here, but there is a body of thought that holds that to do any craft work (draw, cut, carve) you had to be physically rooted and balanced: feet on the floor and aware of your physical and emotional center.
When to teach digital media? To be a responsible educator, I have to equip my students with what they need; teachers and practicing craftspersons need to know digital media. But I find most undergraduates hungry for digital media; and I have to satisfy that hunger before I can expect some of them to appreciate the alternative. (Note “SOME”—not all will be able to or want to loosen their grip on the mouse.) That said, it is terrific that there are places, the OCAC, perhaps, for people who are ready to make that leap; where they can go and embrace the craft aesthetic and process. One of the great things about the American educational system is that there is room for programs that cover the full spectrum of possibilities.
My most recent bookwork came out of digital media. The little cast of characters in my most recent book projects (http://www.flickr.com/photos/portfoliolab/sets/ ) were created originally for some fun flash animations. (http://designwriting.info/indexl2.html)
Sarah Kelly just sent me this link to a page on Creative Opera that shows some examples of résumés and matching web sites. The advice given at the end of the examples is excellent. Many of the examples are good, although some seem to border of being too busy. Here is the link:
Recently a senior design student stated that he was unaware that his design projects were being graded both on content and on form—the he assumed that the actual verbal content did not matter. After I picked my jaw up from the floor, I tried to explain that we have always taken the position that design is essentially about problem-solving. And visual communication design involves knowing what it is that one is communicating.
In many conversations with art directors in researching an upcoming textbook, many have indicated that they are looking for someone with strong verbal, organizational, and visual skills. Writing is a vital component of both multimedia and graphic communications. Lance Rutter (of Tanagram, Chicago) underscored that a few weeks ago in saying he was interested in “literate” designers.
True, most production work requires that the designer merely follow the given copy; however anything higher and more creative—especially where the designer expects to be a participant in the decision-making process—requires that the designer pay attention to the connection of word and image in service of solving the design problem.
Four-year design programs, such as the one at Bradley aim to turn out thinking designers who have the potential to be art directors or creative directors, or heads of design firms. Highest marks go to those who creatively solve problems. Graphic designers work with words every day; and many hours are spent adjusting spacing, hierarchy, placement, etc, so the design reinforces the structure and meaning of the text.
Conducted January 2, 2007, with
User Interface Producer
High Voltage Software
Rowe: The list of job-search “dos” and “don’ts” you gave were very good and covered a lot of important areas. I would like to get more specific about some of your ideas for on-line portfolios
Rowe: Judging from your own web sites, you seem to feel that having the work presented right from the start with out a lot of fuss is a good idea.
Karisma: Yes. people are busy—very busy—so they just want to see your work. I recently picked up a contract with EA Games from my web site, and its not even done. But it served its purpose.
Rowe: You seem to prefer working in flash, which gives a richly interactive experience, I guess that works well for your target audience. Did they give you any feedback as to what on your site they responded to?
Rowe: Nice music on that site, but I did get tired of hearing it after a while. I guess, back to your advice about not letting the branding overpower the content
Karisma: Sony loved it. Always know your audience. Lots of little stuff going on in that one, but too much really, IMO more of experimentation. Nintendo liked this one –
This was never finished…I was working on it before I got laid off, but then I just sent it to companies anyway. I got a lot of interest from it.
Rowe: All the links from that site are your work as well?
Karisma: Yup! I’m prolific…an art director once told me. At the moment, I’m (working full time), in school, and working on a photographer’s website.
Rowe: “Prolific” is how I remember you being as a student. That is why we never hassled you too much. I really can’t understand students who think doing just one of something qualifies them as an expert.