Go to CAMP with Aaron Draplin!

The magnanimous Aaron Draplin is coming to town!

I've had the pleasure of meeting Aaron a couple of times now, most recently at the How conference in Chicago this past May where we were both speakers. I think it is safe to say that we are polar opposites when it comes to presentation style. Me: small, soft-spoken, trepidatious... while Draplin commands the room with his gregarious, entertaining and heart-felt delivery style. His presentations are AWESOME (he'll bring tears to your eyes) and I am happy that's he's delivering the love once again at this month's CAMP Festival in Calgary, September 21-22.

You can also get some time with Draplin and his design expertise in an afternoon workshop entitled "Logo Tips, Tricks, Triumphs, Turds, Threats and Tales from the DDC" on Sunday, September 20th. The fee is $150 and I'm sure you'll find it was well spent. Sign up now while there's still room!

UPPERCASE is involved in quite a few local events in the coming months. I'm sponsoring CAMP by giving away free magazines in the goodie bags!

Now let's step back a few years when Draplin was last speaking in Calgary. UPPERCASE writer Brendan Harrison interviewed him for issue 16:

Aaron Draplin photographed by Heather Saitz in the Lion's Den, Calgary 2012

Aaron Draplin photographed by Heather Saitz in the Lion's Den, Calgary 2012

Aaron Draplin is an American archetype, a kid from a small town in Michigan who moved west to become a self-made man. His pursuit of happiness led him to the American dream after his search for good times and deep powder put him on a path to becoming one of the best-known graphic designers of our time.

His love affair with thick line logos and Futura Bold began while he was still living hand to mouth in Bend, Oregon. His first design job was a graphic for Solid snowboards, but he was soon picking up work lettering café signs and designing logos for local businesses. This early taste of design success spurred him on to see if he had the chops to play with the big boys. To find out, he signed on for a degree in graphic design from the Minneapolis College of Art + Design. After graduating in 2000, he started to make his mark in the design world, doing a stint art directing Snowboarder Magazine before taking a senior design role at a big studio in Portland. 

Throughout it all, he continued to design personal projects that were close to his heart. In August 2004, he quit his full-time job and hung his shingle as the Draplin Design Co. In the years since, he’s worked for clients as large as Nike and the Obama administration and as small as the Cobra Dogs hotdog cart. And while a lesser designer would have enjoyed some much needed rest, Draplin co-founded Field Notes and transformed the way hipsters everywhere scribble down their ideas.

The phrase larger-than-life comes to mind when talking about Draplin, not because of his imposing physique but because of his oversize personality. On his recent Tall Tales from a Large Man speaking tour, he travelled the country holding audiences captive for hours with little more than a profane PowerPoint presentation and a gift for the gab.

On the day of his visit to Calgary, I pick him up from the lobby of a Best Western. He’s been working in his room all morning. We pile into my truck and drive to a diner on the outskirts of downtown, a place with taxidermy on the wall, ashtrays in the washroom and golden oldies on the jukebox. It’s the kind of place where Draplin seems right at home.

Writer Brendan Harrison and UPPERCASE publisher Janine Vangool have a chat with Aaron Draplin. Calgary, 2012. Photo by Heather Saitz.

Writer Brendan Harrison and UPPERCASE publisher Janine Vangool have a chat with Aaron Draplin. Calgary, 2012. Photo by Heather Saitz.

We sidle into a booth and order breakfast. I turn on my recorder and plant it in front of him, opening my notebook to a page of questions I’d jotted down the night before. I ask him where we should start. “Wherever you want man, wherever you want. I can talk, man. So don’t be afraid to be like, hey, chill out a little bit.”

Photo by Heather Saitz.

Photo by Heather Saitz.

I do no such thing. I’m happy to play the part of passive participant in our conversation, sitting back to enjoy his rambling replies. His stories meander and digress in the most enjoyable way, revealing plainspoken wisdom and insight into the life of a creative professional. Throughout our discussion, Draplin comes across as something of a cultural magpie, a life-long junker who figured out a way to incorporate his love for old memo books and ration tins into a signature visual style.

“As a designer, I always had an appreciation for old stuff,” he says. “Not in the sense of it’s like a movie prop – because I get a lot of that too. Kids are like, what are you, some kind of sentimentalist or something? I’ll take that word and run with it, no problem. I mean, what are you, a futurist? I’d rather look back at the restraint and try to use that in my new work. Using one colour effectively. Making a killer logo… There’s just a sense of like, that stuff’s on the way out and I don’t want it to go away.”

Aaron Draplin in the Lion's Den, Calgary, 2012. Photo by Heather Saitz.

Aaron Draplin in the Lion's Den, Calgary, 2012. Photo by Heather Saitz.

Read the full article in UPPERCASE issue 16. And if you're in Calgary, please make a point of coming to CAMP and participating in Aaron Draplin's workshop. Other workshops on offer:

Learn How to Draw (Better) in One Day With Yuko Shimizu
Sunday, September 20th, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Going Digital: Bridging the Gap
With Edward Keeble, David Nagy, Marc Binkley
Sunday, September 20th, 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM

As well as a programming workshop for kids.

Creative ideas with Helmut Smit

Rainbow, 2010, acrylic paint

Plant three trees with cyan, magenta and yellow blossom in a triangle. When the blossom drops, the colors mix.

Materials: CMYK soft drinks (Cyan – Gatorade Cool Blue / Magenta – Fernandes Cherry Bouquet / Yellow – Orangeade / Black – Coca-Cola), jerrycans, socle, cup dispenser

Universal FlagTime well spent exploring Rotterdam-based artist Helmut Smit.

Seat assignment

Nina KatchadourianArtist Nina Katchadourian uses her in-flight time on Seat Assignment:  

While in the lavatory on a domestic flight in March 2010, I spontaneously put a tissue paper toilet cover seat cover over my head and took a picture in the mirror using my cellphone. The image evoked 15th-century Flemish portraiture. I decided to add more images made in this mode and planned to take advantage of a long-haul flight from San Francisco to Auckland, guessing that there were likely to be long periods of time when no one was using the lavatory on the 14-hour flight. I made several forays to the bathroom from my aisle seat, and by the time we landed I had a large group of new photographs entitled Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style. I was wearing a thin black scarf that I sometimes hung up on the wall behind me to create the deep black ground that is typical of these portraits. There is no special illumination in use other than the lavatory's own lights and all the images are shot hand-held with the camera phone. At the Dunedin Public Art gallery, the photos were framed in faux-historical frames and hung on a deep red wall reminiscent of the painting galleries in museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Brilliant! {via SwissMiss}

Ghost Line on Kickstarter

I just backed this project on Kickstarter.

"I will not make any boring art"

UPPERCASE subscriber and long-time supporter @juniper_gal sent in this video about John Baldessari (the guy who put dots over people's faces).

Industry City Distillery

The City Foundry in Brooklyn is a group of five bearded men who are looking at using science and technology to reinvent small manufacturing processes, and their first major endeavour is setting up a distillery. The result is Industry City Distillery

Contemporary Days: The Designs of Robin & Lucienne Day

Inspiration: Lucienne Day

Lucienne Day, circa 1952The work of Lucienne Day inspires a lot of contemporary interpretations, but it always worthwhile to know more than the surface of a designer's work. Day's work is part of Designing Women: Post-War British Textiles: a current exhibition at the British Textiles Museum. The book Robin and Lucienne Day: Pioneers in Modern Design by Lesley Jackson (Chronicle, 2001) is also worth adding to your library.

Around the web:

• Lucienne Day 1917-2010, remembrance in the Guardian

• Robin Day obituary

• An interview and home tour of Robin and Lucienne Day with Wallpaper magazine, December 2008.

• V&A Lucienne Day archives

Classic Textiles' reissue of some iconic designs



photo by Anne-Katrin Purkiss

National Stationery Show

Some of UPPERCASE's favourite stationery companies will be at the National Stationery Show (May 20-23). 

The following are all represented by Crow & Canary, a fine art card and gift representation company:

Dear Hancock

Susy Jack

Pie Bird PressStudio Olivine

If you're exhibiting at NSS or Surtex and you'd like us to consider featuring your work on the blog, send us your url via twitter

Ornitholego Society

Gloria GoldfinchBritish bird and LEGO enthusiast Thomas Poulsom created a series of gorgeous local birds in LEGO blocks. Pictured here is Gloria Goldfinch, but he's also done a puffin, a woodpecker, a kingfisher, a robin, and a blue tit. 

Thanks to the LEGO site Cuusoo, amateur designs like this actually have a chance of being made into official LEGO products, if they get 10,000 supporters on the site. Poulsom's birds still have a very long way to go, but they are very deserving with their lovely simplicity. 

via Make.

Stitch: Amanda McCavour

I get a lot of email and lots of submissions and suggestions and genuine interest in the magazine. It can get overwhelming in that I don't have time to reply as personally or quickly as I'd like to, but I do review everything and it all gets categorized into Evernote for future reference and possible posting on the blog. I appreciate your submissions (keep them coming!), but be patient with hearing back from me...

Amanda McCavour sent some notable examples of her installation work this week. Using thread and dissolving fabric, she sews intricate scenes of domesticity.

In my work, I use a sewing machine to create thread drawings and installations by sewing into a fabric that dissolves in water. This fabric makes it possible for me to build up the thread by sewing repeatedly into my drawn images so that when the fabric is dissolved, the image can hold together without a base. These thread images appear as though they would be easily unraveled and seemingly on the verge of falling apart, despite the works actual raveled strength. 

I am interested in the vulnerability of thread, its ability to unravel, and its strength when it is sewn together.  I am interested in the connections between process and materials and the way that they relate to images and spaces.  Tracing actions and environments through a process of repetition, translation and dissolving, I hope to trace absence.  My work is a process of making as a way of tracing and preserving things that are gone, or slowly falling apart.  

Dispatch from London: Donya Coward

Adjacent to Anthropologie King's Road is a little companion gallery. The current exhibition features the elegant "taxidermy" dogs of Donya Coward

Calling all fearless designers

Chicago's Firebelly Design came up with an interesting solution to all the internship requests they receive. Camp Firebelly, an intensive apprenticeship experience like no other, was created for 10 talented folks looking to break into the design profession and use their powers for good. Camp Firebelly challenges students and recent grads to address social issues through a collaborative project of their own design.

Are you a fearless and highly talented designer? Get your application in by May 4.

Hillman Curtis

In honour of the inspiring creative force Hillman Curtis who passed away this week from cancer.

"Be prepared to reinvent yourself, be prepared to go out on a limb occasionally, and be prepared to do the things that you feel strongly about that maybe other people don’t… For me what started out as a creative vacation…has become my life calling." 

Ties that bind

We received this video from Etsy last week. It is about Aysegul & Sebahat Cetinkaya, a mother/daughter team from Bolu, Turkey who run an Etsy store (irregularexpressions.etsy.com) and make accessories with a  crochet hook, needle, some thread, and beads.

Their work is breathtaking and is now on my covet list. But, the video is about more than their craft; it's about the relationship between a mother and daughter, one that is both singularly unique, and yet somehow also universal in nature.

I come from a family of women who have created a stunning handwork legacy. My Grandmother could walk through a department store and recreate a coat she saw. My Aunt and I are linked through the creation of handmade Teddy bears. My Mother is a prolific knitter and has blessed us with many handknits. One recent Christmas morning, Mom and I each presented the other with a handknit cowl.

I am humbled by the talents of the women in my family and blessed to be able to pass these skills to my children. For us, handwork and creativity really are the ties that bind.

Portfolio Show

One of the most highly anticipated annual events at the Alberta College of Art + Design is the Portfolio Show. This year it will feature over 60 portfolios of graphic design, advertising, illustration, animation, character design, and photography. The students are also in attendance to present their work and to answer questions.

type tuesday: 3D glazed ceramics

3D-printed glazed ceramics on Ponoko! Oh to have time to experiment...

An interesting video about the intersection of art and technology an 3d printed ceramics:

Guest Post: Crafter-noons and a suitcase full of paper

Skye writes:

"I began scouring the internet for anything ‘paper’. And immediately felt totally intimidated! If you look at the back of PAPER BLISS there are a wealth of ‘inspiring sites and people’ to look up. And these, among many more, have been my inspiration. But you know, you do what you do. We each have our own abilities and aesthetic, and what made me feel confident was that I was just like so many other people: unsure of my skills, uncertain of how projects might work out once I’d thrown myself full throttle into them. So, I have no idea how to construct paper couture, or minutely fanned and intricately folded origami sculptures. But, I consoled myself, I have my own, somewhat ‘shabby’ aesthetic, and that, my friends, would have to do! There was no turning back.

Skye's friend Mimi waving the tissue petals dry after painting their rims pink.

And I did what I always do: had madcap ‘crafter-noons’ with friends where we sat around my outdoor table and ate nice food and drank tea (and maybe some wine) and got to making something from the stuff that was in front of us. It was amazing to see people’s skills revealed in this way! It taught me much, which I was keen to pass on as tips throughout the book.

 Skye during a crafter-noon.

I also went on holidays with my paper! Much to my boyfriends bemusement, I took suitcases full of paper bits away with me. Clothes would come a very poor second or third, after inspiring books and yards of interesting papers to construct things from. At the airport, I scurried through the people scanner, wondering how I might explain it all should I be asked to open my bulging bags."


Next up: A paper baby.


Guest Post: Using technology to mock up a book about paper.

Skye's early mock up of Paper Bliss.

Skye writes:

"Not surprising, perhaps, for someone so visually orientated, I started with a visual representation of my idea. I gathered images from the net and from things I’d made over the year and plonked them all in a desktop folder called ‘Paper Book’. I then did a rather bad mock-up I now realise (though I am a designer in many senses of the word, I am no book designer!), scattering a myriad of images that took my fancy around square pages in INDESIGN, which I use despite not really knowing an awful lot about it, technically speaking!

I had this 20-odd page document printed onto lovely heavy-weight paper, spiral bound it and wrote an introduction and a few sample projects, plus a contents page. I pretty much made that up, as I wasn’t sure yet which projects would make the cut or not. The ideas I had for things to make were really rather a ‘wish list’…I’d find out if I could do them afterwards (I’m a cart-before-the-horse kind of person!)."


Next up: Crafter-noons and a suitcase full of paper