Strike a pose

Designer: Kelsey McRaeIn issue #8 we featured a collection of matchbooks by Margaret Van Sicklen. We also asked our UPPERCASE community to participate and send in their own modern take on traditional European matchbox labels. Karin Jager of Capilano University and her student Mustaali Raj sent in images from class project along a similar vein.Designer: Mustaali RajKaren explains:
"My survey of design course begins with the industrial revolution and the Victorian era—a time of dramatic economic and social change—and eclectic ornamentation. As a way for students to experience the Victorian aesthetic and to gain some understanding about the social, economic and cultural impact of the industrial revolution, I assigned a 'matchbox' packaging project."Designer: Brayden EshuisMy curiosity was piqued by the information Karin sent along with the images so I did a little research of my own.

Early matches ignited with the slightest friction and their manufacture involved the toxic chemical white phosphorus. Consequently for the match maker, 'phossy jaw' was an occupational hazzard. In the later stages of this condition, where phosphorus accumulates in the jawbone and brain, the patient's jaw would start to glow in the dark, due to a chemical reaction between phosphorus and air. (Note to reader: Do not google phossy jaw.)

Some of the earliest known commercial advertising on matchbooks was created by guerilla arts marketers. In 1895 the cast of the Mendelson Opera Company created ads with photos, glue, and some mighty fine wordsmithing. The only surviving example of these creative evenings reads:

A cyclone of fun - powerful caste - pretty girls - handsome ward-robe - get seats early.


Cocktail Party Fact: Matches were invented in 1827 by John Walker but were first marketed by Samuel Jones as 'Lucifers'.

Dollhouse revisited

Heather Benning: The Dollhouse: Dusk #3, (2007) printed 2011, Kodak Endura Digital C-print, 20 x 30" ed. 10My husband's grandmother lives in a small town in Saskatchewan. So small, in fact, that she doesn't have a street address—sending her a letter requires her name only. On my first visit I was struck by the emptiness of a summer night on the prairies. We watched as storms rolled across the fields and heard the occasional train whistle echo in the distance. Although I knew we were still connected by wires to the outside world the sense of isolation was, for me, overwhelming.

The images of Heather Benning's installation The Dollhouse we featured in issue #8 rouse the same feelings for me.

In celebration of the fifth anniversary of Heather's work, Toronto's Telephone Booth Gallery will be hosting an exhibition during the month of May. The show includes never before exhibited images that document the creation of the project.

Dispatch from London: Spitalfields with Emily Chalmers

Emily Chalmers: Caravan, Flea Market Style, Modern Vintage Style... Chances are, you love Emily's styling aesthetic as much as I do. Emily generously wrote the introduction to Tif Fussell's Dottie Angel book and though she and Tif were acquainted, I had not yet had the pleasure of meeting Emily in person. We arranged to meet for the Thursday vintage market at Old Spitalfields Market. Emily has a 4-month old (beautiful!) daughter who napped in her white pram while we strolled the booths.

Emily's old and new, mix and match style makes for homey and eclectic rooms—as well as a unique personal clothing style. I always admire people who can wear vintage pieces, but it never seems to suit me. I loved the textures and contrasts of her outfit.

The child's rolltop desk was something we both instantly were drawn to. Emily's daughter will get use this as she grows older and arrangements were made to bring it home.

The pile of letters spelled "coiffeur" and were only sold as a set (not to us, sadly.)

I could easily start a collection of antique ink bottles, but I resist the urge!

Me in my yellow jacket besides some typewriters. I have seen a lot of Londoners in the past week and I have not seen a single soul wearing a yellow slicker.

I would have purchased the tin sign "World's Greatest Weekly for Women" if it would have fit in my luggage.

Dispatch from London: Portobello Market (video)

The sights and sounds of the market today.

The Master of Playing Cards

Games of chance come up on a few occasions in issue 13 (such as Lisa Congdon's collection of ephemera or my own article on fortunes). In 15th century Europe, printers could rely on two products for which there was always a market: Bibles and playing cards. Those two things have over their history been very much at odds, but early printers such as Johannes Gutenberg relied on both for their income. And they often used the same engravers to illustrate both their Bibles and playing cards. 

One of the most intriguing characters in the history of games of chance is an enigmatic engraver known as The Master of Playing Cards. He was a contemporary of Gutenberg, and it's speculated that he contributed engravings both to Gutenberg's Bible, as well as the Giant Bible of Mainz, although it's always difficult to determine exactly where one master's work ends and his pupil's or rival's work begins. But his playing cards are well-recognized. 

At the time, decks with five suits were most popular in Germany. Suits were not formalized, as hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades are today. Different decks would include different suits: Flowers, Birds, Bears, Lions, Wildmen, Ladies, and Frogs are some of the different suits that appeared in cards of the era. In some instances, his cards were made with a single plate; on other cards, each figure was on a seperate plate, so that different combinations could be recombined for different cards (not unlike how Gutenberg was using movable type at the time). 

type tuesday: keep calm

Also from Letterology!

DesignThinkers: Chip Kidd (!!!!)

Photo from RGD Ontario

I've been a fan of Chip Kidd's book cover design for a long time. But I must say that Mr. Chip Kidd, presenter, is also entertaining and amusing and complex—and more flamboyant! The first half of his presentation was funny, affected and full of ATTITUDE.

Case in point, on design for printed books:

photo by Allison Toohey"Creative people should have a mantra, something to provide peace and solace in times of stress..." he advised. Expecting some wise words, the audience listened attentively. Kidd shared his mantra: "Oh my god! this is an F*ing nightmare!" We all laughed, realizing that we all have our own version of this exclamation that we utter to ourselves during the frustrating times.

Photo from RGD OntarioHe then elaborated with a detailed story involving a long line for KFC, a greasy cashier and a man ordering three buckets of chicken and how it resulted in a new mantra...

Photo from RGD OntarioKidd dotted his presentation with words like "rapidograph", "photostat" and "Quark", playing up his persona as an old school designer. His hairstyle, glasses and cardigan were also suitably old school (or at least mid-nineties). The second half of his presentation chronicled the development of his dream project: to write an original Batman comic which is slated for release sometime next year.

Chip Kidd was a tough act to follow, especially for the gentlemen of Chermayeff and Geismar who appeared quite tired for their keynote address which closed day one of presentations.

Gourdness gracious

When we were in Seattle last month, we took a little road trip to the countryside and discovered a lovely farm that was hosting a family day. One of the activities was decorating gourds and other vegetables, attaching wheels and then racing them down a ramp. Fun! Here are some of the zippy veggies...

Collecting: Bottle Caps

The current issue, #10, has a fun collection by a very special contributor. The bottle caps have been lovingly collected by Gail Anderson, formerly the senior art director of Rolling Stone magazine (1987-2002) and SpotCo. Gail's editorial design at Rolling Stone was very influential on me; I was studying design in college during the early to mid-nineties, and had dreams of working at a big magazine or book publisher. Before the heydey of the internet, young and eager students such as myself devoured real and tangible examples of good design. Gail's layouts were exciting, intricate and innovative.

(Her design of the Type Director's Club Annual #22 from 2001 remains my favourite in that series.)

I'm honoured that Gail has contributed to UPPERCASE magazine and very excited to share with you that she's working on another article for a future issue!

{Visit Gail's website for more of her collections. And if you like collections, you'll love this book.}

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I've been spending a fair bit of time watching Sesame Street online with Finley. It is amazing how much of the content, especially Bert & Ernie whom we watch most, relates to the magazine! Case in point: Bert's bottle cap collection...

Paper Horses

A simple seed...

Awe-inspiring art

"Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds challenges our first impressions: what you see is not what you see, and what you see is not what it means. The sculptural installation is made up of what appear to be millions of sunflower seed husks, apparently identical but actually unique. Although they look realistic, each seed is made out of porcelain. And far from being industrially produced, 'readymade' or found objects, they have been intricately hand-crafted by hundreds of skilled artisans."

Watch another video here and read about the exhibition on the Tate website. {discovered via Magpie and Cake, lots to see over there!}

A SIDE NOTE: I have been back from the Mossy Shed (such an amazing experience, will post more soon. Tif and her clan were such amazing hosts.) for a few days but taken over by boxes. Shipping boxes in and out, boxing orders, receiving the shipment of The Elegant Cockroach from China, notecard box designs, email inboxes... plus we're painting the walls and laying new floor in our house, so everything is in a state of chaos. Once the dust settles, I'll be back for a more regular posting schedule.

Type Tuesday: Curious and... crazy!

This image was posted on design*sponge so you've likely already seen it making the rounds, but these pencil tip sculptures by Dalton Ghetti are crazy amazing.

Do you know of other artists, designers and craftspeople who work in miniature? Let us know by leaving suggestions and links in the comments—we are compiling ideas for a future issue.

So lovely

Thank you, Derek and Lauren, for your hospitality. It was very enjoyable to spend time with you in your shoppe. So happy to have met Victoria in person, too!

The Forage bow tie collection by Something's Hiding in Here is superb.

Thanks to all who came by to say hi!

Fine Little Day's inspiration books

Visit Elisabeth's site and shop. Always wonderful.


Collection a Day

I really admire Lisa's dedication to her Collection a Day project. Her arrangements make even the mundane things of beauty.


Heather Rasmussen is an artist based in Los Angeles. From viewing the selection of work on her website, it appears that much of her work explores shipping containers as graphic devices, social commentary and landscape elements.

"The series DestructConstruct is based on found photographs of shipping container accidents downloaded from the Internet. Each found image is used as a model for a sculpture that is constructed for the production of the photograph. The sculpture then exists as a photographic work, which directly relates to the original photograph, including the name, place, and date the accident happened. I abstract the scenes of the catastrophes, removing the original context and placing the damaged containers, rendered simply out of colored paper, onto a seamless background. This process transforms the containers into pristine patterns of color and shape, thereby confusing scale and altering the perception of the shipping container as an object. The paper is now seen as fragile, crushed or torn due to an unknown circumstance."

This post is for Glen who is currently reading this book.

Type Tuesday: found phrases

Thanks to UPPERCASE subscriber Susan for sending us this image of cards from a children's game. The phrases send the imagination to interesting places.

Gorgeous! Upon a Fold

A reader in Australia sent me a link to this amazing webshop, Upon a Fold, dedicated to the art of folded paper. It is such a beautiful website with a smart and inspiring selection of products, plus a great blog.

Owner/designer Justine writes: "I live in Sydney, Australia, and this paper store and blog is something I've wanted to embark on since I was a kid. And now that I’m all grown up I finally have a place where I can gleefully revel in my passion for paper and then share all my new finds with you!

I've been collecting and making things with paper for as long as I can remember. When I’m not working as a graphic designer, I’m still busy cutting, folding and finding inspiration from other paper shapers, artists and engineers. Whenever I come across a beautiful object made of paper I wish I had a place to put it on show for all to see and enjoy. So, ta-da, here it is… Upon a Fold."


Type Tuesday: Wood Type WOW

Click here to be immediately transported to Bethany Heck's amazing and gorgeous letterpress blog and resource, EndGrain.

"In addition to being a growing directory and aggregator for wood type and letterpress works and information on the web, the EndGrain features my humble collection of wood letters. I also want to use the blog as an opportunity to do experimental printing with my type and to do a little digging into the history of the different typefaces."

I love the large images of wood type, you can almost smell them! And the site design is lovely, too, with great typographic touches.

Bethany's an UPPERCASE subscriber as well! Such a talented and inspirational bunch you are.