Weekend Reading: issue 13


Issue 13 is making its way around the world to subscribers, stockists and our distribution warehouses. Start your subscription today and issue 13 will be sent out asap.



Issue 12
is nearly sold out! I have fewer than 200 copies available, also on their way to the warehouse. Issue 12 is available here along with other back issues and will ship once it gets to the distribution warehouse next week.

Weekend Reading: SDP 46

A couple of spreads from UPPERCASE have made it into the Society of Publication Designer's annual, earning a merit for the "design of an entire issue" category. Nice to see it listed on a page with The New York Times Style Magazine and TIME! The spreads displayed are about illustrator Martin Haake and a contents page featuring a photo by Paul Octavious.

Collected tweets

Your tweets, pics and mentions about issue #13 (so far!)


Evernote was here!

It's odd for me to be on the other side of the camera.Kasey, Nick and a bit of meWe moved the couch so that you can see all the magazines behind me in the frame.Kasey asks the questions off-camera.Nick does the video and sound.Yesterday Kasey Fleisher Hickey and Nick Strayer of Evernote were visiting all the way from California to make a video about little ol' me and how I use Evernote as an integral part of UPPERCASE publishing.

I look forward to sharing the finished video with you, in which I explain in more detail how it is part of my creative and business life. If you're not familiar with Evernote, here's a little introduction:

I really can't recommend the service enough and my endorsement of the service comes very naturally. I've been using Evernote since issue #2, so it is an integral part of my creative and editorial process in the magazine development. It has been like an editorial assistant or second brain for me—I honestly couldn't get as much done and sorted without it and I have Evernote on my main computer, laptop and iphone. In addition to my ideas, inspirations and web links, all or your emailed suggestions, portfolio links and submissions get put directly into my Evernote database where I can easily access it and pull up content as I need it. 

Thank you to Kasey and Nick and the rest of the Evernote team for wanting to share my story.

Thank you to Eleanor for the excellent photos above!

My perspective, as an Instagram.

Mitzi's Miscellany

Speaking of playing cards, in issue #13, Mitzi Curi provided a selection of ephemera for me to include in the magazine. I met Mitzi last year at The Creative Connection. She writes:

"My name is Mitzi Curi and I’m a Michigan antique dealer, crafter, and blogger whose goal in life is to get a little vintage goodness into every home. I rent space at two antique malls which house four booths, each with a specific theme. The selling doesn't quit there. I have an Etsy shop where she I sell my creations made from vintage materials and the occasional vintage find.  Favorites are my cuff bracelets made from vintage wallpaper, repurposed furniture hardware jewelry, and vintage hats.  

People seem to be appreciating vintage paper ephemera and typography like never before, and I enjoy sharing my large stash of images with the world. Visit my blog at www.mitzismiscellany.com to learn a little and get inspired by my numerous vintage obsessions!

I settled on this classic card 13, pictured below, to include in the issue.

Though I do have a fondness for flash cards (and these ones add up nicely):

And just because:

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). 

Cover Artist: Eloise Renouf

Eloise Renouf at home in the United Kingdom.

Eloise Renouf is a talented pattern designer and illustrator whom we first got to know through her Etsy shop. Janine purchased a print and collage from Eloise some time ago and with issue #13's theme about how weather inspires creativity, Eloise was the perfect person to ask to create the cover art.

Eloise just received her copies (thanks to the quick magic of Fedex!) and writes: "Thank you so much for the lovely package of magazines which arrived here this morning! I'm absolutely thrilled with them and I think they look great. I hope you're pleased with the way they turned out - the foiling was a master stroke! It's such a beautiful magazine and everything about it is just lovely - it looks and feels really special. Have already enjoyed a quick flip but am going to settle down with a cuppa for a proper read. Happy days!"

There's a feature written by Vinciane De Pape about Eloise in this issue where you can read more about her process and inspiration.

A flower print available on Etsy.


The silver foil on the cover turned out great! When I decided to do a foil, I imagined that the rain would appear to turn start and stop depending on how the light hit the cover. It worked out perfectly. Thank you to Eloise Renouf for her wonderful illustration. Thank you to Chris Young and the talented team at The Prolific Group for the fine print job.

Issue 13 right out of the box

We received our copies today! And they're on their way to subscribers and stockists around the world! Subscribe today and start with lucky #13.

Welcome, Eleanor!

Eleanor getting some Dottie Angel boxes ready for our warehouse.Lucky issue #13 has themes about luck and good fortune, but there's a behind-the-scenes story of serendipity I'd like to share.

Some weeks ago, I was desperate to find some help. I was overwhelmed with all the data management that publishing a magazine and books demand. I had a huge backlog of over 500 entries to deal with and no time in sight. Serendipitously, Eleanor walked into my studio space, resume in hand. Though she was initially looking for a retail job, her resume listed lots of past experience in just the sort of things I needed help with! We had an impromptu interview right then and there and it wasn't too long that Eleanor was working here part time. She made her way through the hundreds of orders like a real trooper and has proven to be a great help with the shop, subscribers and wholesalers. I am so happy and relieved to have her as part of the UPPERCASE family.

You can read Eleanor's perspective about the new job on her blog.

Eleanor wrote her own introduction:

I was born in Beijing China, and moved to Canada when I was 7 years old. One would think I'm bilingual but my Chinese is of a 7 year old's who has forgotten much of the grammar! Today I'm a hobby photographer and writer, especially of found things and macro shots. I love poetry and fiction. I have an idea in my head for a horror novel something between The Ring (my favourite horror flick) and a Korean drama. I'm a huge movie geek, I love everything from intense dramas to b-movies, some of my favourites include: The Red Violin, Hot Fuzz, Casablanca, etc. I'm so happy to have started at UPPERCASE, it's been about a month and I love it here. Janine is really inspirational and I'm glad to help with the publication. 

If you have any questions about subscriptions or shop orders, Eleanor will be the one replying to your queries. (email Eleanor at shop {at} uppercasemagazine.com)

I'm very lucky that Eleanor wandered in to UPPERCASE that day!

A neighbourhood bridge

Today we went to the opening celebration of the new pedestrian bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava. There were far too many people once the bridge opened to get a good picture of the structure, but I look forward to adding this route to my walks downtown. 

See a few more pictures here.

The Shatner turns 81!

The Shatner Show, front coverillustration by Doug Fraserillustration by Zina Saundersilllustration by Marc Burckhardtillustration by Karen KlassenLego sculpture by Sean Kenney

He's 81 years young today. And going strong! In honour of his birthday, I have unearthed The Captain's Blog, the archive of posts I did in support of The Shatner Showa book that we published in 2007.

76 illustrations of his life and career by 76 talented illustrators. Buy the book!

Follow Shatner on Twitter. He's trying to reach 1,000,000 followers for his birthday.

Other cartographic errors

Cartographic vandalism is actually quite rare. Most of the errors on maps are honest errors, but because of the way that cartographers would borrow from other maps, one cartographer's error can end up in other maps for centuries. One famous example is California as an island; maps from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries frequently depicted California and the Baja Peninsula as an island. Gerardus Mercator got it right with his world map of 1569, yet maps depicting California as an island became the norm through much of the 1600s. The problem was so controversial that eventually Ferdinand VII of Spain stepped in and decreed that it was not an island.

Mercator might have gotten California right, but he was way off regarding another island. Early cartographers needed to look everywhere for their sources, and when mapping the North Atlantic, Mercator turned to Inventio Fortuna, an account of a Franciscan monk's travels in the North Atlantic. Or rather, he turned to second-hand accounts, as the original manuscript had been lost a century earlier, and all that remained were secondhand accounts of it. As Mercator describes it:

"...In the midst of the four countries is a Whirlpool into which there empty these four Indrawing Seas which divide the North. And the water rushes round and descends into the earth just as if one were pouring it through a filter funnel. It is 4 degrees wide on every side of the Pole, that is to say eight degrees altogther. Except that right under the Pole there lies a bare rock in the midst of the Sea. Its circumference is almost 33 French miles, and it is all of magnetic stone. And is as high as the clouds, so the Priest said, who had received the astrolabe from this Minorite in exchange for a Testament. And the Minorite himself had heard that one can see all round it from the Sea, and that it is black and glistening. And nothing grows thereon, for there is not so much as a handful of soil on it."

Part of the reason these errors are so fascinating is that it's entertaining to imagine a world just subtely different from our own. Jules Verne thought so too, and in his novel The Adventures of Captain Hatteres, he tells the story of a British explorer who travels to the north pole and encounters there a vast polar sea, and at the center of it a volcano, much like the Rupes Nigra that appeared on earlier maps. 


One of my favorite ideas that came up in the abecedary was cartographic vandalism: when a cartographer intentionally puts an error on a map. A famous example of this is the non-existant Mount Richard, near Boulder, Colorado; the mountain is generally attributed to cartographer Richard Ciacci.

But my favorite instance of cartographic vandalism surrounds two islands in Lake Superior. These islands – Isle Pontchartrain  and Isle Philippaux – were of some strategic importance, and their ownership was debated at the Treat of Paris in 1783. Eventually, the decision was made that the border between the US and the British Colonies would put Isle Pontchartrain and Ilse Philippaux on US territory.

However, nearly a half century later when surveyors went to the region, they could find no trace of the islands, and eventually had to conclude that these islands didn’t exist. Such errors aren’t all that uncommon, except that the islands’ names suggest that this was no accident: French explorers named the islands after Louis Phelypeaux, comte de Pontchartrain, who was the government minister responsible for their funding. Possibly this was a late addition to a map, inserted to attempt to gain favour or more funding. 

Straight borders and jagged ones

Doing the abecedary about maps for issue 12 was a lot of fun for me, because maps were a huge part of my childhood, from collecting all the National Geographic insert maps, to creating my own worlds and rendering them on grid paper using various types of projection systems.  One of my favorite aspects of maps is that the simple lines often have so much hidden information. For example, the unmistakable lines of a fjord-filled coastline tell not only where, exactly, water meets land, but also the mountainous geography of the surrounding land. This extends to political boundaries as well.  When I wrote my first novel, I set it on the Alberta / Saskatchewan border... an unremarkable, straight border that runs down the 110th meridian. Saskatchewan is a near perfect rectangle of a province, and Alberta would be as well, were it not for its southwest corner that follows the continental divide. The juxtaposition of straight lines and jagged in political boundaries has always been curious to me, and two of my characters discuss this in the following passage:

“So what, you in Saskatchewan don’t care about the border?” Hugh says when Tina moves on to a customer at the till.
“Not this border, it’s meaningless. Not everyone knows it’s meaningless, but nobody ever treats it seriously.”
“It’s not meaningless.”
“Of course it is,” Fish says, adding cream to his coffee again. “No straight line border means anything, except in raw politics. How many straight line borders are there in Europe? How many straight edges does Switzerland have, or France or Russia?”
“Well, Canada has a lot.” Hugh tries to visualize maps of the world in his mind. “Countries in Africa have them, and in the Middle East, right?”
“Exactly. But back to Europe for a moment: the reason there are no straight lines is because the borders mean something. They follow rivers or mountain ranges, and in some cases they’ve existed since before there were any real maps. You cross from one country to the next, and it’s there, it’s in the land, it’s been in the land forever. Or in some cases, it’s because of the people on either side of the border, they fought and they pushed and pulled at the border, and over the years it’s come to perfectly differentiate between one group of people and the other. The people define the border, not the other way around.”
“Yeah,” Hugh nods. What Fish is saying is starting to make sense. “You know, I was up on the water tower the other night—”
“Oh, tell me you didn’t take Joan up there.” He doesn’t wait for Hugh’s response; he knows. “That’s so high school. So sixteen. Man, I haven’t been up there in a decade. What were you thinking? You got head, right?”
“Forget it.”
“No, I’m sorry. Seriously, go ahead.”
“Well I was up there, and I was just looking at how the border is so invisible, other than when it’s in town and there’s Main Street. But I spend so much time working with my map, I forget that, sometimes. But out there’s it’s just like any section line.”
Fish nods. “Look at the American border. They did a good job with the eastern part, that’s a real border. But then they got past the Great Lakes, and they got lazy. It doesn’t matter whether it’s at the forty-ninth or at 54-40, any time the map-maker gets out a straight edge, you have a big problem. Real borders follow the land. Now, we’ve got a new, false geography. At some point, all the cartographers got replaced by politicians. Look at your southwest border, with BC.”
“Right, it follows the continental divide.”
“It means something. It means everything to the water—two drops can fall side-by-side, and end up thousands of miles apart depending on which side of the mountain peak they fall on. It means something to the wind, it means something to the animals. It probably meant something to the Indians too, when they were still nomadic.”
Fish stops long enough to take a sip of coffee.
“Did you write an essay on this in school?”
“No, but I’ve thought about it a lot. And you mentioned Africa and the Middle East. All the borders were made up thousands of miles away by people who had never been there. The borders, though, they mean as much to me as they do to the animals. You Albertans and your separatism, I’ll never get it.”

What a compliment!

The Society of Publication Designers is presenting a round-up of magazine art directors' favourite magazines: "We've asked a lot art and photo directors from around the world to tell us the magazines or apps that they really love. The ones they can't wait to get their hands on, the ones that fire their creative spirit: you know, the ones that make you jealous, or supremely happy, or both." 

Thank you Deb Bishop for selecting UPPERCASE (She designed Blueprint magazine and Martha Stewart Baby and Kids — remember those? So amazing! She's now at More.) 

I've chosen Uppercase because I love the whole package. It is playful and "up," without being over designed. I tip my hat to Janine Vangool who is the publisher, editor and designer. She has created a beautiful format and each page is kind of a feast for the eyes-- not just the design but the featured content. If you love "how-to," and are the "curious sort," about how beautiful graphic things are made it's hard not to enjoy this publication. This issue included intricately carved crayons and the art of paper cutting. Loved the "handy guides," collection.  I admit that I am seduced by the beautiful paper and even the smell of fresh ink when I open the package. In this time of troubled publishing it's nice to learn that this wonderful publication, is created by a small team (3 people I think!) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 

featured stockist: Athenaeum, Amsterdam

photos by Caroline BuijsIt is such an honour to have the window display at Amsterdam's Athenaeum. Thank you, Dutch people, for embracing my books and magazines!

The photos were taken by Caroline Buijs who has written many articles for Flow magazine which I wish I could read. I trade subscriptions with Flow and it is an amazing publication: really tactile, fun and I am constantly astounded by the special touches such as various paper stocks, booklet inserts, tear outs and more.

Jumpstart your creativity

image by Sara StevensonSarah at Redlinedesign has relaunched her site with a focus on creative exploration. She recommends starting a collection as a jumpstart to creativity and I couldn't agree more. It is invigorating to find something that inspires you—whether it is a beautiful retro button that starts a lifelong love of sewing, or a vintage package that leads to a deeper appreciation of lettering, or a simple bread tag that reminds you to appreciate the little things. Read more at Redlinedesign.

(Purchase A Collection a Day here.)

Tonight's the night!

Please subscribe (or renew) by tonight, March 13, at midnight to ensure that you're on our big mailing list for issue #13. The discount code "thirteen" will give you $5 off.

Renewals and subscriptions are gladly welcome after that, it is just that at a certain point we have to generate the big list for our printer, who takes care of sending out all the individual subscriptions. So once that list is made, then subsequent orders are shipped out from our fulfillment centres and that takes longer because the inventory has to first be trucked down to the warehouses and then processed and mailed out. Just so you know! (Nothing is instant when you're dealing with good old fashioned print on paper, but it is well worth the wait!)

type tuesday: typographic spam

Mr. Edwards recently emailed to share his typographic collages with us:

"It is made up of bits of found type and images from my collection of vintage magazines. I don't like to cut them up, as they have survived for so long so I scan them all in. They are the 20th century equivalent of today's spam mail. I like the ambiguity of these snippets of type taken out of context, it makes a kind of Dada poetry. I find it quite mesmerising. I think it should be pasted on subway station walls and at bus stops to pass the time while waiting for public transport."

Read an interview and purchase posters at Empty Frame.