Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Globalizing Stylus -- The Cristal Bic

Normally, I have an aversion to ballpoint pens. As I am heavy-handed when I write, I found that ballpoint tends to skip when writing quickly. However after watching the documentary Design (which is available for rent via Netflix), I felt I had misjudged such a revolutionary item.

One thing that really amazes me is that this single pen, with a virtually unchanged design, allowed people from across the globe to write in ink with the same instrument. Before this, writing with a dip pen required you to learn up stokes and down strokes in order to write without splattering or breaking the nib. A dip pen would never work comfortably for writing Japanese characters. Because the ink is guided by a ball and not a point, it can write in any direction without any troubles.

Why they ever made the Bic pens with white casing, I will never know, as they are aesthetically boring. The clear plastic lets one see how much ink is left in the pen, and looks much more modern and sleek.

While I am still a fan of the gel and roller ball, I do think the Cristal Bic was the item that allowed everyone to write with the same instrument. It brings us together, and reminds me of a quote by Andy Warhol.

"What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it..........."
— Andy Warhol

Okay, maybe not everyone normally writes with the Cristal Bic, but they probably have at one time. I know that I hand this instrument to someone in Japan, he or she will be able to use the pen to write just as easily as I.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mad Men

I just started watching Mad Men, and what an excellent show! It's a magnificent pastiche of mid-century New York with beautiful clothing, furniture, and flawless hair. After only three episodes, it has become my new favorite show. The open sequence is beautifully done, with silhouetted graphics that may remind you of two of my other favorites that take place around the same time period, Vertigo and Catch Me If You Can.

However, I did notice an anachronism in episode three of the first season. The firm is trying to drum up business for a New York department store called Menken's. Don Draper decides to drop by the building, giving us an excellent shot of the store logo etched in glass.

I'm sure it was inspired by handwritten logos of stores with similar price points like Lord & Taylor and Neiman Marcus.

After a second glance, I realized that this was not a handwritten logo. Most of you know I have an aversion of fonts that mimic handwriting; this font would not be available for another thirty-six years. To be sure, I looked it up at FontShop, and sure enough, it was Cezanne.

It's too bad they just didn't use someone's signature, as that would have been a simple solution. Oh, well, I still love the show and look forward to catching up to the current season.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Victorian Alignment

Why should one worry about making sure that all parts of the address are aligned left or centered? After looking at some old Victorian envelopes, I noticed the address was placed all over the envelope. I thought I would give it a try.

Friday, May 22, 2009

More from . . .

Today I am featuring the work of The Yellow Owl Workshop -- an innovative group I met from the National Stationery Show. I had a very nice conversation with Evan, and he showed me around the booth. Much of their work was done with silkscreen, which makes for beautiful, flat colors. I tried silk screening in college, and though I love it, I must say I find it a tedious process when working with more than one color. I admire anyone who can get good registration with this method of printing.
There were also some innovative works made with blind embossing. I am surprised I have not seen more of this technique used with other vendors, but perhaps The Yellow Owl Workshop is starting the trend. I really like their do-it-yourself greeting with the LCD card. Nice work!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Two Great Days

I have spent last two days at the National Stationery Show, which was a positively overwhelming event. It seemed the true die-hards were there this year, and I met a lot of great people, many who started off with a printing press and a dream. I skipped most of the big corporate booths, and focused my time on hob-knobbing with those in the cottage industries. Everyone I spoke to really seemed to love what he or she was doing. Also, I made some wonderful connections for calligraphy -- so many people had very nice things to say about the booklets I handed out to everyone.

I had an excellent conversation with Trish Kinsella, owner of the Dauphine Press. I had seen her work featured in something recently (I'm guessing it was a Martha Stewart bridal magazine); it is no secret that she is to stationery as Mercedes is to automobiles. If one were able to pick up a sample of her work, you will find she does very delicate and lovely letterpress on very thick stock. She was complimentary of my calligraphy and was very encouraging. I hope to stay in touch with her, as she is highly respected for what she does, and was such a kind person, as well. Thanks Trish!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pretty Paper

Today I put together brochures for my calligraphy. If they bear a striking resemblance to the work of Anne Elser, well, um, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Seriously, I have to say that she is so prolific with her good ideas, I'm sure they are borrowed all the time. Thanks, Anne.

These should come in handy at the National Stationery Show that is coming up this weekend. My only hope is that I can fold and cut enough in time to hand out to those interested in my work, and those who will be once they see a sampling.

Also, for any of you living in New York, I tried printing these with Kinko's, and found the quality poor. I tried out a neighborhood copy shop called The Source Unltd, and not only were they kind, but they had a much better quality at a lower cost. I look forward to getting more things printed with them.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


Hello, everyone! My website and blog are finally ready for viewing. Please take time to visit my site and let me know if you have any suggestions. Please check back soon for more updates.