Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Leather Anniversary

Today is our third wedding anniversary! Despite having been together for twenty-six years, we have been married for a mere three. The lovely April day in 2006 was as sunny as today and 100% happy. Our invitations were in true Starch Green style.

Thursday, 23 April 2009


Just had a great day at St Brides Library on the first day of their annual conference - Revival. Very much up our street, with speakers talking about reviving craft skills in design and typography, and the merging/mashing of the traditional and digital ages - or even the post-digital age.

Alan Powers waxed lyrical on modernism, post-modernism, Curwen and craft to 'recapture authenticity'. I loved Harold Curwen's leaflet encouraging customers to 'have your printing done cheerily' and talk of 'the revival of print is not in the type but the spaces between' - oooo. I was also thrilled to discover that Alan is the man behind Judd Street Gallery, with a decided penchant for pattern papers. I purchased one of his papers only last month - the Harold Jones for 'The Compass Points North' in blue from Shepherds (who have taken over Falkiner Fine Papers).

Eleanor Crow gave us a brilliant insight into the world of book jackets and the revivalist trend. The set of poetry books to be published on May 7th by Faber & Faber and designed by Miriam Rosenbloom (who was also there) are stunning - and such a great example of the revival of illustration. Have a look at the Creative Review blog. One of the illustrators, Joe McLaren, was described by the next speaker, David Pearson, as his 'Reynolds Stone'. He's a big fan of his scraperboard board work and has used him for several projects already - before he gets so big he can't afford him! David was responsible for the 'Great Ideas' series at Penguin, and now designs for his own publishing house, White's.

Alongside these, and several more illuminating talks, were some real live demonstrations. Helen Ingham was printing - I rolled in the flatbed and pulled the arm across the press to print the little flyer above. Phil Surey was demonstrating signwriting. What I loved best was his painter's box,  made for a friend of his by his father in 1949, used by him until 1997 then passed on to Phil. Lovely - and moving. Phil said he was quite choked up when he gave it to him.

More tomorrow...

Scanning scanning scanning

I have been spending the last couple of weeks scanning my archive of wood engravings. The first task was to assemble as many good proof-prints I could lay my hands on, as well as liberate the boxes of blocks that had been 'carefully' - ahem - archived. 

We kept the majority in one of our sheds - and fortunately they all seemed to be in excellent condition. There are boxes and boxes and boxes of them - I haven't actually counted them all, and many of the blocks have more than one image on them (we wood engravers are very economical - and often squeeze more than one image onto a block - because for most purposes we just need one good proof to send to clients).

I also have several volumes of proof books, but there are major gaps, and eventually I hope to proof up images that are missing from the proof books.

The actually process of scanning is time consuming and - well lets face it - boring. I scanned each proof at a variety of high resolutions, checked them, re-touched them in Photoshop (just to take out any spots or paper edges that have been picked up in the scanning process). I scanned everything in 1 bit Tiff, mostly at 4800 dpi - which should give plenty of headroom for printing fidelity - and then checked again before recording the details in a database.

The first successful batch of scanned images is around 250 images, I have another hundred or two that are good quality proofs and need scanning (but I need a rest from the tedium!), and then there are all the blocks to go through - not sure how many, but maybe a thousand or so - maybe more!

The next step is getting all the details onto the new website - which is scoped and designed in principle, just need to actually do it! It's a bit of a leap of faith, but the intention is to offer the archive for sale and download as a royalty free resource. I won't make everything available to start with, just test the water, and we shall be holding back most of the repeat patterns for future projects - and maybe rights managed in certain circumstances - it's all a bit of an experiment at this stage.

I am also just giving some TLC to our mighty Albion, 150 years young but not showing her age too much (better nick than me) - and I have a slightly longer term project to get our Adana into shape (it's been in a shed for 20 years and is definitely not feeling well).

So much to do - so little time......

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Blue skies - ravishing wisteria

Our beautiful wisteria is blooming all over the studio wall - and smelling heavenly. The sunshine is just what it needs to be at its best - and isn't doing us any harm either.  

Just been working on a business card design, so that at least we've got something to hand out. So far it's looking like this:

Logo land

The wheels of industry are whirring over here at Starch Green. Along with getting our domain secured and a holding page up, we've also firmed up on the logo.

Jonathan has spent many hours scanning his delightful wood engravings so that we can offer them as high-resolution digital downloads - very soon.
Apart from grappling with the delights of databases, shopping carts and mystery gremlins, our next step will be oiling up the press and rolling out ink.