trick or treat: get this book!

The Elegant Cockroach is an illustrated storybook for whimsical adults and sophisticated children. Makes a sweet, calorie-free Hallowe'en treat for those with a soft spot for romance, bookstores and beautiful collage.

Written by Deidre Anne Martin, illustrated by Stefanie Augustine. Published and designed by UPPERCASE. Special sale price until Hallowe'en! Read about it at Book by Its Cover.

book review: Heather Ross Prints

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Heather Ross Prints (STC Crafts, September 2012) is a crafty take on the book + cd bundle. The disc contains dozens of files of Heather Ross's pattern designs based on her charming illustrations; the intent is that the reader print out the files on paper or fabric on their home inkjet printer. (The designs are also available to print on-demand on Spoonflower.) The completed projects include dishtowels, pillowcases, aprons, nightgown, stitched journal, notepads and other simple items. "It makes use of printers and computers just as much as it does sewing machines and decoupage glue," writes Heather in the introduction.

The book is amply illustrated with nice style shots of the completed project and how-tos illustrated by Heather. With the premise of the crafts being made from the files included on the DVD, then the eager crafter must have a certain level of computer prowess as well as patience to wait for a delivery of internet-ordered fabric in the mail. If you want to make a tablecloth, wallpaper, or other items specifically because you're a fan of Heather's illustrations, then having access to these files is a real treat. That being said, the votive holder, apron, cotton napkins, etc would be nothing special without using beautiful patterns and textiles. 

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The most interesting section of the book reveals Heather's step-by-step process of creating designs in Photoshop. With screenshots of the entire process, it is quite informative to snoop over her shoulder and see a scanned pencil sketch turn into a wonderful illustration and pattern design. For me, this section is the reason to purchase the book. I would assume that someone wanting to create digital fabric and use it in their sewing in fact aspires to print their own designs and this section shows you how. (Heather has some previews of these pages posted on her blog.)

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book recommendation: Ruby Star Wrapping

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One of the perks about being an editor of a magazine is that publishers generously send preview copies of forthcoming books in the hopes that you will promote the title. There's quite a stack of books awaiting my review—now that issue #15 is off my plate, I'll start sharing the best titles here on the blog (read about Louise Fili's new book here). Ruby Star Wrapping: Creating Packaging to Reuse, Regive & Relove by Melody Miller and Allison Tannery is a standout and was moved right to the top of the pile. The submission included a letter from the book's publicist, Jennifer Campaniolo at Roost Books, but also a handwritten note from Melody and some actual finished crafts from the book. The book preview sent was just a black and white printout, but even from that (and without the goodies), I could tell that the book is beautiful. (Flip through a digital preview over here.)

In reading the book, I quickly discovered why the book is so beautiful... Of course it features the bright and quirky textile designs of Melody Miller, but the book's stunning product and style photographs are by her husband, Greg Miller. The book's design is by writer Allison Tannery's husband, Blake Tannery. Ruby Star Wrapping is obviously a labour of love for everyone involved. Each has brought their exceptional talents to this book, a publication that is all about giving gifts in beautiful packages.

The projects in Ruby Star Wrapping are really easy to accomplish. Those who are naturally crafty might not necessarily need a book with instructions on how to, say, sew a drawstring bag or turn a cereal box inside-out and decorate it... However, I think much of this simplicity is on purpose; this is a book about making the packaging for gifts, so a quick and easy assembly is actually an asset. Perhaps when the gift itself is less creative, like the ubiquitous gift card, then the presentation can become more elaborate, like this Gift Card Truck Softie.

This pillow with pocket is a double gift: the pocket is meant for a gift card.

This pillow with pocket is a double gift: the pocket is meant for a gift card.

The use of vintage and repurposed fabrics emphasizes the ethos of the book: why give a gift in wrap that is thrown away? Give something where the entirety, packaging included, is the gift.

The use of vintage and repurposed fabrics emphasizes the ethos of the book: why give a gift in wrap that is thrown away? Give something where the entirety, packaging included, is the gift.

While the crafts might be simple, the gorgeous styling and photography elevate the content from just a how-to book into a lifestyle book. This is the kind of pretty craft book that you just enjoy looking through... it gives you that joyful boost of encouragement: "yes! I can do this at home!" As a book designer (and publisher) this is the kind of book that I personally love to see; where all elements have been considered and come together seamlessly.

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I have seen Melody's typewriter print fabric a lot lately; it seems a favourite with Etsy sellers. Melody included a length of fabric inside a gift box covered with the design. I asked Melody about the typewriter motif:

I don’t currently own a typewriter, but I’m always looking for objects to include in my designs that are meaningful and nostalgic without necessarily being kitschy. The typewriter just happened to strike the right chord. I still remember the rare occasions when my mother borrowed and brought home a typewriter from the bank where she worked. I felt supernaturally strong carrying it around in its case (I had never been allowed to pick up something so important!), and would beg to use it when my mother was finished. Sitting at a table hitting all those keys fulfilled my every fantasy of being grown up and busy and important.
— MELODY MILLER

Ruby Star Wrapping is available here.

type tuesday: Elegantissima by Louise Fili

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We send our congratulations to Louise Fili and the talented people at her studio on the release of the new monograph about Louise's design and typography. I received a copy of Elegantissima last week and it has been my constant companion, sitting beside me at my desk. During breaks from designing issue #15, I'd turn to its pages for visual and mental refreshment. (Ah, such delicious food packaging!)

There is a short and sweet foreword written by Steven Heller, Louise's husband. He shares a typewritten letter from 1982 that he wrote to Louise, complimenting her on her book designs. At the time, he was art director of the New York Times Book Review. "I had never met [Louise] and, in fact, had never laid eyes on [her] before. A little more than a year later we were married," he writes.

The works presented in Elegantissima are beautiful examples of the romance between designer and letterform. Louise's life-long passion for beauty, perfection and play is evident page after page.

portrait of Louise Fili by Jordan Provost, issue 9

portrait of Louise Fili by Jordan Provost, issue 9

I am honoured that one of my design heroines has been part of UPPERCASE—we featured Louise in issue 9 in an article written and photographed by Jordan Provost. (See additional photos from the article below.) Louise is also one of the designers who participated in Beautiful Bitmaps, so we can all look forward to seeing her submission in issue 15.

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Elegantissima is published by Princeton Architectural Press. Issue 9 is available in our online shop along with other back issues—quantities are dwindling and back issues won't be reprinted.

contributor: Karen Klassen

Little Red Cap, Karen Klassen

Little Red Cap, Karen Klassen

Karen Klassen wrote an article for issue #14. Her creativity extends beyond the written word into her work as an illustrator.

"My Little Red Cap piece is the first in my GRIM series, a collection of fashion illustrations based on selected Grimms' Fairy Tales. Other pieces that are currently underway are Snowdrop, Hansel & Gretel, and Snow White & Rose Red. Those Grimm brothers were not a cheery pair."

Karen's work was also a part of The Shatner Show.

type tuesday: Jan Middendorp visit

JAN MIDDENDORP VISITS THE UPPERCASE STUDIO, JULY 30, 2012

JAN MIDDENDORP VISITS THE UPPERCASE STUDIO, JULY 30, 2012

If you don't already receive the occasional transmissions from My Fonts entitled "Creative Characters", you should definitely sign up. With in-depth profiles and lots of visuals, these mailings go beyond your typical e-newsletter. "Creative Characters" is written by Jan Middendorp, a designer and writer currently based in Berlin. Jan was travelling through Calgary to visit some family before heading off to TypeCon this week—I was honoured that he stopped by UPPERCASE.

Jan is the author of an amazing typographic tome, Dutch Type, released in 2004. The 300+ page book is an excellent guide to the many prolific Dutch typographers both historical and contemporary. I'm lucky enough to have a copy that I ordered from the Netherlands back when it was first released; the book is quite rare now and Jan himself has just a couple copies left. 

Jan shared a preview of his newest work, Shaping Text. Published in two editions (Dutch and English) this book is an overview of typography with a very current and appropriate slant: whether in print or on the web examples of good design are shown with equal importance rather than relegating web- or multimedia-based design projects to an afterthought chapter.

Thanks, for stopping by, Jan. Have fun at TypeCon!