Inside Ephemera: The Box SF

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Our friend Mark E. Sackett featured in my Ephemera book has the most amazing business dedicated to paper ephemera, the history of graphic design, letterpress and more.

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The Box SF is a gorgeous space, formerly the William Randolph Hearst Printing Plant. The period details of the building plus the authentic fixtures and cabinets that Mark has lovingly collected, make The Box SF one of a kind. "It's beautiful and unique and there is really nothing like it in North America," says Mark. He literally has millions of items. 

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Very unfortunately, the pressroom and mercantile was flooded with sewage backflow earlier this month due to city sewer cleaning crew. As you can imagine, that's really awful in general—and particularly bad for preserving delicate vintage papers. "Full repairs will take a few months as both bathrooms must be gutted now and additional mold and spores work will be ongoing. You can't risk mold growing near vintage paper and printed items."

"I spent the last three years of my life and all of my life savings and retirement to build my dream Letterpress Shop and Store in San Francisco selling rare printed history," he says. With this flood not covered by insurance, he's facing over $60,000 in costs and repairs.

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When my home was flooded in the Calgary flood of 2013, most of my paper archives were ruined. I admit it that I was vainly thinking that perhaps someday the graphic design ephemera that I had made in my design career would someday be valuable, but I was indeed compelled to save all those portfolio items for posterity, at least for me to look back on. Anyway, I know first hand what moisture can do to paper and thankfully my livelihood wasn't affected by the loss of my own things.

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Although I haven't met Mark in person (yet! I look forward to visiting The Box SF someday), I can say from our conversations that he is a generous and optimistic person.

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Mark has set up a GoFundMe campaign, please consider supporting him as he and his team endeavour to recover and reopen the business. 

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"Our items have already survived a century or two and I will continue to work to save them," he says.

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Donate here. 

Purchase the Ephemera book.

Thank you!

scrapbooked ephemera items by Mr. Ned

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Mr. Ned (aka Ned Jolliffe) is an illustrator and designer from Oxford, England whose work can be seen on book covers, magazines and theatre posters. He has been compiling a scrapbook for about 10 years in which he pastes his collected ephemera items. "Juxtaposing a new bit or bob in its pages makes me very happy; It's not finished - there's lots of pages blank, and I fear the thing will disintegrate before I complete it,” says Ned.

"It's small, squarish little thing that has grown stout over the years from absorbing little ephemeral treasures as I trudge along the streets of wherever I happen to be at the time. My scrapbook is the one possession I would rescue from the raging flames."

To see more of Mr. Ned’s work, take a look at his portfolio here

Ex Postal Facto 2014

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A three day celebration of correspondence art, letter writing, and faux philatelics will be held this weekend in San Francisco. Ex Postal Facto runs tomorrow until Sunday at various venues around the city.  

Kicking off the conference the San Francisco Center for the Book will host an opening reception for their exhibition “Mail/Art/Book.” Showcasing pieces by contemporary artists working in the genre of correspondence art, the exhibition also provides a historical perspective of Networker/ postal culture in the bay area. 

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On Saturday a vendor expo will be held at the historic downtown San Francisco Elks Lodge, featuring small press publishers and artists whose work highlights faux postage (a.k.a artist stamps), postal art, and/or letter writing. 

Rounding out a weekend of events, the San Francisco Main Library hosts two different lectures. Featured speaker Lowell Darling will discuss his long-time association with the mail art scene in a panel titled “The History of West Coast Mail Art” moderated by San Francisco visual artist and writer John Held Jr..

Click here more information on the Ex Postal Facto 2014 conference. 

an ephemeral interlude

Shauna and James from Trigger sift through my random piles of ephemera and paper bits and pieces.

Shauna and James from Trigger sift through my random piles of ephemera and paper bits and pieces.

Finished Eclecto notebooks made with magazine makeready, lined paper that I designed and customized with ephemera.

Finished Eclecto notebooks made with magazine makeready, lined paper that I designed and customized with ephemera.

Today Shauna and James from Calgary advertising and design agency Trigger, stopped by for some mid-day creative fun. Throughout November, we've been hosting Thursday noon-hour creative workshops in UPPERCASE—offering designers a break from their usual routines and a chance to play. Today's session also offered me a nice pause from my desk; I've been glued to my computer—issue #16 is going to the printer next week!

I had a chance to rifle through some ephemera... enjoy!

Detail from a fire insurance certificate from 1904.

Detail from a fire insurance certificate from 1904.

Insurance document from 1914.
Insurance document from 1914.
A little box of anagram paper letters.

A little box of anagram paper letters.

Some embroidered letters still in their package.
Some embroidered letters still in their package.
Lucky initials for somebody!

Lucky initials for somebody!

Some makeready from an old issue and the diecut and foil-stamped Eclecto spines.

Some makeready from an old issue and the diecut and foil-stamped Eclecto spines.

Fire insurance for $500 and $6 deductible on a 1.5 story shingle roof. No lightning coverage. 1904.

Fire insurance for $500 and $6 deductible on a 1.5 story shingle roof. No lightning coverage. 1904.

type tuesday: stampede posters

For those of you not familiar with the Calgary Stampede, it is an annual exhibition and rodeo with midway rides, nightly fireworks and associated free pancake breakfasts scattered throughout the city (apparently there's an app for finding the breakfast nearest you). For ten days each summer, the city transforms into a strange cowboy and western set: hay bales are public seating, barnwood is tacked up on restaurant doorways, downtown office windows are painted with "yeehaws" and "howdy, partners". Not to mention the fashion: all shades of denim, bandanas, cowboy hats and boots (the more tassels, pattern and snaps the better)—it really aims to be the greatest outdoor show on earth. This year, the Stampede is marking its 100th year. I've lived in Calgary for 20 of them now, so I consider myself a proud Calgarian.

But Stampede is not quite my cup of tea... The Stampede is loud; I'm quiet. Beer tents and drinking is advertised as a featured activity; I don't drink. The midway offers bigger thrill rides; I have a weak stomach. Other than the fireworks and the photographic appeal of the midway at dusk, there's not a lot about Stampede that I can relate to.

I wonder what the early years of Stampede were like... I'd love to attend Stampede 1912 rather than 2012. Thanks to an exhibition in Art Central, I was able to a step back in time with the poster graphics of years gone by.

The exhibition is presented by AXIS Contemporary Art and Quintaro Graphic Reproduction and features digital poster reproductions on various substrates such as metal and rawhide. In addition to the typographic interest of the earliest posters, from a design standpoint it is interesting to see how versatile digital printing technology is. The show gave me lots of ideas of how I could reproduce graphic art and posters.

The posters will be on display until July 20th on the main level of Art Central, Calgary. (UPPERCASE's studio is on the upper level of Art Central.)