guy friday: typewriter show and tell with Smokeproof Press

Brad's collection of typewriters are housed in their cases on a shelving system he devised.

Brad's collection of typewriters are housed in their cases on a shelving system he devised.

During my last few hours in Boulder, I was happily surprised with an invitation to visit Brad O'Sullivan's letterpress studio. (We featured Smokeproof Press back in issue #8's Letterpress Sampler. Copies are still available for sale in our shop.)

Thank you to Allison of Bird Dog Press for making this happen and for my Crafting Content partner-in-crime Heide Murray of All Good Wishes who also drove me to the airport after our visit. (Check out Heide's amazing felt creatures.)

Brad shows us one of his many machines. 

Brad shows us one of his many machines. 

A gorgeous "Floating Shift" key.

A gorgeous "Floating Shift" key.

Allison and Heide admire the details.

Allison and Heide admire the details.

An Italian Olivetti art deco-era in mint condition.

An Italian Olivetti art deco-era in mint condition.

An Hermes Rocket in hot orange.

An Hermes Rocket in hot orange.

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A later model Hermes Rocket is workhorse grey.

A later model Hermes Rocket is workhorse grey.

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For me, the ephemera of typewriters are part of the appeal.

For me, the ephemera of typewriters are part of the appeal.

An Odell Typewriter wooden box.

An Odell Typewriter wooden box.

Thanks, Brad, for climbing up and retrieving one amazing machine after another.

Thanks, Brad, for climbing up and retrieving one amazing machine after another.

A cursive model.

A cursive model.

Brad saves ink samples in old film cannisters, with typewritten labels of course.

Brad saves ink samples in old film cannisters, with typewritten labels of course.

In addition to the typewriter collection, there were plenty of things to keep an eye happy at Smokeproof Press.

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Note the collection of UPPERCASE magazines on the upper shelves!

Note the collection of UPPERCASE magazines on the upper shelves!

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Thanks again, Brad, Allison and Heide for your hospitality.

typewriter fun with florals

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If you follow me on Instagram, you'd have seen a flurry of floral typewriter pictures this afternoon. I was experimenting with photos (digital camera, Polaroid, Instagram) for some the Typewriter Notecard collaboration with Chronicle Books.

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TYPEWRITER NOTECARDS is a boxed set of 20 notecards and envelopes featuring photographs of vintage typewriters, taken by UPPERCASE readers. It will combine our love of this outdated-but-not-forgotten icon into beautiful notecards suitable for a variety of occasions.

There's still time to get your photographic submissions in! Full details are right here.

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When a batch of over 200 plastic theatre marquee letters came up for auction on eBay, I couldn't not try to win it. Hooray, the letters are mine, and at around $2 apiece, I think this was a pretty good deal. I can spell pretty much anything with the selection, though the letter "i" is in shorter supply and I wish there was more than one "&". I have lots of ideas of what to do with them, but first order of business was to clean off the cobwebs (or whatever insect nests were lurking in the corners). Now when visitors enter the studio, they will know who we are.

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I needed a smaller "FOR" to match my metal "THE", so I had to make those up using wooden letters.

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I like it! This will be staying up for a while I think.

Anna Tilson: pretty mosaics from broken china

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Sometimes I come across something so perfect and amazing in its concept and execution that I have the following two reactions, often one right after the other:

  1. I want to immediately stop what I'm doing and go out and try making it myself.
  2. I realize that I'll never do something as awesome, so I might as well not bother.

Broken china with floral patterns made into mosaic floral arrangements? The concept is so simple, but artist Anna Tilson does it perfectly. Perhaps I'll just save my pennies and someday purchase one of her mosaics.

I'm in love with that pink and orange shard!

I'm in love with that pink and orange shard!

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Discovered thanks to a Google search prompted by the last post, "Brighton" + "mosaics".

In tribute to James Gordon Irving

photo by Leslie Fandrich

If you were a kid sometime between 1955 and 1975, you likely remember the Golden Nature Guides. They were pocket-sized books filled with incredible drawings of animals, plants, rocks and minerals. The first one, Birds, was printed in 1949 and was illustrated by James Gordon Irving.

The opening spread of Leslie Fandrich's article about Golden Guides illustrator James Gordon Irving.

The opening spread of Leslie Fandrich's article about Golden Guides illustrator James Gordon Irving.

So begins Leslie Fandrich's excellent article in issue #15 about illustrator James Gordon Irving. Personally, the Golden Nature Guides had a big impact on me. I used to check them out of the school library religiously... I loved how the small-size guide fit in my hand and that you could collect multiple topics. When I was little, I dreamed of being a botanist or geologist and used to copy drawings and diagrams out of these guides into my own notebooks. As I grew older, I realized that I liked making the drawings and the experience of the books themselves more than the scientific topics.

When Leslie presented the idea of profiling one of the illustrators of the Golden Nature Guides, I was very excited. She describes her personal connection to the books and how the article came to be:

My husband found his old copies of these beautiful books in his parents’ basement and my two young sons immediately loved them. It sparked a desire in me to find out what had become of Mr. Irving. I wondered if he was still alive and what other work he may have done. Searching online yielded limited information, but I found an article that said he lived nearby in the town of Haworth, New Jersey. We contacted a librarian there, who said she knew of him and thought he had died recently, but, after making a few phone calls, she learned that he was still alive at the royal age of 98 and he would love to hear from us. 

It took at least nine months to arrange a meeting. Mr. Irving was hospitalized with pneumonia for a few months, and when he returned home, communication over the phone was difficult. We finally called the librarian and asked if there was anyone who could help us set up a meeting. She got us in touch with his son Bruce, who had been spending every day taking care of his father since he had come home from the hospital. He felt that it would be a real pleasure for his dad to bask in some attention for a few hours.

Finally, the day had come to interview Mr. Irving, and I was excited about the conversation. Arriving at the modest white split-level house on a warm, sunny morning, we were let in by Bruce, who answered the door. Hung throughout the main floor of the house were at least 13 paintings of Mr. Irving’s signature flowers and birds, along with a few portraits. An amazing oil painting of chrysanthemums hung over the mantle.

We are grateful that Leslie had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Irving and to write such an informative and interesting article about this important artist. Sadly, Gordon passed away in August and the article is now a printed tribute and celebration of his talent and impact.

A self-portrait of James Gordon Irving from his days in the Navy.

type tuesday: 15 puzzle

As I read through the printer proofs of issue 15, I present these images of the sliding 15 puzzle to ponder. This puzzle, invented around 1874, involves 15 sliding blocks in random order, in rows of 4 with one tile missing. The object is to slide them back into numerical position.

According to Wikipedia: "The game became a craze in the U.S. in February 1880, Canada in March, Europe in April, but that craze had pretty much dissipated by July. Apparently the puzzle was not introduced to Japan until 1889."

i remember getting cheap versions as birthday party favours when I was a child.

a model man

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As part of my research for The Typewriter book, I am looking at a lot of old ads spanning the last century. The ads are full of images of people: models, mystery hands... men, women and children (and the occasional fox) employed at the time to represent the typewriting experience in some way. For the most part, they remain uncredited, anonymous folks from decades ago. Imagine my surprise and delight when Amy Rowan emailed to share these photos and ads starring her grandfather!

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Her grandfather, George Thomas Fitzsimons, was a model in the 20s and 30s. 

He and I were very close, Monday, September 10th will be the seventh anniversary of his passing. I believe I got much of my creativity from him. He was an inventor and a tinkerer (a mechanic by trade) and always taking pictures with his modified point-n-shoot. I put a selection of his modeling portfolio on flickr. There you can read the intro I wrote for the book I made for family. He supported his family during the depression (his two siblings were also in show business but not as successful). He has a small appearance in the 1932 Oscar-winning movie The Grand Hotel, but it's only a flash of him as a bellhop and then he's gone. He starred in a silent movie, you can see images from that in the photo pool. I could relay a million different stories—his brushes with death at a Macy's shoot, getting picked up in a limo in his small town, refusing to undress for a swimming scene... I guess his greatest achievement as a model was sitting for Norman Rockwell.

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Thank you, Amy, for sharing your grandfather's story.

Etsy & UPPERCASE: Sushipot Vintage

The current issue, #14, features the Etsy seller Suzanna Scott's collection of vintage play blocks. Suzanna actually has two shops: Sushipots Vintage sells beautiful old toys, instant collections and fodder for creativity and Sushipot highlights Suzanna's original collages and assemblages.

Vintage Sewing Basket full o' Crafty Notions

Vintage Sewing Basket full o' Crafty Notions

Suzanna's product shots are fantastic!

Suzanna's product shots are fantastic!

Sushipot art block.

Sushipot art block.

Such a gorgeous photo makes these little game pieces all the more appealing.

Such a gorgeous photo makes these little game pieces all the more appealing.

Etsy & UPPERCASE: part of my everyday

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Almost a year ago, I purchased this set of Melmac dishes from Auction Junkies. I wanted to get some child-friendly dishes for Finley; something small that would fit on his highchair tray—and that could withstand the occasional fall (or toss!) to the floor. This inexpensive (just $12 plus shipping) odd set with three cups, multiple saucers and shallow bowls, has seen daily use. He stores the dishes in his play kitchen, so they see double duty: for food and for fun.

keep your eye on the ball

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If these photos (found on One Plus One) of baseball players in the 1800's don't say old-fashioned summer fun, we don't know what does. There is an explanation of how they were created, but we prefer to think of them as an example of how we all want to take moments from the long days of August and stop them in time. We hope your weekend is filled with frozen treats and picture-perfect moments. 

girl friday: just the type

Curiously, this postcard is missing a few legs... from the chair and the desk! I do suppose those would be quite distracting... For an intriguing NSFW visual survey of women and the typewriter "at work", Paul Robert's illustrated book Sexy Legs and Typewriters compiles over 100 photos and advertising images of "women in office-related advertising, humor, glamour and erotica." A (full frontal) preview to make you blush is over here. >>>