AIGA Minnesota Design Camp!


Normally we leave the shop about once or twice a year, which I realize is not nearly enough by my calculations nor the standards of a normal person. So if we are going to venture out we want it to be worth our while.

Design Camp was all that and more for us. The event was well-organized, full of awesome printed lovelies, and there were happy designers conversing and finding inspiration in every direction.

Spark was thrilled to host three letterpress workshops. We had two projects: a calendar and a set of coasters.

For the calendar, we made a 15-month wall calendar printed on various stocks. It had the words I am knocked out of a vintage Minnesota map. We did a split fountain from silver to copper and went for a very deep impression. We were very pleased with the results and were excited to get it into the hands of our workshop attendees. We brought along photopolymer stamps that completed the “I am” statement. Things like married to my iMac, creative, honest, caffeinated at all times, a Minnesotan, etc. Everyone had fun adding these words and phrases to their calendar. We had a few attendees who did not want to disturb the beauty of the calendar and that was cool too.


The coasters project was a simple one, but oh-so-fun. Before camp we printed up coasters in two colors – a minty green (with an opaque white base) to match some of the print materials and then black. The coasters featured some of über-awesome icons created by the Target In-House team. Then at camp we letterpress printed the AIGA Minnesota Design Camp 2011 logo in the upper left corner of each one. It was great fun to see the workshop attendees carefully pressing their coasters. This year we were the only hands-on workshop so I know it was an exciting break for all who came.


We’ll do a separate post to tell the story of our C&P Pilot because that has its own storied past.

Images in this post are courtesy of Lisa Valley.

Here are a few more pictures from the event courtesy of @iBran (Brian Douglas Hayes):
http://flic.kr/p/asDq7y
and http://flic.kr/p/asALBD

And even a few more pictures that we took:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sparkstationery/sets/72157627850007874/

Thanks again to everyone at Design Camp for making this our amazing outing for the year. We hope to see you again next year!

- Valerie & Jim

Spark's 2011 Calendars! Accordion style



I'll let our lead pressman Jim do most of the talking for this project, as he is the one responsible for using our "small" cylinder press to do this fun inking technique - split fountain.

We've been working on a number of Spark promotional pieces lately and have wanted to make sure each stands along to a certain extent. Whether it is the printing technique, design or materials, it is fun to give each piece it's own spin.

For the calendar, we knew early on that we would be doing a split fountain which not-so-simply has one color on one end of the ink fountain and another color on the other end. They subtly overlap somewhere in the middle giving us a gorgeous gradient of sorts.

Our retailers will be receiving our calendars early January 2011, so go take a look! The calendar features all of the patterns featured in our design book with a wash of blue to green inks across the calendar. Happy early New Year everyone!

Technical info from Jim:
For this job we first laid out several different pairs of colors which could produce a nice blend. Once chosen, the ink was loaded into the fountain with a hard rubber divider block in the middle. It is possible to do as many colors as you wish as long as you have enough dividers, within reason of course!

This method can be used to print two or more separate colors in one pass if the two design elements are far enough apart to avoid mixing of the colors, which can also be minimized by setting the sideways roller oscillation to zero (if possible.) For our purposes we cranked the oscillation to its maximum.

The Heidelberg cylinder allows infinite setting, where the windmill has a fixed setting, unless you rig a way to disconnect the arm driving the oscillation. Probably too much work to bother in most cases. For other presses (with which I'm less familiar) it depends on their particular roller/rider configuration. Note that this only works on fountains with a linear arrangement; with an ink disk you'd need to ink the rollers manually with two ink knives, and/or disable the rotation of the disk.

Initially I was concerned that the oscillation of the rollers would increasingly contaminate the two sides of the fountain with the adjoining color. It turned out that as long as the fountain roller has more ink on it than the ductor roller (at a given point of contact,) it transfers in one direction only, from the roller with more ink to the one with less ink. As the job ran I actually found myself wishing for more oscillation, but it worked fine to add color occasionally with the ink knife onto the rollers to make the gradient even smoother. Since the distributor and form rollers were less heavily inked than the fountain roller, it was possible to add blue ink to the green side without it working up into the fountain.

Printing with a split fountain will always make the results more "one of a kind" than usual, but in this case it turned out to be surprisingly controllable with some cautious setup. Even if the results are a bit surprising, some experimentation can produce some very nice results.

Back to Joy- There you have it! The New Year is one month away! Enjoy the rest of your holiday season!