Sunday, March 20, 2011

New Wood burned in the Shop!
New mini apple boxes in the shop, available in 2 different styles. Perfect for a wedding ring or an emergency pill. The size of these will melt your cold, cold heart, I swear.

Also up are the new wood burned Salt Dishes. They can be used for so many different things, but I have mine storing sea salt on the table. The salt dishes are available in two different patterns. Like the mini apple boxes, these are also wood burned here in our Austin studio, so no two are exactly a like.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hand lettering for SXSW
Hand lettering is one of my favorite ways to create type, so when Salt & Time needed some large signage for SXSW, I immediately knew what I wanted to do. Here's a glimpse behind the design process in creating hand drawn type from start to finish.

It all starts with a sketch. I wanted the lettering to have a vernacular feel, like type you might see painted on the side of a butcher shop in a small town. The letters are slightly condensed with a narrow set width, tall x-height, and a ball terminal. Like how I just went all typography professor on you there? I can talk type all day long, and most days I do. To keep things consistent, I have a baseline (bottom line that type sits on), a mean line (middle line where most of the lower case letters stop), and a cap line (top line where most capitals stop) to guide in me shaping/sizing the letters. Without those lines, the letters would be a lot looser and feel too loose for this project.

Once the letters are shaped the way I want them, I redraw the outlines in black ink so I can bring it into the computer easily. Scanning in pencil drawings creates more work than needed, so this step is crucial, although it requires a very steady hand and some patience.

After I'm done with the ink outlines, I scan this into the computer at a crazy high resolution, 1200 dpi. This allows me to use the scan in Photoshop as a bitmap line drawing and quickly change the color without losing much resolution. But, I almost never work with type in Photoshop, so this is just a quick stop before I move into Illustrator. Ahem, *students*, please take note!

The scanned type is then brought into Illustrator and I use the Live Trace tool to translate it into a vector shape that can be manipulated. Unlike what you may have heard, Live Trace is not a 1-2-3-bam-MAGIC! tool. It takes a lot of finessing to get the settings right so your drawing isn't some hot mess of a million points. Again, patience is key here to getting the settings correct for your type of drawing. It all pays off, though, because the closer you can get it in Live Trace, the less mess you'll have to clean up later. Here's a screen shot from Illustrator showing the outline and points of my letter "a", shown in magenta. Those lines in the background are from the pattern used behind the type. After going back and forth with the points, I end up keeping a lot of the wonkiness (that's a technical term) in the letters so it still maintains a hand drawn feel. The curves aren't perfectly smooth, but that helps it maintain the vernacular look. You can see that most easily in the "u".

Here is the final sign, after a day of getting beat up a bit outdoors. It's five feet wide and 2.5 feet tall. It feels sooo satisfying to design something that will be HUGE. That stacked "g" is bigger than Ben's head. For the record, I didn't make that arrow. We had a nice arrow facing the other direction, but after a day they had to move the location of the sign, so the arrow was flipped via sharpie. Overall I was pretty happy with the way this turned out, and it definitely helped grab people's attention.

If you want to learn more about hand lettering, there are tons of great tutorials online and lots of great books to study. Or, you can also sign up for my Expressive and Experimental Typography course.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Today was a shitty day. Devastation and tragedy in Japan. Hours of not knowing if friends are ok abroad (thankfully heard yes, everyone is ok). Can we just start over and try today again, from the top, fellas?

Then there's Wisconsin governor Scott Walker signing into law a bill that cuts the bargaining rights of union workers.

Power In A Union from JD on Vimeo.
To all my union friends and organizers out there, we are thinking of you.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

SXSW starting up
Hay Maze
Hay Maze from Full Belly Farm Hoes Down festival. Capay Valley, CA.

So far, so good on the letter challenge. I've already send out two letters and have been facebook-free. Weaning myself off twitter is a bit harder, as I find that much more exciting and useful. I used to mock twitter, and then I finally committed to it and haven't looked back. Speaking of twitter and all things social media-related, SXSW is starting in a few short days. I'm a bit nervous to be finally living here in town for the maddness that is SX. The locals complain endlessly about the traffic and crowds, but they forget how much cold hard cash the event brings in during a 10-day period.

 Salt & Time will be selling grilled sausages and drinks starting next week outside of Public School, so be sure to swing by from 3/16-3/19 and say hello. I may pop in to help out and do some crowd watching--they will be just outside of the French Legation Museum, which has a great line up of shows.

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Saturday, March 05, 2011

Letter Challenge: Week One
Full Belly Farm
This last week my students and I were talking about the incessant need to have a screen in front of us at all time, checking facebook, twitter, rss feeds, and the like. The quiet time to sit and think has been replaced with apps and constant updates that hit us at lightening speeds. When does our brain slow down anymore? It doesn't. In line with some new year's resolutions, I am trying to find ways to make myself slow down.

This week I'm taking a no-Facebook challenge. I have a love/hate relationship with facebook. It can be fun at times, but often it's just distracting and feels hollow. Who are all these friends? Most are old acquaintances from various periods in my life. Facebook helps me keep in touch, but it's such a distant kind of "touch" that it rings hollow most of the time. I use it more for promoting our businesses, which is extremely helpful, yes, but that's about it. I recently starting writing letters again (remember those?) and I find that nothing beats a letter in the mailbox. Well, maybe a beautiful flower arrangement, but letters come damn close. I have saved nearly every letter I've ever received (several large boxes worth), so I can attest to their power.

Letters, however, take time, so we use shortcuts instead. But if you add up all the time spent using shortcuts (facebook wall posts, messages, twitter @mentions, gowalla/foursquare check ins), couldn't you just sit down and write a short card to the few people you really want to stay connected to? I think so. I am going to try and do just that.  I have several friends who are excellent penpals and I owe them some return mail.

The Challenge: This week I am keeping myself off facebook and will be writing letters & cards instead. 

Dear Readers, 
Does anyone else out there want to join in and pledge a facebook-free week, replaced with honest-to-God pen-to-paper correspondence instead? Leave a comment and let me know if you want to join in. We can all use a social media break.

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Friday, March 04, 2011

Outside the studio
Audrey's 1st lesson
Least you think I never leave the studio (although it sometimes feels that way), here's a quick recap of February adventures. I took Audrey for her first horse back rising lesson. Here she is making her horse moonwalk, which was pretty impressive. She was as natural as could be on that horse. Are all 7 year old girls like this? She was trotting, turning, and in charge within 40 minutes.

New Orleans
For President's day weekend, we zipped down to New Orleans to celebrate my mother's 65th birthday, along with 2 other family birthdays. I say zipped, but what I mean to say is a 9-hour car ride with two small kids. Thank god for Red box. Twelve members of my crew wandering around New Orleans can be dangerous; one trip to the ER later, all was fine. Let's just say that when you go to a five-star restaurant, you might want to check out the sturdiness of their chairs before the 80-years old matriarch of your family sits down in one.

Butcher in New Orleans
Sadly, Ben couldn't join on this trip, so I took the pilgrimage with my folks to visit Cochon Butcher. The space was beautiful and well designed, but no one was butchering so I felt a bit of a let down. I wanted to see some sides of beef hanging. I guess naming it the more appropriate "Deli" was less exciting.

Pastrami at Butcher, New Orleans
We ordered a few sandwiches, which were a bit less than stellar. The pastrami, above, was not what we New Yorker's think of as a pastrami sandwich. My dad scoffed at the use of a sweet pickle (!!), but I was more bummed by the lack of meat on the sandwich and lack of flavor. It looked so promising! I am obsessed with their branded deli wrap paper. If only it wasn't so expensive to print, I would have that all over Salt & Time. I spend too much time thinking about food packaging.

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