Ready for another visually and intellectually stimulating time suck? Look no further than the wonderfully rambling blog Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie where said junkie Lew Jaffe shows off his personal collection of bookplates—which go way beyond those timid Papyrus “ex libris” stickers—as well as other related bits of graphical ephemera and goes on wild hare tangents that both inform and amuse. Seriously, any fans of spot color printing, woodcut, engraving and etching, hand-lettering, illustration and graphic design in general will find this otherwise modest blog to be pure design inspiration.
If ever I yearned to be in New York City in the winter it was now. On display now through February 15 the AIGA National Design Center in New York hosts The Lustigs: A Cover Story, described by AIGA as “an encyclopedic exhibition of the Lustigs’ design work.” Lovers of visual junk already know I’m a fan of the Lustigs’ work and so my excitement about this should come as no surprise. Their individual graphical styles seemed to complement each other’s, which one might expect in a husband and wife dynamic. However, both Elaine’s and Alvin’s work stand strongly as individual bodies in and of themselves.
What makes this particular exhibition shine is that many of the works are presented in final form — meaning that, in addition to the usual framed, precious-objects-behind-glass, many works appear as vintage printed books mounted to the walls (see inset). Such a presentation makes a world of difference; like seeing the actual Mona Lisa rather than a picture in a book — no matter how beautifully it was reproduced. See you in New York!
I’ve just added some new label scans to the Cult of the Goat bock beer labels gallery. It’s now up to 74 gruesome, goofy, and plain old weird looking goat-adorned labels from American breweries—like the one here from Fort Pitt Brewery, which resembles something out of a ’70s Salem witch trials movie. Enjoy!
Here’s a beauty that came to me via a friend and fellow 45 collector—an Alex Steinweiss cover for a box of Morton Gould 7-inch records on Columbia. Here’s the wonderful Steinweiss script we’ve come to love contrasted against some microscopic Futura type amid some rather basic geometric line art. Simple and beautiful and a great example of Steinweiss’ thin-line, slightly jittery, script lettering. Enjoy!
I found these two Alex Steinweiss-designed and illustrated album covers gathering dust in a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in South Austin. None of his beautiful, signature, curly script, but still fun nonetheless. They’re still there, so go grab ’em!
Here’s one of the stranger items I’ve stumbled upon in my dustbin diving. Apparently, you used to be able to stick a stamp on just about anything and mail it—including this aluminum Tray Postcard adorned with all of the highlights one could handle on their trip to the Lone Star State. There’s no indication of when this was created nor whether any were actually mailed or delivered to their intended recipients. Just a slice of potential postal history that managed to survive relatively unscathed. Seen one in the wild? Or, even better, received one?
I recently had the pleasure of seeing an exhibit of Robert J. Lang’s exquisite origami at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Lang’s work do yourself a favor and check out the wonderful documentary Between the Folds, which aired on PBS a while back and featured numerous other origami artists such as the master himself, Akira Yoshizawa. Robert J. Lang also has a TED talk where he discusses his process in greater detail.
I’m a sucker for 1950s color advertising photography, with its over-saturated colors and idyllic subjects and scenery. The packaging for the baia Instamount Photo Cube was no let down in this respect. Looking like scenes from bygone family-oriented TV shows the sides of this box, which held a once ubiquitous acrylic photo cube, wreak of family values and WASPy middle American life. The eye-catcher for me, though, was the simple 3-color baia logo set in a bold, slightly extended version of Clarendon. It feels rather modern for such a classic and commonly used typeface perhaps due to the even/odd interplay of the flipped words’ alternating characters. I owned a baia 8mm film editor some time ago and never paid much mind to the faded, black logo on it. I’d surely have kept the thing if the logo had appeared like this.
I’ve occasionally collected band/concert posters that I’ve managed to un-secure from walls and poles around the various cities I’ve lived in and visited, but they’ve always ended up rather mangled due to whatever packing tape, wheat paste or staples were keeping them in place. Not to mention have taken up a lot of space, what with their average 12″ x 18″ dimensions. And, no, I don’t remove posters before they’re “old,” so as to ensure they’ve lived out their intended purpose. Well, I’ve recently decided that I don’t need to own every piece of graphical ephemera I come across—mostly because I’ve mainly collected these posters as design inspiration rather than whatever precious little objects I or anyone else might believe them to be. So, here’s my online photo gallery of Austin Music Posters in the Wild. I’ll add new ones as I see/snap them. Sorry if the quality of some seem fuzzy. They are in the wild, after all. Please feel free to comment if you like and/or know the designers of any. Credit where credit is due.
The HandpaintedType project is a collaborative, on-going effort to preserve, well, the hand painted type of Indian street painters. A 10-minute documentary video introduces the project’s website visitors to a few of these forgotten masters as well as the computer-aided scoundrels who’ve made their skills “obsolete.” In the fast-moving haste of bustling Delhi, business owners prefer cheap and speedy Arial-based signs over the comparatively arduous, though stunningly artistic hand-painted banners of yore.
Behold this recently acquired stash of Bell Records 45 RPM and 78 RPM 7-inch vinyl records, which were distributed by Pocket Books and featured cover versions or “sound-alike” versions of popular tunes of the time. Sound-alike versions were cheap to produce and, beyond the flat rate the musicians were paid, cost the record company only publishing royalties on top of manufacturing and distribution. A nickel and dime game perhaps, but there was certainly profit to be made if enough unsuspecting customers bought the sound-alikes instead of the real McCoys. Some of the songs featured in this collection are Jackie Wilson’s That’s Why, here performed by otherwise-lost-to-history act, “The Muses” and the Kingston Trio’s hit, Tom Dooley, performed by the equally anonymous “The Four Dreams.”
Just an FYI that I recently uploaded some new hand-painted signs from Austin to the ever-growing exhibit, Hand-Painted and Hand-Made Signs. There are a few more, but this one here is my latest favorite. I love how universally used the bullet is for separating words that would otherwise run together.
“The Lost Type Co-Op is a Pay-What-You-Want Type foundry, the first of its kind.” So reads the first line on their About Us page. I had to read their About Us page because I wanted to find out what the catch was. Here are several typefaces—many vintage-inspired—that I’d like to own and each has a pay-what-you-will price model that ruffled the skeptical feathers on this bird. But there’s no catch. The Lost Type Co-Op really does sell high quality fonts designed for print and sometimes web use (@font-face) for whatever price—including zero dollars—you are willing to pay. Upon entering the amount and clicking the DOWNLOAD button on a particular font’s page, your download starts immediately and you are then redirected to PayPal to complete your order. Yes, your product is delivered before you finished paying for it.
Fellow type-obsessed collector, Molly Woodward, has embarked far beyond the shores of this occasional blogger’s endeavors with her website, blog and Kickstarter-funded film project, all appropriately titled “Vernacular Typography.” Visitors of my Hand-painted & Hand-made Signs exhibit may see some overlap, possibly in one or two sign photos, but definitely in a related passion for the often overlooked typographic relics scattered throughout cities as exotic as Havana, Florence and Newark. Her film has been successfully funded and I can’t wait to see what comes of it. While future generations may not have the real artifacts to admire and study, there will surely be sufficient digital archives thanks to the tireless efforts of folks like Molly. Cheers!
Renegade Darwinist/zoologist and truly “mesmerizing” illustrator Ernst Haeckel may have caused quite a stir when he posited organic matter as originating from inorganic matter through spontaneous generation. However, he’s most surely better known for his incessant visual chronicling of our planet’s oddest lifeforms and their myriad variations of form and color. In his article on the Public Domain Review, Dr Mario A. Di Gregorio, professor of the History of Science at the University of L’Aquila and author of From Here to Eternity: Ernst Haeckel and Scientific Faith, offers insight into the origins of Haeckel’s theories and the mind-bending art that came from his obsessive depictions of the Kunstformen der Natur, or Art Forms in Nature, which Haeckel published in 1904.
Click on over to Letterheady, a one-page scroller featuring letterhead designs for such notable figures as Nikola Tesla and Adolph Hitler to obscure companies like the Liverpool-based Robot Salesmen Ltd. They appear to be legit, with sources linking to other sites from which the examples were culled. Some seem to have been Photoshopped to give them an empty, unused state. Who cares. They’re fun to browse and fit right in here with my love of Visual Junk.
The tagline for the These Americans website is “American Art, History and Culture Through Pictures” and, while this image of “Bobo the Clown and Boy (1951)” portrays the selflessness and compassion that embodies the American spirit, the website does tend to highlight some of the more colorful aspects of the Home of the Brave. Take, for example, their gruesome collection entitled “American Lynching” that contains photos featuring crowds of smiling white folks (including children) squeezing into frame around bare-chested black men tied, hung by their necks and often burned.
The home page on Bap-Tizum.com contains two lines of text. The first of which reads: “Bap-Tizum.com is an archive of Black-American Christian spiritual music & sermons from the 1930s to the 1980s.” ‘Nuff said. Nothing about the drab, gray background or the poor quality Polaroid image that embellishes this page would clue you in to the fact that the site is a goldmine of forgotten audio recordings, ripped from the original vinyl records and organized by record speed: 33 (1/3), 45 and 78 RPM. Being a fan of old gospel music I’ve been loyally listening to Kevin Nutt’s Sinner’s Crossroads show on WFMU for years and I discovered this site from its contributions to the Free Music Archive.
But what pulled me into this site was its rather humbling collection of album cover and record label designs, which make up the entire user interface for listening to the audio tracks. Clicking on 45, for example, in the top navigation bar reveals an ever-expanding page displaying small-ish images of 45 label scans, each a link to their respective audio recording. I wish there were larger images available for us lovers of visual junk, but that’s just me wanting more of an already good thing. Spread the good word, Bap-Tizum.com is an inspired feast for the eyes and ears.
I just received my handmade vinyl record clock from vinylclockwork and love it! Mine was carved out of a Roger Williams LP on the classic and colorful Kapp Records label. I opted for the free-form version that I thought added to the uniqueness of the piece, though there is a ringed version with abbreviated (3, 6, 9, 12) numbering and a cool dot pattern fill. As a vinyl record collector I can assure you that no listenable albums were harmed in the making of these clocks. I applaud these folks and others who find a creative way to deal with the mountains of corny, cheesy, syrupy goo that our parents and grand parents listened to and that now collect dust by the crate-load.
I stumbled upon this blog post containing some remarkable photographs of cold war era monuments that seem right out of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie. My favorite is this one located on a hilltop in Podgarić, Croatia and also immortalized on this Yugoslavian postage stamp. From what I can dig up it appears to be a WWII memorial made of concrete and aluminum and was possibly erected in 1967. I remember seeing some similarly powerful Soviet-era monuments while travelling in Vietnam, but none as striking as these. What’s probably most eerie about them to me are the photographs themselves. The monuments certainly don’t seem contemporary, but instead rather futuristic and they appear more like relics of a lost civilization situated in uninhabited landscapes much like Inca and Mayan monuments must have looked to early bushwhackers. Days of Future Passed!