There's no better celebration of any season than the decorated tree adorned with the rich symbolism of nature—my ritual to inform and inspire you in the journey called life.

Friday, December 25, 2009

oh, tannenbaum

CHRISTMAS IS always full of wonder and surprise. Even in an age of crass commercialism, it is a time when people go out of their way to connect in a human way. In my Christmas card mail, I got an incredibly beautiful letterpress card (shown above, but you have to feel it to really appreciate its beauty) this year from Mohawk Fine Papers, one of my favorite paper companies. It was printed by Dauphine Press in Petaluma, California. The image on the front of the card is a tree made up of trees! It couldn't be more perfect for a tree-hugger like me! Letterpress has a beautiful indented texture. The process is an old form of printing that involves raised type that is pressed into the surface of the paper on heavy antique printing presses. Handset lead and wood type as well as metal printing plates are used to produce this painstaking printing process— true craftsmanship! Graphic designer Trish Kinsella started Dauphine Press in 1999. She relates on the company's website, "I wanted to be a part of bringing letterpress printing back into the American vernacular."

THE   SENTIMENT inside the Mohawk card says "in your honor a tree is being planted in a National Forest." On the back it says "This gift will make a lasting difference. Your tree is being planted so that our National Forests can be restored to their full grandeur…making them once again a place for inspiration for all who pass through, and a sanctuary for wild things of beauty and grace." It goes on with a link to the Arbor Day Foundation web page to learn more about the importance of replanting our National Forests and how you can help. I urge you to visit the site and take action.

THIS CARD really "wowed" me because it is rare that you see such attention to detail in correspondence these days except for wedding invitations and such. Paper companies always create the ultimate printed samples because it's their stock-in-trade. The internet has supplanted the written word in so many ways. Magazines and publishing companies are having crisis moments in keeping afloat. As a graphic designer, I remember really being resistant in embracing the computer for design because it was the first indicator that the tactile quality of my profession was going to disappear. I didn't realize then the far-reaching implications of that first loss of human touch. Although I love my Macintosh computer and couldn't imagine doing work without it, there's still something to be said for the human touch in experiencing a printed product. I for one, can't imagine reading a book on a Kindle. I love ink and paper too much. Hands holding a book or magazine and turning pages are part of the whole ritual!

THAT SAID, small stationery companies are popping up everywhere and bringing a revival to customized and civilized correspondence as it used to be. My good friend Gia Graham runs just such a company called Betsy White Stationery Boutique (a detail of one of her invitations using a tree image is at left). The company was started under another name by Gia and my cousin Angela Moland-Barnes (who has now moved onto a position at a local design firm). Much thanks to Gia of Betsy White (in Atlanta) and graphic designer Amanda Fuller (in Sydney, Australia) for featuring my trees on their blogs: Flights of Fancy and Calico & Co., respectively. That's just about as nice as a letterpress card!

IT'S RARE to see anything that is engraved or printed letterpress (or has the graphic quality of it) because it became one of the "lost arts" with the technological advances of more automated printing. I'm glad to see attention to detail and craft of printing being brought back to the forefront again. One of the oldest working letterpress shops in America, Hatch Show Print in Nashville Tennessee says it best on their site: "We are, indeed, a tonic for the information age." 

STARTING WITH one printing press and a cabinet of type in 1994 Hammerpress, a homegrown letterpress company founded in Kansas City by artist Brady Vest has grown to a handful of employees, several very heavy antique printing presses and tons of type. Their work is a self-described as "superfine letterpress ephemera" and is just another great example of  the craft of printing. They were featured in Martha Stewart Weddings magazine in the Fall of 2009. One of their wedding invitations was chosen to exemplify “Vintage Cool.” Drawing inspiration from old carnival broadsides, the invite used painstakingly handset wood and lead type with type ornaments.

IT'S NO MISTAKE that paper is made from trees because trees speak to all of us in a visceral way. Paper companies are finally being more responsible to the environment, especially Mohawk Fine Papers. I'll cherish my letterpress tree card from Mohawk and think of the tree contribution made to our National Forests, updating here when I find out who printed it for them. Their card was much more than a greeting.  

CHRISTMAS DAY is here, and the holiday season is winding down. I wish all of my friends and blog readers an abundance of the human touch and the best of the season. The element of touch is what connects us and heals our souls. Personalized "snail-mail" correspondence goes a long way to that end. 

LETTERPRESS TOUCH | This corporate holiday card from Mohawk Fine Papers (above, right) expressed an unusually profound sentiment with the gift of a tree to our National Forests in each receiver's name. 

LOVE LOGO #14 | Betsy White Stationery Boutique sells this beautiful invitation (above, left) using tree artwork to great effect. 

BARN SWALLOW ORNAMENT | These unique die cut barn swallow ornaments (bottom, right and under "ornament obsessions" on the left-hand column of this blog) are printed on recycled chipboard and come in a set of nine along with red and white baker’s twine for hanging. By (and available at) 


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