It’s time again for us to throw open our doors, hand you a beer and show you all that our letterpress studio has to offer. March 22nd we’re teaming up with our basement neighbors, Westwerk Design and Hennepin Made to host a basement block party. Glass blowing demos will be happening at Hennepin Made, Westwerk is flush with games (foosball anyone? darts? bubble hockey?) and of course we’ll have a poster on press as per tradition.
It’s a family friendly-ish event (we’ll have a kids activity) that starts at 4 and runs until we give up. So grab a coworker, a friend, and/or your mom and come on down. Oh, there’s a Facebook invite you can RSVP to, if you’re into that sort of thing.
This is a call for your help. As a reader of Beast Pieces you may have wondered where a crazy letterpress shop like Studio On Fire began. Here is a little background story from company principal, Ben Levitz:
I went to College of Visual Arts (CVA) as a kid right out of high school. I choose it because of the small campus size and the fine arts focused BFA degree. I wasn’t sure what on earth I wanted to do with an “art” degree, but I knew I loved making things. And I liked that CVA wasn’t the slickest or fanciest campus. It seemed like a place for focused art exploration with an amazing faculty. I enrolled with my mother still skeptical. ( I think she was just nervous about sending her son off to do nude figure drawing. ) I embarked on a four year arts journey that taught me fancy words like chiaroscuro and gestalt. I learned about everyone from Hieronymus Bosch to Paul Rand. I even did my nerdy typography-based senior thesis on a fellow named William Dwiggins who designed typefaces for letterpress printing. I graduated with a BFA in Communication Design and a passion for visual culture.
I struggled during my schooling choosing between a design major and a sculpture major. I ultimately chose a design major because I wanted to eat. But after graduating CVA in 1998, I quickly found in my first design job a very different experience than the one I had as a CVA student. Most of my work day was locked into the glowing screens of design, not making stuff with my hands. And most of the stuff I did make, ended up in trash cans of clients. I sought change. I wanted to make stuff that people would love and keep. I wanted some outlet for craft that related back to my college experience. So, in the fall of 1999, my and evenings and weekend were spent beginning a letterpress printing space in my home basement. I called it Studio On Fire, named for the Typographer Frederick Goudy who twice lost his lifes work to studio blazes. Fast forward 14 years – the company Studio On Fire is a best-in-class letterpress shop with a dozen employees and clients all over the world. Gestalten even published a recent book of projects that were printed in our studio.
Learning at CVA was one of those amazing life experiences that was so formative to my valuation and passion for craft and design. As Studio On Fire grows as a business, this is what we value. Craft. Design. It was that simple framework of learning that provided a chance for me to focus my passions and ultimately build a unique business that reflects the things I love.
The sudden announcement in January of CVA’s closure was a bombshell. In addition to running Studio On Fire, I’m now busy as President of a group called CVA Action making the case to our creative community that CVA deserves a chance to stay open. Yes, it is going to take some big changes. It is going to require vision beyond what the current Administration and Board of Trustees could offer. This change is big and we have an amazing team of people stepping in to surround this effort. I believe those changes can be made and I am stepping up to play my part. This is vital to the Saint Paul community, vital to Minnesota, and vital to creativity. But we need your help.
I’m going to the mat and asking you to consider a gift of money to this vital part of our creative community. If you love what we do at Studio On Fire, you already recognize the value a creative education brings to business. I am hoping you care enough about this cause to contribute.
For more details about our fundraising campaign, visit our website CVA Action. Time is of the essence. This is our last, best hope to save our beloved school and make the needed changes so we can put CVA back on the path to a successful and sustainable future. Please make a donation in any amount today.
You can make this happen, and we are so grateful for your support.
So Eastpak have this new campaign out which really made me smile. It’s called (breathe in) ‘When was the last thing you did something for the first time‘. It’s got a nice online exploratory site where you get to watch people jumping off cliffs and kissing gracious old men. So I thought I’d tell a story about what I just did for the first time.
I moved to Stockholm. I had definitely never been to Stockholm before, in fact I had never moved anywhere other than good old London before so I was bricking it. What if I don’t earn any money? What if I don’t make any friends? What if they make me do cross country skiing? etc.
My girlfriend had been offered a job at H&M in Stockholm to be a print designer – a pretty big deal for her. She said we didn’t have to go, to which my reply was ‘fuck that, we’re going’. I needed an adventure. And I have to say, so far (2 months in) it’s been great. Swedish people are different to English people but just as nice and salted liquorice is pretty much the most addictive thing I’ve ever eaten (though disgusting too, very confusing). I now have a nice job and a flat with a view (see below) and I’m looking forward to a Swedish summer.
So I guess my point is, gap years aside, if you are pondering whether to make a big life decision you have to just ask yourself ‘whats the worst that could happen’. Things usually work out well if you’re willing to try.
This trailer for a new animated short The Chase directed by Philippe Garner of french animation studio Space Patrol is pretty visually impressive, however it’s his earlier work, Stop Pain, which really caught my eye. A sad tale with a surreal twist at the end. Worth a watch.
Philippe’s Vimeo channel is here – worth subscribing to for future use we figure.
Boom. Here is the new video for M.I.A’s single ‘Bad Girls’ – it only premiered live on Noisey about an hour ago.
‘It was dope to have so many people from so many different backgrounds speaking so many different languages come together to create something that we believed in,” says M.I.A about the video. “I thought I was gonna die on the shoot when I saw the drifting. It was a four day shoot so everyone was on edge the whole time specifically ME when I had to do bluesteel singing to the camera while the cars did doughnuts on the wet road ten feet away. In my mind I was thinking how I was gonna deliver the video to Vice with no legs.”
Subscribe to Noisey here for more of this sort of shit.
Ever wondered what happens when the door shuts on the world’s taxidermy collections? Thanks to this video from The Erratic Man, we now know:
The single is the first from Worker Records – an internal label at BETC London – the younger British brother of the Parisian adfolk behind those Evian roller babies.
And that’s not all. If you’ve got a pet (either living or deceased) who you’d like to see warbling along to ‘Back In The Day’, you can do just that at Petchoir.com.
The creative team responsible for the taxidermised troubadours are a young placement duo, Mike Whiteside and Ben Robinson, who’ve managed to find the time for a quick chat with SSZ about their experiences, ambitions, and that video.
SSZ: So guys: where are you from and what has been your journey to date?
B&M: Well, Mike’s from Bournemouth and Ben’s from Reading. We met on the excellent Creative Advertising Course at the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham, which is always bit of a mouthful. That’s why we’ve now moved to London. Easier to say.
SSZ: How did you find yourselves at BETC? Are you finding the placement useful?
B&M: We exhibited at D&AD’s New Blood, which was visted by Neil Dawson, our creative director. Neil saw our work and must’ve liked it, which is surprising considering the focal piece was a gross spec ad we did for Veet for Men.
Anyway, we’re very glad he did and we’re learning a lot. It’s great for us that BETC isn’t a huge agency here yet. It means we’re learning from people who, in most agencies, it’d be hard to get any time at all with.
SSZ: Where did the inspiration for this taxidermy masterpiece come from? And where did you get all the critters?
B&M: We were briefed to come up with some album covers and posters, around the concept of ‘broken joy’. We scribbled down the taxidermy idea, half-formed along with a few others, on a piece of paper. Neil saw it and sort of went, ‘yeah! Let’s do that!’
The critters were all part of the collection at London Taxidermy, which is an amazing, if slightly unnerving, place. We were spotting new dead things all day and we think you could probably say the same if you were there for a whole year. That’d be a weird year.
SSZ: You guys are on placement at BETC right? How did it feel to have such an exciting creative brief so early on?
B&M: Yeah it’s been a really great project to be involved with. This is our first placement, so we dunno, maybe they’re all like this. But we suspect we’ve been pretty spoiled here on that front.
SSZ: It seems unusual that an ad agency would not only set up a record label but devote so much time to what is effectively an internal project. What do you think BETC are looking for out of this?
B&M: BETC’s got a fantastic attitude to creativity and they want to foster a really strong creative culture here. The office in France has set the bar incredibly high and the London office are keen to do the heritage justice and just make great things, some of which will be ads.
SSZ: 30,000 views in under a week – does this make you viral superstars yet? What are your ambitions and are you now addicted to the medium of the music video?
B&M: We’re really chuffed with how it’s going down. Saying that, we saw a video this morning of a dog with human hands eating Dairylea Dunkers. It had over 400,000 views so we’ve probably got a little way to go yet.
We don’t think the best creative stuff’s necessarily advertising, so we’d love to get involved with more projects like this in the future. For now though, we’re just enjoying learning and improving.
SSZ: Any advice to other young teams or single creatives? Any golden rules?
B&M: In one word, persist!! We’ve got more detailed advice on our blog though, so have a read.
Being the paper-oriented people that we are, our friends over at westwerk design handled the creation of the site for us. Not only were they were great to work with, but their studio is conveniently located just upstairs from our basement workspace.
Along with the new site is additional merchandise for the store! All of our classic items are still available, as well as the 2012 calendar and several new posters.
Above: Artisan Activist Poster, Crane Lettra Flo White 110C, 13″ x 19″, 2 Color Split Fountain on 2 Separate Plates + 1 Tonal Varnish
Above: Sunshine Poster, Crane Lettra Flo White 110c, 12″ x 16″, 3 Color Split Fountain