Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Facebook Turns to Crane for Holiday Gift

Facebook is arguably one of the most visible "faces" of paperless digital communication. So when they select paper to express holiday thanks to their advertisers, it's time to sit up and take notice.

And it's not any old paper - it's Crane's Lettra - that soft, pillowy paper that has advanced the art of letterpress printing.

I won't spoil the beauty of this piece nor comment further on what could be perceived as some form of irony. But I will say congratulations to the folks at Facebook, Oscar Printing Company in San Francisco, and to designer Ben Barry for a job well done on paper.

Well, maybe one quick look:

Here's a great look at this work and how it was made. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Vineyard Vines Debuts New Stationery Line

There has long been an intimate connection between fashion and stationery.

And today, there's an example that we're really excited about with the introduction of a new line of stationery for Vineyard Vines by Crane.

The designs are delightfully preppy and reflect the style and mood of Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod in the summer season. For those familiar with Vineyard Vines, you can imagine their stationery mirrors designs on their clothing lines and their signature ties.

Have a look:


The Vineyard Vines stationery collection is available online and at their retail stores.

 We wish Vineyard Vines all the best!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Working on a Paper Industry Mystery

A few years ago, I had a call out of the blue from the caretaker of the mansion in Lenox, Mass., of the late Milos Krofta. Fred had found out that I was interested in papermaking and paper history and suggested he had something that might fit both categories.

He sure did. First, a bit of history. Milos Krofta was a brilliant engineer and entrepreneur originally from Yugoslavia. He became involved in the paper industry there and was in charge of three mills as a young man. With the outbreak of World War II, his mills were confiscated by the Italians and Germans. In 1945, the remaining mill was again confiscated, this time by Communist Russia. When he learned that he was to be arrested as a capitalist enemy of the people, he fled to Trieste and freedom.

For six years, Krofta operated successfully as a consultant in Switzerland and Italy. In 1951, when the war in Korea erupted and the Italian Communist Party made great political gains, the Kroftas immigrated to the United States.

OK, back to Lenox. In Krofta's basement, there was a papermaker's dream: a complete mini paper mill. There was (sorry while I fall into paper-speak) a Voith cycle beater, an automated headbox pulp delivery system, a hydraulically assisted vat, a 100-ton hydraulic press, a pilot plant calender and a drying system that used hot oil - yikes! This stuff was so large, that it had to have been assembled in-place. It was marvelously over-engineered.

I made all sorts of calls to see if I could get anyone to take these machines out of the basement to save them, but alas, they were too big. They are now scrap.

But I did save one thing, and I could use your help solving a bit of a mystery. Here's the machine:

Here's some of its insides:

Here's the identifying label:

So, I know it's a micro paper machine. I sort of guessed that before seeing the label, as there are some recognizable elements inside the machine, albeit quite a bit smaller.

So, what's its history? Did it every work? Are there any others in existence?

So many questions, but one thing is certain: I will get this thing making paper. I'm sure it won't be any time soon, but it will make paper. I could sure use some help.

Share Your Holiday Card Displays

I just happened to run across - via the wonders of Twitter - a clever and beautiful way to display holiday cards. Here's how Mindy Lockard of Manner of the Month is displaying her cards this year. Make sure you go here to see how it's done.

Send along web-sized photos of your displays. I'd love to see them and share them!

peter dot hopkins at comcast dot net

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Paper Machinery is Cool. Here's One Favorite

I've always had a soft spot for machinery, ever since my parents took us kids on a string of factory tours many years ago. So you can imagine that a place like Crane, which makes stationery and currency paper and a bunch of other stuff using machinery that probably can't be found many other places, holds a continuing fascination for me.

Crane stationery arrives at the store in boxes. One probably takes boxes for granted. They hold your stationery; big deal. They're really not worthy of further consideration. After all, they're just boxes.

Oh Yeah?

Check out Crane's Box Machine:

Did you see the guy in the blue shirt about 3/4 of the way through the video? He's an Adjuster. Yup; Crane's Stationery Factory has a staff of Adjusters. They Adjust machines. They are really good at what they do. I am seriously envious that they get to spend all day Adjusting Machines.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sad News: Historic Egremont Inn Total Loss

It's a very sad day here in the Berkshires. I had intended my 200th Insider post to be celebratory, but events intervened.

Earlier today, an historic building in Western Massachusetts was destroyed following an early morning fire, according to local reports. There is no doubt that The Egremont Inn was as important to the region's papermakers through their history here as it was to the local economy - until today.

No one was hurt in the fire, but now more than 225 years of history, dating back to the Revolutionary War, have literally gone up in flames.

Fire and heavy smoke poured out of the building, which is in a national historic district.

According to WTEN in Albany, NY, firefighters say when they arrived on scene the flames were in one room on the bottom of the building and quickly spread from there.

Authorities say it is a complete loss, and because of the intensity of the fire, the effort to put it out is far from over.

"We're putting plenty of water on that," said Great Barrington Deputy Fire Chief Edward McCormick. "The building is too dangerous to allow our firemen to enter the building. That's probably what we're going to be doing for the rest of the day."

Firefighters say the cold weather is not making fighting the flames any easier.

In fact, because of all the water being used on the building, there is the danger of ice forming on the ground around where the firefighters are moving and the hoses freezing, as well.

The inn originally opened as a tavern in 1780.

Video from today's disaster can be seen here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Brilliant Lines of Early Modern Engravers

A colleague pointed me to an online exhibit presented by the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) a couple of days ago, but I didn't get to explore the site until this morning.

You Must Not Wait. You Must Go Here! Now!

The exhibit was organized by Emily J. Peters, associate curator of prints, drawings and photographs at RISD, With the assistance of Andrew Stein Raftery, consulting curator for the exhibition and associate professor of printmaking. I love the web programming and graphics by Shun Liang, especially the magnifying glass he created so we can view the "Brilliant Lines" of Albrecht Durer:

Raferty also recreates the process of the 16th-century engraver in a very informative and entertaining video.

This exhibition is well worth a good deal of your time and attention. I hope you enjoy and admire it as much as I do.

Monday, November 30, 2009

ACISWG Winner Announced

I know I was supposed to announce the winner of the Annual Crane Insider Stationery Wardrobe Giveaway just after Black Friday, but it seems that all this holiday stuff got in the way.

Our winner is James Porter, who wrote:

"My mother trained me to write thank you notes for every gift received for Christmas or a birthday; however, at some point I learned to write them truly as thanks instead of avoiding a punishment.

I'm not your typical user of stationery. Most 22-year-old males who just graduated from college and are barely out of the fraternity house don't write many handwritten letters; although, all my friends who know me well know my love of a handwritten note and love of stationery. In fact, I was in New York City two months ago for job training and the only souvenir I brought home was some Crane stationery from the retail store in the city. I love to write friends who working at camps or in the armed forces, and have recently bought a wax seal to seal my letter the real old fashioned way.

I would love to get to some of the ACISWG to send notes to friends and family. It sounds cheesy but writing letters is truly a way I love and serve those whom I care about or are in need of an encouraging note. My generation seems to have lost the art of handwritten correspondence but I do my best to bring it back in style one letter at a time. Thanks!"

Thank you James! Please e-mail me at peter dot hopkins at comcast dot net.

And thanks to all who took the time to send in your comments. I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about writing and stationery and other such stuff. I was truly impressed and humbled by all that you wrote. I wish I had something to give each and every one of you.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Free Crane Stationery - Unique Collection Available!

As regular readers of this blog are aware, I take a lot of photographs of stationery. But what happens with all that 100% cotton engraved, letterpress beauty once digitally captured? To be honest, it hangs around in my photo studio anxiously awaiting the Annual Crane Insider Stationery Wardrobe Giveaway.

I've got to move this merchandise to get ready for the Annual Onslaught of January Introductions.

Here's what I have to offer - for free! There are notes, cards, invites, greeting cards, envelopes, place cards, etc.. Pretty much one of each to comprise exactly a Boat Load. But wait! There's more! I'll even toss in a box of these.

I also have a bunch of personalized stationery samples if you want to assume multiple identities, but I'll leave that for later.

Just leave a comment below, telling me why you really want, can't live without, or just want to see what's in the the ACISWG.

The giveaway will officially end, appropriately, at midnight on Black Friday. I will announce the winner shortly thereafter, so stay tuned. Here's a look at the ACISWG:

Good Luck!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dreary Outlook for the Annual Trek in the Woods

It's time once again for the annual foray into the wilds of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom in search of the elusive Whitetailus Slipperendae. And it looks like the weather won't be cooperating. I am not looking forward to Tropical Storm Ida's aftermath, which looks to bring wind and rain and temperatures in the 40s. I am not happy. Not that they would have anything to worry about from my presence in the woods. After al,l I still have my lucky shells from 1972.....

Since I probably won't be seeing any in the woods, I have taped the following on my wall.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Holiday Cards are for the Birds!

And they're on sale to boot! All Crane personalized holiday cards are 10% off through the end of the year. Some of my personal favorites have flown in to strut their stuff:






Friday, October 30, 2009

Yo, Mr. Crane. I've Got a Bridge if You Want to Buy!

I guess it was meant to be a day spent in the 19th century. As I was reorganizing some of the archival papers after writing today's earlier post, something caught my eye.

It was a small drawing of a suspension bridge:

The 1873 letter accompanying the drawing reads: "Enclosed please find rough sketch, which will give you an idea how to construct a cheap susp. bridge. The price of 2" diameter steel rope is 15 cents per foot. If you conclude to build, and should want more information, we will gladly give it."

I have no idea why Crane & Co. would have been considering building a suspension bridge, but if they had they would have gotten their information from the best in the business: John A. Roebling's Sons. If you don't know the Roebling story, have a look here.

Art at the Top of the Page in the 19th Century

I'm a big fan of 19th-century graphics, design and typography, particularly as they play out on business letterhead. Some time ago, we took a look at some pretty elaborate examples. Today, I wanted to have a look at some that are not as fancy, but equally as impressive. Many of the letters in the Crane archive are from companies wanting to sell something. Nothing new there. But unlike letterhead for so many of today's manufacturers, these business people took great pride in showing off their products on their letterhead.

Let's have a look at a few:


Check out the Douglas letterhead from 10 years prior



No belts below, but it's irresistable!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Trick or Treat Etiquette with Elle and Maggie

With Halloween just around the bend, it's time to revisit some of the essential rules of etiquette for Trick or Treating. To assist us in this lesson, I have enlisted the services of two veterans of the Trick or Treat circuit in Portland, Oregon, to show you how to score big candies and big points in your neighborhood. So, without further adieu, here are Elle and Maggie with Dos and Taboos:

For those who don't know Elle and Maggie, they are the two delightful daughters of my blogging colleague Mindy Lockard. You can follow their adventures in pursuit of gracious living here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Tiger by the Tail at Billings Farm & Museum in Vermont

Wendy and I will miss young William Porter Hopkins' first foray into the world of Trick or Treating, the resulting sugar high and the inevitable meltdown this weekend. But we were lucky enough to spend some time with him in costume at the annual Halloween celebration at Billings Farm & Museum in Woodstock, Vt.

The day-long celebration featured a working cider press, pumpkin ice-cream making (both off the charts yummie!) doughnuts hanging from a tree, pumpkin bowling, horse-drawn wagon rides, and up-close visits with chickens, sheep, cows and horses. If you're ever in the neighborhood, you owe it to yourself to stop by, especially if you have a kid in tow.

Here are some photos of the action.

Grinding apples to make cider.

A beanbag toss toward a cut-out clown face.

Doughnut on a string (Supposed to be no hands...)

And the classic tiger in a mess of pumpkins shot.

Tomorrow, we will be treated to some valuable trick or treat etiquette lessons from our friends out west - Elle and Maggie. So stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Celebrating National Reptile Appreciation Day

Today is National Reptile Appreciation Day. Who knew such a thing existed?

But since we're celebrating, here are some examples of Reptilian Pen Candy:

From the top:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tracing a Piece of Crane's Bond History

I was rooting around in the Crane archives the other day and came across some items that I had forgotten about. They had been sent to me by a visitor to the Crane Museum of Papermaking who had heard the stories about the uses to which Crane's Bond had been put over the years.

In this case (and I'm not sure if I have the terminology correct) Bond was used as the substrate for perforated sewing patterns. I know it's Bond because the paper is watermarked Crane & Co. Dalton Mass, 1890 Bond. It's a gorgeous sheet - crisp, rattly and translucent - weighing in at about 16 pounds (writing paper is generally 24 pounds).

My understanding is that these patterns were perforated with designs ranging from simple to ornate. To transfer the design to fabric, you would dust the sheet with some fine chalk, then start sewing where the fabric has been marked.

The archives yielded three alphabets - one called "motto" - which is quite simple; the other two are, well, Victorian, I would have to say. They are so ornately designed, the manufacturer has printed the corresponding letter on the sheet so you will know it's a "D."

The perforated letters are pretty much impossible for me to photograph, so I scanned one in and bumped up the contrast so I could trace it.

I'm thinking with some work, these would make an awesome set of initial notes. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Send Me Your Paper Cranes for the Crane Museum

For seasoned readers of The Insider, you will probably remember my encounter with My Paper Crane. For relative newbies or those with memories as bad as my own, I ran across My Paper Crane when doing my daily keyword search of the internet, blogosphere and Twitterverse. During those searches I continue to run across "paper cranes," a universal symbol of peace.

It occurred to me that, instead of treating these search-function intruders as a nuisance, it's time to celebrate the importance of the relationship among cranes, paper and peace.

To that end, I will create an exhibit in the Crane Museum of Papermaking next season to showcase the finest examples of origami paper cranes.

So, how will the finest be judged? First of all, I will be the sole judge, and I cannot be bribed! As far as the judging criteria, here are some considerations:

I make my living telling stories, so I really want to hear the story about your paper crane.

Originality. What's different about your paper crane?

Beauty. It's in the eye of the beholder and I am the Beholder.

Intangibles. They are just that.

I just changed my mind. I was going to ask all of you to send me a jpeg of your entry, but I'm a paper guy, a stamp guy and  a mailbox guy. So fold a crane and send it to me. And tell me your story. Make sure you include your contact information. I will want to respond to all of you personally and, of course, I want to be able to send our winners some Crane Paper for their Paper Crane.

Here's the address:
Peter Hopkins
472 Center St.
Pownal, VT 05261

If there is a reason why you can't send me your crane, tell me your story.

I will accept entries until December 13; that's 60 days. Please pass the word.

I did mention that I can't be bribed, but paper cranes submitted on distinctive paper made of cotton and linen with an engraving of Ben Franklin will receive extra credit - Kidding!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Privacy and the Culture of Celebrity

At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy, I am tired of this seemingly never-ending "news" about every twist and turn of any given celebrity's life. I don't understand why we want to know every little detail. Isn't life full enough and challenging enough for all of us; complicated and complex enough to require full attention to our own twists and turns and those of our parents and children and friends?

OK, enough of that. But wait! Here's something to think about, and it has to do with Crane and stationery and celebrities and everyday folks like you and me and privacy. Every day, stationery, invitations and announcements for A-List celebrities come in to Crane's engraving facility. I know. I've seen hundreds of them.

We know months in advance when they're getting married, where they're getting married, who they're getting married to. We know the names and weights of their babies. We engrave invitations to parties the rest of us could only attend in our wildest dreams. Sure, a typesetter or engraver may say something to a co-worker about the cool stationery I just did for........

But that's as far as the information goes. It never ends up in the tabloids or on TV gossip shows or touted on Crane's website. There are two things at work here. For the folks at Crane who create personalized stationery, it's about the quality of the stationery, not the public profile of the customer. And it's because we respect everyone's privacy. Especially yours, whether you're an A-Lister or a soccer mom.

But just this once, I've got to show you one that went through today:

Stationery Trends Highlights Martha and Social Media

The fall issue of Stationery Trends Magazine is, as always, chock full of required reading for anyone in the business. That is especially true this time, because the magazine features an in-depth Q&A with Martha Stewart about her new line of wedding invitations and holiday cards for Crane & Co.

Here's a portion of the interview.

To see the whole piece, plus an insightful column on the business benefits of social media by an astute and ruggedly handsome blogger, you may subscribe here.

For those who would prefer to purchase this single issue, which includes an insightful column on the business benefits of social media by an astute and ruggedly handsome blogger, it's $6, and that's a bargain!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Closer Look at the Art of Engraving at Crane

I was thinking about writing a post about the beautiful fall colors beginning to emerge here in Vermont, but got distracted by a dragonfly. Not just any dragonfly, but one of my favorite examples of the art of engraving:

The design demands extraordinary fine-line detail and absolutely perfect registration through several passes on the engraving press. The pressman is the one who ultimately puts ink on paper, but his success is dependent on many other skilled craftspeople who add their personal touches along the way.

So, to all of you who allow me to show off these beautiful designs, I raise a glass of good old Vermont apple cider. To your health!

A very naughty monkey!