Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cherry Blossoms – Festival Merchandise is Blooming

By Stuart Hotchkiss
Photo: United Airlines
It is officially springtime; even United Airlines says so via e-mail with a “spring is here sale” announcement and a pretty spring image. While most American eyeballs are focused on NCAA “March Madness,” Washingtonians and visitors to the nation’s capital are thinking like United Airlines - pink cherry blossoms.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival (NCBF), a 501(c)(3) organization, annually celebrates the original gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo in 1912 and the enduring friendship between the people of the Unites States and Japan.

During the next two weeks, through April 12th, more than 1 million tourists will come to Washington to admire the blossoming cherry trees around the Tidal Basin and attend numerous concerts, competitions, parties and the city’s largest parade (April 4th) that herald the beginning of spring in Washington. First Lady Michelle Obama will serve as Honorary Chair of this year’s festival.

Like most festivals, NCBF has evolved into a merchandiser, and the focal point has been its official artwork, created this year by Carol Tomasik of Norton, Ohio. Ms. Tomasik’s original colored pencil drawing has been reproduced as a beautiful poster and adapted for t-shirt, sweatshirt, coffee mug and other product designs.

Collectors delight every year when the new NCBF lapel pin is released, and the fact that the year is tastefully etched into the back side of each pin shows that the organization has carefully thought about its “look.”

The festival’s website has been the primary source of distribution for merchandise and this year’s site has a new boutique section, indicative of the NCBF’s increasing brand value and the growing demand from its loyal supporters for artisan jewelry and other fine craftwork.

A particularly stunning piece in the boutique is a handscultpted stoneware clay cherry blossom pendant – adorned with fresh water pearls linked together by 14k gold-filled wire – and attached to a freshwater pearl necklace. Earrings and pins handsculpted in the same manner as the pendant are also available.

Photo: Rebecca WorthWith the support of the DC Chamber of Commerce, the NCBF has created a new retail venue in the city’s Visitor Information Center, located inside the Ronald Regan Building and International Trade Center at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW (one block from the White House Visitor Center).
“The city of Washington has always supported our festival needs, and the added cooperation we’ve received from the Chamber has been a boost to our long-term strategic plans,” says NCBF President Diana Mayhew. “We have worked with local artists and suppliers to create an exclusive array of festival merchandise that is both tasteful and we can call our own.”

The NCBF merchandise should be a breath of fresh air for souvenir shoppers in Washington; for at least four months, Obama merchandise sourced overseas has been distributed on a non-exclusive basis throughout hundreds of street and store vendors in the city and its environs. Those who are in town to see the cherry blossoms now have good reason to ignore it.

Insider's Note: If you are lucky enough to see the Cherry Blossoms in full bloom, and want to extend your experience, you could alway send a note to describe all that went on.

Stuart Hotchkiss is the owner of Capital Ties, a privately owned neckwear design and manufacturing business in Washington, DC. Prior to his life as an entrepreneur, Stuart served as President of Time Inc. Home Entertainment, a $200 million enterprise of mail order, retail and licensing businesses, all brand extensions of the Time Inc. Magazine Group. Stuart also was in charge of Time Inc.’s in-house advertising agency.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Martha Stewart and Crane: A Match Made in Heaven

This announcement is making its way around newspapers, magazines, radio, television, blogs and tweets pretty quickly, so I thought you might get your first glimpse here.

March 25, 2009 - New York, NY and Dalton, MA – Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. today announced a full line of co-branded social stationery products with Crane & Co. Martha Stewart and her design team will create a line of beautiful, personalized invitation suites to be released this year, beginning with the Martha Stewart Stationery Weddings™ in Spring 2009. The line will be available through Crane stationers equipped with Crane’s Personalized Design Studio—a proprietary stationery design system - through Crane's website and other select online retailers.
The Martha Stewart collection will feature 24 invitation suites comprised of invitations, save-the-dates, and response cards in a range of styles designed to showcase Martha’s unique style and Crane’s timeless elegance. A distinctive selection of papers will include new calligraphic motifs and flourishes, decorative scrollwork, embroidery inspired designs, and hand-engraved details.

“I am delighted to share the Martha Stewart Stationery Weddings collection, crafted with master stationers Crane & Co.,” said Martha Stewart, founder of MSLO. “From the first save-the-date card mailed to the last thank-you note re­ceived, a wedding creates a lovely paper suite. With so many choices for color, lettering styles, and motifs, a bride and groom can create a wedding invitation that will be a unique expression of themselves.”

The new stationery products further extend MSLO’s wedding franchise, which encompasses Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, extensive online content, including a variety of online wedding-planning tools powered by WeddingWire, and wedding-related books such as Weddings by Martha Stewart and Martha Stewart’s Wedding Cakes.

“We are very excited to join forces with Martha Stewart and the brand she has built,” said Anita Brady, vice president and general manager of Crane’s Social and Business Stationery. “The Crane name has been synonymous with the finest stationery available through seven generations of Crane family and the brides they have served. This collaboration will ensure the next generation of brides is equally well served.”

Martha Stewart Stationery Weddings will include a complete range of accessories, such as wedding programs, place cards, menu cards, thank-you cards and table accessories. Couples may customize their designs through engraving, thermography, letterpress, lithography, and foil-stamping. In addition, the collection features papers that are tree-free 100% cotton or contain post-consumer recycled content, and are FSC or Green Seal certified.

In time for the 2009 holiday season, the company will release boxed and personalized Martha Stewart Stationery holiday cards.

Monday, March 23, 2009

19th-Century Patents: Tinkerers' Inspirations

I arrived early for a meeting at the Crane Museum a little while back, and dug out a couple of large portfolios labeled: Patents - 1847 to 1884. They're filled with dozens of patents by Zenas M. Crane, Robert B. Crane and Seymour Crane, three of Zenas Crane's sons who took over the paper business in Dalton after his death. There are patents applied for, patents licensed, patents granted and patents in court, mostly having a direct connection with how paper was made in the second half of the 19th century.

But there are several patent entries that make one wonder. Here are a couple.

The first is No.51.782, presumably the patent number, for an invention claimed by George W. Bowlsby of Monroe, Mich., December 26, 1865, for a means of cancelling a stamp:

"The invention consists of applying the adhesive substance to only a portion of the undersurface of the stamp so that when the stamp is attached to the letter or other mailable matter, it will leave the remaining portion, which is not made adhesive, projecting, that is, not adhering to the letter. The projection is to be torn off by the postmaster before the letter is mailed."

I don't think this one made it very far, much to the relief of stamp collectors, one would presume.

Here's one that should sound familiar.

No.150.832, for an invention claimed by Seymour Crane on May 12, 1874. Here's a photo of the object Seymour invented.

And some of the language associated with it:

"The object of this invention is to produce a neat, serviceable, and inexpensive vessel, adapted to household purposes, for preserving from the effects of heat certain articles as, for instance, butter or ice water, or for retaining the heat in other articles such, for instance, as coffee, tea and other warm beverages."

Naw, it'll never catch on.....

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dollar Bills Are Made Biker Tough

My friend Shaun is a biker - not the Harley Hog type - rather the skin-tight-outfit, skinny-tire type. Shaun tells me that every now and again while on a long ride, far away from a place to get a replacement, a tire has been known to fail. Once the tire fails, the inner tube is next, and a good ride is spoiled, because now you're walking.

One of the reasons you rarely ever see anyone walking back home with a flat - assuming one always carries a spare tube - is because the skinny-tire people always carry a $1 bill.

Why? I knew you'd ask.

From Bicycling Life: Sometimes, you will find a long or deep cut in the casing. Very often patching the tube and continuing to use a gashed casing will result in another flat, quite probably in less than a mile. Often you can apply your largest patches to the inside of the tire casing, and thereby get hundreds of more miles out of the tire. Other times, gashed tires are too far gone to be salvaged. To get home, a favorite cyclists trick is to place a dollar bill, folded in half or quarters between the tube and the tire, so that it covers the gash in the tire. Paper money has very high bursting resistance.

For a video describing the process, click here.

Shaun was kind enough to share his latest ride-saver. Despite some wear, it got him home.

Try that with a dollar coin and see what happens!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

America's Greenback: An Environmental Perspective

Money is always an interesting subject, especially these days. I get calls all the time from journalists and folks like yourselves who want to know more about currency paper and how it's made.

I also hear all too often something along the lines of: "Well, it's paper, so it's made from trees."

Obviously I have so far failed in my quest to make everyone aware that U.S. currency paper is not made from trees. So, with that in mind, have a look at the following publication about making currency paper at Crane from an environmental perspective.

If you want to view it full-screen, just toggle the button in the upper right.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Small Art Creates Big Handmade Paper Impression

I'm spending entirely too much time living vicariously. I've definitely got to get out more.

Case in point: The annual meeting of the Friends of Dard Hunter last October was in Hawaii. Think I could get there? Nope. But those who did have been kind enough to send me photos. Certainly not to rub it in......

The members' exhibit at the annual meeting called for participants to create up to three postcard-size works. Entries were required to include handmade paper, but could also involve any other media or technique.

The range of works varied from collage to pulp paintings; prints to three-dimensional origami. The techniques included in the work incorporated handmade papers with encaustic, stitching, origami, and embossing relief. The artwork featured scrolls, feathers, masks, watermarks, fabric, threads and seeds. To sum up the show, it was basically all eye candy.

Here are four of my favorites:

To see all the works, please visit me Flickr page here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tourism Toronto Brightens a Dreary Day

Looking out the office window, its' very brown today. It was white this morning, so I guess that's an improvement. No colors springing out of the ground yet, so I have to take my colorful pleasures from other sources. Today, it's Tourism Toronto.

The Toronto Convention & Visitors Association recently created a series of colorful kits to send a unique message to prospective convention planners, showcasing Toronto as a tourist destination. The kits were designed by Neil Stewart, with artwork by Liz Parkinson, and were printed by Anstey Bookbinding in Toronto. A visit to their website is a must. Their work is incredible.

The boxes were made using Crane's Flame Red, Tangerine and Raspberry papers. They were printed using letterpress and foil stamping. Inside the boxes are a multi-panel brochure and a recessed piece of art, suitable for framing.

Friday, March 6, 2009

An Airmail Journey into the Crane Past

As you probably know by now, people send me stuff that has to do with Crane's history. That's a good thing, being an historian....

The other day, I got an interoffice envelope with lots of fun things, but one stood out from the rest. Crane is a family business, owned and managed by members of the Crane family. But there are also other families whose members have worked at Crane for generations. We know the Murrays have worked there for five generations. And we know that the Drosehns have had more than 120 members of its extended family employed by Crane.

So, when I came across a piece of paper - the results of a papermaking trial in 1945 with the name Wellspeak - I knew exactly who that would have been. Charlie Wellspeak - that's him standing next to Mary Ward - is a retired papermaker and a curator at the Crane Museum of Papermaking.

But Charlie didn't start working for Crane until 1950 when he got out of the Navy, so I knew it had to be his Dad. Sure enough it was. Charlie tells me that he and his father used to make paper together at Crane's Old Berkshire Mill. Charlie the elder was the machine tender, aka the boss, and Charlie the younger was the backtender, aka the underling. Of course that's how it should be and how it's been done here for more than 200 years - passing down traditions and expertise from generation to generation. Charlie says his father was a tough boss, but "he could make that machine work when no one else could."

Back to the piece of paper Charlie senior made. It's a beautiful snowy white. It has a very soft feel in the hand, yet is crisp and rattly. There is no notation of the basis weight, but it's probably right around 16 pounds.

It was no surprise that this thin paper was being made for Air Mail, as its watermark confirms.

It was a surprise to me that the paper was not made from cotton or flax, but hemp.

"Oh sure," said Charlie. "We made paper from hemp all the time, especially carbon paper." Hemp has notoriously long and strong fibers, so it imparts excellent strength properties to thin papers like Air Mail or carbon.

I won't get into the politics of hemp as a viable raw material for paper made in the United States. I'll leave that to you.

I can tell you that this is one beautiful, strong piece of paper that Charlie's Dad made.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wednesday Eye Candy: Sparkle Amidst the Snow

The next holiday season is a long ways away, but since the weather outside is frightful, I figured it would be OK to show you a really cool holiday card from last season.

I'm a sucker for all things Arts & Crafts, and this particular card comes from Aneita Fern, the exclusive home of fine Stickley furniture for the Dallas/Fort Worth area. In addition to the classic arts and crafts styles, they carry contemporary furnishings, a wide range of accessories, including the world-renowned Frank Lloyd Wright collection, and a variety of fabulous gifts.

Designed by Elizabeth Fenimore and printed by Mitchell Hill Print Solutions, this holiday card evokes memories of a vintage Vanity Fair or New Yorker magazine cover.

The card was printed on Crane's 110# Lettra paper with a Ryobi Duplicator press and Top Level ink. Foil treatments were added with a Kluge press and Nakai foil. The designer used Lettra in order to use the foil stamp and not have the back of the card be affected by the Kluge. The job was run “backwards,” in that the foil stamp was printed first, with the offset then registered to the foil.