B Design “Tiny” Letterpress Cards

Let’s face it – stationary is an extremely personal item. It not only communicates something about yourself to your recipient, but also gives you the opportunity to forge a meaningful connection through the gesture. The problem however lies in selection. If your card is too loud, your message will be undermined by overly ornate imagery or ostentatious musings. Conversely, if it is completely blank, you run the risk of misleading your recipient into thinking you simply folded a piece of computer paper in lack of time or consideration. Luckily there is a middle ground.

B Design – Whale

For those of us who enjoy the handwritten part of a handwritten note, I suggest checking out the “tiny” cards from B Designs in Amesbury, MA. Each 3.25” x 5.25” card in this series is left predominantly blank, safe for a small letterpressed image on the front. This leaves the vast majority of the note free for personalization, which is the real point behind sending cards in the first place. Each card is made from recycled warm white stock and is printed by hand on at least one of the four Heidelberg “Windmill” presses in their studio. (I really love the fact that they’ve named each press: Greta, Rolf, Lilli, and Klaus).

B Design – Sand Dollar

Click the thumbnails below for some images of their “tiny” series and be sure to check out more of their work (including custom printing) at the B Design website.

Levenger’s “Circa” Notebook

Dieter Rams often said that “good design is as little design as possible.” Apparently someone at Levenger paid attention to that morsel when they came up with the Circa Notebook system. Essentially, Circa is a unique way of organizing paper documents within a single notebook, which allows for pages to be rearranged, removed, and even inserted. In other words, it’s not only a way to get organized, but it ensures that you stay organized.

Rhodia Circa Notebook

 The system hinges on a special variation on a standard hole punch.  Rather than the three-hole punch for binders, the Circa punch creates a toothy pattern along the edge of each loose piece of paper. Instead of a spine, the Circa notebooks are held together by a series of discs which fit perfectly in the grooves left by the punch. You are then left with pages that you can insert and remove without any tears or trauma to the spine.

Circa – Remove/Insert Page

Circa “Spine” Detail

Levenger offers a wide assortment of different insert options (including a partnership with Rhodia notebooks) which are pre-punched for convenience. That said, the best part of the Circa system is the ability to punch any loose piece of paper to make it compatible.

Circa Punch

In Focus: Joshu + Vela

Joshu + Vela is an emerging outfit in San Francisco which produces some of the most carefully considered bags and leather goods out there. While their mantra is to “highlight the beauty of function by creating simple and well made goods,” one would only need to interact directly with any of their products to understand the emphasis they place on quality. Though I wasn’t able to make the trip out, my cousin Rebecca was lucky enough to meet with Noah of Joshu + Vela in their studio to gain some insights into their brand and their process, which she detailed below:

Joshu + Vela – In the Studio

One way of characterizing the brand as a whole is the idea of intimacy. Everything in their studio is made entirely by hand with the best materials available. In addition to custom-cast hardware and vegetable dyes, they source domestically grown organic cotton from Herbert Rice Fabrics Inc in NY, which has been in operation since the 1800’s. The manufacturing process relies on pharmaceutical grade waxes and oils for finishing, and thus is completely free of hazardous solvents. Similarly, they source 100% vegetable dyed leather from animals already marked for consumption in an effort to reduce their environmental footprint.

When it comes to producing their goods, the team at Joshu + Vela employs a plethora of different hand tools, eight vintage sewing machines, and an 80 year-old rivet setter. This reliance on antiquated machinery demonstrates that the underlying concern of the brand as a whole is not maximizing output, but creating small quantities of goods, which can endure the tests of time.

Joshu + Vela – Backpack & Large Tote

            Although their line features a variety of different pieces, the entire collection is aligned by simple aesthetics and utilitarian designs. Branding is kept to a minimum and unnecessary lines are kept at bay. All in all, everything is clean and classic, but ultimately built to be used.

Be sure to take a gander though the gallery below to check out some of their collection and some glimpses into their workspace. Also, stay up to date on their upcoming releases by periodically visiting their website.

Studio Visit: Lucio Nuñez

Lucio Nuñez has made custom flamenco and classical guitars by hand for the vast majority of his life. Having begun in his 20’s, he quickly worked up the skill and expertise to make guitars full-time. His one-man luthiery practice has been in operation for over thirty years and has gained much acclaim amongst clients and apprentices all over the world. It was a distinct pleasure to catch up with Lucio in his studio in San Antonio, TX where we discussed his life, his work, and how to save the world:

________________________

How did you go about making your first guitar?

My brother is an architect, and he got this gig for making closets and doors on the side. He had all the machinery and tools, so I decided that I would make a guitar–horrible thing. I’m sure it’s somewhere out there. You could use it as a hammer, I guess. But that’s how I made my first guitar. I didn’t know anything. I just started, and that was that – figuring out my own way.

What attracted you to guitar-making?

The thing that really attracted me was the shape of the guitar; the curves. And the rosette, which is crazy because it has nothing to do with the sound. I just asked myself “How do they do this?” so I tried different things and ruined a lot of really nice wood until finally that brother of mine said, ‘You are stupid. People have been making guitars for centuries. You should go look, and maybe somebody out there can help you,’ but nobody took pity on me until later when I apprenticed with a luthier that used to work for the National Conservatory of Music. His requirements and schedule gave me some much-needed discipline.

Flamenco Negra

So it was the curiosity in terms of how to make guitars that excited you?

That and the aesthetics. You know the instrument is beautiful, I think. I mean the instrument itself. Obviously Classical and Flamenco music is wonderful, but I wasn’t into that world at the time. I was into other things like jazz and heavy metal.

Did your interest in those other genres influence your guitar-making at all?

Little by little I discovered, for instance, that the jazz players know harmony and chords and extensions. Jazz becomes complex; however, the color range, the tone range, is really small. But the classical guitar, because it works like the whole orchestra, has more intricacies that I didn’t understand at the time. I was just interested in making a guitar, any kind of guitar. I thought that in three months I would know everything about this process. But still, with every instrument, something is missing, and that’s what keeps you going – making mistakes.  And you think that next time, you won’t make the same mistake, but you do.

So what do you have in mind when you set out to make a guitar?

One of my goals is to make an instrument that can come close to reproducing the sound I have in my head. It hasn’t happened yet, but hopefully it will happen sometime before I die. The person who started helping me told me in a mystical and poetic way that the sound is already there in the wood; you just have to go find it.

The problem with this kind of creative work is that you are always trying to satisfy a new need. If you solve that problem, that’s OK. But the subjective side of it is different. Say that the playability is OK, the intonation is OK, but now, are you going to like the actual tone? It’s very subjective. All in all, though, I think the players are the most important factor I consider in my work. I don’t make guitars for myself, partially because I couldn’t buy all the guitars I make, but mostly because I get satisfaction from pairing one of my instruments with a particular player.

Flamenco Negra – Custom Soundport

Obviously it takes a lot of time, effort and expertise to build a hand-made instrument. On the flip side, factories in China can produce guitars that sell for $60. How do you view your work in relation to mass production? Is it a reaction or is it something altogether removed from that idea?

There’s a guitar teacher here in San Antonio, a friend of mine, and we were complaining together, wondering why we do what we do. He said, ‘You know what?  We do this because we are trying to save the world.’

There’s this idea that you should go ahead and buy what is affordable without any other thought or considerations for aspects like quality. My mother at some point put us on a very difficult budget because she was saving to get some pots and pans. So she saved money and went to the store in Mexico City to get really good cookware that is still in our family. But nowadays, you need a frying pan, you go to Wal-Mart and you get one for $5, but it will be in a landfill in 3 weeks. Mass production might be really good for some things, like cars. But traditionally, I think that the great luthiers were trying to make the best instruments they could, and still are, independent of the market around them.

Most of your guitars are custom made to suit each individual customer. Do these clients push your creativity into new realms that you wouldn’t have otherwise visited?

There are makers who design everything and produce a type of guitar. You go to their shops, and they say, ‘Here are my guitars and these are the prices. Take it or don’t, that’s OK.’ I prefer to hear a lot of feedback because that’s how I improve things.

When your work improves, in any field, it gets a bit worrisome to be honest. When someone comes with a different project, and asks if I can do something new, I certainly try. I have a lute that I’m working on right now as well as a 10-string guitar, and I like that. It keeps it interesting. I go to bed thinking of how I’m going to do everything, and I obsess over it, but again that keeps things exciting.

So did you experiment on your own when you were starting out?

I used to do that a lot. I couldn’t control myself. I don’t even buy magazines about guitars because if I see something new, I need to try it. You learn sometimes by doing things that go absolutely wrong. The bigger the mistake, the more you learn. That’s my personal opinion. Of course, you expend time, money, and effort, so sometimes it’s bad to make mistakes, but it’s all part of the experience.

What I like here in the United States is – I don’t want to sound offensive – but it seems that somehow the American tradition is to break with tradition. It leaves room to experiment and try new things. People are open to that here.

Flamenco in Progress

I know lutherie is not an easy business to be in. You must be very passionate about your work.

Absolutely. We need passion. We really do need passion. More than ever nowadays. They say that a writer who doesn’t write dies. We are not just what we do, we are much more than that: feelings, passions, thoughts, etc. I do this because if I didn’t, my life wouldn’t make any sense.

On a final note, am I to take your response to mean that you are fulfilled by what you do?

I am. But there is a lack within the process of guitar making. We all know how guitar makers are; they are obsessed with detail. We are practically hermits. But the point is, it’s a solitary thing. You are basically in your shop sanding and sanding and sanding. You create a lot of dust and noise, which undermines conversation. That’s the very sad part of it for me. You have no idea how much I’m enjoying this interview because luthiers don’t have a chance to talk very much.

But I think you should do what you feel you are called to do. That question, “What am I going to be?” is ridiculous. You are what you are. Whatever discipline you get involved in, there will be a big wall in front of you that has no answer. Sometimes miracles happen in the sense that we finally realize that facing that wall is actually part of embracing a discipline, any discipline.

______________________________

If you are interested in learning more about his work, check out his website and scroll through the gallery below for some images of his studio, some works in progress, and some close ups of a finished guitar.

A Man’s Guide to Anthropologie

Let’s face it, the best part about going to Anthropologie with your girlfriend is not about her buying clothes… it’s about cataloguing the bored and maudlin faces of your fellow mates as they wait outside the dressing rooms for their significant others. Sure it’s a moment of schadenfreude, but every guy has been there. Luckily there are things to enjoy about the entire experience.

Anthro certainly does not cater to a male clientele, but there are some choice items that might appeal to a more masculine aesthetic.  You obviously won’t find any clothes, but here is a small collection of home goods which (surprisingly enough) could look great in a  bachelor pad.

1) Decker Coffee Table

Decker Coffee Table

Decker Coffee Table

This piece is not only made with clean lines and attention to detail, but is gender neutral to boot. Personally, I think the table would look best with a nice bottle of bourbon and a GQ on top, but it could just as easily store some Jane Austen novels on the lower shelf.

Decker Table - Mango Wood Detail

Decker Table – Mango Wood Detail

But whatever you put on top of it, be careful not to completely cover up the mango wood surfaces as it features an interesting grain. The entire piece is held together by an iron frame and finished off with caster legs for your convenience.

2) Churned Stemless Wine Glass

Churned Stemless Wine Glass

Churned Stemless Wine Glass

Nothing says ‘manly’ more than a cultured sort of crudeness. What better to embody this character trait than enjoying a Chateau Margaux from a thick, off-centered, stubby wine glass? Adding to an already inherent beauty, each one is hand-blown from recycled glass to help diminish your environmental footprint.

3) Lostine – Color Blocked Bread Board

Lostine - Colorblocked Bread Board

This cutting board is completely handmade in Philadelphia from 100% Pennsylvania-grown sycamore trees. After employing food-safe milk paint to achieve the color variation, each one is then coated with natural mineral oils for longevity. Even if you don’t use it, it would be a winsome addition to any counter or tabletop.

Lostine - Bread Board Detail

4) Mark Rothko Coffee Table Book

This might be a more immediate necessity whilst in the store. The book contains countless color reproductions of Rothko’s work, some interviews, and several essays written about the artist and his place in abstract expressionism. Even if you don’t buy it to put on top of the Decker Coffee Table you just bought (above), this book will help kill time when waiting on your lady.

 5) Menlo Lamp

Menlo Lamp

Menlo Lamp

This iteration of the exposed bulb lamp straddles the fence between a traditional and contemporary feel. Crafted from Sheesham wood, glass, and nickel, this piece is as simple and straightforward as it gets.

6) Hidalgo Bed

Hidalgo Bed

It’s not your everyday purchase, but this bed embodies a refined sort of ‘shabby-chic.’ In case you are environmentally conscious, the Hidalgo bed frame is hand crafted from sustainably harvested and reclaimed wood before it is finished with natural wax. As an added bonus, it even looks like you made it yourself.

Hidalgo Bed - Backboard Detail

Hidalgo Bed – Backboard Detail

Meshuggah – Dancing to a Discordant System

Hands down, the five members of Meshuggah are the unsung heroes of contemporary musical composition. Since forming in 1987, the band has become an irrevocable driving force behind extreme metal. And while their contributions are well recognized within their genre, they are one of the most important forces of ingenuity across all musical traditions regardless of personal taste.

Jens Kidman

Jens Kidman

Meshuggah has long since carved a niche for itself through a ceaselessly progressive approach to music. The band often experiments with insanely complicated polyrhythms and alternate tunings on custom-built eight-string guitars in an effort to keep their work untainted by convention. Yet while their music is technically complex, the creative drive is focused rather on writing songs that bring the listener outside of his or herself. In an interview, Mårten Hagström elaborates, “it doesn’t matter if something is hard to play or not. The thing is, what does it do to your mind when you listen to it? Where does it take you?”

Tomas Haake

Tomas Haake

Perhaps it is because they don’t entertain a mainstream audience that the progressive character of the band has been unwavering throughout the last 25 years. In lieu of worrying about sales, the core focus of the band lies in exploration – not only of each member’s creative capacity, but also the limits of what we define as music.

If you’re feeling adventuresome, check out the video below of their live 2010 performance of “Perpetual Black Second” in Tokyo and be sure to track down their recently-released LP entitled “Koloss.”

Clomm’s “Terra Firma” Timepiece Collection

Having only launched their website on the 10th of May, UK-based fashion label Clomm has put out quite the first impression. The boutique watch brand has released six timepieces in its “Terra Firma” collection – each one with a distinct, albeit understated sophistication.

Rosegold with Burgundy Strap

Rosegold with Burgundy Strap

 While there are departure points, the common thread throughout the entire line is a thoughtful combination of proper materials and minimal design. All of the timepieces feature aerospace grade stainless steel cases, premium Italian leather straps, Swiss quartz movements, and sapphire crystal lenses. That said, three of the six watches offer natural wood faces in rosewood, oak, or cork. The juxtaposition between cutting edge and organic materials is rather refreshing – especially when you consider the subtle darkening of wood and leather overtime. For such a minimal watch there is nonetheless room to acquire character with use and abuse, all without running the risk of going out of fashion.

Natural Oak

Natural Oak

Natural Rosewood

Natural Rosewood

With longevity in mind, the watches are meant for the discerning buyer who appreciates quality more than making a statement – yet in this case those ideals are not mutually exclusive.

            Be sure to check out their work at the link above and scroll through the gallery for some high-resolution images of all six pieces, including some lifestyle shots and a peek at their hand crafted wooden storage box.

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