Friday, November 14, 2014

A New Trend In Letterpress Printing

I received this in the mail the other day - the new book, "A New Trend In Letterpress Printing," by Miki Usui, published by PIE Books. It features a collection of letterpress printers in London and Tokyo, but particularly those of us in the good ol' USA. It is a lovely book of great quality, filled with tons of great photos. It is written in Japanese but still well worth a looky-loo as it is interesting to see a compilation of what's going on, stylistically speaking, with the revival of letterpress printing in our Twenty-first century.

What an honor to be included... surrounded by the letterpress giants of our day.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Humble Beginnings

I was recently asked when/how did I fist begin to express myself creatively. It took some digging, but I found this piece of artwork amongst my collection of personal memories. It is, quite literally, the first example I have of my being creative. I'd cut this little clown image out of a birthday card I’d recently received at the time. Apparently I'd used “grown-up scissors,” those big gnarly silver scissors of the 1970’s (my sister still has them). My parents helped me attach it to a piece of cardboard and I colored in a background, drawing a little tight rope across the bottom. While I don’t remember, I’m told I did this when I was two years old.

Friday, July 25, 2014

National Stationery Show Alphabet Cards

As some of you already know, Legion Paper and Flywheel Press have, for the past four years, created an exclusive National Stationery Show promotional piece in collaboration with a collection of printers/boutique greeting card manufacturers. 

I've been fortunate enough to be included in each year's masterpiece and wanted to share a link to Paper Specs' video highlighting this year's creation.

Many thanks to Amber and Marc and those who tirelessly pull these elaborate projects together to create a cohesive masterpiece!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Atlanta Gift Show 2014

I went to Atlanta last week to check out The Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market - the South East's bi-annual gift show. Now that Maginating's headquartered in St. Louis, we're quite a bit closer to this part of the country and I thought now was a good time to see for myself if this show might be a good fit for us in the near future.

First off, this show is MASSIVE! I've never been to NY Now, but this was overwhelming at first. The Buyer's Guide is phone-book-thick and covers a collection of permanent and temporary spaces within three immense buildings.

This is part of Building Three - 40K+ square feet per floor!

Unlike the NSS, the Atlanta Gift Show is broken up into a multitude of product-specific, themed areas, including some juried sections as well. This isn't anything unusual to those of you who are familiar with NY Now, but it was an eye-opener for me. Over the course of two days, my goal was to try to figure out where a Maginating booth would be best located within the profusion of categories.

"Write On!" is the area set aside for all things paper and you'd think that would be the place for us. But after walking the section, which is somewhat small, I found the majority of companies didn't fit very well, thematically, with Maginating. The section trended towards the feminine, with a healthy collection of flowers and calligraphic typefaces. But don't get me wrong, I love those styles as much as the next designer... it's just not Maginating's overarching theme.

After considering the Toy, Museum, Hand-made, Gifts, On-Trend Gifts, Paper, and High Design sections over those two days, I believe the best-suited locale for Maginating is On-Trend Gifts. It's juried, so we'd have to apply for consideration, but if this section was a store, Maginating would fit in quite naturally.

The next show is January 2015, so I guess we'll see. Overall, it feels like an appropriate next step. It's pricey, about the same costs as the NSS, though it's a little closer geographically, but filled with great potential!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Bill Watterson Returns to Comics!

My hero, Bill Watterson, briefly returned to the comic page last week to partially pen three days worth of Steven Pastis' critically acclaimed Pearls Before Swine.

It's great stuff - so sorry he's no longer sharing his amazing talent. Grateful to see a little bit of something after so long... sure do miss his work.

Read about it here.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

My Palette Is Packed...

...I'm ready to go! Just a few little details left. Man, I haven't left it this close to the last minute in a long time. Really looking forward to the show this year. Lots of fun things to share!

Goodness, I'm leaving on a jet plane in just seven days!!

Friday, April 25, 2014

New Business Cards!

Just picked up my fancy new business cards from The Done Dept. and they look smashing! If any of you remember my previous card, the three color, tri-fold letterpress card with little blue envelope, you might say I've stepped down a notch but I'd have to disagree - I'm simply stepping back into reality. Those cards took a massive amount of time! It's amazing what you can do with quad-ply lamination and a digital printer these days...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Happy Easter Cards (more)

Happy Easter!

Here are three more cards from my lil' collection of sometimes unattractive cards from long, looooong ago.

Just like the other card I shared with you recently, what's really interesting with a lot of these cards is the manufacturing process. Sometimes you can see just how cyclical design can be, other times you cringe at the ideas and the process by which they chose to bring a product to fruition.

Not sure when this American Greetings card was manufactured but I think it was in the early 90's. Not much to say, really - I just thought it was worth sharing... so much foil!

This beauty is from Hallmark. Time has not been kind to this card, no siree! It's like looking at an old photo album and cringing at the clothing styles - you just can't believe this stuff was considered good design. 

What's interesting though is the process by which they created the cover image. As you can see, they've printed the photo onto a piece of acetate which is then wrapped over and around a piece of white card stock. I should have taken a photo of the inside as well. It's very similar to the Norcross card I shared with you the other day. It's a 4/0 print job with a lot of careful folding. The interior is yellow with some VERY ROMANTIC text and then there's this white cover.  But because of the folding choices they've made and the acetate binding together the front and back of this quad-fold card, it looks a lot cleaner than other examples. Interesting choices...

I really like this card Norcross for several reasons. Firstly, the illustration is, to me, perfect for this era. It's just so darned loose, fun, and happy. Almost a little Mad Magazine in style.

Secondly, and more importantly, I love the added fold-out element on the inside. I don't know what this is called but it looks fabulous in person. I've never seen this specific type of embellishment on other cards, however, if you look back at my Victorian-era Valentine's Day cards posting(s), you'll see something very similar. I really do feel a lot of design styles travel in circles, especially when an idea is a good one. You want to see it in more than one generation!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"Vintage" Easter Card

Happy (almost) Easter everybody!

I have a few Easter cards from the 70's & 80's and wanted to share one with you, today. Not only because of the design but also because of the manufacturing methods used at that time. It's very different than what we would consider "acceptable" today - especially those of us who are printing with painstakingly slow (and expensive) letterpresses. 

This particular card was created by the Norcross greeting card company. They are attributed with creating the first commercial Valentine's Day cards. The company was founded in the mid-1920's by Arthur Norcross, his wife June and their daughter. Sadly it went out of business once Arthur passed on in 1969 and was sold several times thereafter.

It's an unusual size for today - 8" x 4"

I'm guessing, but it feels like they used a 70lb. text weight stock.

Nothing to note about the yellow or text on the inside - it just looks like your typical 4/4 (or 4/2 if that yellow was a spot color) card, right? 

But here's the interesting part, not only is the stock pretty thin, but it folds open into one piece - 16" x 8" so when it's folded together (no tape or glue holding the pieces together) it feels thicker AND it's only printed 4/0... pretty clever, but also pretty cheap. I don't know the cost of this card at the time - maybe it was really inexpensive, but I notice this manufacturing style on a lot of cards from this era. Interesting to see how things have changed. And who knows, maybe we'll all be utilizing this cost-effective method in the future, recycling the idea with a twist to make it sound innovative or environmentally-minded? I can't imagine using it myself, but never say never, right?!

Friday, April 11, 2014

How Cool is This?!

Everyone knows how boring it is to receive mail except when there's a greeting card amongst those dull bills, flyers, coupons, catalogs, blah, blah, blah...

The moment we spot that colorful envelope, that signature shape, everything else is put aside. Our day is now at least three-hundred percent better, guaranteed, and we haven't even looked inside. But we know that whatever's in there, it's great... someone is writing to tell us how much we're loved, they're thinking about us, and our day is feeling very fine! 

Now imagine, if you will, that same boring collection of mail.. but this time, instead of a greeting card, there's a cute little box on top of that stack of envelopes. And this box is a little enigmatic. What, exactly, could be in there? It's pretty small, but you know what they say about things that come in little packages.

And that's exactly what happened to me the other day!

How cool is this little package?! Who knew that something in your mail could be more exciting than a greeting card? And how mysterious... I wonder what's inside?

This, my friends, is a brilliant new greeting card that quickly folds into an adorable gift box from Greetabl, a St. Louis-based company founded by Joe Fischer & Zoë Scharf. I looooove it!

Can you see inside? There's a little piece of tissue paper and a gift card! And when I opened it further and folded it flat, there was a message written on the interior of the card as well. It really is true what they say about big things coming in little packages - think of all the other amazing gifts you could mail in this innovative design.

If you like what you see, check them out at and order a few cards to send to your family and friends. I suspect anyone who gets one of these little cuties will be over the moon thrilled. There's no doubt, upon receiving a Greetabl card, their day will be at least five-hundred percent better than before!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Still Loving Star Wars

I listen to a lot of books on cd - mostly because I don't have much time to sit and read, plus it's a great way to spend time while packing orders or walking the dogs. I recently finished listening to Star Wars: Heir To The Empire by Timothy Zahn. I'd never actually read one of these books before, I just saw it on the shelf at my local library, thought it sounded interesting, and checked it out. I know there's a lot of books within the Star Wars universe but didn't know that Mr. Zahn is the master of this genre. Turns out Heir To The Empire is the first novel ever written in the Star Wars universe and this particular book on cd celebrates the 20th anniversary since that book was first published. For me, the writing isn't great. I'm not usually into Science Fiction, even. I don't think I'd mention this in the middle of a sci-fi convention but, nonetheless, it's still pretty cool. Turns out the narrator, Marc Thompson, is the Rich Little of Star Wars voices. He does them all and while he doesn't sound exactly like Leia, he gets the intonation correct. It's like you're listening to a new Star Wars movie, and hey, Jar Jar Binks isn't in it, so it can't be that bad, right?!

I found a sample on You Tube:

Friday, March 28, 2014

New Card Design

Been slaving away at the old computer... working on a bunch of new cards. Here's one that I'm quite happy with.

It's pretty much done. I might mess around with the notes a bit but otherwise, I'm pleased. This will not be letterpressed - can you imagine if it was?! Honestly though, I'm sure Ronnie at DeFrance could handle it!

New Catalog

I'm working on the latest catalog right now and just finished the cover photo. 

Amazing how difficult it is to make a bunch of randomly-placed cards look balanced, compositionally and still look like they fell there by chance. Fun though - can't wait to see how it looks in print!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Can't Decide

I can't decide which robot card I like best. Can you help?! Which one would you print? Please let me know at Thanks!

Let's call him Cake Head The Implassible

This is Big Red & CT-8000

This is Cake Head The Implassible & CT-8000

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Great Support

I'm in the middle of designing a bunch of new cards. This one's not quite the final image, but close enough to share.

Here's the original drawing from my sketchbook (more like a doodle, really). I simply take a photo with my webcam, import it into Illustrator, and draw on top of the original. You can see how close this is to the final product. I wonder how popular a card with undergarments will be?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Legion Moving Announcement

I've been meaning to share this for ages. It's a moving announcement I designed for Legion Paper in NYC last summer. Great two color piece with a third blind hit for the clouds. As always - great printing by Ronnie Williams at DeFrance Printing

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Old Card Design

For a number of years I worked as lead designer on a historically significant animated cartoon character: Gertie the Dinosaur. It's an interesting story (and property) and I'll tell you more about it another time. I only mention it now because of today's submission, a birthday card I designed for my boss at the time. Unfortunately, I don't recall what it said inside and I only took a photo of the front.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Card You'll Never See in Production

I'm in the middle of a card design-a-thon right now and thought I'd share an image I know will never make it to press. This happens a lot more than I'd like. Sometimes, if I'm lucky, I'll know early on that the design isn't going to work. Unfortunately, in this case, it didn't dawn on me until I was pretty much done. Sigh.

It's one of my Rebus cards… can you figure it out?! It's just too gross - I can't figure out a way to design a cute brain. Cute? Brain? Isn't that an oxymoron?! I don't think that's even possible.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Maginating's Humble Beginnings

For those of you who might be interested in our Origin Story, here's a little ditty about how Maginating began…

Back in 2005 I was at a restaurant in Los Angeles with my sister (BTW - the restaurant is Clementines - believe me, it's worth mentioning). Fortunately, she suggested I check out the shop next door... thought I’d think it was pretty cool. Turned out it was Sugar Paper, a letterpress company who, at the time, specialized in their own stunning custom letterpress. This included a storefront as well, selling an amazing assortment of letterpress cards. It blew me away - I’d never seen anything like it before! One of the owners was in the shop that day and was very kind – she was happy to answer all my questions.  

About six months later I was fortunate enough to meet Bob Paduano – a master of all things letterpress. Bob had been in the business a long time and, eventually, was able to find and restore a Kluge 10x15 platen press for me.  This is an amazing press and, in my opinion, much better than the C&P equivalent. A couple features I really like on the Kluge, compared with the C&P, are:

- Kluge has six rollers
- ink disc can move up and down which really helps with cleanup
- has an ink fountain
- the cast iron bits are much thicker which = more robust (though I doubt you could do much damage to any platen press!)

Here's the unrestored version - yikes!

At the time I was doing freelance design work so, for about a year, whenever I had a spare moment, I worked down in the garage – trying to figure out this big hunk of cast iron. I never took any classes. I would have but wasn't able to find any that taught printing on a platen press. It seems that, for safety reasons, classes are most often taught on Vandercooks or very tiny table top presses. So I kept looking online for answers, spoke with all sorts of helpful and generous printers, read books - anything I could do to learn how to print well. It took some time but eventually my knowledge base grew to a point where I was able to get going at an operable speed.

Behold... a restored Kluge!

This went on for about a year until it got to a point where I realized that if I was going to create a greeting card company, I needed to commit myself, one-hundred-percent. So I did! I stopped taking on any freelance work and dedicated all my time to printing and building a card line. A pretty significant leap, somewhat blind, but something I felt was necessary.

 The Kluge arrives at our garage.

 Maginating's first "studio" (aka the garage) thanks goodness we were in Los Angeles at the time - no heating in there!

 On the bottom R corner of this image you can see a bit of my first print job - a wedding invitation for a friend. How crazy is that - a wedding invitation?! Please, don't be dumb like me, do anything other than a wedding invitation (and map and RSVP card and corresponding envelopes) for your first print job!

On the top R corner of this image you can see three cans of ink: Sage, Black, and Egg White (those are the names for our house colors). That's all I had - three colors! Just enough for the job. And it was rubber based ink. Maginating's cards were printed with that for a very long time.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Fabulous Picture Book

Every once in a while I'd like to feature some work by other artists who've honed their "maginating" skills to a very impressive degree.

Today will be Entry Number One which falls to the brilliant picture book, Journey, by Aaron Becker.

This is Mr. Becker's first foray into children's books. Not a bad start considering it's already garnered a Caldecott Honor, New York Times Best Illustrated Books Award, and a Junior Library Guild Selection, to name a few!

To tell it best, here's what he has to say about his book, My debut children's book, Journey, follows the adventure of a young girl who escapes the boredom of home to find a magical realm - in which she can control her destiny with her imagination. Though nary a word graces its pages, it couldn't tell a fuller, expansive adventure. It's an incredible accomplishment and is, in my estimation, one of the best children's books I've ever seen. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the unpredictable possibilities of a childlike, boundless imagination.

Check out if you'd like to know more about his process. Most excellent in every way!

Monday, February 17, 2014

It's Official!

In August, 2012 we began the process to apply for some federally registered trademarks. 

For those of you who are interested, here's a quick explanation regarding the use of a ™ (trademark) designation versus a ® (registered trademark) designation:

A trademark is a symbol, word, or words established by use or legally registered as representing a company or product.

You can use ™ on any mark that you wish to designate as a trademark. No registration is required, and in most states this will actually give you some "common law" trademark rights. Anyone can assert that anything is their trademark but it does not necessarily mean that the user has exclusive rights nor is it federally protected.

You can use the ® designation only after you obtain a federal trademark registration from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  This process requires filing an application with a fee and establishing that the owner is entitled to exclusive use of the mark associated with particular goods and services. During the application process you may NOT use the ® designation as it is illegal. You must continue to use nothing or the ™ designation until the federal registration is issued.

Sources: and

I'd wanted to do this for some time but didn't know where to begin. When we lived in Los Angeles, I'd spoken with a lawyer through the non-profit organization, California Lawyers for the Arts and had received some great free counsel. That said, it sounded very expensive, time consuming, and complicated. As there were plenty of other things needing my attention with this card company, I put it aside for many years.

Then I began seeing ads online for, an organization founded by the well-known O.J. Simpson lawyer Robert Shapiro, and thought I'd give them a call to see what kind of services they offered and, if available, what it would take to acquire some registered trademarks.

Turns out it's not very complicated or expensive so I proceeded to move forward with Legal Zoom and their trademark registration process.

I knew I wanted to register the word "Maginating" but also knew I didn't want to use "letterpress + design" any longer, let alone register those words. We were moving away from letterpress and into alternative printing methods so now was an appropriate time to substitute another phrase - something that described a "bigger-picture" company. I'd written down "a make-believe company" in my sketchbook several years before and really liked it. I thought the phrase best described who Maginating is with the same kind of whimsy our designs already exhibited, so we applied to register that phrase as well.

Throughout this process we, as a company, were claiming exclusive rights to the words "Maginating" and the phrase "a make-believe company" within the United States and the paper industry. But even though we were making this claim, in order to obtain a federal registration, we had to prove we were the first  and only company to use these words/phrases within our respective industry. We had to prove that no one else owned the rights to this collection of words.

I was pretty sure "Maginating" was available since it was a word I made up as a little kid. I'd use it like a verb, a way to describe the use of one's imagination. While I'd never heard the word used by anyone else before, that didn't eliminate the fact that someone might have made it up and was already using it somewhere else in the US. This registration process would officially prove who "owned" the word. The phrase, "a make-believe company," however, was not something I felt confident about. I figured someone else must have registered it already, but I liked the phrase so much I was willing to take the chance.

In late August of 2013, we received official paperwork from the USPTO that both the word "Maginating" and "a make-believe company" (with the hyphen) were officially, and most importantly, federally, ours.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Countdown to Valentine's Day: Part V

Happy Valentine's Day!

I wanted to save this card for today because it's fannncy. Not fancy in the way that cards of this generation can have all sorts of baubles and glitter and bits on the front, nor is it fancy in the way some cards have music or vibrating parts. It's fancy in the sense that it's a semi-popup, 8 page greeting card. I should also mention that it's pretty big, 10.75" x 7.5" on a nice matte stock and is produced by Hallmark.

It's simply divided into each season of the year. Spring gets the front page and the remaining seasons are full spreads. Unfortunately, the popup portions of each spread are not very clear in my photos, but  just know that summer and winter have some popup foreground elements.

Here's each season and the corresponding copy: 

We will be sweethearts 
when spring fills the air,
we'll find enough rainbows
and flowers to share…
and we'll love.

 We will be sweethearts
when summer's sun shines,
we'll dream dreams together
and have happy times…
and we'll love.

 We will be sweethearts
when autumn leaves fall,
we will be thankful
for joys great and small…
and we'll love.

We will be sweethearts
when winter winds blow,
we'll spend cozy moments
beside the hearth's glow…
and we'll love.

Happy Valentine's Day
To My Sweetheart for All Seasons 

While you probably won't see Maginating producing a card of this style in the foreseeable future, isn't it neat to remember how vast and varied the same fundamental sentiment of "I love you," can be conveyed time and again - and through the ages. Like I said in an earlier post, love is love - no matter what, and time never changes this fundamental fact.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Countdown to Valentine's Day: Part IV

Just wanted to add this little card today. Super cute!

And here's a detail of the caterpillar. Isn't it neat that so seemingly little "design" conveys so much. The inside message is cute, too, it says "iloveyouverymuch!"

BTW - this card was manufactured by Hallmark, in the Funny Expressions division.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Countdown to Valentine's Day: Part III

Today, I've like to share three lovely Victorian-era Valentine's Day popup cards from my grandmother's collection.

The inside of the first card is tough to read once it's opened. As you can see, on the front it says, "To Greet my Valentine…" but behind the roses, on the heart,  it says "...With My Best Love." A nice sentiment, indeed. A price of 3¢ can still be seen in pencil on the back of this card. Using an online Inflation Calculator, if we were to adjust this price for inflation, the card would still only be 81¢. Amazing!

As this second example is a love letter from Cupid, himself, I wanted to be sure to share the detail on the front, inside, and back of this marvelous card. The backs on today's other two cards are completely unfinished - just a simple, unattractive brown paper. But in this instance, no expense was spared on all surfaces. I wish I knew how much this cost back then. The assemblage is elaborate and obviously very durable. It's lasted a very long time.

The final image for today is an elaborate popup "To my Sweet Valentine." Once folded open, Cupid's message along the bottom says:

My hope,
my heaven,
my trust must be.

My gentle guide,
in following thee.

I'm not sure of the significance of the anvil on this card. I found some interesting information about blacksmiths and their association with weddings in Scotland through the famous Gretna Green marriages. Perhaps this is why an anvil takes center stage on this greeting?

Here’s a little bit of detail from Wikipedia; ( 

The local blacksmith and his anvil have become the lasting symbols of Gretna Green weddings. Scottish law allowed for “irregular marriages”, meaning that if a declaration was made before two witnesses, almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony. The blacksmiths in Gretna became known as “anvil priests”.
Gretna’s famous “runaway marriages” began in 1753 when Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act was passed in England; it stated that if both parties to a marriage were not at least 21 years old, then parents had to consent to the marriage. The Act did not apply in Scotland where it was possible for boys to marry at 14 and girls at 12 years old with or without parental consent. Many elopers fled England, and the first Scottish village they encountered was Gretna Green. The Old Blacksmith’s Shop, built around 1712, and Gretna Hall Blacksmith’s Shop (1710) became, in popular folklore at least, the focal tourist points for the marriage trade. The Old Blacksmith’s opened to the public as an attraction as early as 1887.