13
Apr 13

Postcards!

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One of my goals with design work for movements, beyond making effective tools for education or outreach, is to avoid waste by producing things that people might want to keep – to make ‘keep sakes’ that hold memories and meaning (including as aesthetic objects). I’m not sure how progressive that impulse ultimately is, but it’s definitely there.

While working on a postcard for an upcoming event, I had the opportunity to sort through my personal collection from social movement and cultural events, and consider which ones I liked the most. I’m sharing a few of my favourites here, though I’ve focused only on the front sides. Balancing the text-heavy content of the reverse is its own art.

I guess postcards, or rave cards as I’ve also heard them called, signify access to more time (for the turn-around of a print shop) and resources ($$$) than say, a quarter-page flyer printed on regular paper at home, school, work, or a 24-hour copy shop. So it often feels like there’s been considerable thinking about the design as well.

4×6 seems to be the standard format. Over 90% of the postcards in my stack are 4×6 inches. A couple are smaller and a handful are larger (I find the large ones a little unwieldy and less pocket friendly). 4×6 is a familiar size for travel postcards and personal photographs.

Organizers primarily use postcards for outreach and education, however a few double as actual postcards for mailing, particularly those that are not date-specific. Some are for personal use while others are produced with a campaign in mind and are intended to be mailed to someone like a Minister in government.

One thing that is often overlooked about outreach materials is the personal dimension. Postcards tend to be exchanged hand-to-hand or picked-up from a particular location where they’ve been dropped off. But because of their DIY immediacy, flyers still have the most personal feel.

Interestingly, none of my favourites are based on traditional photographs – they’re colourful combinations of hand-drawn (or painted/printed) and digital illustration styles. The postcard on the bottom left (of the header image) looks like an actual rave flyer, but it’s from the TRIP Project, which totally makes sense. The CURE postcard on the far right is bilingual with French on one side and English on the other.

Update: I added five more of my favourites. I like them so much that I included two with strong photographic elements (even though it contradicts what I wrote above), and bent the rules to include the CAIA bookmark.

They’re all from collectives or projects based in Toronto or Montreal, with the exception of The Revolution Starts at Home, which still has a Toronto connection via co-editor Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarsinha.

I haven’t done the research to put the production and distribution of these postcards in context. They’ve been chosen based on my own subjective aesthetic preferences. But as campaign tools, how effective were they? And did the design process reflect the values of the organizations (in terms of labour, sourcing materials, production)? I’d like to know.


12
Apr 13

Highlights from Hiatus

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I’m still making and thinking about things, my energy has just been redirected and maybe stretched a little thin.

In February RDS collaborated with Mary from Justseeds for the Migration Now! Portfolio Launch. The initial opening was cancelled due to snowstorm warnings, so our live silkscreen activity was combined with the Justicia / No One Is Illegal / Beehive / RDS / Justseeds panel event.

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We created a design for bandanas featuring animals with different relationships to migration. We also made a handout with backstories. The process was nice, we developed our ideas and practiced printing over the course of two dinners hosted at Bike Pirates. Our initial inspiration was thinking about the relationship between migration and colonialism alongside classifications of animals as ‘native’ / ‘invasive’ species and it evolved from there.

I also started a new tumblr in February called other orders because there was stuff I wanted to share that didn’t fit on free the streets. It’s mostly been a space for reclaiming culture and experimenting with digital design. So I get to make GIFs from Iranian cinema, remix and recontextualize Dr. Doom comics, and post images that would otherwise sit on my hard drive.

Image from Marvel Super Heroes Presents: Doctor Doom (#20, 1969) #GenderTrouble

A scene from 20 fingers (2004)

 


15
Dec 12

Y(our) Complicity

I don’t have the words to talk about this right now, but I just have to share the images.

Download (PDF, 11.68MB)

Also, can I say that all my friends are superheroes? The Sunday night emotionally-supportive, bus-riding, supply-dragging and genius screenprint pulley system imagining kinds!

 


29
Nov 12

Juice Report

Sheila and I followed our letterpress adventure at KOZO by taking an 8-week screenprinting course at Open Studio.

I’ve been screenprinting for a few years now — even facilitating workshops and live printing in public spaces — but before taking this class, I’ve never had the opportunity to use a “professional” studio. That’s one of the reasons why I was interested in checking out Open Studio — to see what kind of juice they have.

My initial experience was a bit jarring but ultimately it was a great course with a very helpful instructor that expanded my understanding of the medium. I learned a variety of useful techniques and produced some personal and playful new work.

The conflict I had at first was with the dissonance between the way Open Studio bills itself as “Canada’s Leading Fine Art Printmaking Centre”, the substantial fees we were paying, and the limited supplies we had to work with: dull blades, runny leftover inks, one-sheet per class rations of nice paper, a single flat file drawer for the entire class, and queues to wash-out screens. It was a little disheartening.

My first project (printing with paper stencils) was also a bit of a disaster — partly on account of the dull blades and bland inks — but also because I didn’t have enough time to think it through. If I had some advance warning, I could have done some prep work and brought one of my own x-acto blades from home.

That said, after the first class my experience was a lot better. I loved having a block of time each week for just making stuff. I came to appreciate the studio for what it is: a vital artist-run centre that responds to challenges with practical DIY solutions, like any resourceful artist would do.

It also helped that I was able to think about projects in advance and produce work that I was more happy with, while reminding myself that what was most important was exploring new ways of doing things.

Two colour print made on one screen (side-by-side) with drawing fluid and screen filler, inspired by a quote from this story

My first attempt with rubylith backfired when I removed the wrong area by mistake, but I recovered by using packing tape on the screen to create these sharp lines. The original idea was for a grey and pink rectangle to represent “a (divided) life”, but then I started to move the halves around to make new geometric formations.  

Two colour print made with oiled photocopies, images are panels from Taiyo Matsumoto’s excellent Tekkonkinkreet (Black & White). I also messed around with the placement of these layers to create different effects. 

For my final project I wanted to do something more ambitious that required tighter registration. This is a three layer print from oiled photocopies. I originally had four layers, with a light purple background fill, but I had to let it go because it wasn’t printing properly and I was running out of time. I made the original design in Illustrator, using a photo of a milkcrate for reference. 

These hand-outs give a sense of the format of the class:

Course Outline / CMYK Colour Separation Guide

Typically each session began by demo-ing a new printing technique: paper stencils, drawing fluid and screen filler, rubylith, oiled photocopies with emulsion, CMYK separations, tearing paper, registration with acetate, or registration with pins and tabs.

Coming from the kitchen table school of screenprinting, it was nice to have access to counterweights to keep the screen suspended, a printing table with vacuum suction, and a washout booth to power-wash screens.

I think my technique improved — I’m more vigilant now about having enough ink to flood (and afterwards print) with a single pull. I want to get better at registration and to try using pins and tabs on a future project. I’ve noticed that when things start to fall apart, I get stressed out and can allow this to affect how I interact with people (like being short with them), so that’s something I also want to work on.

These classes are not super financially accessible, though they do cost less than a university course/credit, and when you’re not being graded, it’s a really nice environment for experimentation (Favianna has a great piece about this). I know that’s little consolation if you can’t afford either, so hopefully we can share what we glean from institutions in more inclusive venues and continue organizing together!


15
Nov 12

OPIRG Poster Archive

OPIRG Poster Archive

What is it? What does it do? So what? 

I’ve been working on this project since June but I keep coming back to these questions.

When I was doing my first archiving project, an overview of graphics used by No One Is Illegal – Toronto from 2003-2009, I saw it as three things: a design resource, a historical archive, and a tool for analysis.

This collection has a different feel. There’s much more breadth – in terms of the timeline and themes – but also less depth. The collection has more gaps. I’m less familiar with the images. And they are not so atomized into logos and other remixable parts. As a result, analysis has been a slower and more elusive process.

I tried to sketch out some of my ideas here:

  • The OPIRG Poster Archive is a collection of 300+ social movement posters from the mid-1980s to present, primarily concerning Toronto, that have been digitally archived by community members using Omeka, an open source web platform
  • The archive is a snapshot of two campus-based organizations, OPIRG-York and OPIRG-Toronto, made from posters that trace their role as a hub for a dynamic range of social justice organizing, often intersecting and sometimes contradicting, but bound together by a shared history, including that someone decided they were “worth keeping”
  • The archive displays a web of relations, with items tagged by year and theme, offering a set of data to reflect on the nature of social movement organizing, as well as the position of posters in these movements, and what we can learn from documenting them
  • The archive is only partial, missing captions and stories that can animate still images, that might reveal emotions, processes, relations of production, formal and informal training, or how to gauge the question of efficacy
  • The archive is a political act, an effort to contribute to the recovery of hidden histories, drawing from the phantom archive of social movement culture, and maybe serving as a reference for future projects

Some notes on process:

  • Installing Omeka was a hassle at first. It didn’t seem to get along with my website hosting provider. I tried the Omeka-hosted alternative, but decided that I wanted to be able to fully customize the collection. Luckily, Omeka installed smoothly when I tried with OPIRG-York’s hosting provider. Despite my limited technical knowledge, I was able to stumble forward with visual and functional coding tweaks, mostly by googling problems and experimenting through trial-and-error.
  • I scanned half of the OPIRG-York posters at home and half at school. I found a sweet ~$2,000 scanner in the map library that scans just over 11×17. My home scanner (~$200) scans just under 11×17, and while not as good as the fancy scanner, the quality was still sufficient. I saved “master files” that were 300dpi in lossless TIFF format and then used Photoshop to mass automate the creation of smaller web-friendly files that I batch-uploaded to Omeka. Daniel repeated the same process with the OPIRG-Toronto posters, and fortunately for us, all of the posters had already been gathered into portfolio books by OPIRG staff.
  • For oversized files (larger than 11×17), I tried stitching multiple scans together with Photoshop. The results were mixed. I then followed Lincoln Cushing’s example by making a vacuum board (and acquiring a shopvac) to photograph posters flat, though I decided to opt for a simpler design based on this concept.
  • When it came to categorizing the posters, I got stuck. I decided early on that I wanted to go with the snapshot approach rather than a tightly curated collection, but I still wanted to help organize the content to make it more digestible. My sense of what was possible or desirable was heavily shaped by poster collections that I’ve seen in books. Due to the format, they tend to be hierarchical and linear. I was trying to reproduce this by crudely constructing categories and trying to fit images into them (along with devising the viewing order). After a conversation with Craig, I realized that I didn’t need to do this. The advantage of a web-based collection is that it doesn’t need to be hierarchical or linear. I decided to emphasize the tag cloud by making it the main page rather than the full stream of images.

Before signing-off, I want to share a short personal note:

  • OPIRG-Toronto was pretty fundamental to my politicization as an undergrad at UofT. It was as an OPIRG work-study student that I first became familiar with many of the social movements agitating on and off campus. The OPIRG office was a microcosm for these struggles; they were represented on the walls with posters, placards, flyers and calendars that seemed to cover every square inch.

It’s been a privilege to work on this project. I’m interested to see how it evolves (maybe with more PIRGs or public contributions being added), and I hope that people find it useful.

 


04
Nov 12

Re-Purposing Political Posters

Hey it’s me checking in. I’m prepping with Radical Design School for our workshop during the OPIRGs’ Rebuilding Bridges conference.

Our session involves re-purposing (un-used) political posters to make notebooks. Should be fun and hopefully an opportunity to facilitate a good discussion about movement-building as well.

In the process of developing this workshop we came up with a neat list of some other possible projects. It’s not ideal, but sometimes after a big event or demo, there’s stacks of extra posters left over. And inevitably, when you’re making prints, there’s going to be some misprints that aren’t quite right.

Some become keepsakes for personal archives – tacked on to walls or tucked away for safe-keeping – but what can we do with the rest, the uncoveted remainder? Do posters need to have an expiry date? Can they have a second life? Another opportunity to speak out, maybe a chance to try doing something new?

I hope so!

Notebooks (Pamphlet Stitched)

The notebooks pictured here are pamphlet stitched. I learned about this simple technique from a little zine I got at TCAF called “6 Sweet Binding Techniques and How To Do Them!” by Beth Hetland. It recommends 4-8 sheets, but I went up to 16 without problems. This PDF by Booklyn Artists Alliance sums up the process pretty well. And more guides from them are available here.

Notebooks (Perfect Bound)

Perfect binding is great for creating longer books, but it requires a little more work. Lisa MacDonald did a workshop on perfect binding during the first RDS workshop series. Click for photos from the workshop and a PDF guide to perfect binding.

Envelopes

I did an earlier blog post on this, from when I made envelopes to hold DVDs and a booklet by No One Is Illegal – Toronto. You can cut straight to the how-to video here.

Book Jackets

For protecting your books and/or privacy, allowing you to wrap covers with your own personal propaganda. How-to video here.

Wallets

I tried this tutorial and my only complaint is that for CDN bills, letter-size paper made wallets that were a little too small, and tabloid was way too big. Legal size paper or trimmed tabloid would be better.

Paper Bags

Haven’t tried this idea yet but it looks awesome.

Thank You Cards, Calling Cards, and Bookmarks can all be made out of chopped up pieces of (mis)prints on thicker paper stock.

Thanks to crafty paper crafters, the possibilities are almost endless … Sketch Paper, Paper Stencils, Paper Cut Outs, Paper Mache, Collages, Images for Buttons, Gift Wrap.

And check out this plan for a Woven Basket!


30
Sep 12

Mmaking Mmultiples

 

Footage from a print-making session with Renee & Sheila this summer. Renee carved the image when she was in Mexico. So much fun.

 


29
Jul 12

Love & Rage Helmet

Love / Rage

I started this blog just over two years ago.

One of my first posts featured a custom-painted bike helmet. This here is my second one.

At the time, I was inspired by finally learning to bike the summer before – and also by my love of graphics by Justseeds. Like getting back on a bike, I wanted to push myself to try something I had long given up on – making an “art” with my own hands (or at least, not solely with a computer).

This new helmet idea didn’t require the same stencil-painting technique, just lots of drawing (and erasing) directly on the helmet with a pencil as a guide for a painting, and some much appreciated help from Sheila with the anarchist heart on the front.

Some fierce friends talk about putting on armour for everyday battles – interactions with bosses, misogynist street harassers, faceless bureaucracies, capitalist vampires, and the like.

This helmet was made with that in mind, as a piece of armour imbued with the spirit of love and rage.

Front / Back