John Bolton : The WH / Lead Graffiti connection

Unexpectedly the creative life of Lead Graffiti has crossed paths with the political life of the Trump White House. On March 22, 2018, Donald Trump chose John Bolton, a controversial former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as his national security advisor. Back in 2005, as Ray and Jill were starting to feel comfortable with the process of letterpress, an opportunity to produce a creative poster series fell into their laps.

Ralph Begleiter, a former CNN journalist, was the director of a University of Delaware speaker series entitled Global Agenda. The program, which originated in 2002, invited speakers to talk about a political theme, which in 2005 was entitled  "Rx for the President." The final speaker scheduled that year was John Bolton, who had just been nominated by then-President George W. Bush to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.  That nomination was extremely controversial (due in no small part to Bolton's belligerent views and military action) and was a probable contributing factor toward Bolton canceling his talk. Fortunately, we had already done the posters.

The controversy surrounding Bolton and his nuclear threats topic provided a lot of impetus in producing a visually powerful poster that would be memorable. The resulting poster has always been one of Ray's favorites. It includes hand rolled wood type we often do, along with Jill's prior hand rolling of the background sheet. We wanted to capture a sense of the swirling arguments and also to provide a powerful poster to bookendthe series.

The posters were 18" x 24" and produced in an edition of about 70 prints. Six posters in this style were produced for the 2005 series, but this one really stood out to us. Back in our early years of letterpress, this poster was a tipping point for us.

It is often easy to encourage students to take on additional work to give you extra experiences to print and experiment and add a printed piece to your portfolio. This particular project was a big one for us and we already had a pretty good portfolio.

I suspect we should say, "Stay tuned on this one."

A thought for students and faculty : We got this project which provide us with a nice series of broadsides for our portfolio along with some seriously good printing experience simply by asking.

  • It isn't unreasonable that you could find an excuse at your univeristy to do something similar. We've had people who really didn't know how to letterpress well enough to take on a project like this, to simply add the cost of our technical Vandercook workshop to the project and come learn how to do it from someone that an pass that along to  you.
  • We didn't make any money as all plates and supplies were paid for, but it didn't cost us any money either. We just wanted the experience.
  • We got connected to some very interesting people.
  • There was good pressure to print them well
  • A great way to learn is to do something over and essentially we got to do that 6 times
  • Additionally, we did this speaker series 3 other years (this was the only one done with letterpress). 

Click on the images below to cycle through 5 of the 7 posters we produced for this series. Our favorite is Bolton and we wouldn't have gotten to it if we hadn't done 7 broadsides.

Production note : We printed the top image and text above the speaker's name to start. This added work at the start but reduced it when we had to do each of the pieces every two weeks.

For one of the other years we created an animation for the start of each talk. We'll try to get that uploaded here sometime. If you are interested, pressure us.

A great opportunity that was ours just for asking.