LEAD GRAFFITI IS TAKING A BREAK from its regular workshop schedule to prepare for two crucial book-related shows in February and March of 2019.

Codex VII (February 3 - 6) will be Lead Graffiti’s first ever appearance at this bookfest. Held biennially, Codex brings together book artists from all over the world at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, CA, north of Berkeley and near San Francisco. The Codex Foundation exists to preserve and promote the contemporary hand-made book as a work of art in the broadest possible context and to bring public recognition of the artists, the craftsmanship, and the rich history of the civilization of the book.

On March 9, Lead Graffiti will be exhibiting in our fifth Manhattan Fine Press Book Fair at the St. Vincent Ferrer parochial school on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 65th Street. We had our best year yet at Book Fair last year. Our single biggest sale was a complete set of our 4 newest books to the Library of Congress, along with completing the full run of Tour de Lead Graffiti clamshell sets for 2011 - 2015.

Lead Graffiti will be back with a full slate of workshops starting in the second half of March. Meanwhile, we hope to keep your letterpress interest alive with a look back at our TOP TEN Lead Graffiti moments from 2018 (plus a bonus #11).


#1 (in no particular order) : Website revamp with Squarespace


WE’VE JUST FINISHED A COMPLETE OVERHAUL of our website. Signing on with Squarespace, we have taken a rather circuitous route to a point where we are happy with most all aspects of the sit. We’ve included in-depth explanations about the creative process and production details about our work in the “shop” area of the site to avoid the need to bounce around. Have a look and let us know your thoughts. leadgraffiti.com.


#2 : Political postcards / 2017-2018


WE HAVE FALLEN IN LOVE WITH POSTCARDS. After the 2016 election, we wanted to put our love of letterpress to work as part of the resistance. A Rachel Maddow interview with EZRA LEVIN, one of the founders of INDIVISIBLE, inspired us. We decided to mail a constructive letterpress postcard to every U.S. Senator, both Democrat and Republican, every 3 weeks. We ended up sending 21 postcards. A few of them are shown above.

To continue the effort this year, as well as broaden it, we will be mailing postcards to all Democrats (minus the Republicans) in the U.S. House and Senate, the Delaware State Legislature, essential media and political personalities, and some friends. This totals about 450 addresses, considerably more than the 150 or so from before. We plan to send words of encouragement, as well as reminders of statesmanship as needed. For $15 you can get on the mailing list to receive a new letterpress postcard at least once a month until the 2020 election. You can read more about this project in the next listing.


#3 : BLUE WAVE celebration broadside

CELEBRATING DEMOCRATIC GAINS IN THE 2018 MIDTERMS, Lead Graffiti printed a BLUE WAVE broadside. We are selling the broadside to fund the postage needed to mail all of the Democratic members of both houses of Congress a postcard at least once a month for the next 2 years. Buying the broadside for $90 will also include you in the postcard mailing. FOR AN EXTRA $15 per name, you can add a friend to the postcard mailing list. This should make an exciting gift for the person with the right political thinking. Or maybe even the another political ideology.


#4 : Electric Fire from the Clouds

ONE OF OUR NEWEST BOOKS, Electric Fire From the Clouds, is an artists book collaboration between Martha Carothers of The Post Press and Ray Nichols of Lead Graffiti. This tall, conceptual volume pays homage to Ben Franklin's discovery of electricity in 1752. The text pages are printed slowly & patiently via letterpress on "ink pulls"—the result of pulling sheets of paper through the ink- and solvent-soaked rollers of our Vandercook Universal III. The text was linecast on an Intertype C4 and then positioned relative to the specific image on each sheet, resulting in no two pages in any pair of books looking alike. Click here for details and a page-through video of Electric Fire From the Clouds.


#5 : Chesapeake Meander

THIS NEW ARTISTS BOOK CAME ABOUT as the result of a challenge to members of the Upper Chesapeake Book Artists Group (Elkton, Maryland) to do a collaborative project culminating in a members' exhibition in October 2017. Jill Cypher partnered with Deborah Arnold, book artist, and writer of West of the Press, for their first-ever joint venture.

It was a match made in Lead Graffiti heaven. With the Chesapeake Bay as the subject, Jill dove into looking for suitable mariners maps and ways to illustrate the life of the Chesapeake Bay, and Deborah zeroed in on navigating the Chesapeake with meandering and picturesque words. Highlights include handset and hand-inked wood and metal type, a hand-painted paste paper cover, and parchment spine with decorative stitching.


#6 : How Ink Writes Poetry

RAY LOVES THE FACT that sometimes the seed of an idea will bounce around inside his head for years, and then for some strange reason pops out rather fully formed. There is a certain irony in producing a letterpress book that is somewhat letterpress-free on the inside. This new Lead Graffiti book was the genesis for the imagery behind using ink pulls (explained in Electric Fire From the Clouds above).

We pretty much fell in love with the textures and abstract quality of the images. This book is going to be the start of what Ray hopes to turn into a series of about 5 books on different topics that will include text (by various authors) illustrated by his ink pull techniques.


#7 : Jill’s Abecedaritype

OLD-FASHIONED ALPHABET BOOKS (known as abecedarians) for children with their quaint and charming illustrations were the inspiration for this book by Jill Cypher. In place of the typical animals and objects, the images are replaced by typographic “sorts,” the generic term given to the individual handset bits of metal type used in letterpress printing.

A personal challenge in creating this book was to limit the source of all the type and imagery and to showcase whatever could be found in the existing Lead Graffiti collection. In other words, no computer or photopolymer plates were used in its production. Printed in 2 colors from handset wood and metal type, Abecedaritype features a hand-painted spine and an engaging flutter book display format.


#8 : Itinerant Printer published

“IN A FACELESS CORRUGATED STEEL WAREHOUSE in an industrial park just outside Newark, DE lies one of the most experimental letterpress shops in America, and doubtless, the world: Lead Graffiti. LG is the incorrigible, unpredictable, and uncompromising brainchild of Ray Nichols and Jill Cypher — a shop where the only rule is there are no design rules, and the thing you learn every day is that there’s always more to learn.”

You’ve just read the opening paragraph about Lead Graffiti from Chris Fritton’s new mega book, The Itinerant Printer, which delivered this past fall. Inside, Fritton documents his nationwide tour of 139 letterpress studios, large and small, with photos and personal insights gained from his 2-year sojourn practicing his neon printing art. It’s so what-we-aspire-to-do, we couldn’t have written it better ourselves.


#9 : Finding an author for “THE” book.

FOR 15 YEARS RAY HAS BEEN TAKING PHOTOS that isolate the word “THE” from its environment of words. Jeanille Tomey, a co-worker in the Admissions Department at the University of Delaware, originally started shooting THEs, but Ray has continued with the project, trying to find new and unusual ways to isolate those letters. As the number of usable photos began to approach 150, it became time to select the best images and find suitable words to bind the images into a cohesive unit.

Over breakfast with long-time friends Becky and Bernie Herman (now at the University of North Carolina), Ray was describing the prospect of producing the photo-dominant book, while explaining how he couldn’t think of a style for the text that would relay the core idea of the photographs as well as add to their wit. Bernie blurted out, “The Indefinite Lives of Definite Articles!”

The partnership was sealed over biscuits and gravy.

The text has been recently received, so stay tuned for further In-Definite developments.


#10 : Terrific Tuesdays at the Winterthur Museum & Library

THIS WAS LEAD GRAFFITI’S FIRST EXPERIENCE with Winterthur Museum’s summer arts program for kids, and we had an absolute colorful blast! On 2 different Tuesdays in July and August, Ray and Jill hauled their 150-pound Nolan proof press to Winterthur to bring letterpress printing (ala H. N. Werkman’s druksels) to all the kids (ages 3 to 10 years) who showed up.

As you can see by the samples above, the kids were busy as bees and indeed on a roll. There were plenty of happy inking accidents all around to admire and share.


#11 Bonus : Zoom talk on Dynamic Type to the graduate letterpress group at the University of Alabama

WE ARE GOING TO ADD THIS EXTRA ONE TO THE LIST for those of you who work at libraries, who are part of organizations that focus on books or letterpress, or who teach design, typography, and such things.

Lead Graffiti did a ZOOM talk (meetings software) on typography this past fall with Sonya, one of our American Printing History Association / Chesapeake Chapter members. Sonya took a teaching position at the University of Alabama / Huntsville. She asked us to do an illustrated online talk on dynamic type with her graduate students, using our Tour de Lead Graffiti broadside series as a point of departure. We had a great time doing it, and the Tour imagery provoked some excellent questions from the students.

We believe the Zoom service is free when used in a 1-computer-to-1-computer (“us” talking to “you”) situation. We welcome any inquiries from you regarding a similar speaking opportunity involving letterpress, typography, creative thinking, or however we can help.

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