Category Archives: Hand Lettering

Phoem #4


“Phoems” are a game I’ve been playing. Rule #1: Go through my archive of iPhone photos and pick one. Rule #2: With a minimum of fuss and bother, write a poem to go with. I was shooting to post one Phoem per day but like most everything I try to do daily, it ends up weekly, or as the mood strikes. So be it. For now it’s just good exercise and a chance to give new life to old images.

Printing your hand lettering on fabric…oh yes you can.

Messenger bag label

This past Christmas my wife and I embarked on a brave, 3-month-long mission to produce 13 hand-made messenger bags for our family members, based on the Cooper Bag from Colette patterns.

Of course by “we” I mean mainly Sara. She did 95% of the sewing, although I did venture into previously scary territory and during the final week of production, learned how to use a serger and at least pulled some of my weight. And I have the pin punctures and steam burns to show for it. Sewing…not for the squeamish.

I also designed the custom labels we sewed into the interior lining of each bag. And the process of making those was so simple and fun I couldn’t resist sharing. I originally tried printing the labels directly on fabric using my Gocco press and it was an epic fail, mainly due to the small text size just not rendering with enough clarity. So desperate to find an alternative and with the Christmas clock ticking I tried this solution from DIY Network:

You’ll need:

  • Your original artwork, scanned to size and set up to print multiple copies on a sheet
  • Freezer paper
  • Iron
  • Fabric to print on
  • An inkjet printer
  1. Cut freezer paper to 8.5 x 11 (or whatever your printer can handle). Probably best to stick with standard sheet sizes initially.
  2. Cut your fabric slightly larger than the freezer paper.
  3. Note: There is a thickness threshold that varies from printer to printer, but basically your fabric and freezer paper have to make it through your printer so printing on heavy canvas probably kill most inkjet printers.
  4. Lay the freezer paper on an ironing board shiny side up, place the fabric on top, wrong side down, cover with a piece of muslin or thin ironing cloth.
  5. Iron over the piece for about 45 seconds on high. The freezer paper should securely adhere to the cloth.
  6. Trim away excess cloth to make corners and edges flush.
  7. Place freezer paper/fabric in your inkjet printer so the side facing up is the side printed on. Use the highest quality settings in your printer settings dialog.

This worked the first time flawlessly using a cheap, freebie all-in-one printer. The freezer paper easily peels off the fabric and leaves a detailed, well-inked image behind. Since then we’ve upgraded to a bigger and much better quality printer and we’re already envisioning printed fabric for pillows, etc.

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainty” — Erich Fromm

Erich Fromm quote :: Foolish Fire

This poster is a commissioned piece by the Dutch magazine Flow for their upcoming DIY issue.

The lettering was hand drawn and loosely based on the slab-serif font Rockwell Bold. The illustration was hand rendered using Illustrator and brought onto a layered, hi-res Photoshop file.

One side effect of hand-lettering quotes is that you’re forced to live with the words for a long time, so they can really penetrate the old brain pan. As such, while working with this Fromm quote I had a chance to look at some pretty raw areas in my own artistic life, mainly related to taking chances, thinking off the grid, questioning my abilities. You know…a Thursday.

Working for a Local Institution

Baseball Mary Invite :: Foolish Fire
Baseball Mary is the ultimate San Francisco Giants fan and somewhat of a force of nature. She’s also famous for her annual invitation-only fundraising party which targets a worthy non-profit or a family or individual in need (one year it was Bryan Stow, the unfortunate SF Giants fan who was beaten within an inch of his life in 2011 at a Giants-Dodgers game in L.A.) This year it’s La Casa de las Madres , a San Francisco-based non-profit that advocates for solutions to domestic violence and provides resources and shelter for battered women and children.

Mary raises thousands of dollars every year by holding a raffle during her party which draws donors from major league baseball, local businesses and even a few celebs in and out of the sports world. This year Mary scored big and (somehow) got ahold of a baseball signed by Gloria Steinem, maybe the most unlikely autographer (if that’s a word) of a baseball ever, and will raffle it off at her upcoming party on January 26 along with a lot other cool merch and services.

Mary and I were introduced three years ago through a design client and I’ve been doing her invitation/poster since on a pro bono basis. This year I executed the piece by hand. I digitally painted the Steinem baseball first, then did the lettering, then decided to put the whole thing on a chalkboard background.

But holy crap…am I rusty!! I wish I could say I sat down, taped a fresh piece of paper on the drafting board and did this whole thing in one sitting but not even close. By the time I called it a wrap I had inch-thick stack of paper with bits and pieces of re-worked text and a worn out scanner. Oh well. Mary liked it = I’m happy. Back to the practice pad, though. Seriously.

BTW…I blurred out the address so ya’ll wouldn’t be showing up from Poughkeepsie trying to score that Gloria Steinem baseball uninvited. Nothing personal.

In the end only three things matter…

In the end only 3 things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived and how gracefully you let go of the things not meant for you.--Buddha :: Foolish Fire

From the last few posts I guess it’s obvious that I’ve been playing around with a more free-form, lattice-type, scaffold kinda thing. What’s different about this piece is that after I scanned the inked page I brought it into Illustrator and did an image trace. All the little awkward joints and intersections got smoother as if it melted together a little. Then it was just about doing some clean-up in Photoshop, adding a subtle background texture and voila. I tried a bamboo pen and black ink on watercolor paper for a first run at it but opted for a .8mm technical pen, doing the original at a smaller size than and then slightly enlarging the placed image in Illustrator before image tracing it.

I’ll probably leave this style for a while and return to more structured lettering projects, but I do gravitate toward a more spontaneous, quick execution sometimes. Especially after doing more serious, wrist wrenching calligraphy or a complex chalkboard.

And I love this quote. The Buddha gets right to the heart of the matter, yeah?