Thursday, December 31, 2009

Macro-photography of Engraved Stationery Die

This image is an extreme close-up of a portion of a steel engraved die, the original image area you are viewing is but 15mm X 20.1mm, that's way less than one inch square, and the digital image is approximately 34 inches wide at 240dpi. (Needless to say what you are viewing has been reduced for use on the internet.)

Visible at this clarity (although we will soon be able to provide even clearer images at this degree of enlargement) are several factors that go into what is this die.

First, it is both etched and touched-up with engraving, the tell-tale granular texture of the bottom of the deep areas is because etching corrodes the metal, thus rendering it much less light reflective than engraving.

Second, notice that some areas (the tops of the arches at top, right) reflect light and look smooth like ice. The engraving tool polishes the metal so light bounces off of it like a jewel.

Other areas of interest are the rust not noticable with the bare eye and the very interesting texture all around the edge (left and bottom) made by the file that beveled the edges of this 1/2" thick steel die. Also, there are many surface scratches that would not print with an engraving press but look kind of spooky here.

While creating this image it was discovered that, at this extreme magnification, minute vibrations blur the image. So, now we will work on stabilizing everything for absolutely maximum focus (and we will be able to get closer, too.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Odd Ball Short Story

While researching the International Correspondence Schools recently, I was reminded of the odd-ball J.D. Salinger short story, De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period, about a young man reduced by sad personal circumstances to take a job as a correspondence art course instructor.

I was researching the correspondence school to find out from where this technical text book came.

There’s a great article about correspondence art schools by Steve Heller in the 12.15.09 Design Observer, too.

"What if Edith Wharton Facebooked" in AIGA Voice

Read the article, "What if Edith Wharton Facebooked" recently published in AIGA Voice about life, love, marriage, notoriety, privacy and social media, engraving and writing letters long hand, too.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hand Engraved Samples and Press Proofs Featured in VOGUE Magazine's Blog

As quoted from Vogue's Need it Now, by Stephanie LaCava and edited by Virginia Tupker, "There’s a special sort of “sample sale” starting online, one unlike all others. Stationer Nancy Sharon Collins is about to launch a site that allows you to choose from her storied collection of bespoke, hand-engraved note cards. Let’s explain: Collins is also an archivist, her specialty being the research of type and print history, meaning she’s an expert on the best stationery. Part of her work is to keep track of the houses that have sadly gone out of business—recall the beloved Mrs. John L. Strong—which means she comes across hundreds of vintage steel engraving dies. Naturally, out of curiosity and duty, she creates small editions to see the prints created with the newly acquired designs. “It occurred to me that rather than hoarding them, I could offer the public these charming little proofs.” For example, some of Collins’s favorite designs are from a shuttered New York City engraver that had its offices on West Twenty-eighth Street. “My favorite is the log, probably something used at a timber or lumber company; unexpected, charming, and kind of cartoony.” Though not as easy to come by, not to be forgotten is Collins’s one-of-a-kind work. She let us in on a special secret: She was once commissioned to hand-engrave an Ellsworth Kelly artwork from a personal, private collection. . . . Who knows what we’ll find in the samples?"

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Love Letters: American Commercial Engraving, Monograms and Social Stationery

Please join us at University of Texas at Austin for the most recent rendition of this evolving presentation about American commercial engraving.

Tuesday September 22, 6:00pm–7:30pm Art Building, Room ART 1.120 This lecture will include images from recent research and sources of commercial engraving and specifications for engraving types never before shown in public or discussed.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Beauty Make-Over for Heavy Metal

A silk purse...from a...sow's ear.

Mission complete, the smaller of two, hundred year old engraving proofing presses have just been fully restored and completely operable by my husband and partner, John Mack Collins. This baby (pictured above) weighs-in at about two hundred pounds and when you hit the ball watch your head and digits 'cause it wields about a force of two tons.

These presses were originally made for proofing half inch thick commercially engraved dies but they have been used for production work on embossed monograms and family seals. The big brother, about 50% again the weight, is almost completely restored as well. This one will reside at Loyola University New Orleans in the graphic design department with Professors Daniela Marx and Nancy Bernardo. A small but burgeoning cottage industry for print engraving is being nurtured here in New Orleans by Yvette Rutlidge, venerable typographer, sign letter and master engraver, at Mystic Blue Signs. Yve will be devoting a portion of her shop to the letter arts, and, engraving.

Follow the entire story, here:
(sample of the 1/2" thick steel dies)

Friday, August 28, 2009

So Noted: In search of monograms; Felt and Wire

Seeking submission of engraving as noted in the wonderful Mohawk paper blog.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Looking for Examples of Hand Engraved Social Stationery

For a research project I am seeking actual pieces of hand engraved social stationery, no photos. If you have some to lend or give, kindly contact me directly for mailing particulars. She is Please email me with the particulars, include your name, phone number(s), complete description of the piece or pieces you would like to submit, the story of to whom and from whom the piece came, your relationship (if any) and any interesting bits that would make for a nice story.

If your piece is chosen, we will need a legal release to digitize and publish your submission.

What we are looking for must be hand engraved and of American origin, including but not limited to:
  • stationery
  • cards
  • notes
  • calling cards
  • at home cards
  • announcements
  • acknowledgment cards
The sole criterion is engraving: this is raised on the front with a bruise or indentation on the back, which is how to tell real engraving.

Friday, May 15, 2009

What's The Difference Between Hand and Regular Engraving?

For centuries hand engraving has been combined with etching to create beautiful designs for print.

Engraving is accomplished with a very sharp knife-like blade called a burin or graver, it cuts lines and or dots into metal forming letters or art. When ink is rubbed into the cuts and the surface wiped clean the ink stays within the cuts, a piece of paper is then placed on top and pressure (about 2 tons) applied forcing the paper into the inked places. When the paper is pulled away the ink is transferred onto it. Because of this extreme pressure the ink is raised so you can feel it.

In etching, acid is used to perform the "cut", the method for inking and printing is the same but it takes years and years of apprenticeship to master engraving while etching is easier to achieve. So, over the years, most commercial "engraving" has—and is—primarily etched.