We are very excited that our three-way collaboration with Grenson Shoes and Persephone Books is launching tomorrow. Grenson are creators of hand-made leather shoes of a quality that, should you take the plunge and invest in a pair (they are reassuringly expensive) will last all your life. Our old friends Persephone Books, publishers of the elegant grey volumes with patterned endpapers, are their close neighbours in Lamb's Conduit Street in London. To celebrate this, Grenson proposed a collaboration: to create a limited edition shoe printed with the design Cambridge Imprint created for Persephone—particularly appropriate because of its strong Bloomsbury Group feel. After an immense labour, the shoes are ready. The level of craftsmanship and attention to detail is extraordinary. We find colour fidelity a challenge printing on the relatively straightforward medium of paper: Grenson have achieved perfect matching of all five of the original Persephone colour ways on leather. Add to this the difficulty of lining the pattern up across all the seams - a job that must be done differently for every size of shoe. We are so delighted with the result, which perfectly reflects the determination of all three collaborators that genius does indeed lie in the infinite capacity for taking pains.
The shoes will launch tomorrow in Grenson's shop in Lamb's Conduit Street, and also online. You can read a very nice piece about them in the Financial Times here:
We were at the printers last week as our new Special Small Papers went through the big Heidelberg litho press.
It was a great couple of days. As usual some of the most exciting moments were when new patterns were created by random overprinting at the beginning of each run, as the colours were being fine-tuned.
The papers need to dry and be trimmed. Then they'll be packed into their elegant slim boxes, made by our box-makers in Sheffield, in groups of 24 sheets: 2 sheets each of 12 new designs. We have printed them a range of blues, from a purplish navy and deep kingfisher blue to a gentle forget-me-not and also a suite of pinks and reds that you can see here:
The designs are all small motifs and the size of the papers is ideal for wrapping, or covering, a book or some other small project. Two sheets of each paper in a box: one to use or give away, and one to keep...
The Special Small Papers will be available from the website in about a month's time.
We have found a nice method of making origami hearts. The big ones are made from a sheet of paper 15 centimetres square, and the small ones from the same sheet divided into quarters. We are sharing well ahead of Valentine's Day, in case like us, your muted enthusiasm for this holiday is transformed into a desire to make just fifty or sixty hearts, or actually maybe a hundred or so, in a variety of colours and string them up in garlands —in which case, you'll need a bit of time.
A few weeks ago we spent a day at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow in London, repository of, among other things, many of Morris&Co's original printing blocks. These are two of the wonderful details that caught our eye:
The gallery is full of Morris's original designs (worked out, edited, fully drafted and coloured all on a single sheet of paper) and almost equally inspiring patterns, objects and articles of decorated furniture by his contemporaries.
We were officially there to discuss creating a patterned paper for the gallery: an original design that should nevertheless be redolent of the Arts and Crafts movement. The pattern we came up with is called 'Dandelion' and here it is in embryonic form in the studio as we considered colour options:
In the end, in consultation with the gallery, we decided on four colour ways, including the burnt pinky-orange you can see below. The papers went onto the press this week and will be available from the William Morris Gallery, and our website, in September. Here is the huge Heidelberg litho press in action, with the lovely Dave in the driver's seat. (That's him checking the colour match on the pink.)
In the true spirit of living well and thoughtfully, and in repudiation of today's expectation of 24/7 connectedness, we are shutting down for a few weeks for the summer holidays - and that includes not just us dilettantes in the studio, but Susie who manages our office work, Dawn who runs the website, and Claire and Dawn who send out the parcels. (Yes, there are two Dawns.) We're going to dial down the productivity and laze about for a while, breathe some fresh air and maybe eat some ice cream. Have a good summer everybody!
For a long time we've been collecting these German books, the Insel-Bücherei, for their beautiful patterned covers.
They're the same size as a Ladybird Book, but with finer card covers. They were produced from 1912 onwards: economical editions of all sorts of classic texts, produced to a high aesthetic standard. They really are lovely.
And there are hundreds of them: over 1400 in fact.
Plus all the similar books they inspired, like these wonderful Penguin Poets paperbacks:
The Penguin Poets are a little bit fragile now, and if you don't read German fluently, the contents of the Insel-Bücherei might be of limited interest. So, they tend to sit on a shelf, being looked at appreciatively from time to time, but that's it. We began to think how nice it would be to have a collection of books like this that you could actually use every day. The Insel-Bücherei are robust yet slim and light-weight. A notebook like that, we thought, could easily be carried around in a bag all day for taking notes, yet not weigh you down.
We decided to get some prototypes made:
They have 80 pages of fine matte cream paper, they are properly bound and sewn and they open perfectly flat. In fact, they are everything we hoped they would be: slim, elegant, robust and very pretty. We'll be busy with them all summer and they'll be for sale in the autumn.
We've been plotting for a long time to print textiles, and at last things are beginning to happen. We've found some friendly printers - or rather, they found us - and the last couple of weeks in the studio have been busy with pattern and colour trials.
The walls of the studio are completely covered with slips of paper:
Our plan was to print four patterns, each in a single colour way, to start off with. We're having trouble narrowing it down:
Here is the Persephone design, printed in the studio by hand on antique French linen. By the autumn we hope to have something similar but produced on a more commercially viable basis!
We had new papers on the press this week. One design was a project we've been waiting to carry out for a long time. "Fish" was one of our very first designs. We made it into a mug:
And we made it into a card:
But always in the back of our minds we remembered how all the colour trials we first made looked laid out next to one another, and we pondered:
The long term goal is to turn this into a fabric of many colours. But as we are just now getting to grips with printing our first textiles, in single colours, that might be a way off. In the meantime, we decided to make a paper printed in three colours (our most complicated paper to date), and this week it rolled off the press:
And we are very pleased with it. The process has thrown up even more food for thought, however: while running the colours in some random overprinting created this incredibly happy accident:
We have to do something with it, but what exactly? Watch this space.
Yesterday Imprint paid a visit to the entirely delightful Persephone Books shop in Lamb's Conduit Street, W1, as it basked in the spring sunshine, and left with a copy of their latest title, "Wilfred and Eileen" by Jonathan Smith. A novel based on the true story of a couple who fell in love and married immediately before the outbreak of World War 1, it redeemed what would otherwise have been a purgatorial bus journey from Clapton to Tottenham Court Road. It's a beautiful book, and is enhanced by this glorious endpaper, a 1913 furnishing fabric by Vanessa Bell:
(The first chapter of the book is set in Cambridge: Wilfred and Eileen meet at a May Ball in 1913. There's a very funny description of Cambridge undergraduate life as it was a hundred years ago, is now, and ever shall be. Wilfred is about to finish his time at Trinity, and is ready to leave his circle of ostentatiously clever friends: "One could be articulate to the point of lunacy and Wilfred sometimes feared his friends would arrive at that as they qualified, organised escape clauses and strove… to be absolutely, scintillatingly accurate in every nuance of perception…In the final analysis, Wilfred decided, some of his friends could write a book about the glance of a girl or the light in an enemy's eye. But really, should one bother? The book would express, in all its fascination and difficulty, the state of their own minds and little more.")
Persephone Books stock all our papers and boxes and share our fascination with pattern. When we came up with a new grey and crimson pattern with a mid-century feel, we thought they might share our enthusiasm for it, and so it proved. We hope to be publishing our new paper 'Persephone' in June. Here's a look at the prototype, hand-printed in the studio two weeks ago:
Valentine’s Day approacheth. Once the phase of life in which you might conceivably receive a card from an unknown yet eligible admirer is safely past—which is to say, disappointment is behind you—this becomes quite a sweet holiday. There is a feature in World of Interiors this month about these beautiful paper cut-outs, which are a small sample of the hundreds that were hand made by Mrs Elizabeth Cobbold of Ipswich in the first decades of the nineteenth century and sent out as invitations to her annual St. Valentine’s Day Ball.
Mrs Cobbold made about 60 designs a year, each cut from a doubled piece of paper so that there were two copies of each. At the end of the Ball, all the ones for girls were put in one hat and all the ones for boys were put in another. Each person drew out a picture and the boy and girl who drew the same picture were officially a St. Valentine’s couple, decided by fate.
The designs are extraordinarily intricate and imaginative. There are a lot of masked revellers and dancers, as you would expect, and also bows and ribbons, quivers and arrows, bowers of roses, cherubs: but also pagodas, lobsters, beehives, baskets, a jester a devil and a witch… there seems to have been no limit to her inventiveness. After reading this article we feel that perhaps our Valentine’s Day card, which we had been so pleased with, is slightly tame, with its rather predictable pair of birds. Next year, something more out of left-field.
We never get tired of the woodcuts that Escher created for Eugene and Willy Strens in the fifties. They were used as New Year cards for four successive years, on the theme of the Four Elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water). Imagine the good fortune of such a thing arriving in the post!
Felicitas 2014 to all our friends.
A sporadic record of notable events in the life of our partnership and things that have inspired us.