Category Archives: Caught Our Eye

Letterpress Studio New Orleans Southern Press

Inspirations: Studio Visits in New Orleans

Escaping my desk is a great way to hit the refresh button on motivation and inspiration.  Visiting studios and seeing how others are doing what they do best never fails to impress—in particular, seeing designers who still work by hand, while so much of our own day-to-day work has become digital, is always a treat.  At the AIGA annual conference this fall in New Orleans, we were lucky enough to visit and enjoy three local woman-owned shops working in traditional mediums: sign painting, letterpress, and bookbinding.

The unique character of New Orleans and a stroll down its vibrant streets is influenced in large part by the beautiful artisan signage hanging on nearly every building.  There is an appreciation among the business, local, and tourist populations alike for this oft-forgotten artform—something we are lucky to see support for in Santa Fe’s historic downtown as well.
Hand Painted Signage New Orleans Mystic Blue Signs Hand Painted Signage New Orleans Mystic Blue Signs Hand Painted Signage New Orleans Mystic Blue Signs Hand Painted Signage New Orleans Mystic Blue Signs Hand Painted Signage New Orleans Mystic Blue Signs Hand Painted Signage New Orleans Mystic Blue Signs

Hand Painted Signage New Orleans Mystic Blue Signs

Hand lettering is still a prized artform at Mystic Blue Signs.

Mystic Blue Signs works exclusively in hand lettered signage with no digital components.  Customers are offered a limited selection of the most successful handprinted typefaces by way of a large painted board of samples on the wall, as well as a host of colorful iconography and artwork styles to complement their choice of lettering with a handpainted logo. Upon entering the shop, dozens of bold signs greet the eye from walls and ceiling, and a case of implements and tools of the trade give a glimpse behind the scenes.  Artists are trained at the shop to master lettering, and the open studio format lets customers watch as they paint.  Clients’ templates are created in pencil on trace paper to ensure text is aligned, perforated with a handheld tool outlining the sketch, and pounced (a centuries-old technique for image transferring, in this case pushing chalk dust through little holes in the trace paper onto the prepared sign board).  Signs are shaped and cut in-house as well, including elaborate cutouts such as filagrees, water, and steam.  Mystic Blue does work with graphic designers’ projects, too; mockups acquire an authentic handmade look and the finished products are truly one-of-a-kind.
Letterpress Studio New Orleans Scriptura Letterpress Studio New Orleans Scriptura Letterpress Studio New Orleans Scriptura Letterpress Studio New Orleans Scriptura Letterpress Studio New Orleans Scriptura Letterpress Studio New Orleans Scriptura

Letterpress Studio New Orleans Scriptura

Scriptura’s design tips for letterpress: rules have never looked so good.

As a former student of intaglio and woodblock, I love any work focused on printmaking. Those of us who obsess over high-quality paper and tactile presence have likely been thrilled to see the resurgence of letterpress printing in recent years. Behind a storefront of stationery offerings, Scriptura on bustling Magazine Street has a fully operational shop accepting custom work.  With four antique presses in action, the shop is pleasantly busy, including a foil press for applying metallic detail in gold, copper, and silver. Listening to the rhythmic zip of the wheel and plunk of the plate, we watched a job come off the press on gorgeous thick paper with lots of fine detail.  There is a labor of love involved in maintaining these huge machines, mostly done in-house by the artists as the heavy presses are so difficult to move and chance at tipping off the dolly.  The community is relatively tight knit and there to reach out to for chastisement and eventually advice when a part breaks or a problem happens, a lot like the digital forums we reference for programming snags or Photoshop questions…but somehow more secret and more exciting.  There is something about a well-thought one color design on amazing paper that is simple, beautiful, and bewitching.  There is also something about a printing studio with wooden floors, a wooden staircase, wide windows, and a couple of dogs waiting at your feet in the Big Easy that feels truly magical.
Letterpress Studio New Orleans Southern Press
Letterpress Studio New Orleans Southern Press
Letterpress Studio New Orleans Southern Press
Letterpress Studio New Orleans Southern Press
Letterpress Studio New Orleans Southern Press
Letterpress Studio New Orleans Southern Press

The Southern Press offers beautiful co-work space for designers.

Across town in the Bywater, a co-op space at The Southern Press runs handcrafted woodblock printing, small exhibitions, letterpress, and bookbinding. Binding techniques are fascinating, and this small cheery space with three artists at work was a treat to visit. We got to try our hand at arranging wood type elements in the tray and rolling paper through the press; looked at how a rainbow of ink can be applied to the plate for a pleasantly unpredictable result; checked out the flat files of thousands of letters and punctuation marks waiting to be placed on the presses; and merely watched a bit in awe as tiny artbooks were being hand-threaded and bound in several traditional Japanese styles.  We were even able to try the child size hobby press to print our own cards with sage inspiration advice: To summon lost creativity, pour water from the Mississippi River into the palm of your hand.

Letterpress Studio New Orleans Southern Press

Howdy from Kristin and Jackie in the Big Easy!

This post was originally published on The Design Corps of Santa Fe blog.

Succulent Symmetry: Caught My Eye

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Oh beautiful succulents. You don’t seem to like winter in Washington, and at this point, I’m not too sure about it either. Gray, gray, and more gray. So I’m living in a Texas fantasy today and hoping your green will seep through my screen and into my body chemistry because no matter how many mushrooms I eat (someone said they are a good vitamin D supplement, and no not the medicinal kind), I still have the winter blues.


Atelier Stella London


Atelier Stella London

I’ve been really into filling the office with lots and lots of plants, perhaps it has something to do with everything outside being dead and gray (did I mention gray?). But I’m always on the lookout for sweet planters and pots to house new greenery, and what gets more charming than a little face and a baby succulent? Love these guys from the sweet Etsy shop Atelier Stella London (plus, anything called Atelier makes me feel fancy).

Reminiscing about a warm day spent visiting a succulent farm in west Austin last summer with my dear friend Christine. Lots of symmetry, lots of Texas cacti, appropriately. It was kind of magical. Hoping a little magic finds its way to you during these winter days.

– Jackie

Scissors and Paper: Collage

Confession: I was totally that girl who collected magazines and holed herself in her room making collages during high school. I have books and books filled with good things I cut and tore up then glued onto unassuming pages. Doesn’t everyone?
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I just recovered these photos from a collage workshop I was privileged to attend last year at the beautifully curated shop just behind our old LA home in Highland Park, Platform. It was hosted by the talented artist Caris Reid, (her work is so refreshing, I particularly like “Bride” from her website). The night was a wonderful excuse to drink wine and cut some things up with a group of ladies. Throwback to my early years – minus the whole wine and group thing.

Jackie Jones // Collage

Voila! My final product.

Here’s to all those collage-ers out there!

– Jackie

Caught our Eye: Fall Harvest in Santa Fe

It has been a feast for the eyes at the Farmers Market, downtown, around town, and even  my own backyard this fall harvest season in Santa Fe.  I am absolutely loving the colors, smells, flowers, and food—not to mention, a great place to sit outside on our deck and watch clouds over the mountains with a coffee in the morning, or by sunset at night.







Choosing drought-hardy flowers this summer, I was pleasantly surprised to learn more about some of the varieties that will thrive here in the high desert environment.  I am so happy with the first-year’s growth my newest plants have established so far: butterfly bushes, roses, Russian sage, salvia, yarrow, moss roses, Mexican heather, and poppies.

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As for a vegetable patch, I have had some success with raised beds and drip irrigation this year. This is the second summer that we have tried growing tomatoes, Swiss chard, salad greens, herbs, squash, melons, peppers, and herbs, in the desert. It was a quick learning curve to see the mint (a.k.a. strangler vine) trying to choke out everything else in its bed.





I also planted a June bearing and a day neutral strawberry vine this fall, and am very excited to see how they do next year; this year, we got one berry.  But, I am still proud of that one perfect red berry.

Back to figuring out more ways to eat copious amounts of Swiss rainbow chard, which has proven to be the happiest, strongest, most resilient, and dauntless member of our growing plant family by far!


Caught Our Eye: Fall is Here

A few words about fall colors, as October starts and the skies begin to deepen their blue, nights get chillier and crystal clear, the first frost has decorated the grass, and we pick by day (and cover at night) the last of our roses, tomatoes, and butternut squash here in New Mexico.  I have been walking and sitting outside almost every afternoon and every evening in that wonderful, golden five o’clock autumn light—catching those last few rays of summer-ish sun.  This is the road to my house, beautifully filled on either side with wild Mexican sunflowers after a glorious rainy season this year.  They are always one of my favorite things to see on the way home, and I will certainly miss them when November comes.


“For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together.
For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad.”
-Edwin Way Teale


“A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made.  The acoustics of this season are different and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air.”
-Eric Solace

“On such a day each road is planned
To lead to some enchanted land;
Each turning meets expectancy.
The signs I read on every hand.
I know by autumn’s wizardry
On such a day the world can be
Only a great glad dream for me.”
-Eleanor Myers Jewett

I love reading the seasonal poems collected “for gardeners and walkers” here:

Enjoy…here’s to frosty nights by the fireside!