Category Archives: Open Roads

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.
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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.

Green / Springtime in Romania

The aspens will soon be changing to gold in New Mexico, and I’m already missing the short season of green we had here.  With lush landscapes on the brain, I thought I’d share a few pictures from a trip I took to Romania this spring with my husband. The leafy mountainsides, leggy evergreens, and winding country roads gave us one of the greenest journeys I’ve ever seen.  This was my first time in Eastern Europe and it was such an experience; culturally, I loved the rural areas in the northern region, which felt like stepping back (way back) in time.

Here we have:

A man shepherding his sheep in a beautiful field backed by rich jade hills (above).

The most adorable grandmothers ever, selling farm cheese and sheep’s yogurt at the market.  This was my mainstay snack on our hair-raising drives through unbelievable traffic and twisting highways.


Typical walking trail through the woods, ferns, and wildflowers in Transylvania (!).


The Merry Cemetery, with hand painted art and unique folk poems honoring each life, decorating hand-carved wooden headstones.


Corner construction on the primitive wooden churches common throughout the countryside.


Europe’s oldest running narrow gauge steam train.


A Maramureş wooden church, typical of the high timber constructions we saw all over stunning meadows like this one.


Just one example of the incredible hand-painted vernacular artwork covering the walls, floors, and ceilings of the churches.


View from Bran Castle, one of the original inspirations for Dracula!


Streetside in Transylvania; more amazing murals.


One of the lovely bedrooms in the charming old hotels where we stayed—which always featured old-Euro style separate duvets.


Leadlight windows in diamond patterns of red, white, and blue.


Sun hitting a rainbow of pastel homes on a cobblestone street.


My favorite, perfect wildflower meadow.


Clock tower in a historic village, with moving medieval figures who appear upon the chime of the hour.


Rural cemetery in the forest.


More wooden churches, with original frescoes and antique pennants (my husband is an architect so these ancient buildings were big on our sight-seeing list).

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Horses and carts, the preferred mode of transportation in the north country, including for families taking children to school—so much fun to see.


Red poppy field.


More extraordinary paintings.


Lighting positive intention candles in the cave below a convent.


A visit to writer, activist, and Nobel prize winner Elie Wiesel’s home in Sighet, Transylvania.


A quiet street at night, from the window of our hotel.


The town plaza, with pigeons.


An arched yellow arcade, peeking out onto the town square.


Happy travels,


Open Roads: Northern New Mexico Day Trip

Maybe it’s the nip in the air, or the last dregs of late-day sunshine—but, there’s something about fall that makes me want to hit the road.  This is one of the loveliest northern New Mexico day trips I have taken: October, Santa Fe to La Cueva by way of Las Vegas, then back to The City Different on a big, scenic loop through Mora and Taos.  It was one of the most beautiful drives and pretty, sunny days I could have asked for, with lots of fun stops along the way.

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The old Grist Mill in La Cueva (Spanish for ‘The Cave’) can be found at the junction of New Mexico Route 518 and 442. According to the historic wooden marker, legend has it that  village founder Vicente Romero named the town this way because he lived in a nearby cavern while building his ranch house in 1851.

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Another sweet local gem is Salman Raspberry Ranch.  The harvest season is typically August through October, depending on the first hard frost of the season.  We grabbed four delicious pounds of warm, you-pick-it berries from the field (and probably devoured that many more on the spot).  We then proceeded to the cafe to eat raspberry pie with raspberry ice-cream and raspberry sauce, topped with more fresh raspberries.

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Cosmos, roses, sunflowers, and sage are in the last stages of full bloom, and bustling with bumblebees in wildflower gardens throughout the old village.  A walk through the paths was the perfect way to soak up some precious golden-afternoon autumn light.

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Our drive capped off winding through the country roads of Mora Valley, beside the river and beneath aspen leaves turning yellow—ending with a little live music and tequila at the Taos Inn‘s Adobe Bar, and a mountain sunset seen from the driver’s seat as we dropped back down toward Santa Fe.



The Palm Springs of Washington


This view has been on my mind a lot lately: the never-ending, rhythmic, intoxicating California coast. Last month, I traded in the land of sunshine and beach bums for my new land of microbrews and apple orchards and am now calling Washington state my home. My ears are still adjusting from the pulse of LA, a city that never quiets, to new sounds of the river, barn owls, and sprinklers (we have a yard!) here in Yakima, “The Palm Springs of Washington.” If Los Angeles was a city to collect inspiration, Yakima is the city to create. Looking forward to the many exciting projects we at Think have coming up, and to the many projects waiting to exist.

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– Jackie

Falling Back

It’s been quite a busy few months over here: new projects and clients, travels and trips, design and illustration, cooking and exploring, just about everything but keeping up with our blog.  Oh, us.  Now we’re falling back into all things blogging for, well, the fall.

This summer Think relocated our main office, and can now be found in the adorable Art Barnsthe outer edge of Santa Fe where expansive skies and pitched metal roofs can be found. We have also wrapped up several big design and web projects, as well as started a new wonderful relationship with another killer contemporary art gallery (more details to come!).

Kristin made an impressive journey across the country camping in beautiful state parks along her way out to the California coast. During an invigorating visit to my city of palm trees and blue seas, we brainstormed exciting updates to Think, walked the Santa Monica farmers market, scoped out hidden speakeasies tucked inside barber shops, and treated ourselves to a long weekend trip to Santa Barbara wine country. It is indeed a good life.


Road warrior over here as well, with trips including an impromptu high desert train ride to visit Think’s headquarters and my familywhere I happened to get engaged along the way (!) Many cheers, celebratory toasts, and sunset watching parties have since taken place.

P.S. – Did you know that we are both on Instagram? Follow Kristin here, and Jackie here. It’s a fun quick place to share our daily visions and snapshots.

We hope you have enjoyed your summer as much as we have, and look forward to sharing more fonts, projects, inspirations, and thoughts to come!

Think-ing all day long,