[Rocket Caleshu] As a book arts center, the San Francisco Center for the Book is dedicated to both collecting and producing beautiful paper objects. From workshop students’ early typesetting efforts, to instructors’ artist books, to just plain good-looking pieces of mail, we hang onto everything for education, inspiration and showcasing in our studios. When it came time to redesign our triannual catalog, we knew we wanted to produce something with an extra-special feel, something our students and patrons would be thrilled to receive in the mail.
Spending an afternoon sorting through inspiration pieces, we were continually drawn to one minimalist specimen from Switzerland: two beautiful saddle-stitched booklets in a simple, geometric wrapper. We recruited our inimitable graphic designers Boon Design, handed over the inspiration piece, and waited to see what magic they came up with. A 24-page catalog measuring 8.25 x 4.75 in., neatly packaged in a wrapper (stylish enough to hang on your wall), replete with images of Vandercooks and book presses in all their glory, and a special blank page at the end to record the workshops you absolutely must sign up for. All printed at Hill & Sons on Mohawk Loop Smooth White (70# text, 100% pcw). End of story, right?
The SFCB Autumn 2011 Events and Workshops catalog is a fine specimen indeed.
Not so fast! We learned that the wrapper could not be scored on press as we had anticipated, which meant a Herculean task lay ahead of us. Let’s do the math on this one: 3000 catalogs, each requiring four precise folds and three stickers to seal the piece to USPS specifications. Sorted in order by ZIP Code. Finished and ready to go, like, yesterday. Use an outside mail house and bindery to get this done? Not a chance. Here at the San Francisco Center for the Book we are serious about our DIY skills. So we called in a veritable army of talented volunteers and interns and offered them beer and pizza in exchange for their bone folder-wielding skills.
As the old saying goes, a focused folder folds fastest.
And frankly, it was a blast. When the boxes of catalogs arrived from the printer, we stared at them and had a good laugh. ALL these catalogs have to be folded up neatly in ALL these wrappers? As it turns out, our community is eager for the opportunity to work on a beautiful project in a community setting. Something about the rhythm of folding, chatting, and drinking beer with other book and print lovers is a great way to spend a Monday night. The dozen of us cruised through the boxes, sharing folding strategies and experiments the whole way through.
Nina shows us how it’s done: First, place your catalog in the center of the dotted wrapper sheet …
Finessing the wrapper around the catalog is actually enjoyable when your paper cooperates.
And how much joy does it give us to know that there are other people out there who live for the crisp sound of a bone folder moving down a sheet of paper? For hours and hours on end? Lots of joy. With our hands, we turned some beautifully printed pieces of paper into something more — something to keep around, not only for use, but for beauty.
Never deterred by the rules and regs of bulk mail presorting, we resorted to neon pink post-its to organize the catalogs.
At the stated end-time for the party, we practically had to escort our volunteers out the door, so eager were they to fold, fold and fold some more. And lo and behold, we did it! Well, we mostly did it. Thank you to all the volunteers, interns and staff at SFCB for your enthusiasm and commitment.
Paper lovers united!
Sight for sore hands: catalogs arranged in USPS bulk mail trays
If you’d like to get your hands on a copy of our newest catalog, e-mail us at [email protected]
All photos: Charles Byrne
Rocket Caleshu is Marketing and Communications coordinator at the San Francisco Center for the Book, a freelance letterpress printer and an inveterate lover of printed matter.