Over the 2017 Memorial Day weekend the entire staff of Kat Ran Press got together to make a little book of collages for one of their favorite and most loyal clients: Bill Corbett of Pressed Wafer.
In 1961, artist and designer Antonio Frasconi was invited by A. Hyatt Mayor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to write an essay about the design of postage stamps. The essay is very short, but it makes up the bulk of this little book, together with his designs for hypothetical stamps. To accompany this essay, Michael Russem wrote an even shorter essay about Frasconi’s essay, hypothetical stamp designs, and the 1963 U.S. stamp for the centennial of the National Academy of Science. That stamp was chosen over designs by Josef Albers, Herbert Bayer, Buckminster Fuller, and Bradbury Thompson—tough competition, but an easy and interesting story to tell. Antonio Frasconi’s Short Essay About Postage Stamps is a little shot of graphic design history you didn’t even know you needed.
Dogs are OK. We don’t love them, though. We do, however, love photographs, postcards, prints, and drawings of dogs. For this slender volume we’ve collected some of our weird and lovely favorites to make something for everyone–whether a lover of dogs or not. Co-published with Pressed Wafer and with an introduction (in English and Japanese) by Michael Russem, this one’s for anyone who’s got a new puppy, lost an old friend, or thinks that dogs are just OK—or slightly better than OK.
Eric Gill had exacting and pointed opinions about postage stamps, their purpose, and their design. Unfortunately, his theories didn’t always hold up when put into practice, and he had a less than successful career as a designer of stamps. Accompanied by nine of Gill’s previously unpublished preparatory drawings and sketches for stamps, Notes on Postage Stamps is a short, previously unpublished essay by Gill in which he succinctly lays out his philatelic ideas—some of which were a little too idealistic and some of which were spot-on. All of them are interesting and thought-provoking.
[U. S. paper money] stands as the prime symbol of value in the inﬁnite transactions of a great commercial nation. It is worth its face in gold . . . but, my God! what a face! —W.A. Dwiggins
A good graphic designer pays attention to small things, and there are few things smaller than stamps. Ivan Chermayeff has been paying attention. For almost fifty years the acclaimed graphic designer has been making collages—and in those collages stamps and mail have played an important role. Envelopes are heads. Stamps are eyes and lips. However, one could be forgiven for never having noticed this, as the whole in Chermayeff’s collages is greater than the parts.
Niko Courtelis is a creative director, filmmaker, and butcher of stamps. We should each be so lucky to be carved up with such adventure and care. Cut and shockingly reassembled, these stamp collages have scandalous fun with the often mundane world of stamps. Philatelic Atrocities takes these paper Frankensteins and turns them into a lookbook of freaks, oddities, printing, and design.
Kat Ran Press was founded in 1994 by Katherine and Michael Russem with the goal of combining classical typography and contemporary art with the old ideals of fine printing. The Press had a pretty good run over the next eighteen years, printing everything from modest pamphlets to portfolios which have fetched as much as $1 million at auction. With the closing of the letterpress plant in Florence in the middle of 2012, the staff of the Cambridge Offices decided to put together a 60-page illustrated checklist of the over eighty limited editions designed, printed, and/or published at Kat Ran. Included is everything from the student books of the Russems to the last books they printed for The Lone Oak Press and Sherwin Beach Press.
Melissa Shook came to Boston from New York in 1974 to teach photography at MIT. She soon discovered Suffolk Downs. Though she did not bet, she felt comfortable at the track, enjoying the sounds, the crowd and the people who worked with the horses. Over the next thirty years she documented her Suffolk Downs in photographs and poems concentrating on the trainers, hot walkers, exercise riders, horse shoers, dentists, those who delivered hay, feed, and ice, and the jockeys and their agents.
Lance Hidy, the accomplished designer of books, posters, types, and stamps, takes us through the process of designing a postage stamp while explaining how the small Mentoring stamp relates to his larger body of work. Thirty-eight full-color reproductions illustrate the photographs, designs, and drawings which were part of the design process, as well as related posters and illustrations from the last thirty years of Hidy’s work.