Brain Pickings

Studio on Fire: Iron Beasts Make Great Beauty

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Labors of Victorian love, or how to make typography with spare bicycle parts.

Last year, my studiomate Erica introduced me to the wonderful Studio on Fire, a Minneapolis-based design studio, workshop, and printer crafting some of the most heart-stopping letterpress and screenprint gems I’ve ever seen. They use old-timey printing machines and techniques to produce a kind of haptic magic, the product of founder Ben Levitz’s lifelong obsession with the tactile world of analog design, who has amassed a formidable collection of vintage and antique printing presses and has mastered some of the most labor-intensive techniques, from letterpress and screen-printing to hot foil stamping and blind embossing. This month, the fine folks at Gestalten () are capturing Studio on Fire’s spark in a glorious volume titled Studio on Fire: Iron Beasts Make Great Beauty, gathering the studio’s most delightful printed ephemera — posters, flyers, wedding invitations, business cards, book covers, wallpaper, and more.

Here’s a peek at the obsessive grit the fuels the studio’s vision and process:

There’s a tactility to what we do and the creation of the design object. In a sense, that’s what print design is — good print design is objects that we remember because of visually seeing them and having a connection with them, and that’s why letter press is gonna be around.” ~ Ben Levitz

For a taste of the eerily hypnotic analog magic-making, here’s a video of how the book’s cover was made:

An absolute treat from cover to gloriously letterpressed cover, Studio on Fire: Iron Beasts Make Great Beauty is chock-full of just what the tin says and makes it hard to resist the urge to get up and make something beautiful and papery with your own two hands.

Images courtesy of Gestalten / Studio on Fire

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