Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Something New -- New Year's Cards!

After a couple of decades of creating Christmas cards, my husband and I were struggling to come up with something new and different each year. Then an entirely different avenue beckoned — New Year’s cards! Inspired by our late printing mentor Emerson Wulling, who made New Year’s cards a holiday tradition, we decided to give them a try.

Below, Emerson Wulling's New Year's card for 1951, featuring a Robert Louis Stevenson quote.

After finding a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox that fit the idea of new beginnings, the rest of our 2007 New Year’s greeting came easily. We set the poem in Parsons type and our New Year’s greetings in Tiffany Gothic, then added a large and smaller cut of a clipper ship to fit the nautical theme.

For 2008 we got a little more fancy. We’d been studying and identifying some of our old wood type, so we decided to feature it on the card. Each 2008 was printed with a different wood type, the exception being the smaller black 2008 with the dots in the middle of the zeros — that’s a Central metal typeface called Atlanta. Inside we set the Rilke quote in Bewick Roman (a great 19th century typeface recast by Skyline Type Foundry) and added our good wishes for the year in Washington, another old Central Type Foundry face.

We used one of our latest “finds” on our 2009 New Year’s card: an unusual old border, Floriated Border, rescued from a moldering case we discovered in an antique store in Paducah, Kentucky. The tiny pieces of twig, flower, and bark border were hard to set, but created an interesting result. And we really liked the quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, which we set in Grolier, a gorgeous old MacKellar, Smiths and Jordan Type Foundry face. The inside of the card also included Extra Ornamented #2 and Geometric Italic.

After we bought a book last year with examples of artistic 19th century printing, we decided to experiment a little with color on our 2010 New Year’s card. We tried several different color combinations (including seasonal red and green) before settling on yellow, green, and dark brown ink on cream paper. The yellow impression was laid down first, followed by the green and then the brown. “2010” is printed in Arboret, a 19th century MacKellar face. Inside we used Caslon Open and Caslon Italic in brown and green tones to set the poem by Whittier.

We’ve printed five New Year’s cards now, and we’re still full of ideas. And we’ve found that New Year’s cards offer the letterpress printer some advantages: 1) the chance to use inspirational, optimistic quotes/poetry about the future; 2) the opportunity to feature fancy old numerals; and, happily 3) a bit more time to get the holiday cards printed and mailed out!

So... we wish you a very Happy New Year! Thank you for reading this blog, and I look forward to sharing more with you in 2011!


  1. Love all the cards! My favorite is Eleanor Roosevelt quote. Nice work.

  2. Thank you, Lynn! We enjoyed printing them.

  3. wow that 2010 card is beautiful!
    Selfishly, I'd like to hope the 'book with examples of artistic printing' that inspired you might be Handy Book of Artistic Printing but even if not, its great to see MacKellar faces put to such good use! Cheers.

  4. Glad you liked the card! And yes, it was the Handy Book of Artistic Printing that inspired us to try something different. Aren't those MacKellar faces great? Wish we had more of their type -- and their multi-piece borders, too!

  5. FYI Doug, co-author on Handy Book, put out a book on the history of Mackellar Smiths and Jordan with some nice photos and specimens. But its kind of pricey (from Oak Knoll)...

  6. Yes, we have that book: MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan, Typographic Tastemakers of the Late Nineteenth Century. It's excellent, and so is The Handy Book of Artistic Printing, which you co-authored with Doug Clouse. Both books are fascinating reading for anyone interested in letterpress. And thank you, Angela, for reading my blog!