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      News — Process

      Proof of Living Things

      Just thought that was a funny title, but really, we're sharing another peek at our next two books in the Living Things Series in the form of press sheets. So this is how things look after they're printed and before getting trimmed and folded and bound. Can't wait to have some final versions of the books in hand just in time for their debut at Stumptown this weekend!

      Giving calendars a second life

      We love calendars here at little otsu and on any given year we have several different ones around our office. But we never know what to do when the year is over and we have to throw away--well, throw in the recycle bin--the old calendar and no longer get to enjoy the art. So when Jennie Smith came to us in 2006 with the idea to make a calendar that had a poster on the back so that you don't have to throw it away after the year was over, we knew it was kismet. We have used this as a central idea in all our calendars since.

      a view of both sides of Ron Rege's 2011 Calendar & poster

      Over the last four years Jennie, Lart, Chris and now Ron have made some pretty amazing posters on the back of their calendars. I've seen people in the sf store buy them specifically for the poster side as wall art. That said, we think of function as necessary in everything we make, even if art is paramount. We love the idea that something that is only temporarily functional like a calendar for a specific year can live on in a completely different way. It's almost like they are two different things at the same time, each to be enjoyed on their own even though it is one object. Certainly calendars are everywhere like your computer, iphone, ipad, ietc (i.e., the information is out there) and those are all great tools for knowing what day it is, but somehow it's more fun when Ron Rege draws it.

      So they are calendars that become posters and we used a functional form to represent that transformation--the fold-out aspect. People sometimes ask us about the folds and really it's what I was talking about with one thing becoming another. The opening of the folds physically transforms this small square into a large 18"x24" poster in front of your eyes and you are part of it. It also has the added value of making them easier to ship and store which is better for the environment and makes them less expensive to buy and sell. And seeing the folds on the calendar, while not an obvious advantage, is just a reminder of the transformation. I could be making too much of it--it is just a calendar--but it's nice to think of these things.

      poster side of Ron Rege's 2011 Calendar & Poster

      poster side of 2009 Treehouse Calendar by Jennie Smith

      poster side of Lart C. Berliner's 2009 Railways Calendar

      So riffing off the idea of giving calendars a dual purpose that started with the calendar/poster, when we made the 2008 calendar Through the Year with Gordon The Fox with John Porcellino, we thought of the idea of having all the calendar information on the bottom of each page and putting a dotted line on the cover so that at the end of the year you can cut off any and all calendar info and it becomes a spiral bound mini book with no trace of the calendar it once was.

      before and after the cut with John P.'s Through the Year with Gordon the Fox

      Eun-Ha from Milkly Elephant came to us with a great idea to create a postcard calendar where the postcards are perforated and can be torn off after each month is over. We made sure there was no calendar info on the back of each postcard so now you have an amazing postcard set. Poof, a second life!

      Milky Elephant postcard calendar is perforated for easy tearing

      With Chris Duncan's special "Two Years of the Youniverse" calendar, we made it two sided with a perforation so that after 2010 is over you can just cleanly tear off the calendar section and you're left with this amazing double-sided art print. We love the idea that calendars we made years (or a year) ago are still spending time in people's lives and on their walls as posters, prints, books, and postcards.

      Two Years of the Youniverse print by Chris Duncan

      LO Annual Vol. 5 is heading to print!

      It's rare that we turn something in to the printer with an artist literally in the same room, but with Dan Black out visiting Portland from Minneapolis before making his way to Flatstock in Seattle this weekend, we were able to do just that with Volume 5 of the Little Otsu Annual planner. He just had to make a few tweaks to the list pages and then finalize the cover (which turned out great ...and yellow!) and we could sit in the same room knowing it's now up to 1984 Printing in Oakland to print and cut and collate and bind and then finally ship out the final product to us and then your favorite hometown stores and then to you! Normally we work with artists over email and the phone and IM and we talk often and send each other files, but it's not the same thing as being able to talk and give feedback together in the same room. Hopefully more artists visit Portland so we can work on stuff together in-person!

      a sneak preview of Volume 5!

      Since this was the fifth Annual we've done, we wanted to take the best ideas from each one and put them together to make something new. So we've taken the initial idea from Volume 1, added the "clean" look and similar size of Volume 2, added monthly pages like Volume 3, retained the look of the daily grids from Volume 4, and mixed in a new weekly layout and completely hand-drawn elements (including over 18 different typefaces). Of course it has the personal and list pages you're used to and plenty of room for notes on each weekly spread. Needless to say, we're pretty excited with the results!

      an example weekly spread (click on it for a larger image)

      Every year with the Annual so far we've changed the look, size, theme and grid, trying out different ideas to see what people like and what works best. With Volume 5, we've landed on what we think is the size, format, and weekly & monthly grid that really works the best for the most folks and we're going to stick with the basics of it for each Annual from now on, but always with new themes and art. That way you can rely on having the organization you like with new art to look at each year. We love feedback on our planners so always feel free to let us know what you think! And stay tuned for Volume 5 to be available at the beginning of next month!

      Working on Lart's new planner

      We've been working with Lart the last few weeks on her new weekly planner called "Alpine Songs" and we're so excited about it that we thought we'd share a sneak peek of the cover mock-up!

      alpine songs cover spiral

      You Are Here: Maps As Influence

      Our friends and old neighbors Creativity Explored in San Francisco have a new art show opening April 15th called Where Are We? which takes the concept of maps as the basis of the exhibit:

      "This includes, but is not limited to, painting and drawing on maps, using maps as collage material, and drawing maps from scratch. While some of the artists working with this theme embrace the challenge of integrating maps into their oeuvres, others take a more individualized approach by creating maps of their home countries, while yet others use the topic of maps to explore fresh new subject matter."

      image from creativityexplored.org

      Maps have always had a strong influence on us with their combination of the artistic and the practical. They are a necessary part of getting from one point to the next--even now with online maps and GPS we live with maps more than ever--but they can also be beautiful and intricate and create not just a physical manifestation of where we live, but also another two dimensional world we wished we could live in.  They have always been part of our world view, a visual representation of Earth where we imagine ourselves going from tiny point to tiny point.

      Lart made two amazing projects based on maps: Lakes and Territories of the Greater 2008 and 2009 Railways. Both were a calendar on one side and a poster on the other, so that at the end of the year you could flip it over and have a poster with no indication that it was ever a calendar (we've always been bothered by how calendars basically become obsolete once the year is over and loved this dual use idea brought to us by Jennie Smith).

      LO36 calendar final web

      The Lakes and Territories of The Greater 2008

      LO36 calendar back web

      the back of Lakes and Territories

      The map drawings were created as a map to each given year, with the months as territories/states on one and subway stops on the other. It was a common thing in our store to have people ask "what is this a map to?" and not always understanding the answer of "the year 2009." Especially with how pervasive calendar dates are out there with your computer, iphone, etc, we thought it was nice to have a calendar that's not so straight-forward and forces you to stare at it a bit.

      LO75 7

      2009 Railways Map Calendar

      LO75 8

      the back of 2009 Railways

      The NYPL has another great exhibit (in the same space the Ehon exhibit was in) ending on June 26th that is based on maps called, Mapping New York's Shoreline, 1609-2009. We saw it when we were in New York last October and it was really great, almost overwhelming with how many maps there were. It was fascinating to see the way the city grew and changed, what geographic misconceptions existed, and the craftsmanship and artistry of old maps. On their revamped website they also have a Map Blog pulling things from their extensive map collection.

      Central Park Digital ID: ps_map_cd1_07. New York Public Library

      The engagement on the White Pl... Digital ID: 434803. New York Public Library

      images from nypl.org