well done

i recently started working with a graphic designer who also happens to be a type designer.
a talented guy. working with him and talking about design have brought back memories about my design education, primarily about its formalism and especially the ‘manual’ part of my education. that is to say, the making. i was trained to make, to execute special formal exercises: drawing a letter, mixing a color, setting lead type. all to ensure we could present our ideas, understand the process and make a beautifully executed design and so that we would be knowledgeable about the myriad trades we would encounter as a designer. we were graded specifically on craftsmanship. i had wonderful opportunities to witness great designers do their magic. armin hoffmann stands out as one who had an extraordinary ability to execute his ideas. i once watched him cut out of black paper the perfect ’n’. truly, it was a marvel. the ’n’ was the first letter that we would start with in drawing a new typeface, but before we would get to the letter ’n’, we first had to master drawing straight lines, then diagonal lines, then a half circle and full circles, before we could even begin to start drawing a typeface. i have always enjoyed the making. for years, it was i who made the comps for our presentations. 

the images collected here are just that—comps. these are renderings, little paintings of book covers. remarkable, in fact. another find from the 26th street flea market here in new york. i have spent many an hour at this flea market and have seen it decrease in size over the years. it used to encompass four parking lots and one interior garage. you could wander for most of the day. these are just a selection of the many pages of book covers painted by an unknown chinese designer or artist. the skill and execution are remarkable. my days at making never resulted in anything quite this amazing.

“the prize at the end of the maze”

yes, that is what someone said to me yesterday, after winding her way thru the maze of denim, ties, leather goods and assorted items  at this year’s mostly have stuff from my collections. there are paul rand items, 19th century chess sets, olivetti packaging, my 1927 swiss army bike, and of course staplers. all for sale. my daughter’s there too, selling totes with her artwork, cookies, pickles and pound cake, all made by mom in alabama. please come and take a look a say hello. it’s here.




“post damn it”

i wish to thank everyone who stopped by my booth at the pop up flea back in december. i had a terrific time and i especially want to thank one particular visitor. the reason being, he gave me a hard time about not writing. he was aware that my writing had almost stopped. he simply said, “post damn it” and walked away. well some time has passed and i have cleared my desk of a few projects and photography accomplished, i therefore i have no excuse. so i am determined to write more and tell you of some up coming events and sales.

in may i will be doing a pop up store in brooklyn where i will selling original and vintage items, as well as some art pieces related to my collections. i will keep you up dated as the details become formalized. should be a lots of fun. please keep checking in and i’ll try and keep my promise to “post damn it!”

join me at the flea

i’ll be at the popup flea selling design related books and items. please stop by and say hello. thanks jpw


i mentioned that i worked at wolf olins for a summer, years ago. it was through a friend of mine, simon johnston, who made the connection there for me. i met simon in basel where he was studying at the basel school of design.  i was with my classmates from rhode island school of design. our teacher, franz weiner, who had attended sfgbasel, took a group of students to visit and do similar but abbreviated assignments, meet the teachers and visit notable design spots. i loved it! i relished everything but the brussels sprouts. i tried to keep in touch with simon over the years and i was excited when he started the magazine octavo, along with mark holt and hamish muir. hopefully most everyone is familiar with this publication. it was beautifully produced and had wonderful articles; i cited one here before. i was excited to visit their offices on endel street. often, when simon was not working, which was not often, we would eat at centraila (an extremely cheap italian hole in the wall) and talk about design, book collecting and english football. i have many fond and treasured memories. anyway, here is something you most assuredly have not seen: the letterhead for the magazine. the design is straightforward, clean, simple and says what needs to be said. often not the case. however, what is missing, and what you can’t experience, is the paper. it is light as a feather, a 10-pound typewriter paper. i have no idea how 8vo was able to get someone to print on it. years ago, i printed on a similar weight parchment and it took three days to print twenty thousand sheets. the printer, daniels in everett, mass., was super but not happy. as i have mentioned before, my letterhead collection is my favorite and i don’t often get a chance to add to it. simon visited a few years ago and presented me with this example. another treasure.

dusted off

my father looms large. mostly because he said very little. but what he did say, i remember. when i was a kid, he would go into work on saturday mornings and I would often accompany him. instead of having me hang out at his office, he would drop me off at myers magic shop. his office was on first avenue north, just a block away from pete’s famous hot dogs, a hole in the wall where you would stand eating your hot dog and polishing the subway tile at the same time. the magic shop was close by. i would spend hours watching and practicing tricks. my dad and i took only a few trips together but one was to a magic convention. as i got older, i went into the office less and less. i remember one occasion he asked me to come along; i must have been around 19 or 20 at that point. my dad drove a 1968 327 camaro. simple, basic, no extras. he was decidedly a ‘buy american’ kind of guy. i got into the car and made the decision not to say anything until he spoke first. not as a challenge or with any anger, just as a test. the drive on a saturday morning took only about 15-20 minutes. as we drove through red mountain, we passed the exit for 8th avenue south and st. vincent hospital, where there was a sign for a company, associated doctors. the owner was one of my father’s customers and a friend. maybe ten minutes had passed. i couldn’t stand the silence any longer, so i asked him about how hospitals make money. a business question, just to have him talk. i never saw him read a novel although i gave him several. he said, ‘they charge fees.’ that’s all. so much for conversation. on another occasion, and i don’t remember how it came up (maybe he thought i was arrogant, he certainly thought i was full of myself), he said ‘everyone has a horn to blow. just remember it’s best if yours is collecting dust in the corner.’ i have always thought this was good advice and i have tried to keep it as a mantra, yet it seems i’m going against that advice here. sightunseen was kind enough to visit me and my collections and write a little something about them. they offer some very kind words, and i thought it was the least i could do send any interested parties to their fine blog. please visit them—and come back and see me, too!

nicely registered


i have been collecting registered labels since my first visit to a stamp show. it is intimidating walking around a stamp show. it’s a world unto itself of mostly men, old men. after each visit, i take away that i am getting older and i don’t like it much. of course it is not all old men. there are some women, and some children who are starting out with their stamp collections. but by and large, it is men. i think i have mentioned how many dealers call out and ask if they can help you: “what do you collect?” i rarely engaged with them in the beginning since i didn’t collect stamps and certainly didn’t know the terms or categories of collecting. i stumbled upon these at a new york stamp fair. i was looking at the rows of envelopes. i soon learned these letters were called covers. all categorized by country. i thought if i looked through different countries, i might find stamps designed by piet zwart or paul schitema. i dreamed of finding a letter or envelope addressed by them. in twenty years of attending these fairs, i have never found such a letter. the closest i have come is a letter from gerald murphy, the painter and one-time owner of mark cross leather goods. sadly, neither he nor the company is around any longer. the dealer i finally sat down in front of was michael mead of maine. though i think he now lives on cap cod. in any case, mr. mead asked what i was interested in. since i was not a stamp collector, i was a bit embarssed. i told him i loved interesting typography and collections of collections. he pulled out a binder with dozens upon dozens of interesting labels. all kinds. airmails. express. revenue stamps. and these wonderful registered labels. hundreds of them. just about everything you could image, even some matchbook labels. he explained that these were german registered labels and were removed by soaking them in water. “off cover” is the common term when describing these labels. i have too many of them to count but i fell in love with the different “r” being used, the line weights; the variety added such interest. of course i began collecting these that instant. mr. mead now knows me and is happy to add to my collection. i may not attend every show but when i do take one in, i make sure i visit his booth.