Calligrapher Alan Blackman has an unparalled passion for letters — both typographically and philatelically speaking.


Letters to Myself: The Calligraphic First Day Covers of Alan A. Blackman at the SF Public Library exhibits truly stunning work created by Blackman over the course of thirty six years.


Simply put: this is a beautiful exhibition: incredible calligraphy, wonderful philately, and ingenious design. I had the great good fortune of having the gallery (somewhat) all to myself when I stopped by to see the show; I  felt that I was able to spend time one-on-one with each of Blackman’s creations, free of distractions.


Alongside the displayed artwork, a video interview (linked below) with Mr. Blackman describes his work at the Rincon Annex postal counter, a P.O. near and dear to my heart. He also references “two shops selling stamps for collectors near my place of employment” — I’m hoping that’s a reference to US Stamp and Supply Company, another place dear to my heart (which closed up shop in SF last year.)


“For colored writing I used gouache in tubes or water-soluble colored pencils. I later learned how to grind a set of colored Japanese stick inks on individual ink stones: one stone for reds, one for blues, one for greens, etc.”

–Alan Blackman, courtesy of the SFPL Book Arts and Special Collections “What’s Happening On the Sixth Floor” blog


There have been some delightful interviews and reviews of this exhibit over the past couple of months, most notably by the good folks over at Social Correspondence and the SF Chronicle. And while I feel that I could spend hours writing up how inspiring (and inspired) this show is, I find that putting the exhibition into words is much harder than I thought it would be, simply by virtue of the fact that it is so overwhelmingly thoughtful.


In interviews, Blackman is modest about his work; he says that he was initially surprised by people’s positive reactions to his decorated envelopes. Presenting them at a monthly meeting of San Francisco’s Friends of Calligraphy, he remarks: “I was so shy and sheepish, I thought something as personal as this would not appeal to anyone else. I brought what I had of my collection at the time, very sheepish, thinking that nobody could possibly be interested.”


“To my astonishment, everyone was fascinated beyond my wildest expectations. It seems like there might be a law here… something like the more personal your work, the more people admire it, but I don’t know if that’s universally true.”

–Alan Blackman,  courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library’s YouTube channel

09_welsh dragon

What more can I tell you? Do yourself a huge favor and stop by the Koret Gallery at the Main Branch of SFPL. Exhibition runs thru October 13th, 2015. More details can be found here.


add’l resources:

What’s On the Sixth Floor? (SFPL Book Arts and Special Collections blog)

video interview with Alan Blackman (many of the above quotes are pulled from this video)

Alan Blackman Calligraphy (Mr. Blackman’s website)

01_june gloom

Here in the bay area, summertime weather has been with us for the last three months or so (which is how it happens everywhere else, but not usually here.) If you’ve lived in SF for any amount of time, you’re probably missing what we San Franciscans refer to as the “June Gloom.” I mean, holy moley! It’s been warm around here.


This year has been anything but typical.

03_outgoin g mail

I’ve been whirl-winding all around the place, and I promise I’ll write more about that in a (near) future blog post. Lots of great, fantastic, amazing things have been falling into place with Red Handed Rubber Stamps (as well as a handful of my other artistic endeavors) so there’s a bunch to report from that part of the Red Letter Day-O-Sphere.

04_RHR in prog

And since I mentioned rubber stamps just now, let me tell you this juicy tidbit of info: I’ll be sponsoring a table/creation station (alongside Neenah Paper) at this weekend’s Steamroller event at SFCB! WOWZA!!!

05_neenah paper

What does that mean? Stop by the “Capricious Correspondence Zone” and seek out everything you might need for your stationery, mail art, and letter writing needs! I’ll have Red Handed Rubber Stamps available for sale at the S.O.S (“Stamp your Own Stationery”) table, complete with a selection of “try before you buy” rubber. Neenah Paper is providing envelopes and paper; the only thing needed is your creativity and enthusiasm!

06_RHR read more

Other Correspondence Zone participants include Bell’occhio, who will be bringing a treasure trove of inks and calligraphy tools…


…as well as Special Guest Billy Hutchinson, who (as you may know) is a fabulous calligrapher and truly dapper gent.

08_mr billy

Perhaps you’d like to shop other book-and-paper vendors? Gutwrench Press and Picky Pockets Press will be there, as well as other faves like Savior Faire Paper and Flax! It’s a day-long block party with plenty of fun and free things to see and do — truly a celebration of book arts, printing, and the community of people who help make it happen.

All that being said: I hope to see you there! :-)

And a final bit of surprise: I’ll be previewing new rubber stamp designs for Late Summer 2015 — YIPPEE!!!

See you at Steamroller —


01_grand newsstand_01

So: SF Zine Fest has come and gone for another year. Always a whirlwind extravaganza, always an amazing visual feast. There’s something for everyone, and this year was no different. I present for you: a small wrap up of delicious items!


But first: LOOK AT THAT CROWD! It was like that all. darn. day. There was never an ebb and flow, just a steady stream of attendees who were revved up and ready to look at zines, small press books, and a variety of DIY goodies…

03_RLD table

…which I was more than happy to have at my little slice of table! As you can see from the photo above, I had a selection of Red Handed Rubber, as well as issues of Red Letter Day 1-4. I had also put together copies of “Posted”, “Hello! My Name Is Mail Art!”, and “Penmanship” — y’know: the usual postal and letter writing bling.

04_herstorical oakland

I was sharing a table with Miz Happenstance, who had created two new AMAZING stamp sheets for her “Herstorical Women of Oakland” artistamp series (shown above)…

05_cat powers

…as well as these “Cat Superpowers” badges, which were like CATNIP (see what I did there?) for zinesters of all ages (and a BARGAIN at five bucks!)


You may remember my write up of The Grand Newsstand from last week’s post; well, lucky me! Courtney was just to my right, vending lovely zines from locals.

07_newsstand bingo

And how clever is this?!?! The Newsstand crew had designed a SFZF 2015 bingo card! I can’t think of a better way to run around and meet people — a prize is always a good motivator.

08_wonderella_FG_small size

Clint Marsh of Wonderella Publishing is putting out a wonderful new item: Fiddler’s Green. The masthead proclaims that this beauty is a “peculiar parish magazine” and I’d definitely agree — if you define peculiar as a beautiful, high production value publication with wonderfully written articles. (Take a look at that copper foil stamping on issue #2!)

09_andrews zines

Clint’s tablemate Andrew Reichart (Argawarga Press) had these little gems (above), which were irresistible. I brought home three and promptly devoured them before bedtime. (Which maybe wasn’t the best idea, as I had strangely tinged dreams all night long.)

10_hope gutwrench

And of course I took a moment to check in with Hope of Gutwrench Press. Her blank journals with postcard covers were literally flying off the table; she had fantastic examples of her “Keep Writing” project for people to look at. I was reminded of how much I love her aesthetic and her lovely self.

It was a crazy-busy day and the time seemed to run away. In a jiffy, Miz Happenstance and I had called it a day and were off to our favorite Japanese restaurant in the neighborhood! Believe me: there are very few things better than Japanese comfort food and an ice cold Sapporo at the end of a long work day. We’d definitely earned it!

More news to come — I’ll be participating in another fun event at the end of the month, here in San Francisco! Details following soon and RLD readers will be the first to know — I promise!


PS: I was interviewed by San Francisco’s online local mag Hoodline about SF Zine Fest, mail art, and what zines in general have to do with sending wacky stuff through the mail — take a look!

01_biz card


Two weeks ago, Miz In Cahoots and I were wandering around the Embarcadero, after a far-too-long hiatus from hanging out. Ice cream had been consumed, the bay had been viewed, and gossip had been swapped. Heading back to the subway station, I thought that life couldn’t possibly get any better.

I was wrong.

At Market and Steuart, I was stopped in my tracks by a Most Wonderful Place.


the work of Roman Madov and Angi Brzycki

Have you visited The Grand Newstand? Have you heard about this project? If not, you should, because it’s AMAZING.


Courtney contemplates the difficult question of “favorite zine”…

We met Courtney Riddle (one of the mistress-minds behind The Grand Newsstand kiosk) who explained to us that the newsstand stocked zines, small press editions, and the occasional artistic project (prints, broadsides, home wares) — housed in one of the vintage-ish newsstand kiosks lining Market Street. The two of us were immediately enchanted.

04_evah fan

the work of Evah Fan…

If you’re looking for gift to give a budding zine maker or an inspired per-zine to read on your daily commute…


…this is your kind of kiosk!! It was wonderful to see a variety of artists I know and love hanging out right there on Market Street. In a city strapped for art space and DIY culture, it was such a joy to bask in the ambiance at the Newsstand.

06_awkward ladies

the work of Awkward Ladies Club (just in time for Burning Man!!!)

So: what are you waiting for?!?! The Newsstand is (usually) open six days a week; check out their hours on tumblr. Stop by, support small press, and get an eyeful of this quintessentially San Francisco endeavour.



It’s that time of year again: San Francisco Zine Fest time! Taking place September 6th, 2015 at the SF County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park, this year’s DIY extravaganza is gearing up to be something else.


Just like last year, Miz Happenstance and I will be sharing a table! And also (just like last year) I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll have a riot of rubber stamps, postal mayhem, and brightly colored goodies for you to look through!


I’ve managed to put together full sets of issues 1-4 of Red Letter Day…

04_posted zine

…as well as some new copies of Posted (a zine all about artistamps and why I make them.)


(I’ve got a couple new things I’m hoping to get put together before the event.)


I’ll also have a selection of Red Handed Rubber Stamps on the table for your delight and consideration! Pro tip: it’s NEVER too late to consider your rubber needs for Halloween and the holidays. Interested in a placing a “special order” and picking up at the Fest? Get in touch (redhandedrubber@gmail.com) and let me know what I can bring to SFZF especially for YOU!

Alrighty: it’s back to the studio for me – of course I’m burning the midnight oil for the next two weeks!


PS: details about SFZF 2015 can be found at their website: www.sfzinefest.org. Two items of note: 1) SFZF2015 is a ONE DAY EVENT this year and 2) BART will not be running the weekend of September 5th and 6th. You’ve been warned!


01_the century bindery_01

I think we can all agree that if you’re reading this blog, there are a handful of common interests we most likely share, for example: a love of postal items, sending things through the mail, and airmail stripes. It is also highly likely that you love items such as rubber stamps, all manner of paper/stationery, and books (whether old or new.)


Most RLD readers know that I am a biblio-nerd myself: I love book structures, sewing things together, and showing people how to make their own bookish creations. My favorite classroom moments occur when a first-time book maker completes final steps on The First Book They’ve Ever Made and you can practically see a lightbulb go off over their head. It’s incredible.

03_chairs at ABM

interior, American Bookbinder’s Museum (08.2015)

Now, imagine if you will: a museum in San Francisco that not only preserves the look and feel of a 19th C. bookbindery and print shop but in fact, invites people to skill share and interact with the museum’s equipment, so that participants can create their own “a-ha!” moments.

04_extra heavy

If that sounds interesting, then The American Bookbinder’s Museum is your kind of place! I stopped by their new SoMA space last week; I’d heard a rumor that they had a Rossback perforator nestled among the Albion hand presses and Smythe sewing machines.

Eureka! Within minutes, I had (presumptuously?) settled down to “get under the hood” of their Rossback and do a little bit of cleaning and scrubbing.

(all the while in the back of my head thinking “oh man, I hope they don’t think I’m some sort of weirdo book-gear stalker-y type…” I mean, WHO DOES THAT KIND OF THING? oh right…”nerds with a purpose”, my friend Sheree calls us…)

06_tools of the trade

pro tools…

Every Rossback I’ve ever “met” is slightly different, once you start loosening screws and cleaning off the grit. My favorite tools for Rossback repairs? A toothbrush, some WD40, a flathead screwdriver, and a pair of nippers.


Rossback perforator, with the top bar removed. Bottom bar (brass color) is still in place.

Folks always ask me, so here ya go: I’ll discuss some Rossback basics, as far as parts and clean up are concerned!

07_from above

looking down onto the top bar (removed from machine.) This piece is usually “shelf shaped”…

In the photo above: this is what the “top” bar of a Rossback looks like, once it’s been removed from the machine itself. See all those teeny little holes? That’s where the pins are placed! The pinheads rest atop each of those little holes.


The Museum’s Rossback had some slight variations I’d never seen before, including the one shown above. See where the (stripped) screw is? Well that brass piece is what I call the “bottom” bar. The (top bar) pin points travel through the pinholes on the bottom bar, on their way to the holes on the base plate of the Rossback (shown as the darker colored metal in the photo.) When perforating a sheet of paper, the paper slides in between the bottom bar and the base plate; this is also where the pins first make contact with the paper and perforating happens.

Back to the museum’s Rossback: the bottom bar was divided into two brass pieces, which I’d never seen before. And that small bent up piece of wire to the left of the brass piece? That’s a pin that somehow ended up that way.

Ah – mysteries!

09_new pins in the bar

you can’t quite see the pinheads resting in place, but trust me — they’re there!

Hey look! The Museum had ordered a new set of pins from NA Graphics, so I carefully (with the help of Museum Guru Jae) placed them into the top bar…

10_pins in place

once the top bar was in position, I quickly placed a screw in one of the middle spots and attached the top bar. As you can see, I haven’t put the far left screw in place yet.

…and then was able to jimmy the top bar (by hand) into place with the bottom bar. Note: THIS IS TRICKY AND DOESN’T WORK WITH EVERY ROSSBACK. As you can see: the difficult part is aligning the top bar pins with the correct pinholes in the bottom bar. Each pin, every single hole, nothing crooked or at a slant.

If you get the top bar pins and bottom bar holes aligned correctly, everything should be fine when you press the foot pedal, moving the pins downward into the pinholes in the base of the Rossback. If you feel resistance or hear weird noises, stop what you’re doing! Either scenario usually means that there’s a crooked pin somewhere or the alignment of parts/pieces is a little off. I usually loosen some screws, triple check my work, and carefully re-apply pressure where needed.


(side note: my Rossback at the RLD studio doesn’t play “nice” like this one; I have to hand set each and every single pin, which makes for a much longer “deep cleaning” process. That’s what I mean when I say every one of these machines is different in some way…)


smythe sewing machine: sew up textblocks in a jiffy!

After doing a victory dance (it IS wonderfully satisfying to have all those pins travel downward into their respective places, and not hear a single shearing noise…) I wandered around the rest of the space, taking in the various equipment on display.

14_palmer and rey

palmer and rey’s “magic cutting machine” — not it’s official name, but that’s what I call it!

One of the ABM’s goals is to have a group of docents and volunteers who are well-versed on each machine, in order to show visitors how the equipment functions while working on projects of their own. Each machine at the museum will be fully operational; all equipment has been sourced from different binderies and print shops across the country (sometimes traveling great distances to find a new “forever home” at the museum.)


leftover evidence, palmer and rey…

A bit of historical perspective from the Michigan State University Library: “The early 19th century was an era of transformation for bookbinding. With the increase in the demand for books, binders turned to mechanization to meet this challenge. Publishers also began to take control of the whole book-making process, from editing to printing to binding.”

Operational 19th century gear to help you make books quickly? That’s what you’ll find at the ABM!


litho stone…is that an ad for “pure rye whiskey”?!?!

Although the museum has not formally opened its doors to the public yet, interested parties are invited to stop by and say hello. Additionally: if you’re interested in learning how to operate any of the above mentioned machinery and/or volunteering at the museum, you can fill out a form online and museum staffers will get in touch. The ABM also has a monthly “volunteer meet up”; you can stop by and see the sights in person, if that’s more your style. (next meet up: tonight! Tuesday, August 18th!)


All that being said, I’m off to use the museum’s industrial stapling machine – SF Zine Fest is coming up and I’ve got a MOUNTAIN of work to do! FAST! Who wouldn’t want to staple 100 zines in approximately 20 minutes?




epic cloudscape, downtown detroit

I’m back from vacationing through the “Land of Endless Clouds”: Michigan! Many thanks to RLD readers who sent bon voyage postcards to my mailbox — YAY! What a wonderful thing to arrive home to – postal pals in my mailbox! You guys are the BEST!


“Still Life: A Letter Rack” (1692) artist: Edward Collyer; seen at: the Detroit Institute of Arts

I had big plans to do a write up about visiting the Heirloom Productions rubber stamp show in Novi, MI on August 1st. Revv’d up and ready to see some awesome, I ventured thru the doors of the convention center and was dazzled by the array of paper, vendors, color, and stamps. (It was the first time I’d ever been to a convention like that…)


searching for Capelli at John King Books…

However: I was thwarted in my plans.

Each time I queried a vendor about snapping a booth/product photo (all the while explaining that I was interested in doing a write up for my blog) I was politely told that the vendor didn’t allow photos. After going through this scenario a couple different times, I decided “meh.” I mean, what use is a blog post about delicious rubber stamps if there are no photos of delicious rubber stamps?!?!


elevator existentialism…

So. That was a bit disappointing.

But: I did discover a gem of a stamper, tucked amongst all the decorative papers and mixed media mayhem! Chuck Knock of Grey Wolf Graphics has a fantastic selection of faux postage rubber stamps, perfect for all your mail art envelopes, postcards, and artistamp work.

GWG collage

a sampling of faux postage imagery from Grey Wolf Graphics

Chuck illustrates all of the rubber stamps produced by Grey Wolf Graphics; the GWG website states that he was involved in “illustrating many of General Motors’ owner’s manuals as well as most of the ones for American Motors.” You would never mistake a Gray Wolf rubber stamp for any other, due to the beautiful line work and illustrative quality of Chuck’s imagery — one of the very reasons why I was immediately smitten with ALL of their rubber stamps!


the Grey Wolf “thanks” stamp in action; awesome “mail call” stationery from JU13!

Needless to say, I left a fair amount of my “allowance” at the Grey Wolf booth. Each rubber stamp is beautifully mounted on a hand-turned wooden block; the deep etch red rubber takes ink wonderfully and leaves a fantastic impression. These rubber stamps are a welcome addition to any rubberhead’s collection! (unmounted stamps are also available.)


rubber stamp haul from Grey Wolf; some mounted, some unmounted…

Hey — look how that happened! Even though I said I wasn’t really going to do a write up of the rubber stamp show, it looks like I still managed to do a write up of the rubber stamp show. I’ll leave you guys with a fun YouTube video from Diane Dimich of DD Stamps: a fast and easy painter’s tape technique which can be used on all of those “final month of summer” postcards.

Stay tuned: next week I’ve got fun announcements on the way, as well as a roster of new classes and going-ons!

Keep it postal!



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