It’s time to move on…


All things must come to an end. I’ve been here at Lestaret Towers since December 2008 -2008! Crikey. Some of you have been with me from the beginning, and I still get new followers signing up, even when I don’t post regularly.

As I type this, there are 215 of you signed up on WordPress, and I would like to thank each and everyone of you for your interest and enthusiasm. I’m genuinely humbled by this.

Since 2008 I have published 632 posts which have been viewed 270,764 times by 66,573 people. Those last two numbers are astonishing to me and I am unable to visualise them in any sort of scale that makes them easier to understand.

I have recorded visitors from pretty much everywhere too, many of you who probably read through GoogleTranslate or something and find some of the stuff I have written rather odd. I know this because I have translated a few posts into other languages and retranslated them back into English – and as you expect, the results can be interesting!

or in Japanese:

and retranslated back:
I’ve read something with GoogleTranslate etc. and recorded the visitors from many people who found something I wrote quite odd things. I translated some posts into other languages and translated them back into English, so I know this. As you expected, results may be interesting!

Hours of fun.

But its not over. All that is here will remain for posterity, but I will now be blogging over on my website www.lestaret.com and I would like to invite you all to drop by sometime and maybe even sign up to follow me there. You will be made most welcome.

So thanks everybody, and see you over at my new place soon.


Images, Uncategorized


A couple of months ago I went to the auctions with my friend Pete (who I got my perforator from) and came home with what I consider to be a little bargain.

It is two volumes of prints of paintings from the collection of Eugène Secrétan, the nineteenth century French industrialist who made his fortune in copper production. Unfortunately for him, his immense fortune did not last and his large collection of paintings , sculptures, furniture and objet d’art were sold at auction to pay off his debts – these books are, in effect, auction catalogues.


They are quite big (15⅞ x 11⅜” – 381 x 279mm) and are composed of loose sheets taped into pairs and sewn, covered with a light brown card jacket, folded over the front and back leaves. Essentially unbound, but I have since seen a few copies on the web that have been bound in leather.

The text is beautifully set in a variety of metal type and letterpressed throughout. The paper is a heavy smooth stock, which I estimate is about 220gsm and has some yellowing and foxing around the edges, as well as a little water damage here and there.


The first few text pages are quite heavily printed and wonderfully tactile. I know this will have the purists screaming, but I like it.


Each page has a tissue mask tipped in, covering the print beneath:


And followed with a description.


The prints are photogravure – hand printed from copper plates (how ironic) that had been coated with light sensitive chemicals and acid etched. This allows for good reproduction of fine detail and subtle continuous tones, perfect for art prints.


The majority of the prints clearly show the impression of the plate.



Each print is of a different size that follows the proportions of the originals, but to give you an idea of the scale, the image below measures 8⅝ x 6⅜” (203 x 152mm)


There are two volumes in all and they are missing a few prints each, but not many. And the price? £9. Bargain.

I’ll post another selection soon…

exhibitions, Letterpress, Uncategorized

A Grand Day Out

It’s been a very busy few weeks over here at Lestaret Towers, so last Friday I took off into the beautiful Suffolk countryside with my friend and fellow designer Jodie Cole to go to the Lettering Arts Centre at Snape Maltings for a bit of inspiration.
The Centre is home of the Lettering and Commemorative Arts Trust  and is currently host to an exhibition of the work of the legendary letterpress artist and designer, Alan Kitching. The exhibition included a selection of his work spanning his career that followed his unexpected departure in 1988 from his role at Omnific Studio Partnership with Derek Birdsall and Martin Lee where he had set up a letterpress studio in 1976.

The wonderful Jodie outside the exhibition

There are of course some familiar images included in the exhibition; the broadsides and typographic maps especially, which are even more spectacular in the flesh due to their scale – about A1 size!
As well as the more recognisable prints from his archive, there were also a number of little gems – mockups and markups and the like, as well a little pile of ‘make-readies’ – offcuts of paper and card used to slip under worn type to raise the surface to type height. These are little things that will be hugely familiar to anyone has experienced letterpress printing, and it is comforting to see the evidence of this wonderfully low tech and time-proven method.LESTARET-KITCHING-6
Jodie was as impressed as I was, and I had seen many of these prints a few years ago at an exhibition in London, but there were prints here I had not seen, as well as items from his own archive.LESTARET-KITCHING-8I had also booked us a couple of places at a talk by the man himself in the evening, and we took our seats amongst a small number of others in the exhibition space itself, which made for a very intimate experience!

Kitching was interviewed and prompted to discuss all kinds of issues and subjects, where he gave very personal and honest responses as well as answering questions. He also hung around afterwards to chat with people, and Jodie collared him for a photo. Fangirl!LESTARET-KITCHING-9The exhibition is to promote a new Monograph by John L. Walters (Laurence King) published next year. There were some copies for sale at the event so I had to indulge myself!
LESTARET-KITCHING-11I even got my copy signed! Fanboy!LESTARET-KITCHING-12At the end of the talk, he offered out a range of letterpress post cards, of which this is my favourite…
Good times. Many thanks to the Lettering and Commemorative Arts Trust for putting on such a great exhibition, and also to the man himself, for being so gregarious and not anything like the unapproachable grump I had mistakenly understood him to be!

Also, many thanks to Jodie who was great company – and who generously stood in when I forgot my PIN number when I was trying to buy the book! (It’s an old trick, but it never fails!)

Artists Books, Projects, Uncategorized

Xylotheque #8


Making a spine compartment means that I need to cut some more wood. This is 3mm thick stuff from the craft shop that can be cut with a knife and just needs a little sanding to bring it to life…


The side pieces were glued into place using spacers made from paper laminate in order to allow the covers to close properly. Had I thought about this earlier on I probably would wave designed something a little more elegant, but I’m liking the general aesthetic of the ‘cobbled together’ approach…


Meanwhile, I set about making some sort of knob using the same paper laminating technique used for the closure peg, but this time wrapping it tightly around a leather thong.


and cutting it down to size when dry. Again, a little sanding brings it to a more satisfying shape.


I also cut a couple of top pieces to frame the lid and got on with shaping and dressing the knob.


In order to secure the leather thong I cut a groove on the back so that I could glue it into a recess…


Whilst the glue was drying on the thong I mixed up another batch of black goo and gave all the new pieces a good slop. I did the same to the lid shortly afterwards, and sanded everything back to match the overall ‘patina.’


And there it is. I’m still deciding on the contents and still need to finish the runes on the front, so there will be more to come…


Big Society

Some of you may have already noticed, but this post is generally an announcement to let everyone know that I am now selling a range of merchandise via those lovely folks over at Society6:

Some of these may be familiar – a number of images  have previously featured on this blog, along with some new stuff and a few revisited older designs, all lovingly reformatted especially for sale here!

Each design is available in a range of different formats, from framed art prints, stretched canvas prints, greetings cards, tees, vests and hoodies and even a babygrow! There’s also bags, mugs and pillows, as well as covers and skins for iPhones/pods/pads and laptops! Blimey!

These are all priced in dollars as they are obviously a US based operation, but conversions to any monetary format can be easily calculated via the multitude of converters on the interweb, and they ship worldwide too at very reasonable prices (but look out as they do have free shipping offers fairly regularly!)


You can go there now by clicking the Society6 logo at the top of this post, and there is another link in the shop section of this blog. But what about ‘The Department of Something Else’ I hear you cry – but do not shed any tears! My Folksy shop will be open again later this year, stocked with all manner of hand-made/printed lovelies!



A New Post

After my discovery of Adanaland earlier this year, I have been ruminating upon the forgotten pleasures of the mail. It is a simple concept really; that as we have become accustomed to the immediate availability of just about anything via the web, and our ordinary existence becoming ever more virtual and automated, our expectations of the ‘old mail’ have dropped accordingly. Certainly, my mail generally consists of credit card offers, loans and other myriad variations on the theme of ‘spend what you don’t have,’ flyers for kebab shops and flat roofing contractors and those little bags for you to fill up with unwanted items for dubious charities which are to be left by the roadside and never collected. Then there’s the occasional missive from the local authorities, a message from my bank (always to inform me that they will be making changes to my account for my benefit, which inevitably means making it more difficult to get at) and the parish newsletter. Oh, the parish newsletter.  I guess it’s much the same for others too.

A little while ago I posted about Adanaland; a mythical place where letterpress and the post still matter. Shortly after that post, I received something that has brought about some changes to my life.

When I received my pack from The Hedgehog Press, my children greeted me at the door when I arrived home from work and exclaimed that something interesting had come for me. (Please don’t imagine a saccharine 1950’s middle class scene with bright-eyed children waiting at the door just as a well-dressed spouse removes a succulent roast from the oven – “Hi Honey, I’m home! – I usually just get a grunt from the teenager glued to Facebook and smile from the youngest if Spongebob is on an ad break!)  I was then propelled into the kitchen where I was presented with a medium-sized brown envelope, with neat writing and numerous stamps and markings:

I was urged to open it immediately, even before I had removed my shoes and coat.  And as I pulled out a plethora, yes – a plethora, of printed materials, both kids said “is that it?” and “what is it?”  Mrs. Lestaret had not shown any interest in it anyway, and even less once it was established I didn’t have to pay for it. Me? I was smiling.

A little later that evening, with a glass of something medicinal (ahem) I scrutinised every little piece in the envelope. I read every line of text, pored over every little image, considered all of the processes and techniques that went into this envelope of inconsequential printed matter. Here is in all its glory: Click on the images for detail…





I have shown these to a number of other people – all of whom smiled, big, innocent grins of pleasure. Simple pleasures; granted, but everyone reacted the same. All of them said something along the lines of ” I would love to get this kind of stuff unannounced in the mail” and delved back into the envelope to retrieve a favourite piece again. I have looked at it several times more, and never failed to smile. I vowed to create something to send out that would perhaps give others some small pleasure.

Originally, I went into massive letterpress mode – the Hedgehog Press, and indeed all of Adanaland relies on this quaint and labour intensive process of reproduction – and assembled ten packs of ‘stuff.’ They are propped up in the top right hand corner of a shelf above my computer screen. I can see then out of the corner of my eye as I type this, mocking me, saying “you know we are nowhere near as good as you would like us to be. “ They are right, of course. I churned them out just to have stuff to send. I am not posting them here. They don’t make me smile. I decided to put this project to one side, and give it some honest thought, and let ideas and inspiration germinate and bring it back to life. It has, but in a different way.

With a more considered review of what came through the letterbox over the last few months I have been able to ascertain some information:

What arrives in the mail at Lestaret Towers (for both me and my wife) is about 60% corporate marketing – banks, credit cards, loans etc, along with ‘special’ offers on cars, replacement windows and private healthcare etc. We also get a lot of charity mail, usually requests for donations, more donations or increases on the donations we already make. I’m not against this stuff – don’t get me wrong – this type of stuff has probably kept the Royal Mail from imploding for years, and provided a healthy financial reward for many marketing and design companies in the process. It’s just that it has become so, er, well, depressing.

Then there is the local stuff – flyers, promos and offers from local businesses, all trying to make a living and doing whatever they can bring in the cash.

Then there is the real crap. Stuff mailed by hand, poorly conceived, cheaply produced and uncared for – photocopied flyers for pointless services (dustbin freshening, anyone?) and dubious tradesmen (qualifeid tradsmen. All work garunteed.) Mail order catalogues for the mentally unstable and financially fatuous, and ad-rags for those who really enjoy one and a half pages of local promotional shite wrapped with 18 other pages of crappy classified advertising, poorly disguised as a newspaper.

Ok, ok, I know this sounds like I’m really ‘going off on one,’ but I am working towards something here, just bear with me a little longer.

Then there’s Ebay and Amazon. You know that feeling don’t you? When you’ve waited a week and not received anything, and become complacent about the mail again (c’mon, it can’t just be me who orders stuff late at night and is disappointed when it doesn’t arrive the next day – I call it the IIGE – Internet Instant Gratification Effect – and how many of you out there haven’t secretly thought that it should be as instant to arrive as it is to buy online!) These companies have made absolute fortunes and have allowed non-privatised  mail services (and private services) to continue as our economies implode, and I salute them here. Genuinely. I buy from both (and others – this is no commercial endorsement) and enjoy the brown corrugated Amazon offerings just as much as the home-made, over or under packaged stuff sent by ordinary folk via Ebay. That’s still nice stuff in the mail, but it is still stuff you’re expecting.

As I was looking around the web for others as dissatisfied as me I found a lot of references to something called IUOMA and looked into it a little further. It stands for International Union Of Mail Artists and is a community of people who enjoy sending and receiving visually interesting stuff through the mail; mail art.

The idea is very simple. You make something (small, postable) and send it to another member. They will send you something back from them. There is, of course, a lot of groups, factions and sub-divisions, each with their own preferences, themes or objectives, but all of them linked by this simple premise – make/post/receive. I signed up immediately.

I visited the site for a few days, read some of the forum threads, looked through the groups and a few individuals who were posting images of things that appealed to me. I also got a number of welcome messages from other members, looking to encourage and reassure, offering to exchange. I decided to give it a go – for a twelve month period – and record everything I send out and everything I receive in return. That should liven up my mail experience I think!

So far I have sent out five mailings, each a batch of four or five and  I have just completed the next batch and already planning another… the next post will reveal all, and show some of my new, improved satisfaction mail!

I have just received the most appropriate comment in response to this post:

This has made my day. No, month – definitely! Thank you Alan, you should be available on prescription!