Things have been a little dormant over here on the surface but believe me, it's the calm before the storm. We decided it was time to refocus our energies and had a serious sit down for the 2015 year. What is feasible? What do we want to make? What's our most popular items? For the last question at least, it was a no brainer: our Shot Glass Cards have been a hands down best seller.
I think sometimes, as a maker, you get lost in the chase of a new great idea and than once you get it, the chase is over and it feels like work. When I made the original shot glass card a little over two years ago, the reception was out of control but after the initial wave, the drive to continue releasing an idea I had already "conquered" (for lack of a better term) felt tired. A true business person would probably exploit a successful idea. Hell, just a reasonable person would probably do that, but I decided to move on to other ideas like an idiot.
Well, now almost two years later, we decided to revisit our most famous release and bring it back with a collection of 12 fun new designs. These will be hitting the shop in the next few weeks. I don't want to release the whole shindig quite yet, but here is a teaser of my favorite one of the bunch.
Also (and I don't ask for this often) but we are going to be actively pursuing getting these in some shops. We ordered 14,000 of them, which is about 12,000 more than our standard run we are comfortable with so we will be actively trying to throw them at as many people as fast as possible. It was a pretty big leap of faith to make a commitment like this and this means we are going to have to become a little salesman-y for a paragraph.
If you have a suggestion for a local store you think the Shot Glass Card line would be a great fit for, please do make an introduction or shoot me an email with any info at firstname.lastname@example.org. In fact, if you have any tips of any kind or anyone who might be into this idea, please let me know. In that email, if you can include your own address, we will send out a free shot glass card for the lead and because you're an amazing person.
Happy Halloween! After the temporary hiatus and the cathartic Real Talk blog post, we are excited to be back in action making things and spreading general trivia knowledge to the masses. Although this poster has internally been a long time in the making, we are very excited to celebrate such a spooky season by festively introducing the next installment of the Alphabet Poster series: Mythical Creatures.
We teamed up with friend, illustrator and collaborator Scotty Reifsnyder for this bad boy and it is one of our favorite releases of all time. We have been a long time fan of Scotty's work and it was such a pleasure getting to be a part of and see such an amazing project come to life over the last few months. You can check out more from him on his Dribbble, Twitter, or Website. Amazing stuff over there.
To help us bring in this momentous occasion, our friends over at our favorite ink slinging shop, Mama's Sauce, decided to channel their inner mysticalness and dress up as some of the lineup for Halloween!
It wasn't all just fun and games for this here poster. Around 2 years ago, when Scotty and I started ideating around this idea, we had a ton of fun directions to go in. As you can see in the sketch below, early in the process of making this poster, we toyed around with the idea of putting these characters into picture frames. This idea was meant to be a little reminiscent of a Harry Potter picture frame wall that showcased snapshots of these elusive creatures nobody has ever seen in real life.
Sadly, we had to ditch the frame idea because it became pretty apparent that the design might become a little too busy for a poster with 26 illustrations and captions. We didn't want the monsters to get lost in the frames, so Scotty decided to tackle the creatures in a more straightforward fashion.
Regardless, the illustrations came out amazing and every character has their own little personality and quirk. The Imp is one of my personal favorites. He is a mischievous little creature and Scotty has him stealing money from a poor New Jersey resident's wallet.
Writing fun facts for this poster proved to be quite an adventure. This is for multiple reasons but the biggest one is that the characters in this poster don't actually exist (or do they...), so finding legitimate facts about fictitious material is pretty touchy. We did our best to not step on our own toes, but this is all folklore so we like to think that popular opinion rules.
For instance, fairies are magical, humanoid beings who are known for their mischievous and sometimes malicious nature. They will often use their words to confuse and mislead but they can be outwitted for it is said a fairy is incapable of telling a lie.
Or since it is Halloween, you should probably be on the lookout for the Headless Horseman. Of the many tales describing the headless horseman, none are quite as grim and disturbing as the Irish dullahan, or "dark man." Galloping through the night and wielding a whip made of a human spine, the dark man claims his victim's life by simply stopping to call out their name. I suppose you can't really defend against that. Bottom line, if you see a guy on a horse at any time, run.
The 55 Hi's shop is proud to announce a number of new changes! One of the first exciting moves we are making is we are now offering new sizes and color variations through our newest non-human team member: Shakakana (Shak for short).
Shak is an Epson 7890 Fine Art Giclée printer that will allow us to start offering posters in different sizes and colors to give everyone a little more variation in old and new releases from 55 Hi's.
We have received a lot of requests over the years for prints and designs that people love but haven't been the right color or size for their room. We have always wanted to accommodate these requests but the largest problem has always been cost and minimum quantities for screenprinting new designs.
Typically when you screenprint something, you pick one size and one color to print because you need to reach a large quantity of any one design to make it worth your while for setup, ink mixing and screen preparation. This has always proved hard for us, because we wanted to offer more things more often, but every new design triples or quadruples our upfront cost if we try to offer more than one variation. That's why in the past, we have resolved to offering one size in one color for all our releases.
After some careful consideration, we decided the best course of action was to move forward offering both printing methods. The Giclée printer will give us the opportunity to offer new designs, more often and at a better price while still retaining a fine art museum quality print. Screenprinting will be a great avenue to continue utilizing specialty printing methods while still retaining our Limited Edition runs of special designs.
So, if you have some time, take a look around at all the new variations and fun color alternatives we now offer. There is so many more things in the pipeline now that we have Shak. We can't wait to share.
Happy to introduce our newest addition to the lineup of growing alphabet posters: The Traveler's Alphabet.
Travel the world in style with this collection of 26 automotive marvels from all around the world. Whether it's a Vespa from Italy or a pack of sled dogs from Alaska, you will be a well versed traveler in no time after reading up on the most interesting facts and trivia from these common modes of transportation.
It's been an interesting year releasing these alphabet posters but the other day I took a look at our lineup and I was really proud of what we have going on here. The series as a whole is starting to look pretty great! I felt it a great opportunity to take a second to thank everyone who has participated (and/or bought) one of these bad boys during the road of fabricating these. A special thanks goes out to the illustrators Brad Woodard, Lydia Nichols, Scotty Reifsnyder and Dave Perillo for being a part of this shindig.
In all the shuffle this year we dropped a few balls and one of those dropped balls was we didn't coordinate a new calendar. Bummer. To make up for this egregious error, we worked up 2015 version of the 3 previous years calendars. The other great news is they are all available in a bunch of different big-ass sizes! We have 16x24, 18x27, and 24x36 sizes available. Check out the Monsters, Junk Food, or Robot Calendars in all their glory!
That's a little harsh, but I'm sticking to it.
Now let me preface this generally pessimistic blog post by noting, I realize I am complaining about a free service I am in no way obligated to use. This blog post is coming more from a disappointment standpoint about something that was great and is now ruined and why we won't be tending to the Facebook community any more.
Also, I think this topic has been covered to death by many but I feel it's worth spreading shitty business practice just for the principle. Or, at least what I would consider shitty business practice. I'm not going to say it's extortion, but it feels a little extortion-esque to me. If you want to hear a really great, well researched version of this argument check out this video.
4 years ago when we started 55 Hi's, Facebook was amazing. It was a great, interactive tool to get feedback on releases and show people what we were working on. People who elected to like our page (which you can unlike at any time and stop receiving our updates) would have the opportunity to see our updates. If the post was successful and people liked it, the content would spread to their friends or have the opportunity to gain a little traction for being a popular item.
Now, the 55 Hi's Facebook page has around 5,600 likes and a typical post will reach around 80 people. A successful post that is liked, commented, or shared will typically reach around 150 people. This means that our content is reaching on average less than 2% of the audience that has already elected to receive updates from us by liking the page. Essentially, even if you like the page, you won't get our content anyway so the whole process is really pretty trivial.
We will posting most of our updates via Instagram, Dribbble and the Newsletter. It's such a sad thought to think Facebook bought Instagram and will likely follow suit soon with restricting content unless you pay them. Nevertheless, it's the best avenue to spread our content now without being a disruptive marketer. If you want to join our very non-spammy newsletter, you can do that here as well. We typically email around once a month.
Also, here's a picture of the Facebook board members as they read my post.
Had a lot of fun over the weekend painting a batch of these Smooth Operator mugs. This design is actually a remix from a prior design we did for one of our whiskey tumblers. It started as just simply "Smooth" but that's a little too Michael Jackson and not enough Sade so we decided to revisit it.
You can pick one up right here. We have 12 in stock at the moment and depending on how they are received, we may not make them again!
TL;DR - We're making shit again, and more of it. Sorry for the radio silence.
I thought it best, after a fairly long time of silence at the 55 Hi's camp, (and even longer since we've released anything but alphabet posters) to give a little peek behind the 55 Hi's curtain as to what I've been doing the last year or so.
Now, to start this blog post of truth off I feel it necessary (after 5 years of being fairly vague) to give a little context for the start of 55 Hi’s and the state of how I got to where I am now.
My name is Ross (you probably knew that). I’m the sole owner, original screen printer, designer, and general maker since starting 55 Hi’s in 2009. I think in the past, when people first encountered 55 Hi’s, they assumed it was a team of full time people cranking out prints and assembling stuff in a studio.
I intentionally gave off this vibe for a long time, cause I liked the idea of starting something larger than myself and also because I wanted to project a professional brand appearance and not what it really was (one dude hand printing posters out of a 3rd story walkup in Wilton, CT. and then walking to Fed Ex to cut them).
Since the beginning, I have had (and still do) a full time job on top of 55 Hi’s. I do this for multiple reasons but the biggest one is that I like the ability to take chances and not rely on 55 Hi’s as my single source of income. It lets me take make things that I like (but may very well flop) without so much pressure and also allows the whole process of running 55 Hi’s to be much more enjoyable.
I have had a long standing fear that if 55 Hi’s were to become my main area of income, it would ruin the fun of it and it would become a job (which I already have). I can’t say it will always be this way, I’m just saying for my position right now, I enjoy the freedom that comes from not depending on this brand to eat and go to the doctor.
Now since starting 55 Hi’s, over the past few years, I have let the standing success of the brand I had in the beginning (stylized typographic posters) dictate where it heads. I started 55 Hi’s making quote posters because I have always enjoyed witty sayings growing up. It was a natural progression to just try to make them look good.
After a few years of this, and the whole quote trend becoming generally saturated in the design community, I started to feel like a Marshall’s sign department. Even though I was feeling this way, I also felt like I couldn’t stop because it was what people had come to know 55 Hi’s for.
Now, I have nothing against Marshall’s, or their sign department. In fact I just got some really great shoes from there at one hell of a bargain. It’s just not what I had envisioned when starting 55 Hi’s. To be honest, I didn’t even have a vision. I just wanted to make what I wanted. I figured, if I was going to have a job, I wanted to spend my own time making things that made me smile.
After feeling a little down, and a lot like a broken record of quote posters, I started to ideate around different products. I certainly have never had a shortage of ideas for new products, and since 55 Hi’s was feeling a little formulaic, I started to explore different avenues. The only problem was, all these ideas didn’t feel like they fit in with the strict limited edition, vintage-typographic, screen printed paper motif 55 Hi’s had become. I was really worried it would feel like it was coming out of left field, and the last thing I wanted to do was disrupt the brand and success it had seen up to this point.
To combat this, I thought I would just start under new brand names. One of those avenues became Madison Glass Co. Another of those avenues became a handmade soy candle company called Wood & Penny. Another became a Button company called Really Bad Pins. Another idea became a hand made leather mousepad company called Rafter Supply Co. Then another idea I had became a tips and tricks blog for Shopify store owners. Lastly I had an idea for a dog bandana company that was sadly, never named.
What ended up happening as you can probably tell, is, I started to confuse everyone (and myself). For instance, do I start a new twitter, facebook, and instagram account for all 5 new brands? Do I start from scratch for all of them even though the audience is all generally the same? If I start posting updates and pointing people to 5 different places from my personal social media accounts, will that be confusing? Especially since It’s all coming from me anyway!? Which one is the main one?
I kept spreading myself thinner and thinner as the months went on, completely flushing out these product ideas and brands, but then not having the capacity to properly maintain them. After more than a year of this, I became tired. I had worked for a long time, and generated a ton of things that I was tremendously proud of, and yet I felt like I couldn’t talk about for fear of confusing everyone. Something had to change and I had no idea what.
After letting the dust settle for a little while, I had a series of conversations with myself asking things like: what do I want? What do I enjoy? What do I want to do with my time? Why did I even start all these projects if they aren’t enjoyable? Do I want to be a manufacturer or designer? Printer or glass painter? Do I want to freelance full time or make products full time?
In asking myself all these questions, I discovered that I just like to make new things. It’s plain and simple. I just want to be able to make new things whether it be for kids or adults or dogs or ferrets without the fear of fitting into a strictly limited-edition hand screen printed poster brand every time. It’s an easy fix really, but one that I had a hard time making because I had traveled down so many separate avenues that I didn’t want to abandon.
But once I made the decision to bring everything under one roof, it felt like the whole world had been lifted of my shoulders. I felt like I could talk about what I was working on again and write about my experiences in a candid manner (which I have always strived to do with anything I’m a part of). This blog post is a perfect example of this and is the first positive completely transparent thing I’ve written in quite some time. It was the first time in 6 months I felt like I could post to my Instagram account without confusing the people who started by following 55 Hi's.
Therefore, moving forward, a few things are going to change, but in the grand scheme of things, nothing that you haven’t already seen. Everything I’m working on (besides the candles) will now be under one roof instead of 5 different roofs all pointing at each other.
All my side projects are going to be gradually brought under 55 Hi’s and we will start releasing fun new things, more consistently. Some stuff will be extremely limited edition, some stuff won’t. It may be the most random product design you’ve ever seen or it may be cat bibs, but it’s going to be new and fun and interesting and that’s the point.
Well the not knowing what's coming next thing is a bit of a white lie. I do know that. We teamed up with Scotty Reifsnyder for one of the coolest looking posters and projects I've ever had the opportunity to work on. We're releasing it on Halloween (and rightfully so) cause if you can't tell from the teaser, it's a Mythical Creatures Alphabet Poster.
You can probably also tell I’m starting to refer to 55 Hi’s as “we” again. This time it's intentiontal and that’s because over the course of the last year or longer, I have teamed up with a long time friend Rick DiStefano for a lot of these new projects I have been working on and telling nobody about.
It’s been much more rewarding working with someone, as opposed to on my own all the time and it’s something that I want to continue with in this new direction. He’s coming on to handle a lot of the manufacturing and product fulfillment and we will be working together to try to make twice as many awesome things as before the short hiatus.