November 20, 2014

The Traveler's Alphabet

Happy to introduce our newest addition to the lineup of growing alphabet posters: The Traveler's Alphabet. 

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November 19, 2014

Calendars!

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!

October 30, 2014

Mythical Creature Alphabet Poster

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.

The Mama's Sauce Mythical Team!

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!

Making of the Mythical Creatures

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.

Cha-Cha-Changes

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. 

October 23, 2014

Facebook, You Suck

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. 

October 21, 2014

Smooth Operator

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!

October 20, 2014

Time for Some Real Talk

TL;DR - We're making shit again, and more of it. Sorry for the radio silence.

Let's Start at The Beginning

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).

Working Full Time

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.

Quote Posters

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.

Getting Bummed

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.

Getting Confused

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.

Moving Forward

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. 

55 Hi's Team

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.

October 20, 2014

Casey Buckley

I had the opportunity to help out singer/songwriter Casey Buckley with a new logo for his upcoming marketing materials and brand. It's always fun when I get the opportunity to do little side jobs like this. Plus, it's even better when we can make something cool with it after. 

Casey's been writing tunes for the past few years and if you want to check out what he's throwing down, visit his soundcloud right here.  

 

August 05, 2014

My Big Mug

Very honored to be a part of Real Thread's Local Masters podcast this past week. Nathan, the man reppin' the mic over there, and I had a great talk that went all over the place. Thankfully, he edited my ramblings down to a nice digestible portion that focuses on entrepreneurship and doing what you love (but still having health insurance). 

Head over and give it a listen! If you get tired of me, there are some other really great convos to check out including Jessica Hische, collaborator Justin Mezzell and others...

ALSO! If you want to be a part of a soft launch currently going on that I'm a part of, head over to the all new Wood & Penny shop.

Wood & Penny is a small-batch fragrance house where we make quality, natural soy candles that inspire change and support the common good. The fragrances are hand-blended in all natural soy wax and packaged in stylish, reusable glass containers. Each candle is hand-poured with care and features vegetable cured cotton wicks.

To see the full rundown on how the candles are made or to get a little more information on the backstory and initiatives we are currently helping, visit the site! Suggestions are always, always very welcome and if you choose to support us, we thank you!

June 27, 2014

Bugs Alphabet Poster

We are back in action with the newest addition to the Alphabet Poster series! Bugs!

Ants, Earwigs, and Butterflies! Brush up on your ABC's with this jam packed poster featuring 26 different creepy crawlers and buzzing bugs from all over teh world. Each letter of the alphabet is paired with a custom illustration from our friend Brad Woodward and accompanied by a fun fact you can use to impress your friends.

For instance, did you know that a Goliath Beetle, when measured in terms of sheer size, bulk, and weight ranks among the largest insects on the planet. They are massive, sturdy creatures that grow to over 4 inches in length and can weigh up to 3.5 ounces. That's huge!

Or that that the Atlas Moth sports the widest wingspan of any moth in the world, with some spanning over 10 inches wide. The tips of their wings also carry an uncanny resemblance to a snake’s head, earning them the nickname “snake’s head moth.

April 25, 2014

Alphabets!

This is slightly dated news, but none the less exciting! We teamed up with our good friend Lydia Nichols again to present the next addition to our line of Alphabet Posters, the Circus! There is all kinds of fun stuff going on here and this poster has some of the most interesting and peculiar fun facts of any of the poster so far. Two in particular I found really interesting.

Whenever there is a picture taken of an elephant during the show, the position of its trunk is incredibly important—at least to the more superstitious circus goers. Capturing a photo of an elephant with its trunk lifted high in the air is thought to mean good fortune for the run of the show.

Or that today, many acrobats are trained professionally in specialized schools, but in older traditions, these remarkable athletic skills were all in the family. Throughout history, family circuses kept their artistry alive through generations by passing knowledge down from parent to child.

We're also excited to introduce a small teaser from the next upcoming addition the series, Bugs! After two amazing collaborations on Space and Dinosaurs with illustrator extraordinaire Brad Woodard, we couldn't help but team back up for this next one. All kinds of creepy crawlies are coming out. Beatles and Moths and Ants! Can't wait to share....

 

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