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January 30 2014


Garden Mausoleum by HGA features rough granite, white marble and gleaming onyx

Ornamental doors and windows sit within recesses that appear to have been carved away from the coarse granite walls of this mausoleum in Minneapolis by American architecture firm HGA (+ slideshow). (more...)

January 27 2014


Top of the World’s Weirdest Tower

Focus sur le recensement des tours les plus étranges et loufoques du monde, sorties de l’imaginaire des architectes. Entre le Klimwand Climbing Tower, les tours San Gimignano ou encore l’Hôtel Ryugyong en Corée du Nord, voici une sélection en images à découvrir dans la suite de l’article.


Klimwand Climbing Tower, Wunderland Kalkar, Allemagne.

Un château d’eau en maïs, Rochester, Minnesota.

L’Hôtel Ryugyong, Pyongyang, Corée du Nord.

Puffer Fish Tower, Chine.

La maison de Nikolai Sutyagin, Arkhangelsk, Russie.

Les tours Pigeon, Libye, Iran et Egypte.

La tour de Zizkov Télévision, Prague.

La tour Genex, Belgrade, Serbie.

La tour de Pise, Italie.

Les tours San Gimignano, Italie.

Weirdest Towers 9 Weirdest Towers 8 Weirdest Towers 7 Weirdest Towers 6 Weirdest Towers 5 Weirdest Towers 4 Weirdest Towers 3 Weirdest Towers 2 Weirdest Towers 1 Weirdest Towers 10

October 29 2013


Hall House by Salmela Architect

A waterfront plot in Duluth, Minnesota has been updated with a new structure by Salmela Architect: the Hall House.  Originally the site of a 19th century home, the land upon which Hall House now rests includes ledge rock, retaining walls and old stone stairs at its base.  Hall House now [...]

February 19 2013


URGENT: Help Keep College of Visual Arts Open

This is a call for your help. As a reader of Beast Pieces you may have wondered where a crazy letterpress shop like Studio On Fire began. Here is a little background story from company principal, Ben Levitz:

I went to College of Visual Arts (CVA) as a kid right out of high school. I choose it because of the small campus size and the fine arts focused BFA degree. I wasn’t sure what on earth I wanted to do with an “art” degree, but I knew I loved making things. And I liked that CVA wasn’t the slickest or fanciest campus. It seemed like a place for focused art exploration with an amazing faculty. I enrolled with my mother still skeptical. ( I think she was just nervous about sending her son off to do nude figure drawing. ) I embarked on a four year arts journey that taught me fancy words like chiaroscuro and gestalt. I learned about everyone from Hieronymus Bosch to Paul Rand. I even did my nerdy typography-based senior thesis on a fellow named William Dwiggins who designed typefaces for letterpress printing. I graduated with a BFA in Communication Design and a passion for visual culture.

I struggled during my schooling choosing between a design major and a sculpture major. I ultimately chose a design major because I wanted to eat. But after graduating CVA in 1998, I quickly found in my first design job a very different experience than the one I had as a CVA student. Most of my work day was locked into the glowing screens of design, not making stuff with my hands. And most of the stuff I did make, ended up in trash cans of clients. I sought change. I wanted to make stuff that people would love and keep. I wanted some outlet for craft that related back to my college experience. So, in the fall of 1999, my and evenings and weekend were spent beginning a letterpress printing space in my home basement. I called it Studio On Fire, named for the Typographer Frederick Goudy who twice lost his lifes work to studio blazes. Fast forward 14 years – the company Studio On Fire is  a best-in-class letterpress shop with a dozen employees and clients all over the world. Gestalten even published a recent book of projects that were printed in our studio.

Learning at CVA was one of those amazing life experiences that was so formative to my valuation and passion for craft and design. As Studio On Fire grows as a business, this is what we value. Craft. Design. It was that simple framework of learning that provided a chance for me to focus my passions and ultimately build a unique business that reflects the things I love.

The sudden announcement in January of CVA’s  closure was a bombshell. In addition to running Studio On Fire, I’m now busy as President of a group called CVA Action making the case to our creative community that CVA deserves a chance to stay open. Yes, it is going to take some big changes. It is going to require vision beyond what the current Administration and Board of Trustees could offer. This change is big and we have an amazing team of people stepping in to surround this effort. I believe those changes can be made and I am stepping up to play my part. This is vital to the Saint Paul community, vital to Minnesota, and vital to creativity. But we need your help.

I’m going to the mat and asking you to consider a gift of money to this vital part of our creative community. If you love what we do at Studio On Fire, you already recognize the value a creative education brings to business. I am hoping you care enough about this cause to contribute.

For more details about our fundraising campaign, visit our website CVA Action. Time is of the essence. This is our last, best hope to save our beloved school and make the needed changes so we can put CVA back on the path to a successful and sustainable future. Please make a donation in any amount today.

You can make this happen, and we are so grateful for your support.

Thank You.

Ben Levitz, Principal, Studio On Fire
_0006_Studio_on_fire_letterpress_wall_in_lobby _0005_Studio_on_fire_letterpress_pressroom Studio_On_Fire_newpressroom_2011 Studio_On_Fire_basement_shop_1999 College_of_Visual_Arts_CVA

December 05 2012


August 01 2012


Graphic Design by Michael Cina

As huge Ghostly fan, I  always admired the quality design work from the album art and tee shirt designs, where I purchased this now sold out shirt and realizing it was done by Michael Cina.  Michael Cina is an accomplished art director currently based in Minneapolis, Minnesota where he runs his multi-disciplinary graphic studio Cina Associates.  He's the co-founder of the graphic design boutique YouWorkForThem and the design studio WeWorkForThem, and has worked on countless Fortune 500 brands.  He seamlessly works textures into his works and has a very organic feel to his paintings. 

Best shirt I ever bought.

July 31 2012


Minnesota Courts Cyclists With A New Mobile Platform

Cyclists in New York (and pretty much every other state) are used to struggling for the attention of lawmakers. Not so in Minnesota, a state that’s actively courting cyclists--most recently, through Pedal Minnesota, a new campaign aimed at making it easier for locals and tourists to get around by bike.

Minnesota has a reputation for being a particularly easy place to ride a bike, full of famously hardy winter commuters. The state generates over $1 billion in bike-related revenue, more than hunting and snowmobiling combined, says Eric Husband, creative director at Colle+McVoy, the Minneapolis ad agency behind Pedal Minnesota.

A coalition of eight public partners (including the Minnesota DOT, DOH, and several tourism boards) approached the agency about designing an identity and web platform for the alliance last year. Husband describes the design process as miraculously smooth. “You’d think with so many partners, it would be hard to reach consensus,” he says over email. “But a shared passion for biking led the way.” Aww. The logo reflects the good vibes--a heart-shaped frame, sandwiched between two wheels. A warm color palette, and a slogan that gives a nod to Minnesota’s famed hospitality (“The Bike Friendly State”), rounds out the design. “Black might work in New York, but it’s not the first thing you think of in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

Colle+McVoy took pains to design a mobile-friendly website, which includes smartphone accessible maps of the state’s routes. “By using responsive design, the site can be completely utilized by bikers on the go,” explains Husband. A website of neatly organized resources, like advice on commuting with kids and a searchable calendar of events and group rides, completes the web presence.

One of the coolest things about the project is the “tune-up shelters” now popping up around the state. By retrofitting existing bus stops with multi-tools, maps, and pumps, the team found a way to offer universal access to necessities at a fairly low cost. Plus, the tools are all bought from local bike shops. “Of course, the tune-up shelters were a hit,” says Husband. “We’ve also have had a ton of inquiries on wearables--people are asking our partners where they can get T-shirts. Bicyclists love their schwag.”

With over $1 billion in annual revenue in Minnesota and swarms of merch-hungry cyclists, bike culture is becoming an economic force to be reckoned with. So why don’t more local governments support it, again? Husband thinks the tide is slowly turning. “As we all start to recognize the economic impact of bicycling, we’ll undoubtedly see more effort," he says. "Certainly from a tourism perspective. But also to promote health, sustainable transportation and, here’s a biggie, fun.”

May 31 2012


February 09 2012


Woolrich S/S 2012 Canoe Pack

L’originale Canoe Pack è fatto a mano nel Minnesota da Frost River. Questo modello nasce dalla collaborazione con Woolrich per la S/S 2012 nella caratteristica tela cerata blu.

Woolrich – S/S 2012 – Canoe Pack

October 11 2011


AIGA MN Design Camp Event Recap

Yesterday we posted about our involvement printing the materials for AGIA MN’s 2011 Design Camp, but we thought it would be fun to share a peek into the event itself.

Ben (Principal), Selina (Studio Director) and David (Pre-press) were all up north participating as campers and Sam (Designer) was on the committee running the event, so Studio On Fire was well represented over the weekend. We had a booth up at the Friday night Business Expo where people were able to snag a paper airplane and pet assorted samples that we brought to show. Keynote speakers, a networking dinner, a variety of workshops, collaboration lunches and late night bonfires quickly filled the rest of the weekend.

Keynote speakers included Peter Buchanan-Smith (Best Made Company), Jamie Koval (VSA Partners), Michael Osborne (Michael Osborne Design), Jan Wilker (karlssonwilker), and  Josh Kenyon and Colby Nichols (Jolby), it was great to meet each of them. Special thanks to the dudes from Jolby for stopping by the studio after camp and going with us to grab patio beers- good times.

Enough chatter, on to the pictures! David took some great shots throughout the weekend (on actual film!) and Phong Tran (of dblthink.com and official AIGA MN photographer) was gracious enough to share some of his photos, since we were too busy playing with wild cats to bust out our cameras most of the time.

sof__0013_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_seth_plaque sof__0012_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_sof_booth sof__0011_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_camper_expo2 sof__0010_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_camper_expo sof__0009_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_Sam_David_expo sof__0008_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_ben_foodbaby sof__0007_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_selina_dinner sof__0007_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_Selina sof__0006_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_Sam sof__0006_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_bonfire_target sof__0005_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_secret_fire sof__0005_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_Peter_Colby sof__0004_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_Selina_bonfire sof__0004_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_David_is_missing sof__0003_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_David_lunch sof__0003_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_Bud_and_Brent_Axe sof__0002_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_Selina_Colby sof__0002_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_Ben_working sof__0001_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_Sam_Board sof__0001_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_Ben_at_Fire sof__0000_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_Ben_CampCat sof__0000_StudioOnFire_AIGAMN_DesignCamp_Ben_and_Brent



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September 28 2011


Iron Beasts Make Great Beauty

After a brief blogging hiatus we’re back with a project we’ve been bursting to share with you.

Nearly a year ago we worked with Gestalten publishers on this great video piece about our shop and we’ve been featured in some of their past publications–but now they are releasing a title all about Studio On Fire! Needless to say, we’re giddy.

The book features work designed by us, as well as work designed by clients, all of which was produced here in our Minneapolis location. Pictures of our ever expanding workspace also made it in alongside a forward written by our Principal.

Since we couldn’t, in good conscience, let a book about us not include any actual letterpress, all of the covers were letterpress printed at Studio On Fire and shipped off to meet the gutt of the book in the final stages of production. Due to the heavy 100 point thickness of the recycled cover boards, all of the covers were hand fed into our Gietz platen press. They are printed with a day glo ink using deep etch copper plates. We love the contrast of raw and refined created by the bright color next to the gray board.

It’s already shipping in Europe and will be released here in the states in late October. We got our hands on an advance copy, so we thought we’d share a bit of a sneak peek with you.

_0007_gestalten_iron_beast_book_on_carts _0006_gestalten_iron_beast_book_fluorescent_ink _0005_gestalten_iron_beast_book_copper_detail _0004_gestalten_iron_beast_book_copperplate _0003_gestalten_iron_beast_book_ink_rollers _0002_gestalten_iron_beast_book_cover_letterpress _0001_gestalten_iron_beast_book_cover_detail _0000_gestalten_iron_beast_book_just_off press sof__0008_gestalten_iron_beast_book_copper_plate sof__0007_gestalten_iron_beast_book_back_cover sof__0006_gestalten_iron_beast_book_back_cover_with_copper_plate sof__0005_gestalten_iron_beast_book_frontcover_with_copperplate sof__0004_gestalten_iron_beast_book_cover_with_copper_plates_close sof__0003_gestalten_iron_beast_book_cover_with_copper_plates sof__0002_gestalten_iron_beast_book__finished_closeup sof__0001_gestalten_iron_beast_book_seal_on_cover sof__0000_gestalten_iron_beast_book_finished del.icio.us StumbleUpon Technorati TwitThis Digg Tumblr Facebook

July 19 2011

Awesome recycled furniture by Loll Designs
loll designs (1)
Based in Duluth, Minnesota, furniture company Loll Designs makes some incredibly stylish and durable outdoor chairs, tables, benches, and accessories out of recycled materials. SPONSOR We broadcast our email newsletters with Campaign MonitorSPONSOR

June 27 2011


French Paper Flight Ephemera




An essential reason French Paper Company stands out in a world of large paper conglomerates is their unique design affair. They’ve had a longstanding relationship with Charles Spencer Anderson Design here in Minneapolis that has fueled and produced arguably some of the most visual ephemera to promote paper in the last decade. And trust us, here at Studio On Fire we see A LOT of promotional materials from paper companies. We were excited to be a part of that legacy with the latest French Paper promotion – a paper “Air Kraft” designed by the crew at CSA Design.

We worked closely with CSA to finalize the production. The sheets are letterpress printed in two colors on French Speckletone Kraft 140lbC. These Air Kraft are actually flight worthy, but you have to be sure to follow the instructions and tape a dime into the nose of the plane for a good glide.

Speckletone Kraft is one of those papers great for designers who fall in love with chipboard, only to realize that actual raw chip does not have color specifications. (In a batch of chipboard stock you may get some gray sheets or some dark brown sheets, it just depends on what went into the pulper) We like to use it especially when matching envelopes are needed.



_0000_French_CSA_letterpress_airkraft_punch_out _0001_French_CSA_letterpress_airkraft_punched_out_dieline _0002_French_CSA_letterpress_airkraft_pieces _0003_French_CSA_letterpress_airkraft_assembled _0004_French_CSA_letterpress_airkraft_side1 _0005_French_CSA_letterpress_airkraft_side2 _0006_French_CSA_letterpress_airkraft_assembled_detail _0007_French_CSA_letterpress_airkraft_tail _0008_French_CSA_letterpress_airkraft_detail1 _0009_French_CSA_letterpress_airkraft_solid_area_overprint _0010_French_CSA_letterpress_airkraft_dime _0011_French_CSA_letterpress_airkraft_studio_on_fire del.icio.us StumbleUpon Technorati TwitThis Digg Tumblr Facebook

May 13 2011


Extra Large Flyers by Burlesque of North America

Everything Minneapolis-based Burlesque of North America does is golden, even these party flyers for Extra Large events.  While their screenprinted gig posters are jaw dropping and can be extremely detailed, even when they do a simple quickie of a party flyer it still screams awesomeness.

Also check out their insanely good tour posters that they did for Arcade Fire.

April 11 2011


Godspeed Poster with Bicycle Parts Typography

This poster was designed and letterpress printed here at Studio On Fire for the 2011 Artcrank, a poster show for bike people. The construction of this poster is an assemblage of prints we created with actual bicycle parts. Used bike parts were inked up with a brayer and printed by hand. We printed all kinds of parts: cranks, chains, cables, wheels, handlebars and even a seat. It was well worth the trip to One On One Bike to scavenge suitable parts from their basement bike bone yard. After inking each part individually we had a whole table full of prints to chose and build from. It was amazing how much type and texture come out of each part. These prints were then digitally arranged on top of a pencil sketched layout. The word “Godspeed” seems especially appropriate for cyclists, as a wish for someones safe and prosperous journey. It was plated in photo polymer and printed as a large format 20 x 26 letterpress print in 2 color on 100% cotton Crane Lettra. It can be trimmed and framed at 18 x 24 size.

The Artcrank show runs April 8 – May 6 at One On One Bike 117 Washington Ave. N, Downtown Minneapolis.  Also see it during Art-A-Whirl from May 20 – 22 in the Northrup King Building at 1500 Jackson St. NE Studio 355 + Studio 400, Northeast Minneapolis. The prints can only be purchased locally at this time. After May 22nd the print will be available on our site for $30.




_0000_godspeed_poster_letterpress_pedal_getting_inked _0001_godspeed_poster_letterpress_pedal_getting_printed_by_hand _0002_godspeed_poster_letterpress_various_part_prints _0003_godspeed_poster_letterpress_pedal_print _0004_godspeed_poster_letterpress_crank_inked _0005_godspeed_poster_letterpress_bicycle_seat_print _0006_godspeed_poster_letterpress_inking_the_tire _0007_godspeed_poster_letterpress_bike_tire_print _0008_godspeed_poster_conference_table_bunch_of_parts_prints _0009_godspeed_poster_letterpress_sketch_typography _0010_godspeed_poster_letterpress_20x26_size _0011_godspeed_poster_letterpress_type_detail _0012_godspeed_poster_letterpress_type_detail2 _0013_godspeed_poster_letterpress_type_detail3 _0014_godspeed_poster_letterpress_mixing_copper_silver_black _0015_godspeed_poster_letterpress_blending_ink _0016_godspeed_poster_letterpress_plate_on_press _0017_godspeed_poster_letterpress_paper_loaded _0018_godspeed_poster_letterpress_prints_coming_off_press del.icio.us StumbleUpon Technorati TwitThis Digg Tumblr Facebook

April 01 2011


Gay 90s photo series by Josh Kohanek

gay 90s photos

Photographer Josh Kohanek has new imagery composed at Gay 90s, a bar in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where drag shows are performed six nights a week.
gay 90s photos


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February 11 2011


Letterpress Open House TONIGHT

Final reminder for our Love Machine Open House Party tonight. Hope to see you soon.

Leaving you with a beautiful thought about machines from Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin:

“Machines challenge certainty so well. They should not be able to move. But they do. They turn, and move, and never cease — there is always an engine going, somewhere — like generations of silver hearts they keep the faith of the world and stoke imagination in its continued and splendid rebellion.”    Quote from “Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helprin ©1983

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February 08 2011


Badges for Bruises Rollergirls Poster

Adam Hoganson designed this subtle and beautiful poster for the Minnesota Rollergirls. We letterpress printed these for the bout that took place this last weekend. The poster is an 18 x 24 three color edition on Wausau Royal Complements Natural 100lbC. A big congrats to our press operator and MN Rollergirl “Lizzy the Axe”. She was a brutally wonderful jammer during the bout. (And she printed the poster on our Heidelberg S cylinder 21 x 28)

A word about letterpress poster image size… We get a lot of designers that are surprised by the cost to print at this size. This is not silk screen printing and comparatively, the costs are nowhere near similar. Printing poster size things with letterpress can be an expensive adventure. One way to keep the cost down is to limit the image area since plating is charged by the square inch. (For example, a single plate at 18 x 24 will run about $250, just in plating costs for EACH color) On this poster even though the paper trim size is 18 x 24 the image area is only 11.5 x 16 making plating costs a bit more reasonable.

See a previous poster we printed for the Rollergirls here.

roller_girls_badges_poster600 roller_girls_badges_poster _0004_rollergirls_letterpress_badges_bruises _0003_rollergirls_letterpress_badge_detail _0002_rollergirls_letterpress_roy_wilkins _0001_rollergirls_letterpress_bones_badge _0000_rollergirls_letterpress_edition_text

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January 25 2011


Love Machine – Letterpress Open House

You are invited to a party! We are loving our machines with plenty of oil and our guests with plenty of other social lubrications. Join us as we celebrate our new office and press room with an open house on Friday, February 11th begining at 4pm. Come and see some letterpress action and talk shop. We’ll have a limited edition project on press as free gift to party guests. Hope to see you here soon.

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December 09 2010


2011 Letterpress Calendar

The Studio On Fire Letterpress Calendar is a favorite project in our shop for nearly ten years. It’s been worked on by many contributors from all over the world. Each year Studio On Fire puts together a loose theme, color palette and paper choices, then we invite 5 other designers / illustrators to participate. We design 2 months, and each contributor designs 2 months. Its always nice to have a large cross section of stylistic approaches within a little package that sits on your desktop. And this year is no exception. 2011 participants include Studio On Fire Adam Garcia, Brian Gunderson, Jessica Hische, We Make It So, and Aesthetic Apparatus.

This years calendar is a departure from the usual graphic illustration in our previous versions. Our theme this year was “Letter Form Genus”, with many contributors incorporating type and lettering. We’ve not had a distinctly type related theme before, so this was extra fun. Some favorite details you’ll find are: a moustache wearing a monocle, a spider wearing a thong, a monkey skull on a snake skeleton, a hidden giraffe, and bacterial letter forms spelling “grow kindness.”

The calendar is printed all together on a large 26 x 20 size press sheet. It is trimmed down into 12 months on 3.25 x 5 inch cards. This year, the paper for the months and the outer wrap was a light brown Wausau Winter Wheat 100lb Cover. We design the tri fold outer wrap using bits and pieces of each months design, all mashed together and printed in a long strip.

The stand was a custom duplexed paper made from dark grey Fibermark Eviva Stone 100lbC and copper Stardream 111lbC paper stocks. Our easel stand design has a clever fold-out angled leg that reveals the inner metallic paper color. The grey stock is letterpress printed in one color metallic silver.

These are now available on our studio site.

We’ve been doing this calendar for almost ten years now and have been fortunate to have some really great people involved. See a couple previous years here: 2010 Calendar, 2009 Calendar, 2008 Calendar.

_0008_studio_on_fire_2011_letterpress_calendar _0007_2011_letterpress_calendar_design_contributors _0006_2011_letterpress_calendar_easel_stand_ _0005_2011_letterpress_calendar_cover_wrap_metallic_ink _0004_2011_letterpress_calendar_press_sheet_20x26 _0003_2011_letterpress_calendar_months2 _0002_2011_letterpress_calendar_months1 _0002_2011_letterpress_calendar_grow_kindness _0001_2011_letterpress_calendar_hische_sexy_zombie _0001_2011_letterpress_calendar_design_months del.icio.us StumbleUpon Technorati TwitThis Digg Tumblr Facebook

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