The Heartbreak A Stranger Trenton Project: Letterpress beginnings

I was approached last month by Halifax singer/songwriter Aaron Hartling of Heartbreak A Stranger to create some letterpress cards and/or prints for his upcoming Indiegogo fundraising campaign. Aaron is fundraising for his recording project, which requires studio time, CD manufacturing, artwork, and musicians, etc. He says, “It takes money to make music. Even with new technology keeping costs cheaper these days.” But he stresses he’s not holding out his hand and asking people to give him money: “If you buy the CD and artwork, you’re helping independent artists. Your money is not going to a corporation.”

Trenton, Nova Scotia. Picture provided by Aaron Hartling.Aaron calls his recording project the Trenton Project because it “is a musical postcard to the town where I grew up: Trenton, Nova Scotia.” Trenton, as Aaron explains to me, is a small, one-industry town: “Trenton built rail cars for 127 years. The town grew and died making rail cars.” Trenton, like many towns that have depended on a single industry for survival, fell victim to closures and lay-offs as work was moved to other places where labour was cheaper and currency weaker. Aaron tells me,

Over the years, when I would go home to see family, I would see a town not growing, but decaying. The rail car company went through several hands until the last company pulled the plug and shut down the factory. Now [Trenton] … has to re-invent itself to survive. It’s sad to see the place you knew as a child go through these changes …. And its hard to see it struggle.

An avid music enthusiast, Aaron recalls some songs written about towns like Trenton: Bruce Springsteen’s “Youngstown” and Billy Joel’s “Allentown”, for example. Aaron wants to build on this tradition: “I wanted to expand it to 7 songs to see if I could tell a story.”

Aaron approached me to print letterpress cards as a prize package for his fundraising campaign. He says:

I wanted to include letterpress because it is unique and different. People want both. Most bands have a CD, T-shirts. Letterpress is not offered (to my knowledge) by any musician and I think it will appeal to folks who like my musical style. It’s original artwork that matches the theme of the music. People appreciate originality. I am an independent artist and I want to have artists like myself give other artists opportunities to create their form of art. I get excited seeing their artwork. I hope they feel the same.

I recently printed the first letterpress samples for Aaron’s campaign and will be printing more this weekend.

Mixing light blue ink for Heartbreak a Stranger's Trenton Project - letterpressI decided to go with a black, white, and light blue colour scheme for the cards since these are the main colours used in the album artwork for Aaron’s upcoming EP, which is being designed by local artist Seth Graham.

Here is a teaser of the letterpress cards I’ve printed so far:

Heartbreak a Stranger Trenton Project - Musical Heart Note Card“Let’s all sing a little tune” are lyrics taken from Heartbreak A Stranger’s “This Town.” You can listen to a demo recording of “This Town” here.

Heartbreak a Stranger Trenton Project - Heartbreak a Stranger-Trenton Nova Scotia Card All of the letterpress prints I’m creating for Aaron’s Indigogo campaign are related to Heartbreak A Stranger’s Trenton Project and are therefore one-of-a-kind designs that will no longer be printed after Aaron’s fundraising event.

Heartbreak a Stranger Trenton Project - Thank You CardAs I’m still in the sample stage, I may change the card designs slightly for the actual campaign. For instance, I’m not fond of my placement of the small ornaments in the corners of the “Thank You” card. I may decide to place the ornaments around the “Thank You” or just leave them out altogether.

You may also notice that I was either a little heavy-handed or too light with the ink in some spots as I decided to ink the type with a brayer rather than ink the press since I was only printing one design at a time. The distribution of ink will be much more even when I go into full production on the cards.

Heartbreak a Stranger Trenton Project - Letterpress CardsI’ll be printing the remaining card samples and making any necessary design changes for Aaron’s Trenton Project this weekend. I’ll also be mixing some letterpress with linocut for a design or two (a blog post about my first adventures in linocut will follow next week).

Aaron has also asked a couple of other friends in the art community to help him with some artwork. Seth Graham (also known around Halifax as Brink Of Ink), as I mentioned above, is creating the CD artwork and other merchandise items such as stickers and pins, etc. Aaron has known Seth for a couple of years and appreciates his drawing style. Caitlin McGuire, a local artist and a current student at NSCAD, is also creating prizes for Aaron’s campaign: “I saw pictures of a project [Caitlin did] which involved a pop-up book and I thought this would work with the music theme.”

Aaron is hoping to launch his Indigogo campaign in either late summer or early fall. In the meantime, he’s waiting to hear back about some government funding. He also explains that there is artwork to finish, and he needs to shoot a video to accompany the campaign. Plus, he still has some extra recording to do on his EP: “There is a lot more leg work to be done but I’m excited by the work.”

For updates on Aaron’s Indigogo campaign or to learn more about what Heartbreak A Stranger is all about, please visit his website or follow him on Twitter at @heartbreakstrgr. And, of course, as things get going and prints get printed, I’ll be sure to post updates here as well.

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