A pangram is a sentence that contains all 26 letters of the alphabet, at least once. A pangram is useful to those learning to type, typeface designers, and even to those practicing their handwriting. “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” is perhaps the most well known pangram, dating from 1885. My personal favorite is “Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.” Those who endeavor to write a pangram and wish to measure their success often employ the rule, “the shorter the better.” A sentence containing only 26 letters (each unique) would be the holy grail of pangrams. To me they are a form of poetry, not unlike Japanese haiku. Pangram sentences have an inadvertent tone—an overall sound that piques the ears.
Pangrams seem to satisfy my fascination with the sound of words and words in combination.
Why the Pangram Press?
In the year 2000 my wife and I turned our attention back to creating a holiday card after taking a short sabbatical due to the commotions of relocating and renovating our house. I was looking for a motif for our holiday cards when I came across a set of pamplets—The Typophiles Chap Book Commentaries. Several pamphlets described progress on a book about pangrams, originally proposed as a Typophile Chapbook (the book was eventually published, just not by the Typophiles). I located the book and reveled at the fun people were having with the form. All of this culminated in our creation of a pangram just for our holiday card. At the time, we only thought of this as a one-time experiment.
The next year our daughter Waverly was born and when the holidays rolled around, we decided to resurrect the pangram idea. I thought it would be nice to write a single sentence about her existence using the pangram as construct. We were so pleased with the end result that the idea quickly evolved into a theme—a single sentence “love note” to Waverly would be our goal for the foreseeable future. If we succeed, Waverly will have a trove of cards, each with a brief one-sentence description of each year of her life to look back upon. The Pangram Press was born.
My History in Holiday Cards
Creating holiday cards is ingrained in my being. I have very vivid and fond memories from my youth of helping my mother silkscreen print her holiday cards for the family. Each card had a story or poem about the past year’s events and more often than not was printed in multiple colors with intricate folds and glued-on additions. My job (as my brothers’ before me) was to take each impression out of the silkscreen press and place it somewhere in our large basement studio for drying. This required some finesse as one could not just stack the cards (they had to lie flat) and space had to be found for the numerous impressions (in the hundreds). I had to navigate the maze of tables and return as quickly as possible as she would be pulling the next impression and I was often responsible for supplying the ink as well. I so regret that a photo was never taken of this yearly ritual.
All of this was typically done at night, into the wee hours. It has always surprised me that we did not blow ourselves up. Since this was winter (very close to Christmas) we kept a fire going in the fireplace and fire and acetone really do not mix well, or should I say, they mix altogether too well. Needless to say, we survived. The smell of acetone always sends me back to that place and time.
We hope you will enjoy this brief retrospective, starting with this year’s card...
And be sure to click on each card image if you would like to see a slide show about the making of.
Click the image above to see more pictures from 2020.
It has come to my attention that this year’s card has caused some confusion, as in “is it a riddle waiting to be solved?” While I am never above embedding sly clues and mysterious riddles with deeper meanings, this year’s card is a simple comment, or rebuke if you will of our sitting president.
Having completed our mission of writing pangrams about Waverly’s life each year until she was eighteen, we were free to explore other territory now that she was in college. Typically we do not have to look far for ideas. Ideas often come to us and this year the idea for our card arrived 6 months early.
In June, Trump cleared a protest and stood in front of St. John’s Church holding a Bible as a prop. His faux religiosity has always infuriated. A little more than a month later as he was trying to assure us of his cognitive capacity he uttered the words that Stephen Colbert deemed the catchphrase of the year. The two combined events set us on our pangram path for 2020.
We have in the past included political references (e.g., 2015 with “Argle-Bargle”) but it is rarely our primary interest. We decided this year the Pangram Press would create a cognitive Christmas test—five words that captured the spirit of the season. I kept the concept of Linus “schooling” Charlie Brown on the true meaning of Christmas knocking around in my head. Trump’s cognitive test used secular words that were most important to him. Our test would condense the meaning of the season. It might be lost to some but we even matched Trump’s syllabic pattern in our own list: 2–2–1–3–2. For good measure we even included Trump’s own quote, “If you get it in order, you get extra points.”
In the past we have worked with various systems to achieve our pangram sentence. A rebus, sentence diagrams, haiku, and a Venn diagram. A simple cognitive test fits that list nicely I feel. Sadly we could not complete the pangram in five words only, but the interior greeting finishes our quest. Apologies for using “quiz” instead of “test” but I needed a “Q”.
Originally, I wanted to keep the card a simple as possible—just the five words on the front but that introduces the issue of choice of typeface. Never a cut and dried choice at our home. That’s when the theme of a cross stitch typeface and matching imagery emerged. We actually provided three cognitive tests via icons on the card. The first was “Virgin, Manger, Birth, Frankincense, Shepherd.” Switching to the secular interior, we have “Reindeer, Mitten, Flake, Ornament, Stocking.” Of course we finished the card with “Person, Woman, Man, Camera, TV”
Happy holidays, everyone. Soon we hopefully will be rid of this turbulent priest.
Thoughtful recollections and Warm remembrances of Quotidian events invoke Paroxysms of cognizant Joy
Click the image above to see more pictures from 2017.
Deciphering Waverly’s Banquet of Epizeuxis Jargon Unmasks a Timely Holiday Greeting
Click the image above to see more pictures from 2016.
When I was young, I remember my mother referring to people with bad colds or flu as “having the epizoot.” She would always say it humorously and I never really gave it much thought. Recently, when that word came up again, I wanted to add it to my database of potential pangram words—“z” words are always useful. That’s when I realized my mother may have been jargonizing the word “epizotic”. Better than that discovery was stumbling across the word “epizeuxis”—a word I was completely unfamiliar with. For writing pangrams, “epizeuxis” is a gift from the alphabet gods. So you don’t have to run to the dictionary like I did, epizeuxis is the repetition of a word or phrase in immediate succession, for vehemence or emphasis. With a word in mind, it was now time to discover a way to use it.
In early December while trying to conceptualize our holiday card, I walked past the kitchen as Waverly was watching the Pee Wee Herman Christmas Special [the one with the cavalcade of stars including Grace Jones in that amazing hat] on endless repeat while drawing countless variations of an animal that is a cross between a giraffe and a reindeer. At that precise moment I heard Jambi utter (in Jambese), “Meka Leka Hi, Meka Hiney Ho. Meka Leka Hi Meka Ho Ho Ho!” My wish was granted. Epizeuxis, Jambi and Waverly’s endless antler drawings all coalesced into an idea for our card.
The next step was fabrication. My original goal was to create a reindeer in a similar fashion to the ring toss games we had created earlier it the year for Waverly’s school. It’s always a secret goal to tie things together from Waverly’s year at USN. As work and weather conspired against that idea, Natasha was pressed into service, reprising her paper sculpture virtuosity from 2007.
There were lots of last minute details to work out such as would the Jambian incantation appear on the inside of the card as a response to the exterior pangram sentence declaration? We nixed that idea but we did try to hide a variation of “Ho Ho Ho” in the antlers themselves. You will have to be the judge on whether or not we were successful in that endeavor.
Of interest possibly only to me—our Jambi turban head covering for Waverly was made quickly from holiday gift wrapping supplies. I think Jambi would be proud. We also enjoyed using the quilled paper sculpture heart stamp by Yulia Brodskaya as a quiet homage to our own efforts.
May all your wishes be granted in the new year. Long live Jambi.
Unfazed by holiday Jiggery-pokery, Waverly Quashes the Argle-bargle of Academic exams
Click the image above to see more pictures from 2015.
“Pure applesauce!” replied Associate Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court of the United States when asked his opinion on the shenanigans of the Pangram Press.
Well, maybe not, but it would have been a fitting testimonial had he done so. While we may not agree with Justice Scalia’s opinions, we do enjoy his lexical gymnastics. We were pursuing one avenue of approach for this year’s pangram when the King v. Burwell decision was handed down in June. With that decision, marriage equality became the law of the land and a plethora of words and phrases in Scalia’s dissenting opinion left behind a wide swath of vocabulary study and discussion in its wake. For weeks, I could not top uttering my newly learned locutions. I think if we had acquired a new pet at this time, its nom de plume would certainly be “Argle-Bargle” today.
Having dabbled in the past with a rebus, a haiku and a Venn diagram, this year’s pangram seemed ripe for a new delivery vehicle. As Waverly approaches the end of her middle-school career, it came up in conversation that she had never been exposed to the practice of diagraming sentences. Poor child. While sentence diagraming may have been relegated to the dustbin of arcane pedagogical practices, I still hold fond memories of learning the parts of speech, breaking apart sentences, and applying the strict morphological rules. Diagrammed sentences are pictures of language, and I have always titled towards the visual side of edification. The process may not have made me a better writer, but it was a secret pleasure shared with a small coterie of apostles.
Another major event in Waverly’s life at this time was her first round of actual school examinations. Neither quizzes nor tests but the dreaded 'exam' word. English classes have been Waverly’s favorite subject for the last few years and this led to the concept of a sentence diagram for our pangram illustration (sentence diagram as fir tree bough), with Justice Nino unwittingly providing just the right amount of applesauce to aid us in finishing our annual enterprise.
Sentence diagrams: love them or leave them—I fall into the former category. They played a large role in my middle school experience.
Towards the end of our pangram writing, we were in dire need of a “q” to finish our task and “quash” fit nicely. Only later did I realize that “quash” is a legal term (as in ‘motion to quash’)—a fitting association for Waverly who is often heard to exclaim, “Do not make me lawyer you.”
Waverly may yet learn the wizardry of sentence diagraming. Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog, an excellent disquisition on the subject, has been sitting on my desk all month for project research and the other day Waverly asked if she could borrow it. I expect to see diagrams entering her drawing process shortly.
Our postage stamp selection this year allowed us to pay homage to the genius that is Charles Schultz’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on its fiftieth anniversary. If you turn our sentence diagram a quarter turn counter-clockwise, you may even see the famous Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Just imagine it with Linus’ swaddled blanket at the base. At least we did not pay homage to the other huge cinematic event of this season. Maybe we will wait until May 4th.
Our Retree made another appearance this year at Waverly’s request. She made the brilliant visual association of the ReTree twigs and branches with the lines of a sentence diagram. Ideas sprout forth from her head like antlers on a reindeer.
Warmest holiday wishes for 2015! Mind the jiggery-pokery as you celebrate this year.
Click the image above to see more pictures from 2014.
At the Pangram Press Labs, our goal each year has been to write a pangram sentence that would summarize some aspect of Waverly’s life during that year. Sometimes we have to scour our memories of the year and we often focus on a micro detail. Sometimes we zoom out to see the big picture. This year our theme was obvious to us. This was definitely the year of the puppeteer.
The year’s topic started when Waverly attended a stage performance of “War Horse” with her mom and grandmother. Later Waverly was selected to ”play” Nana in her school musical performance of Peter Pan. Her performance as Nana’s puppeteer was very well received and she will reprise her character (and puppet) with her castmates early next year at a junior Theater Festival. There has even been cursory chatter about an apprenticeship with the puppet troupe at our local public library. This would really bring things full circle for me as Waverly’s grandmother was best friends with famed local puppeteer Tom Tichenor.
Following the August musical, Waverly turned her attention to her Halloween costume. While she chose to dress as Bill Muarry’s character ‘Steve Zissou’ in the Wes Anderson Film “The Life Acquatic” the main part of her costume was a four-foot long papier-mâché jaguar shark prop of her own design that she manipulated like a puppet.
As you can see, our year definitely had a puppet vibe for us. For our holiday card we decided Waverly should become the manifestation of her year—a marionette puppet. Not only do we have a fondness for Gerry Anderson’s Supermarionation, we leap at any chance to peruse our copy of Dorothy Abbe’s mind-blowing tome The Dwiggins Marionettes—a complete experimental Theater in Miniature. This book is a tour de force of design, content, photography and printing.
We wrote the pangram around the word ‘marionette’ and we also wanted to work in the fact that Waverly was beginning to include boys in her life’s adventures. In no way do I wish to imply that Waverly is controlling her boyfriends like puppets, but that wouldn’t be a bad skill to have. Of course, as her parents, we do think her puppet performances do ‘dazzle.’ Working around those key words, we finished our task.
A word on words: my new favorite pangram word for this year is “grok”. Less for its meaning and more for the inclusion of the letters “g” and ”k”. We were so close to finishing up when we realized those two letters were missing. I’d also like to mention a moment of word serendipity regarding this year’s holiday adventure. We composed a family photo of the three of us tying a Retree to the roof of our car. The photo was taken quickly as Waverly had just come home from school and the sun was setting briskly. I grabbed what I would call an ax out of the shed as a prop. When we posted the photo to Facebook, it was pointed out to me by my cousin that I was actually holding an “adz”. I am not too worried about not holding the proper tool for the photo but you better believe I will try to use the word “adz” in a future pangram!
We have now reached our fourteenth yearly pangram sentence about Waverly’s life. If all goes as planned, there will only be four more before we end this chapter. Enjoy your holidays! Our warmest wishes for you and yours.
Waverly's Puppeteering Update
Since our prescient marionette card of 2014, Waverly has had two more chances to practice her craft. Her Halloween costume for 2016 was Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors and in August of 2017, Waverly turned in a bravura performance in four consecutive shows as the lead dragon puppeteer for the University School of Nashville’s “Shrek, the (Middle School) Musical.”
Child’s life in jive flux
kinder abjures piquant youth
new horizons merge
Click the image above to see more pictures from 2013.
If your ears were piqued after reading our holiday message you were not deceived. This year marks our first pangram/haiku! Perpetually on the hunt for new ways to devise a pangram (think 2004’s pangram/rebus and 2010’s pangram/venn diagram) we were motivated by a friend’s daily (almost) Facebook haikus inspired by life on a farm. As we try every year to encapsulate Waverly’s life in a pangram, this year's message was about the many changes in Waverly’s life—new school, new cat, new friends, new mouth appliances and new adventures.
Always on the prowl for new ways to express our pangramatic missives, we are also searching for new methods and media to represent the family at this holiday time. This year we arrived at our version of Alexander Girard’s wooden dolls after Natasha recently ventured to New Mexico and was treated to a visit to the Alexander Girard wing of the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe. Well worth the visit if you are ever in the vicinity.
Alexander ”Sandro” Girard is known as one of the pillars of mid-century modernism, working as textile artist, colorist and designer. Charles Eames is credited with introducing Sandro to Herman Miller. As a child and later as a practicing designer Girard was fascinated with nativities, toys, and miniatures. Girard began collecting folk art in the 1930's and his collection grew to one of the largest folk art collections in the world, which was donated to the Museum of International Folk Art in 1978.
While in New York, Girard created the Textiles & Objects store where he created a series of folk art inspired wooden dolls. The dolls were never for sale until issued by vitra.
Waverly gets wind of what we are up to and contributes
to the joy of the season.
Thanks to neighbors and friends with well-equipped wood shops, Natasha was able to create our own set of personal family dolls for this year’s holiday card. On the back of our printed card, Natasha is credited with “whimsical woodworking.”
Click the picture of this year’s holiday card above to see more photos.
Warmest holiday wishes to you.
A quorum of jocund and frowzy expressions greet visitors beckoningly on Christmas morning!
Hover to pause section.
Swipe or click to change.
We hoped you have enjoyed our interactive greeting card (see here), a sprawling example of what might greet you at the door upon a visit to our home!
Fun with Pangrams
For us, 2012 turned out to be the year of welcoming December guests to our home but the visual concept for our annual card came long before the idea for the pangram. For a long time I have fiddled with a potential web “toy” that involved sliding pieces. I wanted to make an interactive version of an old Naef block toy for Waverly that allowed one to make four different animals or any combination thereof. We thought it would be fun to be able to swap out the pictures at will. In March of 2012 a surprise package showed up at our door from Waverly’s aunt in Berlin. The parcel included a wonderful card game, “AugeNaseMund”—a face part swapping toy. This quickly evolved into the face swapping jumble toy for our holiday concept.
As December approached it was time to write our pangram sentence to match the toy. Always in the hunt for necessary letters, I started working with “jumble,” “mix,” and “…a bounty of gleeful expressions” to match our concept. Initial pangram tests left me without an “f”, or a “v”, ”q“, “w” and “z.”When it became clear that we were doing more at-home hosting than usual, the word “visitor” (as in the Schmenge Brothers from Leutonia) came to mind and solved one problem. Since there are four denizens of our household (including Ironhead the cat), a quorum was formed. I cannot remember where I discovered the word “frowzy” but it was new to me and solved our “f", “w” and ”z” issues. I willingly admit that I am the frowzy member of the family as I am frequently seen unshaven but it may also be said that Ironhead lends an assist in the frowzy category. The word “frowzy” may have provided us with a Pangram Press first this year—the first time we did not need to rely on Waverly’s name for a “w.”
Permutations and Combinations
As we were working on the possible faces and other bits & pieces to include in our “sliding toy” a lively crowd-sourced discussion arose on Facebook about the math behind the faces. How many possible combinations could we create and what was the formula to arrive at the answer? I have decided on x (the number of images per section) to the power of 3 (number of sections). Using this formula, we currently have 571,787 possible combinations (as of December 25, 2012) for your enjoyment—collect them all. Just think of this as roughly ½ million shinning, happy and slightly frowzy faces happy to greet you at the door! My goal was one million but I fear the addition of new faces would burden the internet and crash the whole enterprise. The sample above contains a paltry 8,000 possible combinations. If anyone would like to correct our math assumptions, please feel free to contact us.* I have decided to home in on my goal of 1 million permutations for the “faces” page and will update our goal below whenever additions are made!
current permutation update: 1,146,496 viewable combinations!
we have reached our goal and continue to climb ever higher.
Once we nailed down the digital side of this year’s greeting card, we turned our attention to the paper side. It just did not seem fair to send everyone on our list the exact same image. In the spirit of multiple random combinations, we created a unique image from our database for each card! If you received a card in 2012, it was created just for you and you alone! That’s right—we are just that crazy.
Of Interest Possibly Only To Me
One of the first faces that I knew I had to add to our face jumble was an image of Santa Claus made from typographic elements that was used for a 1934 invite to the Typophiles Christmas luncheon. The Christmas get-together originated in either 1933 or 1934 and became an annual tradition. The image came to me from the 1938 book, The Typophiles Whodunit—A private Revelation of the Hitherto Most Mysterious Origin, Development, Practices & Works of the Typophiles. If anyone has access to or wants to sell me an original copy of this invitation, please get in touch. I love this image!
During the process of adding faces to our jumble I was working under the “everything but the kitchen sink” theory and I was trying to reach my goal of 1 million permutations. At one point I began to think some people may wish to see only our faces and others may wish to see only art pieces. To this end, we have created two new alternate versions to play with: humans only (plus Ironhead and Noguchi) and non-human, art and objects only. Take your pick. Three to choose from:
To view larger images from 2012, click here.
Merry Christmas. Y’all come!
A very heartfelt shout-out to Dmitry Semenov for creating and coding “RoyalSlider”,
without which our face jumble toy might not exist!
*Thanks to Elizabeth Carrico who studied math at Southern Illinois University Carbondale for providing independent confirmation of our method for calculation.
Skilled holiday jugglers atop flying trapezes inhabit the quixotic circus that is Waverly’s mind
Click the image above to see more pictures from 2011. Click here to view our 2011 animated card introduction.
In 2010, I had the great fortune of procuring a video copy of one of Alexander Calder’s studio performances from his handmade circus to share with Waverly. The original film was made in Paris in 1927 and the video is 19 minutes of pure unadulterated joy, featuring Calder and his wife performing for an audience of friends and artists. Waverly, Natasha and I have had a great time watching it. I believe it may have inspired our “Strongman of the Circus” Halloween costume in 2010 and possibly our Busker Organ & Monkey costume of 2011.
I have known for a while that I wanted to make something similar to Calder’s circus act with Waverly and this year’s pangram was the perfect fit. Waverly is now at the age where her mind and imagination are growing exponentially and unexpectedly. Where I could once stay one step ahead of her, I now have fewer clues as to where her thoughts are headed, hence the “quixotic” starting point. Her “circus of the mind” is a thought I have been going back to all year long.
I am very surprised this year by the number of questions about how this card was made. I had the overall theme in my head and put in an order with Natasha for various circus figures in wire—3-dimensional, not flat. I knew Natasha was the master of computer vectors so how hard could some wire sculpture be? Waverly was her usual piqued art director self this year, demanding that her mother add a “strongman of the circus” and when it was added to our photographed tableaux, declared, “See! I told you it needed that.” (we are working on squelching the “I told you so’s”) My only real surprise this year was how many gauges wire is actually available in. Good grief!
Natasha had often unintentionally drawn self-portraits when illustrating professionally, so I am pleased as punch that it was my “head shot” that came out on top, caricature-wise this year.
May Waverly’s mind expand and travel in new and unexpected direction in 2012!
To view our animated card introduction from 2011, click here.
Rejoice with a kazoo, a balloon and a quaff of elixir, as we toast to our decennary pangram anniversary!
Click the image above to see more pictures from 2010.
While the above pangram was not our “official” pangram of 2010, it was included in our holiday card along with an actual balloon—we could not afford to send everyone champagne. 2010 marks our 10-year anniversary of writing holiday pangrams about our daughter Waverly—our “love letters” if you will. What a long, strange and enjoyable trip it has been. Here’s to another 10 years!
Wishing you a venn Christmas
Waverly was recently studying set theory for school and it reminded me of our transparent glass ornaments. Why not try and make a pangram out of a Venn diagram? While not technically a sentence, we did manage to use all the letters of the alphabet and we enjoy stretching our boundaries as we did in 2004 with our pangram/rebus.
What a girl believes
Against the slings and arrows from many of her peers, Waverly still clings firmly to her belief in Santa (as do we and Comet and Vixen). Thus, it was very important to capture her sweet innocence this year and using that as the starting point for our pangram, we had to come up with other descriptions that fit Waverly. Now if we could just figure out why Vixen does not like peanut butter & jelly sandwiches!
This just in: Waverly still firmly believes.
Mix equal parts java drink and Waverly’s wobbly mien to achieve gonzo tree-trimming fun
Grab the “screen” above and move it in small circles.
To view larger images from 2009, click here.
As it was in 2002 (see card), the family Christmas tree is back in jeopardy—less so from “baby curiosity” and more from the effects of caffeine. Waverly has enjoyed a swig of joe since she was almost four. Now at the ripe old age of eight, she would enjoy a Venti Latte as much as her dad, were she allowed to have a whole one.
The recipient of this missive was greeted with the card and a film “overlay” containing a heavy black grid revealing transparent squares plus instructions included on back of the card. When the overlay is placed on the card and moved in small circles, the illustration would vibrate. The overlay effect reminded us of watching a very caffeinated Waverly!
Try it for yourself here. Grab the black grid in the upper left corner with your cursor and have at it, making small circles over the illustration! If you lose the screen, refresh your browser.
My biggest blunder of 2009 was not searching hard enough for a separation house that could output professional film for the overlay. By 2009, most separation houses were consolidating as print was becoming primarily digital-based. I settled for laser-printed overhead transparencies and latter learned that the toner was coming off onto the card while in the hands of the United States Postal Service. To make me feel worse, a friend who works for a printer later said, “we could have done that for you.” D’oh!
Our hats off to Takao Yoguchi for inventing this optical illusion (used in his fantastic book, Circus).
Waverly’s cajoling prestidigitations frequently fail to make Christmas materialize before expected
Click the image above to see more pictures from 2008.
Our first holiday pangram card in 3-D! I hope it will not be our last.
Magic has always been a recurring theme in Waverly’s life. For years Waverly has been convinced of my magical powers by the simple tricks I play on her. I can make candy corn come out of her ears and from a great distance I can make stickers mysteriously appear on her back.
“Prestidigitations” became a word I wanted to use for a pangram because of the sheer number of letters it contained. We wrote our pangram sentence to remind us of Waverly’s pinning for an early Christmas arrival. If she had magical powers, she would surely use them to bend the fabric of space/time.
Integrating anaglyphic photography was a concept we had wanted to try for some time and digital cameras made the process much more accessible and immediate. We shipped this card with cyan/red glasses, thinking Waverly’s friends would get a kick out it—but I think the adults enjoyed it more judging by the responses. If you have access to such glasses, try them on this image. Just remember, left-eye red; right-eye blue.
A keen cinnabar pachyderm in a
bouquet of exotic gifts adds zing to Waverly’s “joie de vivre”
Click the image above to see more pictures from 2007.
Our holiday card for 2007 was inspired by both Alexander Rodchenko’s Samozveri : selbst gemachte Tiere (1927) and Piet Zwart’s Het boek van PTT (1938), each a children’s book using paper construction as illustration. This was also the year Waverly was given a Charles and Ray Eames bent plywood elephant toy (reissued by vitra) for a present. We started our pangram with “a bouquet of gifts” but just couldn’t get it finished until one day Waverly used the word “pachyderm” for an unrelated matter. A fortuitous tie-in. Don’t forget to look for the mouse hole and the second Eames elephant on the cover. Thanks to Natasha for providing our faces!
Not unlike 2003, we inadvertently upstaged the work for the cover of the card with the family photo inside. Waverly graciously timed her dental transitions just in time for our family photo and we thought we should join her in spirit. I must admit, masks make for an excellent device when trying to photograph more than one person, especially when a child is involved.
If we could bend the fabric of space/time, this card would have been produced in 3-D!
Waverly conducts her squirming legion of K-9 minions in a boisterous and zippy chorus of Joyeux Noel
Click the image above to see more pictures from 2006.
At the age of five, Waverly was well aware of our emerging holiday card tradition and began to exert her inner art director. In late summer, she began to weave her ideas—we would gather all of her neighborhood dog “friends” and I was to photograph her being pulled by a sleigh. There were numerous problems with this idea that did not dawn on Waverly, namely, getting eight dogs and one child to pose in unison! There was also no time to build a sleigh. Our solution was to photograph each participant individually and composite with Photoshop. The pangram itself was composed after the image concept which was a departure for us. We struggled for a while until we hit upon “K-9” and “squirming” followed naturally. I am still pleased Waverly took such an active interest in our exploits at such a young age. Thanks to all of our dog friends for their participation.
Waverly has nominated this card as her personal favorite, followed by 2004 and 2001.
Postage affixed to jubilant holiday missives from various zip codes quickly piques Waverly’s winter wanderlust
Click the image above to see more pictures from 2005.
By 2005, Waverly was able to expect the arrival of holiday cards and the joy they bring—especially the wonderful stamps! “ZIP codes” became the obvious key word providing our pangram with the often elusive “z”. Natasha illustrated several winter scenes as stamps and also included the Eames House as a stamp as Waverly was with us on the family pilgrimage to Los Angeles to see the Eames House up close and personal a few years earlier (and wants to return today). This proved rather prescient as two years later, the U.S. Postal Service released actual Charles and Ray Eames stamps.
Keep your cards and letters coming as Waverly still enjoys the wonderful stamps.
Giraffes and xylophones, a dozen jonquils and a box of lemon drops are what goes in Waverly’s stockings!
Click the image above to see more pictures from 2004.
2004 was perhaps our most ambitious attempt at a holiday card with regards to production and concept. I had been enjoying deciphering several rebuses created by Charles Eames for his family and began to think a pangram/rebus would be a delightful challenge.
My initial concept was a “a dozen jonquils for Waverly.” I loved the idea of giving her flowers for Christmas. I was also influenced by the list form in song and poetry. A xylophone and a giraffe doll were other actual gifts that year. Using the “list form” was a great gift in the completion of 2004’s pangram.
The “ly” sound in Waverly was a conundrum for us. We considered Spike Lee, Vivien Leigh, Janet Leigh and Jet Li but in the end went with Robert E. Lee.
From a production standpoint, hand printing almost 300 cards in 6 colors was a herculean task. For a 2-sided card, we made 3,300 individual passes through the press. That was the last year we used the handpress for our cards! Production took so long, the postmark on 2004’s envelope reveals we mailed the cards on Christmas Eve, but we met our deadline!
Click the image above to see more pictures from 2003.
When I read “perspicacity” in a newspaper article in 2003, I ran straight to the dictionary. Upon divining its meaning, I knew this would somehow relate to Waverly’s holiday exploits. At this age, she would know that gifts are good but perhaps not understand why they are wrapped.
The cover illustration was fun to create but for this card we printed a photo of Waverly that was the hit of the missive.
Obscure Eames reference(s): The patterns used to create the present on the cover are patterns from the Eames House of Cards, original pattern deck. The photo of Waverly on the interior is an homage to the famous Christmas photo of Charles Eames with chair bases used as a tree of candle light. Our photo was actually an outtake of a photo shoot that was to include the whole family. We caught Waverly mesmerized by a candle’s flame and became mesmerized by her.
Waverly’s anxious reach quickly jeopardizes a bough of festive kugels—harrumph!
Click the image above to see more pictures from 2002.
By the end of 2002, Waverly had discovered her sea legs and a festive Christmas tree would be fair game for exploration, much to the dismay of her parents. This became the germ of 2002’s pangram idea. “Harrumph” was our key word although it was added late—a much needed “m” to complete our pangram!
Obscure hidden Eames reference: The ornaments make a face! Finding faces in inanimate objects had been a source of great fun to Waverly and the Eames loved games like this.
Winter’s exquisite kerfuffle
causes Waverly to jiggle with
zest and aplomb
Click the image above to see more pictures from 2001.
Each and every pangram we write for Waverly starts off with a key word that has captured our imagination. I read the word “kerfuffle” in The Wall Street Journal one morning and knew I had to use it. I also wanted to write something about Waverly’s first contact with snow. The word “exquisite” was added for the “x” and “q” and together “exquisite kerfuffle” is an wonderful description of a snow fall. I am also fond of “zest and aplomb”. I often wonder if telling Waverly she has done something with aplomb (at a young age) will encourage her to do so latter in life. Perhaps we are telegraphing our hopes for Waverly’s future.
The snowflake imagery initiated an unintended “cryptic” element into this and future cards—a reference to Charles and Ray Eames. One flake is an homage to the “Eames asterisk” while other flakes reference the Diamond Salt Company logo from the 1960s and a “starburst” pattern on Franciscan Earthenware plates circa 1954. This card remains one of our personal favorites.
Silver quilted-winged angels
beckon joyfully with trumpets of
Click the image above to see more pictures from 2000.
This was our first attempt at a pangram-themed holiday card. I had recently been introduced to the word “hazzah” and needed some vessel through which to use the word. The angel motif was inspired by the wonderful Typophile tradition of holiday keepsakes. Natasha contributed the illustration and we were off and running.
We hand-printed this card using a Showcase proof press. Each impression was inked and paper fed one at a time—a laborious and time-consuming process to say the least. Our only regret is that the silver and gold ink used was not as dazzling as hoped.
For many years, we have “signed off” our cards with the Latin sentence, “nunc est bibendum” which translates to “now is [the time for] drinking.” After spending a large part of a year conceptualizing, discussing, designing, printing, scoring, folding, addressing, stamping and sealing our holiday missives, this Latin phrase captures my exact sentiments at the moment the last card is deposited at the post office.
I learned of this phrase when I was a teenager and came across a Smithsonian magazine that contained an article about Bibendum, otherwise known as “the Michelin Man.” Introduced in the late 1800’s, Bibendum was an advertising creation—a man made out of tires. Bibendum would raise a glass full of road hazards and propose the toast, “nunc est bibendum,” implying that Michelin tires “ate” any hazards they came across.
To this day, I always think fondly of the Michelin man and his toast.
Every year we mail a holiday card to ourselves with the bulk of our shipment. We do this for two reasons. One, to gauge the speed of the postal service and document when we have completed our task. The second reason is to send an actual love missive to Waverly. Inside each year’s card is a note from her mother and father, often as simple as “I love you.” When we receive our own card in the mail we whisk it away to our safe deposit box where it sits unopened. One day when we are dead and gone, I hope Waverly will open her collection of cards and read her messages, should she desire to do so.
To view larger images from our entire collection,
Graphic & Web Blandishment: Dad
As always, thanks to our daughter Waverly for allowing us to have this much fun! We love you!
The Pangram Press is a division of Our Designs, Inc.