Grounded! A Chalkward Moment at 200 Fifth

200 Fifth Chalkboard FlatSO THE BIG BAD WOLF CAME DOWN THE AVENUE and outside 200 Fifth he smelled something really good, so he huffed and he puffed and he … blew over the chalkboard easel. After Superstorm Sandy, this hardly qualifies as a weather disaster, but on a gusty night, our favorite form of outdoor advertising may have to play indoors . (Photo by Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool)

Chalkboarding … Isn’t There an App for That?

Screen shot 2013-01-21 at 1.40.24 PMMAYBE NOT AN APP, BUT A KNACK for freehand – and some talented people have it. Others of us only wish. Still others don’t have a street-front retail location, but would like the look for our business materials (or personal scrapbook). Of course, having a calligrapher-barista on your staff or a daring and resourceful designer on your payroll is ideal. But at the bootstrapping stage of a new business, those may not be options. In which case, computer fonts to the rescue!

On the really-simple level, using a common hand-lettering style font and Microsoft Word, just by putting white type on a black box, you can nod to the style (see box).

But you can also do a lot better. Brooklyn Artisan rummaged online and came up with some font options to get you started. Some are free to download for personal use, but restricted for commercial purposes, so take care to read the directives for fair use on each site.

Nest of Posies, a little cloying in style if you’re an ironworker, but has specifics for people who want to be creative and do not use PhotoShop.

FontSpace has 19 free fonts that are tagged chalkboard.

French Kiss likes a crisp white-on-black look without the dust. The site blog has a good recommended font list, and a request: “Most of these are premium fonts that I purchased from MyFonts. Even for free fonts, please consider donating to the artists. Even a little can help say thank you.”  We like that attitude.

Fonts Cafe espouses the dust to good effect, and offers a “Chalk Hand Lettering Pack” for free. In commercials uses, fontscafe.com wants their tag to be used. Fair enough.

This is not Brooklyn Artisan’s last word on this subject, so please join the discussion with your comments, opinions or recommendations. We did come across one usage we personally wouldn’t recommend – chalkboard seems the wrong style for wedding materials. Unless the wedding song is going to be “My Sweet Erasable You.” A final thought for the day comes courtesy of Inspired by Charm.Life Is Short, Eat Dessert First.

Chalklatier to Book Nerds: The Community Bookstore

To be a Cool Cat and carry off Nerd Chic, you need a book plus, like, maybe an iPad?

To carry off Nerd Chic, you need an actual book printed on paper plus, like, you know, keeping that iPad, you know, stashed.

WHO SAYS PARK SLOPE’S NOT HIP? Look at this cool cat in hipster garb seen on Seventh Avenue, courtesy of the folks at the Community Bookstore, the friendlie-indie bookseller. Converse Chuck Taylors, narrow tie, elbow patches on the herringbone number, square-top glasses, cool attitude. The ultimate accessory? That book tucked under the arm. Because: “You Can’t Do Nerd-Chic Without a Book.” Got that?

(Photographs by Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool)

Straight Chalk Express: Spreading the News

Ample Hills sidewalk signFleishers Now Open 7 daysNEWSFLASH! Expanded openings to seven days at Fleishers on Fifth Avenue called for a chalkboard bulletin. Last autumn, Ample Hills Creamery in Prospect Heights put out this board on Vanderbilt Avenue. The style – homage to Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” – reminded all that Ample Hills is child-friendly.

(Photographs by Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool)

Still Stalking the Chalk: Time to Brine Those Cukes

Brooklyn Brine Dancing CukesOkay, so what would no round-up story on artisanal Brooklyn food business seem complete without?

YOU GOT IT IN ONE: Pickles, of course. Brooklyn Brine has sponsored three pickle-eating contests annually in October. Usually we think of strawberries to go with our champagne, or if it’s to be something from the briny deep, then we think of caviar with our bubbly. Nonetheless, Brooklyn Artisan admits to finding the adorable happy-looking, dancing-tooting-and-toasting, puckered-up, party-hatted pickles waving their champagne flutes a lot more inviting to identify with than the soon-to-be-sick-as-a dog in the most recent annual-pickle-packing’s poster (click for a look). Just sayin’.

(Photograph from Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool)

Still Chalk-Talking: Ahoy, More New Year Notes On Board

Couleur Cafe New Year's Board.ZuZu's Petals New Year's GreetingsBIG IS BOLD, BUT A CHALKBOARD DOESN’T HAVE TO BE EITHER; it certainly needn’t cover most of the wall or even the sidewalk easel’s surface to convey an eye-catching message: Look (left) at the charming sign peeking from behind the poinsettia leaves at ZuZu’s Petals window. The frame around the slate-like surface dresses it up nicely, and the Happy New Year’s Day message is friendly.

While Brooklyn Artisan is still hovering over New Year’s signs, check out the Couleur Café‘s New-Year’s-with-a-wink sign (above). A nice example of soft sell!Let's Celebrate Another Revolution.

The invocation outside the store Sterling Place on Seventh Avenue (right) gets our vote for double-take cleverness: “Let’s Celebrate Another Revolution Together,” it says, and with Emma Goldman‘s famous words in mind, we were about to start dancing in the street. But then we realized the board was showing the Big Blue Marble Earth in orbit around the Sun as a visual clue: No politics here, it’s about the passing of another year!

(Photographs from Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool)

Coming Up Next: What a Brooklyn artisanal business round-up would hardly seem complete without at least one example of….

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Chalk Talk: Coffeehouses, Fuel of the Enlightenment

ChalkGimmeCoffeeKK.Chalkboard Easel, IntelligentsiaTHE AGE OF REASON WAS FUELED BY CAFFEINATED CHATTER in the cheap and cheerful English coffeehouses of the late 17th and 18th centuries, says historian Brian Cowan of McGill University. Unlike the brews in the alehouses, coffee sharpened thinking and revved up the exchange of ideas that led to what’s called the Enlightenment. Keep that in mind while considering these two chalkboard easels (click on the image for a larger view). The one at left was seen by Brooklyn Artisan across the East River in NoLita, outside Gimme Coffee on Mott Street; at right, along Brooklyn’s Fifth Avenue. (The Intelligentsia insignia looks like a salute to some Army Air Corps flyer who managed to make it home on a wing and a latte.)

(Photographs by Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool)

Chalk It Up: A Union Hall That Invites You In

You might think that Union Hall is where labor union members turn out for job calls. But not here. This Union Hall is on Union Street, as in "Union vs. Confederacy," and as the billiards suggest, it's a place you're invited to hang out. (Brooklyn Artisan photo pool)

You might think that Union Hall is where labor turns out
for job calls or votes. But not here. This Union Hall is on Union Street,
as in “Union vs. Confederacy,” and as the colliding bocce suggest,
it’s a tavern that invites you to hang out. (Photograph by Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool)

CHALKBOARDS ARE A TIME-HONORED PRACTICE IN THE FOOD BIZ. Think of bistro menus propped on bentwood chairs in Paris, think of kosher deli listings on overhead blackboards while everyone’s shouting out orders, think of chalkboard easels outside restaurants along the streets and avenues of Brooklyn. Chalkboards can be as quick ‘n’ easy or as glamorous as the establishment requires. (Starbucks, for instance.)

Union Hall handshake logoAfter all, unlike print on paper, all you need to change an entrée (or adjust the prix fixe) is a moist bar cloth, and presto! The slate is as erasable as an iPad. The original tabula rasa. A little inspiration, a little colored craie (French talc stick), and the board becomes an invitation to express yourself or your business’s image. To quote your favorite philosopher or reference your favorite comics. To DIY or yield to your betters. In general the medium is fluid rather than stiff, friendly rather than formal; compare the above with the same Union Hall‘s logo at right.

From time to time over the next few weeks, Brooklyn Artisan will be sharing what we’ve seen through our lenses, with comments or not – mostly just letting the chalkistas speak for themselves.

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