Chicago Cutlery – Restored.

A set of handles standing upright within a grubby box of kitchen implements caught my eye while poking about a garage sale one day.

knives03

Some of the knives were scattered at the bottom of the box; and everything, including the block, was covered in a generous layer of old grease.  But it was indeed a set of Chicago Cutlery.  Many of the blades were poorly cared for, and some showed signs of active misuse.

But hell, they were One American Dollar™ for the whole set!  I scampered off with them and headed over to the local hardware store.  I don’t know a hell of a lot about knives, but I’ve always wanted to learn more; this seemed like a great opportunity.

The guy at the hardware store was impressed.  He pointed out that the rivets on the knives were brass.  “They stopped making these outta brass in like 1983,” he confided, “so these are great knives, from back when they just sold to butchers.”

I’m not sure he’s right about the latter factoid, but I like the sound of the brass rivets part.  And the timeline matches up well with the style of the logo:

Chicago Cutlery Logo

Honestly, how much more 1980 can you get? I can practically hear Steely Dan playing in the background.

That typeface? The woodburn? It doesn’t take a lot of graphic design research to smell 1979 on that one.

I left the hardware store with the assurance that I had indeed found a badass set of knives, and a bagful of new tools:

  • some steel wool (#00 grade)
  • lemon oil, to restore the handles
  • a whetstone
  • honing solution, to put on the whetstone
  • mineral oil, to restore and polish the blades.

Add to that some fine sandpaper of my own that I already had (220 grit, I think), and I was off to Elbow Grease Alley to sharpen up my new set of knives.

3 hours later:

knives02 knives01The wood turned out really nicely and feels solid in your hand.  And the knives are, for the most part, absolutely deadly sharp.  They cut tomatoes in razor thin slices.

Chicago Cutlery 61S photo

The 61S, kicking ass during my lunch today.

I’d love to learn more about these knives and how to use them.

  • What specific cut is each knife designed for?  What do the designations (61S and so forth) mean?
  • As y’all can see from the photo above, Knife 62S (the second from the bottom in the top photo) is blunted.  The tip was bent when I bought it, and it snapped off while I was trying to straighten it.  It is by far the dullest of the knives, virtually unusable.  I’m just starting to learn how to sharpen knives properly, and I haven’t been able to get this one sharp at all.  It’s beyond my capabilities at this point.  Any suggestions?
  • I’ve done absolutely zero research on Chicago Cutlery as a brand, but it would be fun to do a little logo research; figure out what typeface that is, where it came from, who designed it, etc.

The whole project took about 4 hours (trip to the hardware store included), and, hopefully, will lead to some more interesting learning about cooking, brand design, etc.  I’m looking forward to seeing what opens up.

Unleashed Reaches Chicago!

I’m driving southbound on Broadway on the north side of Chicago this afternoon when a familiar logo blazes by on my left.

UnleashedBroadway-Facade01Unleashed has made it to Chicago!  Find the store here!

I’ll be going back to take some more photos; the ones I took don’t do it justice.  I’m so pleased with the way it was deployed; it really feels warm and inviting in there, which is just the way Mike Lewis imagined it.

More to come! Meantime, check out my photos of the original Unleashed here.

Cleopatra: Field Museum, 2001

I first learned of the exhibition that was to become Cleopatra: from History to Myth in a meeting at the Field Museum with a representative from the diver Franck Goddio.  He showed our team some photos taken in the harbor of Alexandria.

Historians had long known that there was much of ancient Alexandria that was under the waters of the modern day harbor, but until 1992 all access to the ruins was blocked by the Egyptian military.  Goddio and his team were the first modern-day surveyors of the submerged royal quarters of the Ptolemies–the last dynasty of pharaohs to rule Egypt.  What they found there shed a tremendous amount of light on the Ptolemaic Dynasty’s most famous daughter: Cleopatra VII.

Here are some of the photos from the exhibition at the Field Museum.  The artifacts were first shown in the Palazzo Ruspoli and hosted by the Fondazione Memmo; from there, they traveled to the British Museum and the workplace of the head curator for the exhibition, Susan Walker.  Ours was the final stop; we devoted almost 10,000 square feet to the display of over 130 artifacts.

The exhibition was a huge success.  The team working on it (graphic designer Dirk Urban, content developer Barbara Ceiga, projection and multimedia specialist Steve Villano, production supervisor Nel Featherling, project manager David Foster) was one of the finest I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with.

The Great Fire: 2011

Lookingglass Theatre just celebrated their 25th birthday.  It’s been my privilege to watch the company grow from a bunch of hard working, talented Northwestern University Theater graduates to adults, friends, colleagues, and the finest bunch of theater professionals I’m ever likely to know.

Of the bunch, I consider none closer than my good friend John Musial.  This is his fourth iteration of The Great Fire; at least, the fourth I’ve been involved with.  There may have been more along the way.  John is one of the most tireless artistic forces I know; confident, thoughtful, and deeply committed to his work in a way that I find rare.

John directed this version, with care and attention, in Lookingglass’ current home: The Pumping Station. He brought back many of the original cast and designers for this new production; each rehearsal felt like a reunion.  As usual, the rest of the Lookingglass crew put in 110% to make this show everything it could be.

If you ask me, the privilege to tell the tale of The Great Chicago Fire in one of the buildings that survived it is a very great one indeed.  My thanks to all at Lookingglass for the opportunity.

Lookingglass also very kindly asked me to talk on camera about the design process.  I’m happy they grabbed this video–it’s got some really great shots of the set model.

Enjoy.

Megacosm

A Brett Neveu world premiere at Chicago’s A Red Orchid Theatre.  This was an amazing show.  From start to finish, all the artists involved pursued the making of this world with all their might.  The results were spectacular–due in no small part to the indefatigable spirit of director Dado Gyure.  She gave the show the engine it needed.

Enjoy the photos.  It was a great joy to make this one; no shop, no crew, just our hand tools, the theater, and Walter Briggs.  Thanks, man!

This show opened some time within a very cold January 2012, sold out nearly every show, and saw a nice extension.  Hedy Weiss reviewed it favorably and fairly, and Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune was ebullient.

Unleashed: by PETCO

This is Unleashed by PETCO, a store I designed for PETCO in 2009. One of the things I most appreciate about it is how fully realized it is. Nearly everything that Mike Lewis and I came up with was built and installed; we got the chance to reexamine every aspect of the retail experience and develop something that we both thought would really be a more friendly, pet-centric environment.

5 Marketing Slides & PDF

View/Download the PDF here.

Here’s a refreshed view of some work I’ve done where I’ve worn more than one hat–roughly all falling under the category of ‘marketing’ of some kind.  When you’re the chief cook and bottle washer of your own shop, you end up doing most things yourself–which makes things tricky to categorize.

5 Marketing/Brand Development Jobs.

John Dalton Design – 5 Marketing/Brand Development Jobs.PDF

From time to time, I put together custom sample books for specific clients or prospects.  My work ranges from theater to graphics; not all my clients are interested in seeing the sets I’ve built or the business cards I’ve designed.

Here’s a short set of some branding and marketing jobs that I’ve worked on, from big to small.