A small gift.

I have a lot to do this morning but I got sidetracked by my coffee mug. Not so much the need to fill it but how much I love this mug that was a college graduation gift 19 years ago. When I graduated from the University of SC, this was my gift from Burgin and Mark Riley. We’d been friends throughout high school and college. Back then, I was clearly in a cow phase. The cow phase has passed but my love for this mug has not.

When a saw them last week, they couldn’t remember the coffee mug. Their only recollection is that every time I have seen them over the past 10 years, I thank them for my college graduation gift and take great delight in letting them know I start every workday with it in hand.

It just goes to show you, some gifts and thoughts have real staying power. A gift that seems cursory to you may touch the recipient’s heart. So much so that 19 years later, they’ll still talk about it.

Do you love freelance billing?

I’ve already blogged my love for Freshbooks once this year and here I go again. But this relationship is going far deeper than my initial rushing crush.

First, for those of you not in the know, Freshbooks is online invoicing, time tracking and billing software favored by creative types and future Internet moguls. Not something you would ordinarily find yourself getting excited about. Not in a million years. Until you start freelancing for a living without a lick of business sense and have a painful late-90’s method of managing invoices. Then you get interested, quickly.

Painless billing is what Freshbooks aims to offer and boy do they. They deliver economic salvation in an easy-to-use manner that’s not so simple you feel like a moron. Plus, they deliver it with a refreshing wit and clarity that I admire. So if invoicing and financials are painful for you as a freelancer, check them out. I am grateful for Freshbooks every day. Especially billing days.

So what else sets them apart? They like their customers and they know what they do. They like to help their customers do more of what they do. Freshbookers can enjoy informal gatherings where they can get to know the company folks and get to know others like themselves in the community. I had breakfast this weekend with a crew of Freshbookers organized by John Coates and made some valuable connections and met some truly interesting folks. Bloggers. Web developers. Designers. Web designers. Company owners. A great mix. The conversations were invigorating, insightful and inspiring both creatively and personally. All that thanks to my invoicing software.

I would never have expected so much from them, but I guess I should have known. Freshbooks the software absolutely rocks. Freshbooks the company is equally spot-on.

For the love of letterpress.

When I was an art director, I fell in love with letterpress printing. Never used it, but loved it. Much like you covet that really sweet car, but you never quite get around to owning it. I finally got it. The letterpress, that is.

When I saw the fantastic logo Crescendo Advertising’s Melissa Ligon dreamed up for my copywriting venture, my first thought was: it’s absolutely perfect! A few seconds later I realized it would look unbelievable in letterpress. That’s how I ended up at Copperdog Press last Friday morning.

Jeff and Donna Neese have two Chandler & Price letterpress printers that must be seen to be believed (if you’re a printing nerd like me). Both printers have been “upgraded” so they are no longer powered by foot petals, but beyond that are much the same as they were a hundred years ago.

Using plates special-ordered from a Syracuse, NY shop, Jeff carefully adjusts the depth of the impression and the thickness of the ink using makeready sheets. Then once everything is just right, the real paper goes on and off by hand with each pass of ink. The gentle clank, clank, clank of the printing process is so soft and solid it could lull you to sleep (if you weren’t so excited).

It’s amazing to see letterpress in action in this day and age. If you’ve ever witnessed a giant Heidelberg churning out sheet after sheet, the presses are fast, loud and take little work from the pressmen once they’re up and running. Letterpress is quiet, hand-fed and takes craftsmanship to reach the perfect imprint depth and ink coverage.

Letterpress is not cheap, but it’s also not unaffordable either. It’s a level of quality not often seen in today’s turn and burn world. At first, printing the cards letterpress was scratching a long-felt itch. But now that they’re in my hands, I see there’s more to it than that.

When I look at this card, it reminds me of what I strive to do each day. Anyone can write, but some people have a knack for shaping words and sentences into stories that engage minds and hearts. When I run my fingers over the soft, dimpled paper, I feel craftsmanship. And that’s what I want to deliver on every project, too.