It’s a real American success story. Realtree started out on the front lawn of founder and CEO Bill Jordan’s family home. Jordan was an artist who found success through his hand drawn life-like tree bark, leaves and twigs. He scrambled to make things come together at the last minute before SHOT Show 1986 and arrived with a prototype to show to hopeful buyers.
On the Realtree website, Bill is quoted as saying, “I had no manufacturer making this clothing—just Spartan, and Spartan had no money. I couldn’t even have sold to the first retailer if I had wanted to. I had no licensing agreements to work with and no real idea what I was going to do next.”
Twenty five years later, Jordan runs one of the most successful companies that does so much more than camouflage hunting outfits. You can find Realtree on everything, from gear, to beer, to cabin slippers. The video below shows the letter-pressing process that’s popular anew reflecting on Realtree’s traditional artistic start 25 years ago.
Original press release issued by Mallory Communications on March 16th, 2012:
Realtree celebrates 25 years of creativity, diligence and craftsmanship through a historic art form that encompasses each of these qualities. Letterpress posters, displaying the words “Realtree Celebrating 25 Years,” capture the heritage and history of the company while reflecting its unique style. As a part of its celebration, the Realtree team handed out a limited number of these letterpress posters at the 2012 ATA and SHOT shows and will give away a few more through Realtree’s various social media outlets. The video “The Making of a Tradition”, filmed by Mammoth Media, captures not only the nostalgia of this revived art form, but the precise skills and attention to detail required in the creation of these posters.
The letterpress technique, which was popular from the mid-15th century until the 19th century, has undergone a recent revival because of the finished products’ beauty and texture. These days, some small presses use letterpress to produce fine, handmade, limited-edition books, artists’ books, greeting cards and more. The process requires a high degree of artistry, as displayed through the Realtree posters, which have become instant collectors’ items.
“We wanted to do something different — a little more ‘old school,’” Richard Longhi, Realtree art director, says. “We wanted to give back by creating something authentic that celebrates the heritage of hard work and craftsmanship. Letterpress embodies the spirit of American heritage. The process is a forgotten art that requires a great deal of skill with the finished product being completely unique print by print.”
Starshaped Press in Chicago, Ill. created two of the three letterpress poster designs that were given as gifts for Realtree’s vendors, partners and licensees attending the trade shows. Representatives of Starshaped Press spent two days at the ATA show customizing the posters by imprinting the names of dealers, shops and hunting celebrities at the bottom.
Jennifer Farrell, owner of Starshaped Press, says nostalgia is the order of the day at her printing company.
“We practice the art of letterpress printing, using antique printing presses and both metal and wood type,” Farrell says. “Most of our equipment is 50 to 150 years old, and the natural decay of materials lends itself to print work that feels artisanal and hand-crafted. When the Realtree folks approached us to print posters for their 25th anniversary, I quickly felt that it would be fun to explore the idea of ‘typographic camouflage’ using the colors of their actual camouflage. Choosing words that were important to the history of the company, I created collages that were printed multiple times to achieve this effect.”
Farrell says she was thrilled to be a part of the Realtree booth at the 2012 ATA show, customizing posters for the dealers, reps and hunting fans.
“People were very impressed to be able to get a customized poster with their names or shop names, and they loved the antiquated process,” Farrell says. “I watched many of them take their new posters to various celebrities to be signed, excited to have a great souvenir to hang when they returned home from the show.”
Hammerpress in Kansas City, Mo. created another poster with a limited run of 250 to be handed out at the SHOT Show and through social media outlets. Several of the Realtree designers, along with Mammoth Media and Heartland Bowhunter, drove to Kansas City to film the process and make the short video companion piece “The Making of a Tradition” to help celebrate Realtree’s 25 years of business.
Trevor Hawkins, owner of Mammoth Media, says, “We thoroughly enjoyed filming the artisans at Hammerpress as they worked. The letterpress printing process is truly fascinating and made for a great piece of film. One thing’s for sure, they made it easy for us to make them look good.”
Check out Realtree’s timeline at http://www.realtree.com/company/about-realtree/realtree-legacy
Photo: Mammoth Media